Gradually, he claims, the glorious loud chorus of sound that is the natural world is being quietened by the rising tide of humanity.
The difference that can be detected in the sounds of the natural world – between a pristine coral reef and a badly damaged one – gives Bernie Krause, who has been recording he sounds of life for forty years now – real cause for concern. At the healthy reef he hears the sounds of myriad creatures vying for survival, in a real cacophony of natural sound, but at the damaged reef there is only the sound of waves, by comparison the desolate sound of extinction, he feels.
Krause, who in the course of his career has worked with the likes of the Byrds and Bob Dylan, has recorded more than 4,500 hours of sound related to over 15,000 species, in lots of pristine habitats around the world. He feels certain, however, that half these recordings are now impossible to repeat, due to the rate of species extinction and the loss of habitats.
The profileration of humanity, and the accompanying noise generated by it, have compromised parts of the natural world so much that the tapes he possesses are now possibly the only record of the how diverse life in these places once was – a tragic legacy that represents, as he puts it in his new book, a great silence spreading over the natural world.
Gradually, he claims, the glorious loud chorus of sound that is the natural world is being quietened by the rising tide of humanity - on the one hand a huge decrease in both diversity and density of important vocal creatures of all sizes, ensuring that the growing silence of the natural world only increases the sense of desolation.
Krause has stated that he found Hawaii to be extinction capital of the world – over the past 200 years since being settled, 50% of 140 bird species have vanished, whilst the island of Madagascar has seen the demise not only of an elephant bird, a pygmy hippo and 15 lemur species of lemur, but approximately one half of all island species.
It appears that 25% of all mammals are now threatened with extinction, worldwide frog populations are in decline and radical signs of territorial shifting are beginning to be shown by birds. Combinations of shrinking habitat and increasing human encroachment are creating ever larger zones around the world where natural creature sounds are diminishing.
Truly wild natural areas of the world are getting ever fewer, the far north of Canada, Siberia, the Alaskan wilderness, the Brazilian Pantanal and both the Argentinian and Uruguayan pampas – still rich with natural sound – are among the last places on earth where it can be recorded, and that threatening, awful silence kept at bay.
We humans badly need to learn that the fragile natural world of creature sounds is under severe threat from our endless need to conquer the environment, when we should be doing all we can to find ways of co-existing with it, so that future generations can continue to enjoy the natural world and all its noisy wonder.