This Sound-Tracker Is on a Mission to Preserve Silence

Gordon Hempton says there are only 10 spots in the entire US void of human-made noise

May 21, 2019


Silence, Nature

Among the many sounds we hear throughout the day, we sometimes forget about the most powerful one of all - the sound of silence.

Gordon Hempton has not forgotten this rare and pristine sound. In fact, he has dedicated the past 12 years of his life to searching for quiet spaces in nature. A simple task one might think.

Hempton is a “sound-tracker” by profession, and travels the world recording rare sounds; silence, he explains, is the most endangered of all, and therefore deserves protecting like any other natural phenomenon.

Hempton’s journey to conserve tranquility began in 2005 when he ventured to the Hoh River Valley in Washington state. He walked for three miles until he eventually found a single spot void of human-made noises – a square inch of serenity- which he has identified as the quietest spot in the USA.

Since then, Hempton has founded Quiet Parks International, an organization that seeks to identify and conserve quiet spaces throughout the world.

A quiet space is one where there are no human-made noises for 15 minutes or more. He claims that in the US there are only ten such spots. While preserving a square inch of nature may seem insignificant, Hempton’s colleague Matt Mikkelsen told NPR that “due to the nature of sound and silence, it's preserving this whole ecosystem.”

Because animals communicate and mate using sound, noise pollution can affect their ability to survive. Furthermore, Hempton believes that if we do not conserve these quiet spaces, future generations may not have the privilege to experience the profound peace that is silence.

Hempton has already succeeded in designating the first official quiet park. In partnership with the Cofan Tribe in Ecuador, the Zabalo River will now be protected from human-made noise pollution, including air carriers.

And this is just the start! Hempton and his team hope to protect 100 parks within the next year alone.

Tranquility and peace of mind should be accessible to everyone; Hempton’s efforts to make sure silence doesn’t go extinct plays a significant role in helping us reconnect inwards to ourselves and our planet.

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Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.