The current issue of The Sun Magazine features an interview by Leslee Goodman with Gordon Hempton, listener, recorder and archivist of "natural soundscapes". According to Hempton, the natural sounds of our landscapes have been decimated; he believes there are only a few places in North America and none in Europe where one can avoid the sound of human activity for greater that twenty minutes. He leads a campaign to designate "one square inch" of silence in Olympic National Park, and has lobbied the FAA to designate a no-fly zone over the park.
In Hempton's words from the interview:
When people wonder whether they should take the time to pursue finding a silent place in nature, I often ask whether they’ve seen the Milky Way. Many have, but some haven’t. When I look up at the Milky Way, it never fails to impress me. What a difference there is between talking about the universe and looking up and actually witnessing the galaxy of which we’re a part — an ocean of stars so immense that, by comparison, the items on my ever-present to-do list shrink in significance, and I feel renewed awe and reverence.
Experiencing silence can be like that. In a naturally quiet place you can hear for miles. People who live in cities can often hear only a few hundred yards. In nature your sense of place is huge.
The Sun Magazine | Quiet, Please