Nick Mullins was the 5th generation of his family to work in the underground coal mines of central Appalachia before turning toward a career in economic and environmental justice. As author of the blog “Thoughts of a Coal Miner”, Nick addresses many of the issues that impact coal miners, serving both to fight back against pro-coal messaging from industry associations and lobbying groups, as well as critique ineffective, and sometimes damaging, forms of activism.

Nick’s writing and commentary has gained a large audience, having been featured in a variety of publications including Yes! Magazine, Audubon Magazine, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Post, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR’s The World and many others. His public outreach has included two cross-country speaking tours and work in documentary film.

In 2016, following the receipt of his B.A. in Communications from Berea College magna cum laude, Nick founded Breaking Clean, a media organization focused on justice advocacy communications strategies that are more inclusive of rural, conservative, and working class families. Through his work, Nick seeks to break down the rural-urban divide, establish common ground across divisive sociopolitical viewpoints, and move communities towards a more sustainable future for generations to come.

As of 2018, Nick has also begun work within Virginia Tech’s Sociology Graduate Program where his research continues to focus upon the efficacy of environmental activism in communities dominated by extractive industries.



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. 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. In this talk, Nick explains 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. He helps audiences understand the issues working-class communities face while illustrating the need to rethink the communications framework of environmental activism.


Corporate interests have always sought to maintain a positive public image. But what happens when their intentions turn to manipulating the cultural identity of entire communities? Through investments in marketing, faux grassroots campaigns, and even the infiltration of public education systems, industry is going beyond basic advertising to change the way communities view political and economic issues—often with alarming result. In this lecture, Nick examines the tactics used by large industry to accomplish cultural hegemony over local communities serving not only as a means to support their brand and increase employee loyalty, but also to defend against public interest groups and government regulations.


Human caused climate change is real, as are the challenges we now face. Although it is absolutely necessary that carbon emissions be reduced, many people continue to challenge the science. How do we convince people of the need for change, and how can we protect those most economically vulnerable as we transition away from fossil fuel? In this lecture, Nick discusses the reality of climate change from a working-class perspective, engaging both believers and non-believers in the need for sustainable energy practices while looking towards a just economic transition for those most dependent on fossil fuel extraction.

From bringing alive the role of organized labor in empowering the environmental movement to providing witness to the scars left behind by an economy built on extraction, Nick’s deep knowledge of the history and science of climate change and the coal industry as well as his profound respect for the cultural legacies of rural America provided a learning experience like none other. We are forever grateful for what Nick shared with us.
— UMass Boston