Audio ecologist Gordon Hempton puts a new spin on the old phrase, "Silence is Golden" in his fight to preserve naturally quiet spaces.
For the past 25 years Gordon Hempton has made it his job to record the sounds of silence. The search for places of natural quiet has taken Hempton around the world three times over. Places in which the soft lapping of water rolling over river stones, the hum of crickets chirping in the night, and the tender flap of a butterfly’s wing can be recorded without the interference of mechanical vibrations are like gold to the audio ecologist. Unfortunately finding these areas is as rare as finding mines of profitable precious metals. Yet the benefits of finding a place to enjoy nature’s greatest symphony are priceless, and can be as effective as medicine in the treatment of disorders such as autism.
The increase in man’s mobility through the skies ruins quiet even in undeveloped areas. According to Hempton’s research, in 1984 Washington State had 21 places in which noise free intervals ran 15 minutes or longer--today there are only three. Additionally, the average noise free interval--if it exists at all--is 2.5 to 3.5 minutes. Despite the fact that natural quiet is a protected natural resource in accordance with the Organic Act of 1916 and the creation of the National Parks Service, thousands of air tours buzz over these areas each year. Hempton urges citizens to campaign for quiet by voicing concerns to congressmen and airline companies.
There are only 12 places left in the United States in which to experience natural quiet. Check out www.onesquareinch.org to find the coordinates of one such spot. The remaining locations remain anonymous for their own protection.