My Story

Growing up in Appalachia, our backyard trash incinerators went along with clear mountain mornings, and our tobacco-based economy with the sparkling streams. On my horse, I traveled eroded (illegal!) logging trails, steep cattle-stripped pastures, and mucky cattle-stomped crossings. And honestly: it was all beautiful to me. I didn’t learn to see our ways of living on the land as “environmental crisis” until later. It’s hard, seeing yourself and your communities through that lens. What I’ve learned, living and working in places from Alaska to Maine to New York City, is that it’s possible to feel deep responsibility without becoming overwhelmed, or paralyzed by guilt, even for something as serious as environmental damage. That’s because responsibility and empowerment are two sides of the same coin, the coin of civic engagement. In my view, nothing embodies this better than the environmental policy and law that democracies — ours, and others — have committed themselves to over time. Civic engagement takes knowledge — of our ourselves and our neighbors, of the land and the law. That’s why I do the work I do.

Amy Knisely
Amy Knisely


  • B.A. in Philosophy, University of the South
  • PhD in Philosophy, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Masters of Environmental Law and Policy, Vermont Law School

Research Interests

  • Community-based engagement with hazardous waste remediation
  • Environmental justice, particularly issues impacting people of color in eastern NC
  • The law of water rights, especially in the context of Rocky Mountain west

Crews and Other Activities

  • Chair, Swannanoa Superfund Community Advisory Group
  • Warren Wilson College Choir (alto)

Contact Dr. Knisley

(828) 771-2022
Witherspoon 113
WWC CPO 6084

PO Box 9000

Asheville, NC 28815-9000
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