Monday October 23rd 2017

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Background On The Presentation

What is it?

The American Dream: The World’s Nightmare (ADWN) is a PowerPoint presentation designed to educate, motivate, and inspire people to take action.

What Is It About?

It would be easier to explain what it is not about as ADWN spans the macro to the personal, explores science and philosophy, and delves into what it means to be human and how to create a sustainable future.

Why This Presentation?

Humanity is hurtling toward disaster as the scale of human society begins to overwhelm the planet’s life support systems.  We have almost 7 billion people on the planet who are increasingly living like Americans.  More and more societies are following in America’s developmental footpath which is based on exponential growth and consumerism. Exponential growth on a finite planet is not possible.  Despite the growing examples of planetary, societal, and individual-level distress we go blindly on.

The most important issues, the mega-trends that  impact us all are mostly ignored in the mainstream media, are only occasionally broached by teachers, and are rarely highlighted by our elected officials.  Within this vacuum, I have created ADWN to promote reflection, dialogue, and hopefully, action.

We can create a future that many of us only currently dare consider in our wildest dreams. Imagine a society where everyone has access to a good education and health care. Imagine a society where everyone works at a job that pays a livable wage. Imagine a place where each of us has the essentials for a comfortable life while having ample time to spend with family and friends and time to spend in our community. Imagine a place where we have the time to focus on developing our minds, our spirituality, or our emotional well being. Imagine a place where people are valued for who they are, for what they contribute to building our community rather than for what they have. Imagine a place where nature and other life forms flourish and we have the time and space to be part of nature.

Sound ludicrous? It is – at least given the world we have now, the world that we created. But we can create a far different world.  In fact, we have no choice but to profoundly change our world if we want to survive as a species. In ADWN I offer the facts, sometimes very harsh facts, about the damage we are doing to ourselves, our society, and to our planet. But I also provide examples of the awe-inspiring efforts and successes of sustainability pioneers all around the world as they offer real world examples of another, better way.

Who Is This Presentation For?

Everyone.  ADWN is not just for tree huggers. If you live on planet earth, these are issues that you will want to know about. This presentation is not about saving polar bears, though that would be nice. This is about saving ourselves.

If you are worried about the quality of life the world will be able to offer your children or grandchildren?  Concerned about your health?  Interested in living a life that is not so chaotic and stress filled? Have a nagging sense there could or should be much more to life?

I present ADWN at high schools, colleges, universities, churches, retirement homes, businesses and even in people’s private homes.  I will go to any venue where people are open to imaging a better future and way of life.

Format Of The Presentation?

Currently, I present ADWN as a 30 to 45 minute PowerPoint presentation followed by a question and answer session for 15-30 minutes.  I am continually updating the content of the presentation and I often adapt the material based on the interests and knowledge level of the audience.

High Schools

In high schools I offer a 30 minute version to accommodate the typical 42-45 minute class period length.  It can be difficult to organize a presentation for the entire school so teachers often bring me in to present to a series of individual classes.  For example, on a given day I might come in and present to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th period science classes for a specific teacher or group of teachers.  Sometimes teachers combine classes and I present to 50 -100 students in a laboratory or in the auditorium.  At one school a teacher had two periods with the same students so I did a longer, 45 minute, presentation and then we spent 45 minutes together discussing the issues.


I can present at conferences or you can bring me in to be a guest lecturer or presenter for a given class or department.  For example, at Western Connecticut State University I was the keynote speaker for their “International Perspectives: What Do We Mean by Green” conference in 2009.  My presentation kicked off the event and provided a broader context for the more detailed discussions that followed during the day.

In 2010 at Gettysburg College I was invited to speak to the students who made up the International Studies program.  We met in a small auditorium and had 1.5 hours for the presentation and discussion.

Reactions To The Presentation

He gave a presentation entitled “The American Dream: The World’s Nightmare?” that was among the finest I have witnessed in my eight years with the Governor’s School program.  Michael discussed the impact American policies have on the rest of the world in a way that was truly captivating, and he was always careful to draw comparisons that made his staggering statistics come alive.  What was most impressive was his ability to draw on his own experiences to provide concrete suggestions on how our students can change the world.”

He has a unique ability to reach high school students and inspire them to greatness

Dr. James A. Grimes, Director, Governors Schools Program of North Carolina

Thank you so much for an outstanding keynote presentation at last week’s Connecticut State University System International Conference.  Your arguments were clear and compelling and were supported by accessible, relevant examples and by lucid graphics. I’ve seldom seen a more effective Powerpoint presentation on a large, complex subject like the one you took on here at Western Connecticut State University

James Schmotter, President, Western Connecticut University

After hosting Michael Despines at South Western High School to present “The American Dream – The World’s Nightmare,” we highly recommend Mr. Despines for this or any other presentation. We clearly saw while watching him speak that Mr. Despines is an expert with a passion for his field of work, and his message about society and the environment is imperative for all students, teachers and citizens to understand.

From a student’s perspective, Mr. Despines was one of the most engaging environmental speakers I have heard. Our audience consisted of about seventy students, and most of them arrived expecting a boring lecture – distant facts and statistics that weren’t very relevant to them. What they found, however, was a down-to-earth presenter who directly showed them how the environmental crisis affects their lives and vice versa. And he did so through metaphors, stories, and personal experience, making his message something real and tangible, and interesting to listen to. His scientific data was simplified enough for students of all levels to understand, and he consistently returned to his central theme, clarifying and reinforcing his message. The seventy students who attended left not only with a clear understanding of society’s impact on the environment, but also with a sense of enthusiasm about making personal choices to help the environmental movement.

Sarah Cashdollar, Student Council President, South Western High School

Mr. Despines really made it clear to the students the affect that their everyday decisions can have on our environment and on others around the world.  I have also noticed that students are becoming more accepting of the possibility that one person’s actions can and do have an effect on our environment, and that they can control that affect by making more conscience decisions.  I think this enlightenment is due in a large part to the seed that Mr. Despines planted during his visit.

Mr. Despines is obviously a well-traveled and motivated person.  The experiences he brings from his time in Africa helping refugees and the exhaustive research he has completed make him an excellent advocate for the environment.  It is my hope to have him back to speak with my future environmental classes.  Giving Mr. Despines the opportunity to speak with your students is not only something I would recommend, but also encourage.

Jason Suter, Science Teacher, Hanover High School

I had no idea that there is a formidable movement of activists addressing the human saturation of our planet. When I went to hear Michael Despines speak about the convergence of mega-trends affecting the world, I didn’t expect to feel encouraged.

Michael described the colossal web of organizations and the mass mobilization of citizens who are standing up to defend our planet. He encouraged all of us to find a campaign we like, support them, and get involved.

This was the most important lesson for me. Apocalypse is not inevitable. We have the power to change this situation.

I also appreciated Michael’s humility as he revealed details about his own consumption habits.

This guy is not a finger-wagging self-righteous activist. Michael is a humble man confessing his own struggles to recover our planet and live an ethical lifestyle.

Michael exploits a clever series of graphic illustrations to convey some rather complex ideas. The visual representations drove the point home for me. Up until I attended this presentation, I only had a simple and superficial understanding of how we are threatening the planet. Now I really get it.

Gerald Martone, Director of Humanitarian Affairs, International Rescue Committee


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