Click here to jump down to Mike's speaking topics on energy, waste, environmental justice, community and campus organizing and other issues.
Mike Ewall is the founder and director of Energy Justice Network, a national support network for grassroots community groups fighting dirty energy and waste industry facilities such as coal power plants, ethanol plants, natural gas facilities, landfills and incinerators of every sort. He has been actively involved in student and community environmental justice organizing since high school in 1990. He's taught hundreds of workshops at college campuses and activist conferences throughout the U.S. His grassroots support work has helped many communities achieve victories against power plants, landfills, incinerators, medical waste facilities and other polluting industries.
Mike's activism began while in high school, as a trash incinerator was planned for his home county near Philadelphia. His work against environmental racism started two years later when, at the age of 18, he was removed from chairing his home town's Environmental Advisory Board for questioning a waste company. The company was seeking a long-term waste contract from his township so they could build a waste facility in an African-American community in a neighboring town -- a facility that was soon defeated. Since this victory, his passion for environmental justice has led him to focus much of his work on supporting low-income communities and communities of color, and has led to numerous victories against proposed polluters in urban and rural communities throughout Pennsylvania and beyond.
Through the 1990s, his work focused on expanding a state-wide grassroots environmental network in Pennsylvania, supporting community opposition to landfills, incinerators, gas-fired power plants, prisons, highways, sewage sludge dumping, water fluoridation, nuclear waste and more.
His accomplishments in his home state of Pennsylvania include stopping numerous incinerators, helping halt a multi-state nuclear waste dump, stopping a law mandating water fluoridation, stopping the nation's most urban proposal for a liquefied natural gas terminal, stopping the world's two largest tire incinerator proposals, and stopping the nation's first proposal for a coal-to-oil refinery. See sidebar for more.
In 2003, he warned Harrisburg City Council that their incinerator (the most dioxin-polluting one in the nation, by far, and a major case of environmental racism) would put the city into bankruptcy if they borrowed the money needed to rebuild it (which they did). Eight years later, the city indeed filed for bankruptcy.
Student and Democracy Activism
Mike's involvement in the student movement runs deep as well, having been active since 1995 rebuilding and supporting the national Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), a group unique for its strong democratic, youth-led, social justice-oriented take on environmentalism. In 1996, he was a founding member of 180: The Movement for Democracy and Education, a student pro-democracy/anti-corporate group active in the late 1990s.
In 2004, he was a founding member of Energy Action Coalition (EAC), a broad coalition of groups working with students and youth on energy and climate issues throughout the U.S. and Canada. Nearly a decade later, EAC remains the face of the student climate movement and is the host of the PowerShift conferences, the largest student environmental activist conferences since SEAC's era in the early 1990s.
In 1999, Mike coined the term 'energy justice' and found a need for a national Energy Justice Network to support grassroots activists and get them networked with each other on a range of dirty energy and waste issues, as no organization was filling that need. The need was particularly obvious as he was a few years into helping Pennsylvania communities fight off around 60 proposed natural gas-fired power plants (of which only 18 were built) and most other states were facing huge numbers of proposals as well, but mainstream environmental groups saw natural gas as clean energy (this was years before the awareness around fracking) and wouldn't provide support.
Energy Justice Network formed slowly, operating as a fully volunteer project until 2006. In 2006, the network become truly national when creating the "No New Coal Plants" network, connecting grassroots activists in nearly 40 states to stop the new wave of proposed coal-fired power plants. Since the late 1990s, Mike has been a leading critic of biomass and biofuels, and was the first to start to document the hazards with the full range of bioenergy technologies. While winning victories against biomass incinerators since 1998, the anti-biomass network grew extensively after 2006 and brought together activists in most U.S. states and, on the issue of poultry waste incineration, on four continents. The grassroots energy against biomass led to the formation of a strong Energy Justice Platform. Mike leads Energy Justice's work against all sorts of incineration (particularly the burning of trash, tires, wood waste, poultry waste and landfill gas), and he works closely with the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA) as well as many local and regional formations, such as Zero Waste Maryland's work against incinerators in Maryland and DC.
Mike's vision for an online interactive pollution mapping project began in 1995 and finally became a reality in 2010, now providing a platform for tracking existing, proposed, closed and defeated dirty energy and waste facilities, the corporations behind them, and the people and groups fighting them.
