Environmentalist Dr John Francis’ 17 years of silence speaks volumes for our planet

By Catherine Wang

Imagine being absolutely silent for 17 years. Could you do it? That’s exactly what environmentalist Dr John Francis did to demonstrate his personal connection to the planet.

Today, Francis is a UN environmental ambassador, a National Geographic Society fellow, and the leader of Planet Walk, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving awareness of environmental issues and serving local communities.

After he gave speeches at several international schools in Hong Kong, we chatted about his life journey, sign language skills, and passion for nature.

Though he was mute during his mid-20s, now, after breaking his silence, he definitely has a lot to say.

It all began with the crash of two oil tankers in the early 1970s that spilled more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the San Francisco Bay. The then 24-year-old Francis volunteered to help out at a beach clean-up, and was horrified by the sight of the damage. Frustrated, he wanted to be able to make a bigger impact; his best idea at the time was to stop travelling in cars.

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