Your Guide to the Unknown Territory

Few issues expose the nation’s current ideological divide more starkly than climate change, and we need your support to plunge headfirst into the abyss. We don’t know what we will find there. That’s exactly why we want to send a seasoned and talented writer, Meera Subramanian, on an extended reporting assignment to explore this unknown territory.

She will be seeking out everyday encounters with ordinary people in ordinary places; exploring the common ground of environmental concern over the changing climate; and listening for the common language of true conversation. We recently caught up with Meera to find out what she is thinking about before she embarks on her journey this summer.

InsideClimate: Why are you excited about the Unknown Territory project?
Meera: America has always been a country at odds with itself, but the political divide has become a yawning chasm with the 2016 election. Yet we all share many of the same fundamental concerns, whether we are red, blue, purple, and/or green. We want meaningful work and just compensation for it. We want lives that get better over time, not worse. We want health for ourselves and our families. The climate, meanwhile, carries on, steadily warming under our influence and affecting the ability of Americans to achieve these desires for themselves. Unknown Territory is a chance to leap over the political divide.
InsideClimate: What will you be looking for?
Meera: Stories of people’s lived lives, not the check-box answers of big data and algorithms that neglect hope, fear, middle-of-the-night dreams. I’ll be talking to average Americans from all walks of life in the regions where reporters don’t roam nearly enough, the in-between places that are news deserts in spite of the people that inhabit them — farmers, coal miners, wind turbine installers, church-goers, fathers, mothers. I’ll be looking to spend extended time in a handful of places across the country. The primary objective: listen.
InsideClimate: What are the most important influences on your writing and how do they manifest in your work?
Meera: I find myself returning again and again to the idea of what makes a place home for people. Except for the less than 1 percent of Americans who are native, all the rest of us have come from elsewhere, recently or long ago. We’ve found new places and made them our own. We define our landscapes even as they define us. And then they change, and climate change is driving that transformation as forests burn, coasts erode and farm wells run dry. I’m drawn to the complexity of how humans respond to these moments.
InsideClimate: Do you know where you’ll go first?
Meera: My first destination will be the Southern Appalachians of the Deep South. I’m not sure what I’ll find, but come back soon and find out!
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