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Arati Kumar-Rao - From National Geographic Explorer to Environmental Chronicler

Renata Chlumska  - Adventure athlete who became the first Swedish and Czech woman to climb Mount Everest and in 2005 did a circumnavigate of the lower 48 States of the United States by her own power.

Arati Kumar-Rao is an exceptional National Geographic Explorer, independent environmental photographer, writer, and artist dedicated to documenting the slow violence of ecological degradation. With unwavering passion, she traverses the South Asian subcontinent, embarking on captivating journeys that span seasons and sometimes years. Through her profound storytelling, Arati chronicles the ever-changing landscapes, climate, and their profound impact on livelihoods and biodiversity in South Asia.

Arati's profound impact is not confined to her lens or pen; she employs a multidimensional approach, utilising the power of photos, long form narratives, and art to communicate her insights. Recently, she unveiled her debut book, "Marginlands: Indian Landscapes On The Brink," a poignant exploration now available in bookstores across India and on Amazon.

Currently, Arati is engaged in a significant undertaking as she explores forced human migration in India, supported by a prestigious National Geographic grant. Her remarkable body of work has garnered recognition and has been featured in esteemed publications such as The National Geographic Magazine, Emergence Magazine, The Hindu, #Dysturb, The Guardian, BBC Outside Source, Hindustan Times, Mint, and other reputable outlets. Additionally, her artistic endeavours have been exhibited both in India and internationally, leaving an indelible mark on the global stage.

When not immersed in her assignments, Arati finds solace and inspiration in the Western Ghats and Bangalore, where she cherishes being a loving mother to three rescued cats.


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Listen to Arati Now!

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Show notes

  • Who is Arati?

  • Being based in Bangalore when not travelling

  • Her role as an environmental chronicler

  • Being a slow journalist or a slow storyteller

  • The types of story she tells

  • Her passion for photography and art

  • The tools she uses to tell the story

  • Working in the corporate world and making the decision to leave her job (2013) and start telling environmental stories

  • Her early years growing up and spending time in nature

  • Being inspired by the National Geographic Magazine

  • Wanting to tell stories of the land by walking

  • Making the transition from the corporate world to following her passion for storytelling

  • The practical steps involved

  • 2 pivotal moments in her life

  • Studying for a Masters in Physical and working in a lab and deciding it wasn’t the right job for her

  • Having to choose between the Arts and the Sciences

  • Moving back to India and working with Intel doing Market Research

  • Falling ill with Typhoid in her 30s and starting to reflect on her life and thinking about what she really wanted to do

  • Needing to make new connections and build new networks

  • Slowly starting to find her way and the power of social media to publish stories

  • Slow story telling verses the speed of the internet

  • Needing to upskill in photography, writing and art

  • Taking out personal loads and writing for grants

  • Getting the grant from National Geographic to study forced Human Migration across India due to environmental degradation

  • Doing a transect walk from the most easterly point of India to the most Westerly point.

  • Planning and starting a story - what that looks like

  • Following the threads and seeing where it leads

  • Knowing when you are on the right path?

  • Not finding any path to be wrong - there is always something to learn

  • Taking a pause to reflect on the information that’s been gathered

  • Dealing with dead ends and moving on

  • Her first time in Bangladesh

  • New book: Marginlands: Indian Landscapes on the Brink

  • The speed and impact of climate change

  • Why it’s important to listen to the local geography’s

  • Sounds in storytelling - Soundscapes

  • Recording a sound signature throughout the journey

  • Paul Salopek’s - Out of Eden Walk

  • Art as part of the storytelling

  • Wanting to train herself to pay attention to detail

  • How to connect with Arati on the social media platforms

  • Final words of advice for other women to follow their passions

  • Why it’s important for women to speak up

  • The stories that are in your backyard

  • “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ~ Mary Oliver


Social Media

Instagram: @aratikumarrao

Twitter: @aratikumarrao

Facebook: @aratikumarrao


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