In the visionary tradition of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, One Square Inch of Silence alerts us to beauty that we take for granted and sounds an urgent environmental alarm. Natural silence is our nation’s fastest-disappearing resource, warns Emmy-winning acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, who has made it his mission to record and preserve it in all its variety—before these soul-soothing terrestrial soundscapes vanish completely in the ever-rising din of man-made noise. Recalling the great works on nature written by John Muir, John McPhee, and Peter Matthiessen, this beautifully written narrative, co-authored with John Grossmann, is also a quintessentially American story—a road trip across the continent from west to east in a 1964 VW bus. But no one has crossed America like this. Armed with his recording equipment and a decibel-measuring sound-level meter, Hempton bends an inquisitive and loving ear to the varied natural voices of the American landscape—bugling elk, trilling thrushes, and drumming, endangered prairie chickens. He is an equally patient and perceptive listener when talking with people he meets on his journey about the importance of quiet in their lives. By the time he reaches his destination, Washington, D.C., where he meets with federal officials to press his case for natural silence preservation, Hempton has produced a historic and unforgettable sonic record of America. With the incisiveness of Jack Kerouac’s observations on the road and the stirring wisdom of Robert Pirsig repairing an aging vehicle and his life, One Square Inch of Silence provides a moving call to action. More than simply a book, it is an actual place, too, located in one of America’s last naturally quiet places, in Olympic National Park in Washington State.
Published: Atria Books on Mar 31, 2009
I'd have to disagree with some of the previous reviews on this book. If anything, I'd wish this book was drier. To me, the book seemed to be about a third self-promotion, a third nature writing and only a third actual acoustics. Acoustics has been interesting to me lately, but most of the sources I've seen have been *very* technical, and I hoped that this book would be a little friendlier. Mr. Hempton is quite clear and interesting when writing about the science of acoustics and the impacts of noise pollution. Family drama and road trips, not so much. Other than those faults, the book as a whole was really interesting and quite persuasive. This is the kind of book that changes the way you perceive and interact with the world.read more
"What this world needs is some peace and quiet" -- this I have long believed and so, with a passion, does Gordon Hempton. Here he meticulously documents an attempted cross-USA nature journey, armed with a dBA meter. More power to him in his efforts to be a present-day John Muir and Rachel Carson with respect to noise pollution. And may he have many emulators.read more
I really have been trying hard to like this book, but I've ended up awarding stars more for the information the author has provided rather than from any real feeling for his work.First, I get what he's talking about. Noise pollution is a problem in the modern world, frequently a maddening one. We're surrounded not only by a constant barrage of beeps and chirps and buzzes from electronic devices, but by people who are so entirely self-centered and stupid that they think we need to listen to their music or their phone conversations. However, I find it difficult even to conceive of looking for or even wanting a space in which there is no sound at all, nothing human, nothing machine-created, nothing natural. Just... nothing. We're part of this world, sounds are part of our experience of the world. I recognize that this one square inch of silence is a symbol, but I think it's a much too esoteric, and over-the-top symbol to be of any use or interest to most of us.I know he's earnest in his desire to preserve natural silences. However... by his own admission his car is a noisy piece of junk, a fact that makes me scratch my head. Wouldn't he be better keeping his own house in order rather than haranguing the world for its increasing noise?I see what he means when he shows us how little silence is left in the world. However, I know enough silence in my own home to satisfy me. Spaces of time when I can feel the silence around me like a blanket. I suspect it's not silence by Hempton's standards, but it's enough for me.Hempton is not a bad writer, however his constant harping on measurements and decibels and statistics really is tedious, and frankly it's more than enough to turn off all but the most dedicated readers. I can't really recommend this book to anyone who isn't passionately interested in the subject.read more
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