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ambientalismo e coerenza. una storia americana

23 Gennaio 2007

quando si dice una persona caparbia.

notevole ritratto di John Francis, un ambientalista che per perorare la causa ambientalista, e con un ammirevole senso di coerenza ( parola poco utilizzata ultimamente..), ha camminato per 2 volte attraverso gli Usa e ha mantenuto uno stretto silenzio per 17 anni.

articolo completo lo trovate sul sito web del LATimes di oggi a quessto indirizzo:



His own silent spring
By John M. Glionna, Times Staff Writer
January 23, 2007

Point Reyes Station, Calif. ? IN his determined style, environmentalist John Francis juggles a busy speaking schedule at schools, colleges and Earth-friendly conferences nationwide.

He’s in such demand in large part because from 1973 to 1990, Francis refused to utter a single word, stubbornly keeping a vow of silence as a protest against pollution. He also swore off motor vehicles and walked wherever he went.

Francis engaged the modern culture he sought to change. A five-string banjo strung across his back, looking like a bearded roustabout from a Woody Guthrie anthem, he hiked across the country. He worked odd jobs to pay his bills and even taught classes without talking.

He stopped along the way to get bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, all in science and related environmental studies. He wore out 100 pairs of shoes.

Some people, including his own family, questioned his sanity. Still, Francis slowly gained national notoriety. He became the subject of hundreds of newspaper and TV stories in the communities he passed through. He was asked to give silent speeches in many towns.

Never compromising, he communicated in a colorful flurry of pantomime, eye contact, scrawled notes, poems, watercolors and banjo tunes.

For years, he didn’t laugh. Instead, when the urge struck him, he slapped his knee in a gesture of mirth that unsettled many friends. When a college music composition instructor insisted he sing scales, Francis found a middle ground: He hummed.

Now he is 60, and wherever he goes, people ask about The Journey. Was he haunted by his own thoughts? How hard was it to begin speaking again after all those years?

“The first thing people want to know is, ‘How did you make a living?’ ” he said. “They’ll say, ‘You talked out loud to yourself, right?’ But I never did that.”

People often ask if he went mute to shut the world out. But that wasn’t the goal at all.


IN 1972, Francis drew the line on so-called modern progress.

Incensed by the havoc caused by an oil spill in San Francisco Bay, he decided to give up his “60-mile-an-hour habit.” He lived in Marin County and began walking everywhere. At the start of his vow, Francis wasn’t entirely sure what he was trying to accomplish. He hoped people would follow his lead in forgoing motor vehicles, but no one did.

Then one day he stopped talking.

“The silence was really meant to be for one day ? as well as a gift to my community because I felt I talked too much ? not to prove anything,” he said. “As it went on, I realized that the vow of silence was really a gift to myself.”

As Francis notes in a self-published book he wrote about his travels, even his own father questioned his so-called word fast.

“Things are difficult enough for black folks without you tying a stone around your neck,” Francis’ book relates his father, John, saying. “What do you think you’re doing? Man, just stop this foolishness and start driving and saying something, because right now you ain’t saying anything.”

Still, his choice launched Francis on an odyssey.

In 1983, he began what he envisioned would be a silent one-man walk around the world. Along the way, he communicated with a mix of fluttering hands, bobbing, nodding and facial expressions.

Other times, he showed a piece of paper explaining his quest.


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