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Gordon Hempton is a man on a mission. He wants to preserve the quiet in our national parks.

We first talked to the 58-year-old acoustic ecologist about the importance of quiet in our lives on Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park. It was abeautiful and perfect setting to listen to nature speaking to us.

Quiet is quieting, he told us. And then he whispered, I m listening to it now.

Gordon Hempton records nature.

I ve been around the world three times recording sound, he said.

His recordings are used in everything from museum exhibits, movie soundtracks, to video games. So it s his job to listen to the world. And his passion to get the world to listen to what s at stake.

Did you hear the roar of the jet just now? he asks.He makes it clear he wants this quiet place to be even quieter and off limits to all aircraft. Now we have a new jet coming in. So we re here to talk about quiet, but instead we re talking noise. He s heard enough.

Next stop: Hoh Valley, also part of the Olympic National Park.

Most people are unaware how quickly quiet has been vanishing in the U.S., Hempton said. There are only twelve places left in the U.S. where it s possible to have fifteen minutes during daylight hours unintruded upon by noise pollution. Imagine that.

The Olympic National Park is one of those twelve places. But there s only one place in the world called One Square Inch of Silence.

It has, in effect, become a monument, said Hempton.

That sacred place, 3.2 miles into the Olympic rain forest is marked by a rock placed on a moss-covered log. Gordon Hempton placed it there six years ago on Earth Day. It s where he takes his stand for silence.

I m defending a single square inch.

He figures if he can preserve natures quiet in that single square inch, he will have protected the natural sounds for everyone who comes hereto get away from the noise.

This is the quietest place in the U.S., least intruded upon by noise pollution, he said.

And yet a few minutes after reaching One Square Inch of Silence, we heard that sound again. Another jet.

Noise is being called the new second hand smoke, said Hempton, bad for our health. He says the one place we should be able to escape noise is a national park, and yet, In most our national parks the noise free interval has shrunk to the length of a pop tune, unless you re lucky.

Gordon Hempton believes we can make ourselves heard on this issue of noise in the parks. In fact, he points out that Monday, May 16 is the closing date for public comment on the Rainier National Park proposed alternatives for the Air Tour Management Plan.Comments can be made at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/MORA_ATMP

For more information about the One Square Inch of Silence Foundation go to www.soundtracker.com.

And here are a few more links you might be interested in:

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