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Event name

How an Engineer Became an Environmentalist


Thu 04 / 22 / 2021
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM


Zoom link sent in reminder email 24 hours prior to event

Who can attend

Open to all

Limited capacity: Registration Closed




Donna Booher
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On Earth Day in 1971, Phil Williams was a target of an Earth Day demonstration by Hopi and Navajo people on the Black Mesa plateau in Arizona. He was working for Bechtel to open a vast new coal strip mine on their Reservations.

Phil's role as a hydraulics engineer specializing in sediment transport was focused on using water (a precious commodity in the desert) to transport coal from the Black Mesa mine via a slurry pipeline. The demonstration by the Hopi and Navajo opened his eyes to the potential impact of the mining operations, which author Peter Matthiessen later described as "the ugliest ecological disaster of our time."

Fifty years later, on the anniversary of the Black Mesa demonstration, Phil will tell us how the events of that day changed his world view and how a piece of junk mail impacted his life. He'll also explain how he eventually atoned for his environmental sins.

His story will take us from the environmental politics of the era of Edward Abbey and "Earth First!" to the policies of the Green New Deal. 

Join us on Earth Day 2021 to hear how Phil became an environmentalist.

About our Presenter: Phil Williams is a retired civil engineer formerly founder and president of Philip Williams and Associates in San Francisco and of the International Rivers Network in Berkeley.

Photo credit: Marc Gaede