The short version:
Meera Subramanian is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes about culture and the environment for newspapers and magazines around the world. Her book A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka was a 2016 Orion Book Award finalist, and her writing has been anthologized in Best American Science and Nature Writing and multiple editions of Best Women’s Travel Writing. She is currently a co-director of the Religion & Environment Story Project and a contributing editor of Orion. In the past she was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT, Fulbright-Nehru senior research fellow, board president of the Society of Environmental Journalists, and the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities at Princeton University.
The not-so-short version:
Movement beyond native boundaries runs through my blood. On one side, my great-great grandfather traveled from Germany to Texas in time to draw surveyor’s lines across the Lone Star state in the mid-1800s. More recently, my father made a one-way journey, too, the first in his family to leave India, disembarking his ship in New York Harbor in 1959.
I seek out stories about home in the personal and planetary sense, writing narrative nonfiction about the wild world hidden around us and within us. While I’m currently focused on the climate crisis, I’ve covered everything from the return of peregrine falcons to the near extinction of vultures, from girls sex education in India to organic chocolate in Grenada. My first book is A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka, published in August 2015 by PublicAffairs (and as Elemental India: The Natural World at a Time of Crisis and Opportunity by HarperCollins India). The book was a finalist for the Orion Book Award.
My work has been published in Nature, The New York Times, The NewYorker.com, InsideClimate News, Wall Street Journal, Virginia Quarterly Review, Orion, Undark, Popular Science, High Country News, USA Today, Smithsonian, Audubon, Salon, Bidoun, Discover, Saudi Aramco World, Grist, and others. Internationally, I’ve written for Caravan, India Today, Open, and GEO (India), Africa Geographic (South Africa), Internazionale (Italy), Revue Urbanisme (France), and others.
In 2021, I helped launch the Religion & Environment Story Project, which trains journalists, editors, and public-facing scholars interested in the intersection of the environment and religion. The goal is to bridge the divide between the too-often-siloed religion and science beats, and to promote new thinking and new narratives that will inform and educate the public, especially on the climate crisis.
Since 2005, I’ve been a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, formed to “strengthen the quality, reach and viability of journalism across all media to advance public understanding of environmental issues.” The organization has been a bottomless resource for me as a freelancer, and served on the Board of Directors from 2018 – 2021, including as President in 2020. If you want to support robust journalism covering energy and the environment, you can donate here.
In 2017-18 I worked on Finding Middle Ground, a series of stories for InsideClimate News about how Americans perceive climate change in their own backyards, whether from a peach orchard, the back of a dogsled, or up a wind turbine. The series was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Award. The year before that I spent in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT, where I got to be a student again, saturating myself with learning without a deadlined objective in sight. But I also teach, including creative nonfiction classes at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA program in Tennessee and the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference, and in 2019-2020, I was honored to serve as the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities at Princeton University.
Since 2007, I have also been part of the editorial team of Killing the Buddha, an award-winning online literary magazine of stories about belief, lost or found, oftentimes both. Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith (Beacon Press, July 2009), an anthology featuring the best of Killing the Buddha, includes my piece “Banana Slug Psalm.” In 2018, I became a contributing editor of the gorgeous and thought-provoking magazine, Orion.
My writing has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015) and multiple editions of the Best Women’s Travel Writing series, published by Travelers’ Tales (The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011, volume 8, and volume 9), exploring the connection to my Indian relatives, monarch reserves and men in Michoacán, and the mud banks of the Ganges River. Not all at the same time. I also have essays forthcoming in Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones that Haunt Us (Algonquin 2021), Solastalgia: An Anthology of Emotion in a Disappearing World (The University of Virginia Press 2022), and The World As We Knew It: Dispatches From a Changing Climate (Catapult 2022).
I also have a thing for raptors. In 2010 and 2011, I taught environmental journalism in Kenya, as part of a Conservation Media class focusing on birds of prey, for St. Lawrence University undergraduates. Where else could we have trapped a vulture using a freshly-killed-by-lions wildebeest as bait, and then secured a little GPS backpack to follow the vulture’s movements via the Web? Exactly. Visit the blog we did here.
Home has been New Jersey, New Orleans, a ship, a southern music town, and multiple places in the Pacific Northwest, where I spent more than a decade working with environmental nonprofit organizations, sometimes in the city, and sometimes at the end of a dirt road. Then there was a good long stint in New York City, where I earned a master’s in journalism from NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. I now find myself on a glacial moraine near the edge of the Atlantic, again at the end of a dirt road, looking up. There are birds everywhere.
Residencies, Grants & Fellowships:
Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities, Princeton University — 2019-2020
Poynter Fellowship in Journalism, Yale University — February 2020
Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources Wildfire Workshop — 2018
Knight Science Journalism fellowship at MIT — 2016-2017
Society of Environmental Journalists Diversity fellowship — October 2015
MBL Logan Science Journalism Program fellowship/Alaska Field Experience — May & July 2015
Metcalf Climate Change Adaptation seminar — May 2015
Fulbright-Nehru Senior Researcher fellowship — 2013-2014
Society of Environmental Journalists/Fund for Environmental Journalism — September 2012
Metcalf Institute Science Workshop for Journalists — June 2012
Society of Environmental Journalists 20-20-20 Fellowship — October 2010
Blue Mountain Center — October 2009
Mesa Refuge — September 2007
Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources (Blue Mountains) — May 2006
Scripps Howard Award (Topic of the Year: Divided America) finalist, for Finding Middle Ground series — 2017
Orion Book Award finalist — 2016
Santa Monica Public Library Green Prize for Sustainable Literature — 2016
Society of Environmental Journalists 11th Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment: First Place for Outstanding Feature Story — 2012
Staige D. Blackford Prize for Nonfiction — 2012
Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ Board Member 2018-2021, President 2020)
National Association of Science Writers
Investigative Reporters and Editors
Association of Writers & Writing Programs