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John Francis, Planetwalker, Wood RIver Valley, Idaho
John Francis

John Francis (1946 – ) is known as the Planet Walker. Francis witnessed a massive oil spill in the San Francisco Bay in 1971. He was deeply impacted the event. It caused him to reflect on how as a society, we are so dependent on oil for transportation Francis decided that he would no longer use any sort of motorized transportation. For 22 years, he walked everywhere. His travels would take him across the United States and most of South America. He hoped that his efforts would highlight American dependence on oil and petroleum.

As Francis traveled, he discovered that he would often have disagreements and arguments with the people he met about his decision to no longer use public transportation. These frequent arguments led Francis to another major decision. He decided to stop speaking for one day. His goal was to just listen for one day. One day turned into 17 years of silence. Francis communicated with others by writing and gestures. He completed a bachelors degree, masters degree and doctoral degree during his years of silence. Francis walked from California to Ashland, Oregon to complete his bachelors degree. He then walked to the state of Washington and built a boat. After completing his bachelors degree he walked and sailed to the University of Montana to complete his masters degree. He received his Ph.D in Land Management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Francis ended his vow of silence, the day after Earth Day in 1990. On that day, he was also struck by a car. Walker was still not using any motorized transportation at this time. He convinced first responders to allow him to walk to the hospital rather than be transported by ambulance.

john francis
John Francis


In 1994, Francis determined that he could be more effective in his role as an environmentalist if he started using motorized transportation again. Francis has continued to be an environmental activist. He started the Planet Walker non-profit to continue to help educate communities on environmental concerns. Francis is also the author of a book, “Planet Walker: 22 Years of Walking, 17 years of silence” which details his experiences.

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