The Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park

Gordon Hempton, a professional sound recordist who has traveled the world recording the sounds of nature, is waging practically a one-man war against the noise he considers the most insidious: the sound of human activity intruding in nature.

The number of places in Washington State where Hempton can record nature for at least 15 minutes without human sounds intruding has dropped from 21 in 1984 to three. He would like to see one of them, Olympic National Park, recognized for the world- class acoustic treasure it is, and see steps taken to preserve it.

Park managers say that protecting wilderness is enough to protect its quiet, but Hempton wants something more specific. He says park managers should conduct a sound survey to take stock of the park's acoustic marvels and document a baseline quiet against which incremental deterioration can be measured. He has waged a 10-year campaign, so far unsuccessful, to create a one-square-inch environmental preserve in which human-made noise would not be allowed to intrude. Protecting one square inch in the park would effectively quiet hundreds of miles around it, Hempton says.

-Excerpted from Seattle Times, January 3, 1999

(Ed. Note: This parallels our Society's efforts to convince the Federal Government to designate certain areas as ecological reserves where overflights would be prohibited.)

Noise Impairs Creativity

Dr. Joseph Kasof has conducted an interesting body of research reported in Creativity Research Journal, 1997, 10(4), 303-315. His findings support the anecdotal evidence that many eminent thinkers and creators of our time, including Charles Darwin, Marcel Proust, Thomas Carlyle, Richard Wagner, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Schopenhauer, Anton Chekhov, Johann Goethe, William Styron, and Edward Elgar have had a particular inability to screen out incidental sounds, and a resulting desperate need for quiet surroundings. Findings of this study are threefold:

1) Creativity tends to be higher in people who possess a wide "trait breadth of attention" (individuals who inherently focus on a wide range of stimuli at any given time), possibly because this broad focus encourages the synthesis of disparate ideas or stimuli.

2) Noise impairs creative performance, especially when it is unpredictable or intelligible.

3) The creative performance of individuals whose trait breadth of attention is inherently wide (more creative but less able to focus) is impaired more severely by noise than is the performance of those with an inherent narrow trait breadth of attention, who can more readily focus on a narrow set of stimuli to the exclusion of all else.

Moaning Tombstones

Graveyards should become noisy soon: gun shots, Geiger counters and even human moaning can be heard when Walter Giers switches on his tombstones. The "media artist" from Schwaebisch-Gmuend finds silent graves to be "idiotic". Aside from the Geiger counter, the ticking of which reminds one of an accident at a nuclear power- plant, he is particularly proud of one model: the tombstone "Touch-me" wants to be caressed upon which it moans lustfully.

-Darmstaedter Echo, April 17, 1998 (Translation by Hans Schmid)

Councillor Wants to Ban Noisy Go- Peds

Vancouver city council is being asked to prohibit "go-peds", or scooters with small motors, on city streets until they can be equipped with quiet, low-emission motors. A motion from Councillor Gordon Price says the vehicles, which he describes as sounding like leaf blowers on wheels, are becoming more popular but they are unregulated and unlicensed. Price has asked that city staff report back on how they can be regulated.

-The Vancouver Sun, October 5, 1999

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Spring 2000

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