Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2013, page 4

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Nature’s nurturing quiet versus noisome noise

The beginning of the industrial revolution appears to coincide with the increasing dwindling of the integrity of nature’s soundscape. As the human population grew, ever more human-generated noise continued to spread and encroach on even the most remote places on Earth. Luckily, some people had enough foresight to establish nature reserves, also called national parks, to preserve the natural conditions of at least some limited areas in perpetuity.

But with continuing growth of the human population and development, even national parks come under increasing pressure. While air, water and soil pollution have received considerable attention, the soundscape was often ignored or lagged way behind. Only very recently is there more attention focussed on the acoustic property of national parks and the value of their natural soundscape, perhaps in part due to the ever augmenting noise outside protected areas, and more people coming to realise the true value of maintaining naturally quiet oases to retreat to.

Two years ago The New York Times published a good article

headlined “Quiet Parks That Benefit Humans And Wildlife”, by Felicity Barringer. It provided a good description of the Muir Woods National Monument in California, including its valuable soundscape. In October 2011 the Saskatoon Sun ran an interesting article about Grass-lands National Park and its special designation as a “quiet place”. That means there must be at least 15 minutes during daylight hours when the only sounds are natural. According to that article, only 12 such places are recognised in the United States. And now Grasslands National Park joins this exclusive list of world’s silent places.

To establish such naturally quiet places and maintain that soothing soundscape, it takes the work and perseverance of concerned, understanding and dedicated people. For some years now RtoQS-member Kit D. in Saskatoon corresponded with national parks officials and the federal minister of the environment in Ottawa, Peter Kent, to pay attention to the soundscape in national parks and provide adequate protective measures. Minister Peter Kent replied to one of Kit’s letters as follows:

Dear Kit D.,

Thank you for your e-mail of Oct.16 regarding the pilot sound survey of the acoustic diversity within the East and West Blocks of Grasslands National Park of Canada.

Grasslands National. Park was pleased to work on this pilot project with the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, Tourism Sakatchewan, and internationally recognised sound ecologist, Gordon Hempton. The acoustic ecology baseline study examined the composition and characterisation of natural and human-produced sound across the park-landscape. Outcomes of the survey will include numerous visitor experience products, such as a park sound map for use in the park visitor centre; a baseline data source; and an upcoming feature article in Canadian Geographic.

Parks Canada manages National parks, marine conservation areas, and historic sites to protect all aspects of the natural and cultural environment. The Agency looks forward to exploring further opportunities to work with conservation partners to promote soundscapes as an important element in the acoustic experience of visitors, and to ensure that natural sounds continue to play a key role in the protection and enjoyment of Canada’s cultural and natural heritage.

I appreciate your taking the time to write.


The Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P.

Recording and documenting nature’s own sounds

When nature’s sounds get more and more drowned out by human-made noise, it is good to record natural soundscapes for people who don’t have the ability and means to go out into what is still left of largely unspoiled nature and experience the subtle sounds for themselves, as well as for future generations. In our Spring 2006 and Fall 2008 NOISE-Letters we reported about the great work of nature-sounds recorders Gordon Hempton and Bernie Krause respectively.

Gordon Hempton introduced the idea of establishing and protecting one square inch of silence from any noise and thereby protecting a large area around it from human-generated noise. Just as one aircraft can pollute a large area with its noise, the protected one square inch can protect that area from such a far-reaching source of noise. In 2009 the Right to Quiet Society purchased 80 copies of the book and CD “One Square Inch Of Silence” and donated them to the B.C. public libraries system. Visit this website for more information

Last year Bernie Krause’s book “The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places" was published. On Mr. Krause’s website he offers the public access to biophony. One can click on dozens of locations worldwide to hear snippets of their soundscapes. “Earth has a voice,” Krause said, “We can’t let it go silent.”

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Entire contents 2013 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon, 1996, Right to Quiet Society

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