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Listening to Silence: Why We Must Protect the World’s Quiet Places

As more people push into once-remote areas, truly quiet spots — devoid of the noise of traffic or crowds of tourists — have become increasingly scarce. Now, a coalition of activists, scientists, and park officials are trying to preserve the last quiet places on the planet.

Just as the 2020 pandemic shutdown was beginning, I received a commission to write this story about quiet as a natural resource. I borrowed a tent from a friend, grabbed spouse, and ran to the Hoh Rainforest to spend the night before hiking to what has been called the "quietest square inch." No growler planes went over while I was there. I am grateful that I was able to experience the kind of quiet that I was writing about before all the parks shut down.

Much of what we preserve in nature is based on what we see--plants, animals, vistas, mountains, but a perhaps underappreciated element to being in the wild is the ability to have a quiet moment to hear your heart beat, or to experience the sound of water rushing over rocks in a river, a beaver gnawing on a log or the birds singing in the trees. To preserve quiet requires to think about conservation differently. Fortunately, there are some groups working to do just this.


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