A Challenge for Students

"Living on Earth as if we want to stay" is a presentation, with discussion where time allows, that introduces the challenges arising from the human family having grown to touch planetary limits. Author and educator Mike Nickerson will be in your area in the near future and may be able to speak at a local school/campus.

Today's environmental problem will be resolved by today's students. Unlike the generations before them, who were able to raise their families without acknowledging planetary limits, today's youth will be increasingly shadowed by those limits until society learns to live within them. The vision of transformation can be found in the 2 min. 43 sec. sound clip found on this page.

At any time in history, young adults are genetically programmed to meet the challenges of their times. Having completed the intense learning curves of motion, language and thought, nature has equipped young adults to soak in the world around - to understand what they need to know for their lives ahead.

Today's challenges have to be addressed. For tens of thousands of years, it mattered little what humans did on Earth. There were always new frontiers to move to when we spoiled one place or needed more resources. Today, human activities affect everything, new frontiers are few and our biological foundations are increasingly stressed. It now matters a great deal what we do. This fundamental change requires an equally fundamental change in how the human family manages its activities in the future.

Our "Living on Earth as if we want to stay" presentation and discussion introduces this challenge in language understood by students in upper grades, colleges and universities. We spend little time on the problems; there is plenty of news to do that. Rather we focus on what sustainability requires and steps for moving toward that goal. It is a message of hope and motivation. The content fits well in geography, social science, civics, politics, development, environmental studies, business, ethics and other courses.

Understanding the challenge, conceiving the necessary changes and enacting them to establish a lasting balance with the Earth is the task before us. Today's students will be in the vanguard. The sooner the challenge is clear to them, the more likely that they will build their lives in ways that ease the problems. Mike welcomes opportunities to speak with young adults, whenever and wherever it is mutually convenient.

The challenge and the goal provides more detail.

More about the discussions that we facilitate can be found here.

Your inquiries are welcome. Please read on, for some comments from students and teachers.

Sincerely, Mike Nickerson (613) 482-1208 or: sustain5 [at] web.ca


Comments on Mike's presentations, both from the student and teacher prospective:

I saw Mike when he spoke here about 2 years ago and was struck by his message and great skills as a storyteller. This year, I'm involved with organizing a conference for about 100 Millennium Scholarship holders (undergrads) in South Western Ontario, and immediately thought of Mike as a potential speaker.

Marena Brinkhurst, University of Guelph; Environmental Sciences student


Listening to your presentation inspired me to look at the human transition to sustainability as a stunning metamorphosis rather than a forced sacrifice. The solutions are in the way we ask our questions, and your questions about economics and ecology are still guiding me months later. Thank you.

Arthur Churchyard, participant in South Western Ontario; Millennium Scholar's conference


You will be pleased to know that you made quite an impression on the students. Many of the students -- I would say about three quarters of them -- selected the question on the philosophy of environmental action, that included the material you presented, for their final examination question. Furthermore, they seemed to have actually paid attention to your talk as most were able to summarize concisely and accurately your thoughts and arguments.

John Milton; Prof. Environmental Studies, Carleton University


I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for the talk you gave in my Environmental Politics class at Carleton University in November. The students were impressed both by your knowledge and your life-long dedication to the cause of sustainability. You clearly left a strong impression. Aspects of what you talked about, on the grow-or-die mentality, or approaches to happiness that rely less on consumption and more on celebrating life, were themes that students returned to in subsequent weeks as we debated a range of environmental policy issues in Canada. I've even had students mention that they have chosen to read your book when asked to write a book review for other courses. So... on behalf of the students, thanks for the inspiration!

Dr. Peter Andree; Department of Political Science, Carleton University


For forty years Mike Nickerson has been studying cultural evolution as it applies to sustainability. He has authored three books on sustainability, including the recent Life, Money and Illusion; Living on Earth as if we want to stay. Its second edition was published in 2009 by New Society Publishers.