John Francis became an environmentalist, better known as ‘The Planet walker’, when he saw the damage caused by oil spills, and was confronted with the loss of life that such spills caused. He decided to react to the oil spill he had witnessed and other pollution by refusing to travel in motorized vehicles and began walking as a way of making a protest. For 22 years he walked every where he went, so not to contribute to the pollution of our planet.
John describes himself as having an overinflated sense of self-importance at the time, and says that he initially expected other people to follow his example and stop using automobiles and other powered vehicles. This didn’t happen, but what did happen shaped the course of John’s life and touched hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.
As John travelled the United States on foot, people would sometimes stop to talk to him about what he was doing. He found himself explaining and justifying his position a lot. He often found himself arguing with those who would approach him about his decision to travel by foot. On his birthday in 1973, John decided to stop speaking and instead to listen to what others had to say. He found this so valuable that he continued to be silent. This continued for days, then weeks, and he ended up not speaking for 17 years!
John said, “The day I decided to become silent was a very happy day, and a very sad day for me. The sadness came from all the learning I had missed out on from not listening in the past. The happiness came from knowing that from this day forward, I could really listen to others and gain a new understanding of the environment, the energy industry and what could be done to bring about change.”
During his walking, he also managed to earn three degrees, including a PhD in land management. He travelled extensively, walking across the entire width of the lower 48 states of the USA, as well as walking the length of South America.
Each one of us has a responsibility to keep our planet clean and sustainable in whatever ways we can, otherwise how do we expect to thrive? The environment is a human concern and so this is a story that matters to us all…