Nick Mullins

Nick Mullins is a 9th-generation Appalachian and was the 5th generation of his family to work in the underground coal mines of central Appalachia. He is a 2016 graduate of Berea College where he received his B.A. in communications with additional focuses in Appalachian studies and sustainability and environmental studies. Nick’s writing and commentary regarding coal extraction and Appalachia’s political landscape have been featured in a variety of publications including Yes! Magazine, Audubon Magazine, The Hill, The Washington Post, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR’s The World, Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, and many others. Nick’s work in Appalachian issues earned him the 2015 Stammer Appalachian Service Award, and his research into the receptivity of environmentalists and environmental messaging in the Appalachian coalfields earned accolades within the undergraduate communications community.



Coal, Climate, and Environmental Backlash: The Political Repercussions of Environmental Activism in Appalachia’s Coalfields

After years of hard work, and millions of dollars invested in environmental advocacy campaigns, marches, and protests, something strange happened. The political landscape of the nation shifted once again to support economics over environmental protection. All the ground that had been gained in climate change legislation and environmental protection is being lost and even social justice initiatives have come under attack. As our country continues to broaden its political and cultural divide, many people are left wondering, “What went wrong?”

Appalachia has risen as a microcosm of the nation’s underlying socioeconomic problems, and while there exists a great potential to find truth within the Appalachian experience, there’s a problem. Continued exploitation of Appalachia’s social issues within the national media has left people focusing on the long-held stereotypes associated with the region. Without understanding the deeper contexts that shaped Appalachia into what it is today, little hope will be found in better understanding our national divide.

Using my experiences, I’ve set to the task of explaining the economic and political forces that turned one of the nation’s largest labor rights strongholds, into a region of pro-industry attitudes based upon conservative values. Through my presentations, I hope to help audiences understand the issues working-class communities face while illustrating the need to rethink the communications framework of environmental activism and build stronger relationships with people from all walks of life.

Topics include:

  • Corporate Manipulation of Cultural & Political Values
  • Environmental/Liberal Backlash in Rural Communities
  • The Power of the Jobs vs. Environment Debate
  • Audience-Based Communications Strategies
  • Finding our individual place in a just transition

In addition to presentations and lectures, screenings of the documentary film Blood on the Mountain ( will be offered.