Man seeks to cut through noise of modern society by creating ‘quiet parks’

Just as light pollution has ruined the natural night sky for millions of people around the globe, noise pollution threatens the last natural quiet places on Earth, and one man seeks to protect them by establishing “quiet parks.”

As the world population grows, noise pollution is becoming a much bigger problem, not just for plants and animals, but for humans as well.

Modern society is no longer confined to cities and towns, it is spreading through rural areas, resulting in areas that were once sanctuaries of natural quiet where one could get away from it all into constant reminders that modern life is following us wherever we go.

We simply can’t escape it, whether it’s noise from planes or cars or industrialized machinery, it’s always there. But can we escape?

Gordon Hempton believes we can, and that’s why he founded Quiet Parks International, an organization that scours the Earth searching for the last natural quiet places to designate as protected areas for humanity’s benefit so we can seek silence.

Treehugger reports that “ninety percent of children are expected never to experience natural silence in their lives, and 97 percent of Americans are exposed regularly to highway and air traffic noise.”

Noise pollution has not only created problems for birds and other wildlife, it negatively impacts our own health.

It’s tragic that most people will never know what it’s like to sit back and hear the birds sing without a car buzzing by or a plane roaring in the distance. Many people think these noises are just normal, but they aren’t.

Hempton came up with the idea after one of his quiet places in Olympic National Park became polluted with noise of military fighter jets soaring above the trees in exercises every day.

That’s when he knew he had to take action.

“I realized I was asking the international community to care about one place,” Hempton says. “It wasn’t enough to talk about one place. We needed to talk about all places. There is an epidemic of extinction of quiet places on the planet.”

According to Outside:

For the past year, Hempton has been working on a new project, Quiet Parks International (QPI), which aims to certify and protect earth’s natural soundscapes. If it works, it will be one of the most comprehensive, cohesive actions ever aimed at curbing noise pollution.

The teams will test each potential site for three consecutive days, measuring natural-noise decibels and intrusions; while no area is pristine, these readings will help them set the organization’s official standards for certification… Any ‘alarming or shocking’ signature, like gunshots, sirens, or military aircraft, would immediately disqualify it from certification. Loud noises, if they’re natural, are fine.

It makes sense. All most people hear most of the time are man-made sounds. They never really get the chance to sit in silence and listen to the natural world around them. Some, like me, can walk into a forest or field and sit for a spell just listening to the natural world. That is, until a loud truck rumbles down my country road in the distance. But even that’s better than most people have it.

Hempton even takes people on trips to these quiet parks so they can learn about what it truly means to experience natural silence.

“You’d be instructed about what quiet means – how to notice, what makes this sonic environment so different, how sound behaves, what listening means,” he said. “Most adults have forgotten how to listen correctly.”

Indeed, noises are distracting and prevent us from really listening at times.

And in this time of climate change and environmental catastrophe, quiet places provide hope.

“For those who think of the environment and worry that the planet is coming to an end, quiet is the total antidote,” Hempton said. “You come out with renewed hope.”

That’s true because you come out with the knowledge of how the world should be. Sure, we can have our cities and modern technology. But we can also have quiet parks, too. Just think, the more quiet parks we have, the more places there are where the natural world can thrive. So, quiet parks are a legitimate conservation effort that we should all support. After all, everyone needs a little quiet time.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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