Writer, environmental activist John Francis was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1946. He grew up in the city with his brother Dwayne and often spent summers at his aunt and uncle's farm in Virginia, helping them work the land and grow their own food. Francis moved to Marin County, California in the 1960s. In 1971 he gave up using motorized vehicles after witnessing the devastating effects of an oil spill in San Francisco Bay. Soon afterwards he took a vow of silence lasting 17 years, during which he undertook a pilgrimage by foot across America on behalf of the environment and world peace, earning a PhD in environmental studies along the way. Through his silence and walking, he learned to truly listen, both to other people and the world around him. Since ending his vow of silence in 1990, Francis has served as a goodwill ambassador for the UN Environmental Program, contributed to the US Coast Guard's Oil Pollution Act of 1990, rewriting transportation regulations in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill, and founded Planetwalk, a nonprofit environmental education organization.
At the National Geographic Society, where Dr. Francis, served as the first education fellow, he found the opportunity to publish three books: Planetwalker: 17 Years of Silence, 22 Years of Walking, The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World, and Human Kindness: True Stories of Compassion and Generosity the Changed the World.
His goal is to redefine the environmental problems we face into an inclusive concept, and to form partnerships among Native and non-Native people, cultures, businesses and organizations across America that might traditionally feel they do not share the objectives and values of environment and conservation. His thesis is that if we as human beings are an integral part of the environment, then how we treat each other and ourselves directly and indirectly effect the physical environment. His most recent walk was in China, Planetwalk Hangzhou: 2014.
Today, Dr. Francis dedicates his time to managing his organization, Planetwalking across Africa, and speaking all over the world, influencing and learning from young students.