Anna Jane Joyner, one of Western North Carolina’s most high-profile environmental activists, has announced her departure from the Western North Carolina Alliance, where she’s been working for the past two and a half years as campaign coordinator. Joyner has been an active part of the Asheville Beyond Coal campaign and the WNC Green Congregations group. She’s also been spotlighted in Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously climate change documentary series.
Joyner says she’s unsure what’s next for her. She may further her education. She may set to writing a book. See her statement below for details.
Joyner’s move will definitely leave big shoes to fill at WNC Alliance, which recently announced that it was undergoing other change. The nonprofit announced it was merging with two other regional environmental nonprofits.
Here’s the statement from Joyner to Ashvegas.com:
After 2.5 years working to protect our mountains with the Western NC Alliance, I’m transitioning out of my position as campaign coordinator this summer – probably in late July or early August. Working for WNCA has been an amazing opportunity for me – I love, love the idea of working to protect the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, the region that raised me, and the place that will always have a big piece of my heart. In particular, I’ve been honored to work on the Asheville Beyond Coal campaign, coordinate WNC Green Congregations, participate in Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously documentary series on climate change, help keep our water system in Asheville’s hands, and advocate for an ecologically sensitive and sensible Pisgah-Nantahala Forest Management Plan (an opportunity that only comes around every 20 years!). The WNCA team and our partners and volunteers are some of the most awesome, talented, and passionate people I know – it has been a privilege and joy to work with them.
I’m not sure what I’ll do next but I do know I want to focus more climate change, and in particular, climate change communication. The Years Project really opened my eyes to the severity and urgency of our situation, and now whenever I’m doing anything else I feel a bit like I’m painting the room of a beautiful house with a wrecking ball outside. And I think one of the big missing links is how we communicate about it – the science is there and is very solid and clear – but we’re still not inspiring people to get engaged on the scale and level we need to if we’re going to make meaningful change and effectively ward off the worst impacts of climate change. I’d like to find a way to use my skills, talents, experience, voice, and passion to help bridge this missing link. I’ve been accepted into the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ Master of Environmental Management program. I’m still deciding if I should go this coming fall or wait a year or so to go back to school, but if and when I do go I’d like to work with the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, and am considering applying for a joint M.Div. degree to continue my work in the realm of faith-inspired environmental ethics and activism.
I’ve also been working with an editor and agent from NYC on a book proposal that should be ready to go by the end of this month! The idea came up while working on Asheville Beyond Coal and the Years of Living Dangerously project – in thinking about how to inspire other people to care about climate change, I essentially started asking myself, why do I care so much? After pondering, I came up with two answers: 1) it is massively unjust to millions of people, 2) it is and will impact the people, places, and things that we love — wine, coffee, beaches, coastal cities, our flowers and gardens and native wildlife and mountains, our future and our kids’ future, many of the things and places and people that bring joy and meaning to our lives. #1 is super important, but there are so many injustices in this world that sometimes I think we (myself included) get desensitized and shut down because we don’t really know how to prioritize them and/or where to start. #2 hits us at home – and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t really been explored in an accessible format for people outside of the academic, activist, and scientific communities. So that’s what I’m attempting to do – write a kind of real person’s guide to climate change that uses storytelling and compelling research to tell this story – as James Cameron said, “the biggest story of our time.” As well as to provide stories of hope and solutions – aka, what can we do about this crisis?
Right now, I’m leaning towards staying in Western NC another year or so to focus on climate-related projects and writing the book. If that works out, I’d like to stay active with WNC Green Congregations and Asheville Beyond Coal (until we win!) My brother and sister live here and my husband, Forrest Johnson, has a great job teaching at The Learning Community School so there’s a lot of incentive to stay around for a little while longer. And I just love these mountains – it would be hard to leave this magical place. But we will see what the future brings!
Thanks for your work here, Anna, and best of luck in your next endeavors – here’s hoping you stick around WNC.