Pete McBride is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker whose work is regularly featured by National Geographic, Smithsonian, The Nature Conservancy, and other renowned institutions. His most recent book is titled “Seeing Silence: The Beauty of the World’s Most Quiet Places,” and it features photographs and stories from more than two decades of his adventures on all seven continents. “Seeing Silence” uses stunning imagery and engaging storytelling to highlight the importance of places free of man-made noise, and it educates the reader on just how quickly silence is disappearing from the world.
For more than twenty years, Pete has been using his skills as a storyteller to inspire action on a wide variety of conservation issues. He has highlighted the multitude of threats facing the Grand Canyon in both his documentary "Into the Grand Canyon" and his book "Grand Canyon: Between River and Rim." He’s also documented the West’s ongoing water crisis by focusing on the myriad of challenges affecting the Colorado River basin–making the important but sometimes confusing topic of water in the West accessible to a broader audience. And now, with "Seeing Silence," he’s turned his focus to noise pollution and natural sounds, and I personally learned a lot from the book and this conversation.
This is Pete’s second appearance on the podcast, so if you’d like to learn more about his personal backstory and adventures in the Grand Canyon, you can find a link to that conversation in the episode notes. In this conversation, we go deep into Pete’s new obsession with silence and natural sounds, and why noise pollution is such a critical conservation issue. We started out talking about Pete’s expedition to South Georgia Island back in March of 2020 and how he had to make a hasty escape from the island when Covid descended on the world. We talk about his experience during Covid, and how the pandemic shifted his interests from the visual to the auditory. We discuss how artificial noise affects wildlife, why Pete feels a responsibility not to share specific wilderness locations on social media, how Pete’s family keeps him grounded, the larger purpose that drives his professional work, his recent photography work in Lake Powell, and we also included some sounds that Pete recorded during his South Georgia Island expedition.
It was great to chat with Pete again, and I’d encourage you to check out "Seeing Silence"– it’s an excellent book. And be sure the check out the episode notes for a complete list of all the topics we discussed and links to everything. Thanks to Pete for taking the time, and thanks to you for listening. I hope you enjoy.
Pete McBride Seeing Silence: The Beauty of the World’s Most Quiet Places Pete's first M&P episode Complete episode notes and links: https://mountainandprairie.com/pete-mcbride-2/ ---
3:30 - Where Pete was during the start of the pandemic 5:30 - Thousands of King Penguins 10:15 - How Pete, as an outgoing person, adjusted from a career of traveling for films to pandemic isolation 13:30 - An example that Pete observed of how pandemic silence affected wildlife 23:30 - Pete reflects on shifting his focus from more visual media to auditory 26:45 - Pete discusses a search for quiet and how human-made sound and industry impacts wildlife 32:30 - Pete and Ed discuss the impact of human-caused light pollution along with the impacts sound has on humans 36:45 - Pete describes why he became interested in sound 40:00 - Pete discusses the responsibility he feels as a photographer to not inspire destructive over-visitation of beautiful natural places 44:45 - Pete discusses how he and his family keep him humble and grounded despite widespread attention 49:45 - Pete talks about weaving adventure into work for conservation, and follows up on our first conversation regarding the state of water in the western US 59:30 - Pete gives us some conservation opti