Who is Johan Ernst Nilson and how can a motivational speaker can help the environment?

Marbella towards Nature

Have you ever seen these events on TV where an inspiring motivational coach talks in front of a venue full of people? Hundreds and hundreds of people cheering? It is  finally time for Marbella to host this kind of a talk, and hopefully not for the last time.

In October 2019 Marbella´s Palacio de Congresos  gathered together nearly a thousand people to meet world-renowned explorer, adventurer and environmental activist Johan Ernst Nilson.

Nilson came to Marbella especially for the two day event “Towards Nature” organized by the environmental charity Goodwill Meridian Fund together with Events Couture Marbella and Marie-Noëlle Communication agency, as well as with the support of the Marbella Town Hall. This was not a typical environmental educational event. Organizers had a big aim in mind – to start changing the entire mindset about our relationship with the planet. It seems a long shot, but both the organizers and their guest speaker Johan Ernst Nilson are sure that this is possible and that it is time.

The main reason being is that we cannot deny anymore the fact that climate change is happening. Some of the most upfront editorials like The Guardian in Great Britain declared that from now on they will be using words that describe the actual events with a necessary urgency. You now read terms like “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” instead of “climate change” and “global warming”. Recognizing this situation instead of hiding behind calming and vague words is one of the steps we all should make.

Organizers of “Towards Nature” had their focus on the young generation. Because  they are the ones who will have to face this changing planet very soon, they are the ones who will be making decisions in the future, and they are the ones who can start acting now. The Palacio de Congresos united students from all the main schools, colleges and universities in Marbella and along the coast. They all came to share, to learn and to be inspired. To find out how to make their dreams come true. And that’s exactly what Johan Ernst Nilson does the best.

Who is Johan Ernst Nilson?

Swede Johan Ernst Nilson has been traveling around the world for the last 20 years as a global adventurer, explorer, activist, motivational speaker, peak performance coach, and philanthropist. His current official titles include:

  • Ambassador, International Union for Conservation of  Nature
  • Ambassador, MinStoraDag
  • Ambassador, Mentor
  • Honorary Goodwill Ambassador, Nepal
  • President, Everest Summiteers Association, Sweden
  • Fellow and Board member, The Explorers Club
  • Fellow, Traveller’s Club
  • Brand Ambassador, AUDI
  • Brand Ambassador, Zenith
  • Ambassador, Swedish Postcode Lottery
  • Ambassador, Ramlosa

If you ask what does “global adventurer” mean,
here is the timeline of just some of Johan Ernst’s big trips:

And yes, it started with nothing less than a bike trip from Sweden to Africa.

Johan Ernst himself claims that this decision – that by the way he took after a bet with a friend – changed his life. He used to have the lowest grade in gym at school, had never been on an expedition before, had no idea what obstacles could be there, hadn’t even planned the route in much detail! But already back then he intuitively knew the most important thing that would guide him would guide him through life: everything is possible, the impossible just takes a little more time. His first 6500 kilometers in 52 days on bike proved just this.

Travelling from Sweden to Africa turned out to be a kind of a fascination, and he repeated it several times – once by kayak, another time by flying boat (Johan Ernst didn’t know how to fly a plane let alone a small flying small rubber dingy, but he got his pilot’s license especially for this voyage. National Geographic filmed the trip and turned it into a film. Adding to unusual means of transportation, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Rome to New York by jetski (another film by National Geographic Channel), and crossed Greenland by kite.

Johan Ernst has sailed to the Arctic and Antarctic, walked through Alaska, and climbed all Seven Summits. (The Seven Summits are the highest mountains in each of the seven continents. Climbing to the summit of all is regarded as one of the great mountaineering challenges). He did an expedition that went from North to South Pole and received recognition in the Guinness World Book of Records. A Global Adventurer indeed!

But Johan Ernst does not just travel to far parts of the world for pleasure. Fifty percent of his time goes to charity work and activism. Specifically environmental activism. He even calls himself an “environmental explorer” he can tell you how much  the planet has been changing in the last 20 years. After all, he has witnessed it all with his own eyes. From oceans to mountains, ice caps to deserts, from cities to the most remote places far from any human activity. The planet is changing and Johan Ernst does his best to attract world attention to it. He gives talks, makes viral photos and videos, including photo-books and exhibitions, he has produced a documentary series about environmental problems around the world, acts as an ambassador and is a public figure for eco-organisations. A special company oversees his expeditions to ensure that they are conducted in the most sustainable way possible, and Johan Ernst himself says that his “mission is to raise awareness and empower all of us to choose sustainable solutions. I know from previous expeditions that people listen and both individuals and corporations are inspired to act more sustainably themselves in the future”.

Everything is connected to the environment. So it is no wonder that Johan Ernst also works with education, poverty, addictions, violence and other social problems. True sustainability comes from ecological and social justice. Last year alone he raised 6 million dollars for charity projects. Some of them are a true reflection of his nature. For example, he personally trained Aron Anderson, wheelchair racer who became the very first person to climb a mountain summit in a wheelchair – Mt Kebnekaise, the tallest peak of Sweden.

Dare to Dare

The most incredible thing about Johan Ernst is that he is sure that everyone can do everything that he has done. It  doesn’t matter if you cannot ride a bike, fly a kite, sail, or endure harsh conditions. The question is the mindset. Everything else – absolutely everything else – can be learnt.

“When I was a kid my big heroes were icons like Buzz Aldrin and Nansen, but they were so far away. Are Dreams really for normal people?! Are Dreams something we can reach ourselves? Well, now many years later when I got to know Buzz Aldrin,
I understand that these heroes are humans just like you and me. The only difference between them and other people is that they believed that the dream can come true….and they made it happen! They visualized themselves standing on the top of the mountain while all the others were laughing”.

That’s something that Johan Ernst tells people in his lectures that he gives around the world, from schools to the offices of the businesses and their CEOs, from TV-shows to charity talks. He teaches you to… dream and to dare. To dream high and never to give up in trying to make your dreams come true. To dare, to explore, to step out of your comfort zone, to believe in oneself. He wants people to be their best, to achieve their peak performance, to make mistakes until it works. To realize the true potential. In his lectures he says that:

“The most important is how we see ourselves. After years of traveling around in schools, companies and in personal coaching I always get surprised and sad when I realize how low people think of themselves in therms of potentials. I use a technique in my lectures called NOX (No Excuses) which is based on the fact that we all have excuses when it comes to stop eating sugar, quit smoking or something else that is a hard commitment. If we really want to get somewhere with all these commitments, then its all about making up our mind!

Making up our mind is that’s what we all need now. Many people doing their best and being their best to tackle the biggest problem humanity faces – the consequences of climate crisis.

That´s what Johan Ernst Nilson tried to say to the young people of Marbella during his talks in Palacio de Congresos. Young people and their parents, because we are all in it together, and we cannot divide the responsibility by nation, gender or age group. “We are part of nature. We are not on the side of nature, we are in nature, we are nature”. Being our best – together – we can reach any goal.


Interview by: Ana Pavon

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