Learning to listen

12 May 2005
In his history of the abolition of the slave trade, Adam Hochschild compares the position of anti-slavery campaigners in the eighteenth century to those who say today that cars with internal combustion engines should be phased out or abolished. Clearly ridiculous.

Well, maybe. But whatever else you think, "planetwalker" John Francis, who has spent 17 years without an automobile, may have lessons to offer (article by Mark Hertsgaard in Grist).

When he gave up cars, this environmental pilgrim also took a vow of silence as a gift to his community "because, man, I just argued all the time."

As a result, Francis found he was able to truly listen to other people and the larger world around him, transforming his approach to both personal communication and environmental activism.

A lesson here for Tony Blair, The Listening Prime Minister?

John Francis started speaking again after 17 years silence on Earth Day 1990. The very next day, he was struck by a car. He refused to ride in the ambulance, insisting on walking to the hospital instead.


Will COVID break up the UK?

Support for Scottish independence is at record levels. Support for a united Ireland is at record levels. Support for Welsh independence is at record levels.

The British state's management of the COVID crisis has widely been seen as disastrous. Will the pandemic accelerate the break-up of the United Kingdom?

Join us on Thursday 6 August at 5pm UK time/6pm CET for a live discussion.

Hear from:

Anthony Barnett Founder of openDemocracy, he has often written about the need for a progressive England to emerge from the shadow of Britain.

Allison Morris Security correspondent and columnist with the Irish News, and an analyst of politics in Northern Ireland.

Harriet Protheroe-Soltani Trade union organiser for Wales and the south-west, vice chair of the campaign group Momentum, and has written about rising support for Welsh independence on the Left.

Chair: Adam Ramsay Editor at openDemocracy and frequent writer about Scottish independence, most recently in The Guardian.

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