In 2008, he was one of the first to earn a "tuition-free law school for activists" scholarship to the social justice activist-run law school at the University of the District of Columbia, where he earned his J.D. in 2011, subsequently passing the Pennsylvania bar. Prior to law school, he authored the nation's strongest mercury and dioxin air pollution ordinances and has used these local laws to stop proposed polluters in small Pennsylvania towns. During and since law school, he has been building a legal toolbox for how to stop polluters with local ordinances in different states. In 2013, he got his first law journal article published, on the legal history of environmental justice and the strategic difference between "equity" and "justice" approaches.
He now splits his time between DC and Pennsylvania and is currently authoring a national report on the environmental racism consequences of trash, sewage sludge and "biomass" incinerators.
Contact Mike at 215-436-9511 or by email to inquire about rates and logistics.
Technology-Specific Energy & Waste Workshops
Environmental Justice, Legal Workshops & Organizing/Mapping Tools
Community and Student Organizing & Anti-Corporate Trainings
Health and Environmental Issues
Nuclear power, coal, oil, gas, hydroelectric, biomass and waste incineration, and "alternative" fuels production all damage the environment and disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color. Learn about the life-cycle impacts of these dirty power sources and how they affect people and our environment.
Every possible dirty technology is now posing as a solution to climate change, yet several are even worse than coal. This workshop exposes these false solutions, including nuclear power, "clean coal," natural gas, "biomass" and trash incineration, landfill gas burning, biofuels, biochar, hydroelectric dams, geothermal, "recycling" of toxic wastes and other crazy schemes.
Catastrophic climate change will not be avoided by the sorts of policies that commonly pose as solutions. Many toxic scams, schemes and loopholes abound in the world of green energy marketing, renewable portfolio standards, carbon trading, carbon taxes & offsets. Learn how these policies have failed or created new problems for the most vulnerable -- and how we must reenvision our organizing and policy goals to truly tackle the problem.
Conservation, efficiency, wind, solar and energy storage can replace nearly all dirty energy sources within 20 years, if our government were committed to doing so. Learn about the potential for these technologies to revolutionize the energy sector and replace fossil fuels, nuclear power, hydroelectric dams, biomass/waste incineration and other dirty fuels.
The cheap and easy half is already out of the ground. The remaining half requires more extreme measures, such as deepwater drilling, tar sands, fracking, underground coal gasification and thorium reactors. Other resources are peaking as well, including phosphorous (critical for use in agriculture), metals and other minerals... all leading to peaks in food, energy use and population, with dire consequences for a world where population and consumption is growing.
Where does your waste go when you throw it "away?" Where is "away" and who lives there? What happens when you let trash be sent to landfills or incinerators? What are the alternatives? This presentation can cover many types of waste, including hazardous waste, construction & demolition waste, sewage sludge, medical waste, contaminated soil and ash. What you don't know can definitely hurt you.
Nuclear power is being promoted as a solution to climate change, yet the nuclear fuel cycle DOES contribute to global warming. Nuclear power is also the most expensive, most racist and most environmentally damaging form of energy we have. Learn about pollution from nuclear reactors and the nuclear fuel chain, from mining to waste disposal, including nuclear power's connection to nuclear weapons and militarism.
So-called "biomass" incineration and biofuels masquerade as clean, renewable energy sources, but are false solutions, harming communities and the environment. Biomass means everything from trash to trees, from animal wastes and crops to tires, sewage sludge, landfill gas and construction and demolition wood waste. Burning these fuels harms the climate (even more than coal) and pollutes communities, while undermining environmentally-sound methods for managing forests, agriculture and waste. Learn why there are no "green" ways to burn "biomass" and how you can join Energy Justice's national grassroots anti-biomass network to stop this growing threat.
Natural gas extraction is wrecking our air, land and water. Learn some of the lesser-known details about natural gas and fracking, including larger-picture matters like "peak gas" production, how gas is worse than coal for global warming, and the related battles against fracking wastewater treatment, liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, gas-fired power plants, pipelines and compressor stations.
Trash incineration (including pyrolysis, gasification and plasma arc) is the most expensive and polluting way to make energy or manage waste. It's more polluting than coal (even for the climate) and produces 10 times fewer jobs than reuse, recycling and composting. This archaic technology is coming back with a vengeance, driven by misguided renewable energy policies and confused politicians. One of the world's most unpopular technologies, grassroots activists continue to stop these plans while building a new "zero waste" future.
Managing landfills for energy production (to burn landfill gas for energy) runs counter to the proper management of landfills as waste facilities, causing unnecessary increases in pollution. Burning landfill gas for energy mismanages landfills, is worse for global warming than simply flaring the gas and increases toxic exposures to landfill communities. Learn how landfill gas management can be improved so that the toxic risks to the community are minimized.
