John Francis the Planetwalker

Dr. John Francis is known for his commitment to environmental justice, especially because of his decision not to ride in an automobile of any kind for 22 years. Read about him here and listen to his views on environmentalism by clicking on the picture in the article below.

John Francis is an American environmentalist nicknamed the planetwalker. Born in Philadelphia, the son of a West Indian immigrant, he moved to Marin County, California as a young man. After witnessing the devastation caused by a 1971 oil spill in San Francisco Bay, he stopped riding in motorized vehicles, a vow which lasted 22 years from 1972 until 1994. From 1973 until 1990, he also spent 17 years voluntarily silent. During this time he earned a Ph.D. in land management and traveled extensively, walking across the entire width of the lower 48 states of the USA as well as walking to South America.
As Francis traveled about on foot, people would sometimes stop to talk about what he was doing, and he often found himself arguing with them, as well as with friends and acquaintances, about his decision to go on foot. On his birthday in 1973, Francis decided to stop speaking as a gift to his community, to not argue for one day and instead listen to what others had to say. He found this so valuable that he continued to be silent the next day. This continued and he ended up not speaking for 17 years, with the exception of a phone call to his mother after 10 years of silence. During this time, he communicated by writing and gestures, and also expressed himself by playing the banjo. He ended his vow of silence on Earth Day in 1990.
To hear about Dr. Francis’s experience, click here to see video.

John Francis and his ever-present banjo during his journey in the 1970

Dr. John Francis


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