Michael Despines

Michael spent 18 years working across the African continent, travels extensively, and studies how US consumption and policy decisions are harming our planet.

Speaking Options


The American Dream, The World’s Nightmare

Humanity, following in America’s economic footsteps, is hurtling toward disaster as we destroy the Earth’s life support systems that maintain our existence.  How did we get here and how do we solve these challenges?  In this powerful, thought provoking presentation, Despines highlights key trends and look beyond the symptoms and reveals root causes.  He will revisit and challenging cherished assumptions and philosophies as well as explore solutions that offer hope and sustainable prosperity.

Selected Media



“An outstanding keynote presentation…clear and compelling.” – President, Western CT State University

“His presentation was enlightening, horrifying, and inspiring all in one. Michael explained in depth the coming exhaustion of space and resources on the planet Earth. As a student and a leader in La Crosse International Friendship Exchange, I truly appreciated Michael Despines as a guest speaker. His credibility and experience was unmistakable. On top of a great presentation, he was a down to earth man who was willing to discuss just about anything. I would recommend him to any audience!” – University of Wisconsin student

“The issues you brought forth in your presentation has been the topic of my week, and I’ve had numerous conversations about it.  It has given me the motivation I needed after years of hopelessness. Thank you for taking on this extremely difficult task of making people aware of the major consequences of our lifestyle.” – University of Wisconsin student

“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.” – Director of Humanitarian Affairs,  International Rescue Committee

About Michael

Michael has seen the impact of these challenges first hand.  His 18 years of experience in Africa, primarily with the International Rescue Committee, inspired him to act on behalf of some of the people who are most negatively impacted by decisions made in the west. Michael worked as a senior manager, strategist, and advocate for several international relief and development organizations.  As Regional Director for the International Rescue Committee, he supervised programs in Rwanda, Burundi, The Republic of Congo, The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Tanzania.  As the Asia Regional Director for CHF International Michael supervised community development programs in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Mongolia.  Michael spent six years in eastern DRC as the country director overseeing a broad range of humanitarian and development programs.  He has also worked for the International Medical Corps in Angola, and Action against Hunger-USA in Rwanda.  He began his overseas work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon. Based in the US  since 2007, Michael continues to support sustainability efforts in the US and abroad.  Domestically he worked with Environment America, Clean Air-Cool Planet, and spent a year with Friends of the Earth advocating for sound US policy to address the impacts of climate change and he co-authored a report on the risks associated with the use of carbon offsets.  As the Vice President of International Programs at the Institute for Sustainable Communities, he supported programs in Serbia, China, India, and Bangladesh focused on urban sustainability, climate mitigation and resilience, and civil society capacity building.  Michael, also a passionate conservationist, is currently exploring sustainability through a conservation lens as the Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT).  The SLT supports the efforts of partner organizations in Mongolia, India, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Pakistan in protecting these endangered felines. Michael has conducted extensive reading and research on environmental science, climate science, energy technology, consumption, economics, and other topics related to sustainability.  Based on this research and life experience, Michael created “The American Dream – The World’s Nightmare,” a powerful presentation that he offers to high schools, colleges, universities, churches and other public venues to increase public awareness and action on these issues.  Michael also writes a blog called Sustainable Thoughts. Michael holds a B.S in Electrical Engineering, a B.A. in General Arts and Science, and a Masters in International Management. He is fluent in French and English.

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