What is environmental racism? Why DO the most polluting industries tend to end up in certain parts of town? Isn't it just about class? Learn about the realities of environmental racism. This workshop discusses the principles of environmental justice and what is means to be involved in the environmental justice movement. We will explore the differences between NIMBY "not in my backyard" and NIABY "not in anyone's backyard" politics, the difference between environmental "equity" and justice, and how corporate propaganda systems undermine environmental justice through sophisticated divide and conquer tactics.
Environmental racism is alive and well in the U.S., but now, 30 years after the term was coined, government efforts to address the problem have hijacked the environmental justice movement while the Supreme Court has thrown out hopes of addressing these injustices through civil rights laws in the courts. Learn about the history of this effort, and why the future of environmental justice policy is not through environmental justice legal channels.
At least half of the states allow local governments to pass air or waste laws stricter than state and federal law. Making use of these rights can offer grassroots groups a cheap and effective way to stop proposed polluting industries and to clean up or close existing ones, without going through the costly (and often unsuccessful) path of state regulatory appeals. Learn what is possible in your state and how we can collaborate to draft ordinances to establish strict new environmental policy from the ground up.
Energy Justice Network has been building an ambitious online mapping and database project, tracking existing, proposed, closed and defeated dirty energy and waste facilities of many types, the corporations behind them, and the people and groups fighting them. This is an organizing and networking tool that some grassroots community groups are starting to use to share documents, research the industry and to find and connect with each other. Learn about this new tool (available at http://www.energyjustice.net/map/) and how you and your group can make use of it.
Want to protect your community from some polluting industry or other noxious development? No matter where you live, there's a good chance that you're not that far from a landfill, incinerator, toxic waste site, power plant or other polluting industry (or proposals for such). Learn how to research and address these environmental threats. Many community groups have succeeded in fighting off environmentally-damaging development, but it's nothing like what you see in movies. Learn what works for communities and how to avoid pitfalls that cause groups to lose. Learn how to win without having to rely on expensive lawyers. We can help you with strategy development, group-building and much more.
Communities all over are threatened with existing or proposed dirty energy and waste facilities. Students can do a lot to help impacted communities fight off these polluters. Learn how to identify threatened communities in your region, how to approach them and how to work in solidarity to move their struggles to victory.
Many student organizations have a hard time maintaining an effective organization, not to mention long-term, strategically organized campaigns. This workshop will teach you how to get and keep members, break down apathy, win effective campaigns, build student power and more.
As there are many components to this presentation, it works best as an extended organizing workshop covering at least 3-4 hours. Less-detailed 1-2 hour presentations can be made, but would only cover parts of the material. Try bringing leaders of various groups together for this workshop.
The workshop explains the details on how to research the following types of corporate/military connections to schools:
Learn how to "green" and de-corporatize your school! This workshop can also include a hands-on research trip to offices on campus where files on these corporate ties exist, helping you obtain some of this hard-to-get information on your school.
Schools are institutions which create major environmental and social impacts when they buy everything from food and paper to light bulbs and clothing. This purchasing power can be redirected to supporting products which are more socially responsible.
Most colleges and universities are run by corporate businesspeople and political appointees rather than those who have the most interest in the educational system. Learn how to fight for fundamental changes to democratize schools, giving more power to students, faculty and staff.
Corporations run our government, our media, our schools and ourselves. Corporations have more rights than citizens, but it hasn't always been this way. This workshop outlines specific methods to democratize and de-corporatize our society.
Hazardous waste from the phosphate mining industry has long been dumped in drinking water supplies under the guise of helping people's teeth with water fluoridation. In fact, fluoridation does not reduce tooth decay, but does contribute to a wide range of health problems, from discolored teeth to bone cancer to brittle bones and learning disabilities. Federal agencies now admit that people have been overdosed with it for the past 60 years that the practice has gone on. Learn about fluoride's effects on the brain, bones and other parts of the body and what we can do to reverse the use of people as an industrial dumping ground.
Milk doesn't prevent osteoporosis, it causes it. Milk also causes cancers and other health problems. Along with meat, it is the vehicle for exposure to over 90% of your exposure to some of the most toxic chemicals known: dioxins and furans. Dairy products provide increased exposure to toxic pesticides, cancer-causing growth hormones and antibiotics residues. Learn the truth about milk and dairy products and how to live without them. Learn about: