Brad Feld

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Book Review: Planetwalker

Aug 20, 2005
Category Books

I can’t remember who recommended Planetwalker to me (if it was you – thanks – please post a comment) – but I bought it immediately after finishing Slavomir Rawicz’s The Long Walk which was a truly remarkable book that I read in July.

There’s a forest fire nearby so Homer has been “smoked in” all day (there’s basically a complete white out at our house – like heavy fog but with ash mixed it) so we sat around reading in an agitated state all day since we didn’t really want to be outside.  My day was tinged with irony as I read about the amazing journey of Dr. John Francis, Ph.D., the founder of Planetwalk.

I’ve long been fascinated with acts of extreme human endurance and discipline.  Francis’ is up there – he spent 22 years on foot walking around the world and 17 years without speaking.  During this time, he traveled widely, became a well recognized environmental thinker, and earning degrees through a Ph.D., all without talking.  This was inspired when – in January 1971 – he witnessed the effects of an 840,000 gallon oil spill beneath the Golden Gate bridge that was a result of a collision between two oil tankers – the Arizona Standard and the Oregon Standard.

Francis’ journey takes him from a confused young man who is trying to sort out what to do with his life to a powerfully developed thinker and “environmental practitioner” (his desired phrase – rather than environmentalist).  Planetwalker – his first book – is an extremely vibrant telling of his story.  Francis’ does a great job of letting the journey lead and his philosophy follow which makes the book both subtle and more enjoyable than if it had been the other way around.

I hadn’t heard of Planetwalk prior to this book, but Amy and I will certainly add it to the list of environmental organizations that we support.  If you’re looking for a good adventure that you can have from your couch, give this book a try.