Noise pollution is a growing problem in our ever-urbanised world but Quiet Parks International is endeavouring to protect silence in natural environments, communities and even hotels. Samuel Ballard reports
The old adage silence is golden is true in more ways than one. For some, it’s not only valuable, but increasingly rare. Quiet Parks International, and its founder Gordon Hempton, is one of the biggest advocates – and protectors – of silence.
The US-based, nonprofit organisation’s mission is the “preservation of quiet for the benefit of all life”. With 97 per cent of the US population exposed to noise from either aviation or highways and 90 per cent of children expected never to experience natural quiet in their lives, it is easy to see why.
Quiet Parks International aims to create a set of classifications, standards and testing methods around quiet spaces that will protect them for future use. The work up to now has included establishing the world’s first Wilderness Quiet Park, on the Zabalo River in Ecuador.
Although it is alive with sound from insects and animals, there is no human interruption – and that is what Hempton wants to protect, and means by “silence”. (You can listen to a recording of what nightfall sounds like on the Zabalo River, here.)
“Until now, not one place on Earth has been off-limits to noise pollution; natural quiet has become an endangered species without people knowing it,” said Hempton at the ceremony to award the classification last year.
“Science has made it abundantly clear that noise pollution is not just an annoyance, it causes health loss and dramatically impacts wildlife’s ability to survive. By certifying the Zabalo River as the world’s first Quiet Park we are paving the way for many more Quiet Parks around the globe.”
The organisation has now earmarked more potential Wilderness Quiet Parks, including the Jurassic Coast in the UK and Death Valley National Park in the US.
Quiet Parks International has also certified Green Mountain Farm in North Carolina as the world’s first “Quiet Community”. The area, which spans 365 acres of woodland and pastures, has been divided into 52 sites for homes. The properties are governed by a Community Codes and Regulations, which “assures all present and future owners of a peaceful life unimpeded by noise”.
Quiet Parks International is planning on extending the classification model to include urban and Marine Quiet Parks, Quiet Trails and even Quiet Hotels. There are also quiet experiences listed on the website, such as forest bathing from Sintra Cascais Natural Park in Portugal, which can be joined via Zoom for free.
The trend for silence was highlighted In Globetrender’s Future of Luxury Travel Forecast, by Tom Marchant, the co-founder of Black Tomato, who said: “Some of the changes we are anticipating over the next ten years are a reflection of the unique challenges people will face in the 2020s. Take, for example, the growing appreciation of having breathing and thinking space – we see this giving rise to concepts such as silent retreats.”
In short, travellers of tomorrow will want to get true peace and quiet.
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