“There are no places left on earth that are free of human caused-noise 100 percent of the time,” says acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton. “That’s history. What we now use as a measure of quiet is the noise-free interval: how long is it quiet without an intrusion?”
Not long. In 1984 Hempton identified 21 areas in the state of Washington where the “noise-free interval” was 15 minutes or more. Today there are but three: one in Olympia National Park; “the other two,” says Hempton, “are protected only by their anonymity.”
Hempton believes there remain but a dozen such places in the entire United States. In Europe there are none.
Together with John Grossman, Hempton has written One Square Inch of Silence; he also maintains a blog. Some are calling his book “the next Silent Spring.” After traveling coast-to-coast across the US, Hempton in his tome concludes that “the extinction rate for quiet places vastly exceeds the rate of species extinction.”