Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Endangered Silence

This week at OnBeing.org, host Krista Tippet talks with sound ecologist Gordon Hempton about vanishing soundscapes and "silence" as an endangered species.

"Our cities, our suburbs, our farm communities, even our most expansive and remote national parks are not free from human noise intrusions. Nor is there relief even at the North Pole; continent-hopping jets see to that. Moreover, fighting noise is not the same as preserving silence. Our typical anti-noise strategies — earplugs, noise cancellation headphones, even noise abatement laws — offer no real solution because they do nothing to help us reconnect and listen to the land. And the land is speaking." -Hempton, Sounds of Silence

The proliferation of human sound pollution to even the most remote regions of the world is discussed via the metaphor of disease and, recalling the warning of Robert Koch, developer of the scientific method that identifies the causes of disease, Hempton believes that "the unchecked loss of silence is a canary in a coal mine-a global one. If we cannot make a stand here, if we turn a deaf ear to the issue of vanishing natural quiet, how can we expect to fare better with more complex environmental crises?"

Though I'm not sure Cage would have employed so passionate and aggressive a metaphor, I'm sure he would share the sentiment. Human-made sounds are wonderful and technologies offer so much potential for something new and exciting, but humans must not lose sight of the natural sounds which already characterize the natural world -and which face extinction if neglected. Perhaps some "4:33 intervention" is needed. We need to recognize the soundscapes that nature offers us before seeking to improve upon them. 

You can download the podast of Tippet's interview with Hempton here.

1 comment:

jerome langguth said...

Nice post, Penny. I can use this for my fall philosophy of music class. Yes, Cage did worry towards the end of his life that we had "ruined the silence."