January 29, 2010
Newsweek on-line has the article "An Unquiet Nation" The subtitle is "Audio ecologist Gordon Hempton talks about America's vanishing quiet spaces, and how our lives can be helped by listening to the silence." Hempton has traveled the world looking for silent places, and he's finding fewer and fewer. In 2007 there were only 3 places left with 15 minute intervals of silence, one of which is in Olympic National Park in Washington state. The primary problem is air travel, which is not a land use problem per se.
However, many communities struggle with the issue of noise and the similar problem of light pollution. (See a UGA Land Use Clinic guidebook on local regulation of light pollution here.) My clients in the Newtown neighborhood of Gainesville, Georgia would probably find Hempton's search for absolute silence a bit precious. They're just hoping for some relief from the constant background hum from the nearby grain mill and the intermittent crash of metal on the junkyard site that sometimes exceeds OSHA standards - meaning folks should be wearing earplugs in their yards to avoid hearing loss. (See our environmental consultants' report here and give it a few moments to download.)
Still, noise pollution of all kinds is wearing on the nerves and potentially damaging to health (also as documented in the report linked above). I'm not sure I've ever been in a place totally free of mechanical sound and, although I hadn't thought about it before I read this article, that thought does make me a bit sad.
Jamie Baker Roskie
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