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The Nasher Museum is pleased to welcome John H. Francis lll, PhD, known the world over as the Planetwalker. This event is part of Part of Library Fest 2024: The Nature Edition. Co-sponsored by the Durham Library Foundation, Durham County Library and The Forest at Duke.

Registration required.

If you wish to enjoy brunch at the Nasher Museum Cafe after the talk, please make a reservations by calling 919-684-6032 or booking through OpenTable.

More about John H. Francis lll, PhD
Francis developed Planetlines, a learner-centered universal curriculum designed for outdoor exploration and extracurricular activity for all ages. The practice of Plantlining introduces learners to walking as a vehicle to collect and share quantitative and/or qualitative data through GPS and GIS Technologies. The purpose of the exploration is to engage students, teachers and communities, in an everyday practice that creates a self-informed understanding of place and the various areas that we live, by story and science. The Plantlines curriculum is a personally transformative curriculum and approach to environmental education and personal awareness that replaces the attitude of despair with empowerment by providing tools and methods for identifying and addressing the network of problems affecting us all.

In 1971, Francis witnessed a devastating oil spill in San Francisco Bay. The effects of the oil pollution compelled him to stop using motorized vehicles. Several months later, to end the arguments he found himself getting into about the power of one person’s actions, he took a vow of silence to become a better listener. His non-motorized lifestyle lasted 22 years, and his silence 17 years. During that time, Francis walked across the United States, earning a B.S. degree at Southern Oregon State College, an M.S. degree in environmental studies at the University of Montana, and a PhD in Land Resources program at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW-Madison. After graduation, Francis wrote oil spill regulations for the U.S. Coast Guard, but was then drawn back to travel, sailing and walking through the Caribbean and the length of South America as a goodwill ambassador to the World’s Grassroots Communities for the United Nations Environment Program.

In 2011/12, Francis served as visiting associate professor of environmental studies for The Nelson Institute. He served as Commissioner for the Borough of West Cape from May 2017 to 2022. Francis is an education fellow and explorer at the National Geographic Society and a member of the Explorers Club of New York. From 2007 to the present, he has continued to develop the role of an Ethical Advisor for Strong Angel and Star Tides. He is also the author of Planetwalker: How to Change Your World One Step at a Time and The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World. His illustrated children’s book Human Kindness: True Stories of Compassion & Generosity that Changed the World was published in September 2022.  A Planetwalker documentary film about Francis’s life, A Symphony of Tiny Lights, is being premiered at several film festivals in 2024.

Francis has begun his next walk, a 6,000-mile trek across the African continent from Cape Town to Cairo. He is partnering with GLOBE, a worldwide hands-on, science and education program focused on the environment and backed by NASA and UNEP.  The first part of the journey takes place between January and March 2024 in South Africa. Students from Africa, including GLOBE certified schools, will join the walk, while young people worldwide will be able to track the journey online, each in turn learning about our planet and each other.  Data collected by GLOBE will be shared and stored at NASA for educators worldwide to access freely, advancing knowledge critical to global learning.

Moving forward, Francis and his team envision extended reality (XR) technology that will enable global audiences, especially youth, to follow and virtually walk with him, experiencing the walk through immersive 3D and interactive XR platforms. His aim is to redefine the environmental problems we face as an inclusive concept, forming partnerships among people across Africa and the world, learning about the planet Earth and each other, transcending differences and spreading human kindness.

Event Details

Thursday, April 11
6:30–7:30 PM
Durham County Library, Durham Library Foundation, John Francis, Planetwalker
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University