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One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World (with CD) Hardcover – March 31, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Though many Americans may think their country abounds in places free from human interference, acoustic ecologist and professional sound recordist Hempton readily proves otherwise. Armed with sound monitoring equipment and a well-defined goal-to find a spot that has "no audible human noise intrusions of any kind for a minimum of 15 minutes"-Hempton drives his VW bus from Seattle to Washington, D.C., visiting national parks and other anticipated sources of silence. Along the way, he contemplates the intricacies of his vehicle, the decline in songbird populations and the effects of noise stress in hospitals, while filling readers in on the basics of audio science. From rural Montana, and what may be the nation's quietest town, to his final hike through the C&O canal, beneath Ronald Reagan National air traffic, Hempton's travelogue is filled with absorbing descriptions of the nation's natural treasures, inviting readers to consider the effects of rare silence against chronic noise, and the difference a single law, to "prohibit all aircraft from flying over our most pristine national parks," could make: "If a loud noise... can affect many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a 100 percent noise-free condition, will likewise affect many square miles around it.".

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Today silence has become an endangered species.” Yes, as though we don’t have enough to worry about, Hempton, an Emmy Award–winning sound recordist and acoustic ecologist, calls our attention to noise pollution, another unintended consequence of humankind’s globe-altering technologies. Why should we preserve silence? Because the words peace and quiet go together for profound reasons. And because machine noise is driving other species, from songbirds to marine life, into extinction by creating deadly stress and interfering with communication. After traveling the world and finding that nearly no place is free of human-generated noise, Hempton decided to take a stand in one of the last quiet spots, the Hoh Rain Forest deep in Olympic National Park, declaring “one square inch” of silence in the hope that from this nucleus quiet would spread. To spread the word about his project, Hempton set out, sound-level meter in hand, to “take the sonic pulse of America.” With the assistance of writer Grossmann, Hempton interweaves his intriguing and instructive on-the-road adventures with fascinating and rarely addressed facts about sound, health, and the environment. Many books help us see the world differently; this one induces us to hear the world clearly, and the message is loud and compelling. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Har/Cdr edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416559086
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416559085
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patrick O VINE VOICE on August 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love the idea of this book. I'm extremely aware of the noises around, and especially the noises that are around in places that should have the noises of nature dominating. After living in and near a national forest for much of my life I've become resigned to the fact that while I love such places for the nearness of the nature, others love such places because of the open opportunity for them to exercise the manifold ways of making mechanical noise. Constant saws, motorcycles, and other sounds of human busyness contradicts the appeal and peace of wind blowing through the trees, or a raven cawing.

In the competition between those who seek noise to drown their soul and those who seek quiet to bring peace, those who make noise will always win. Because when a person makes noise they dominate the region they are in, making so everyone has to accept their hobbies or be judged intolerant.

So, the premise is great. Only, there's so much of the authors at every point that I feel like they're the noisy neighbors who show up at a camp and proceed to talk about how much they love quiet, regale you with stories of where they've been, and otherwise fill the quiet with their constant chatter. They love the quiet but fill it up with their own noise--oblivious to self while decrying others.

This is definitely more about "the one man's search" than the natural silence, making it more of a "road" story than an exploration of the quiet places to find. The quest for quiet becomes its own noise, in a way, an over-intentional awareness that can't seem to find peace.

Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting and well-written book. I don't disagree with the positive reviews here, just was myself too aware of their constant imposition that I kept wanting to hear more, see more, about the nature they were in.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I first became aware of Mr. Hempton when I complained to a mutual friend about my difficulties in making nature recordings without the intrusion of man-made noise. I was told of Hempton's ongoing frustration with the same issue. This has, in part, led to his establishment of One Square Inch (OSI) in Olympic National Park in Washington state. OSI establishes a single point free from the intrusion of man-made sound, which would affect approx. 1000 square miles.

His ongoing fight, focuses primarily on airplane overflight of the park, although he looks at other noise intrusions not only in national parks, but in other areas, cities, suburbs, and elsewhere. The book is a travelogue of his cross-country trip to Washington DC to plead his case to help protect OSI to the FAA and other government agencies. Along the way, he meets people affected by the encroachment of man-made noise into their lives, gathering their stories.

Early on, some of Hempton's remarks make him sound somewhat like a luddite crackpot, discussions of why park managements doesn't use horses instead of power tools and motorized vehicles to do park maintenance and so on. However, Hempton is no luddite, in fact, one might almost find some of his activities hypocritical, driving a noisy (by his own admission) VW microbus crosscountry and making frequent air flights mid-trip. He is not looking to eliminate all air traffic, just those over National Parks and other 'unspoiled' areas. One may make the argument that he is guilty of a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude, and I'm not sure that isn't entirely true. For me, one event that soured me on his crusade is when, while making a nature recording, it is ruined by a distant train.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a person who spent thirty-three years in a very rural area, I never really considered the beauty of silence. It was a given. And when visitors would marvel that there was not a single speck of light (except for brilliant stars) and not a sound (except for the cry of an occassional coyote or screech of an owl), I simply couldn't appreciate their amazement. Then I accepted a position at a university ... and the four-hour commute forced me to pick-up a "crash pad" apartment outside of the city. Even in this "green" suburban area, I noticed the relentlessness of "noise." The persistent roar of trucks, the low hum of street lights, even the zing of bicycles up and down the street ... it's an adjustment. While I have the luxury of returning home on the weekends, I began to wonder about people who spend their lives this way ... and I began to understand the reaction of my visitors. On a whim (and with a sympathetic heart), I picked up this text ...

I have a feeling that this niche topic will not appeal to most readers. I have a feeling that most folks do not even notice this constant assault (or cannot "afford" to notice it). If you think you are interested in the topic, be forewarned that the text is a fairly lengthy (extremely focused) study and the author is a bit of a curmudgeon (unapologetically so). Nonetheless, it is accessible to lay-people and tends to read very easily (translation: it is not jargon-laden! Thank goodness!) It is (infinitely) passionate (even though you may occasionally find yourself skimming the text). And, it is well worth your time!

Invest in this text if you enjoy environmental studies, exploring nature, or are simply captivated by the (unusual) topic.
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