Hello, everyone! I think you’ll agree with me when I say that changes can be exciting. There have been some changes brewing at the In Common podcast with new additions to the team. With this blog post, I begin my new role as Blog Editor for the In Common podcast. I am thrilled to be taking over editorial responsibilities for the blog from Graham Epstein, Michael Cox, and Stefan Partelow. They have built a fantastic hub for scholars and practitioners in the environmental social science community to share their stories and thoughts via podcasts and blogs. I love that the podcasts and blogs have brought us closer to the people behind the papers that we read and cite.
I think you’ll also agree with me when I say that not all changes are exciting. I am, of course, speaking of the seismic shift that occurred for all of us in 2020. This past year has led me to think extensively about how the pandemic has tested and is continuing to test human society. We have seen how closely human activity is linked to our shared environment with the cascading impacts of the virus on all aspects of our lives. Nearly every family has been marked by grief from losing loved ones, jobs and livelihoods, and/or is facing health impacts and stress from increased workload and childcare responsibilities. I have experienced two lockdowns—one in the United States and one in India. On many days, I feel numb to the suffering that we witness. People are overwhelmed, and yet the end of the pandemic is still several years away. Even as some countries are removing restrictions that allow people to resume activities that they once did in their former lives, some countries are preparing to battle a third wave.
Everyone is yearning to return to normal. Yet, normal is a double-edged sword and the word should be used with care. There is comfort in normality because of familiarity of the old ways of being and relating. But isn’t “normal” what got us into the pandemic in the first place? The pandemic has revealed the stark inequalities in our “normal”, and it is time to make a departure from the old self-destructive status quo. With the ever-looming threat of the climate emergency that is going to be deadlier than COVID-19, we need a new normal to navigate the changes that are headed our way. We must think more carefully about what elements of our old normal do we want to carry over into our post-pandemic lives. We need a reimagining of our institutions, relationships, power, and norms that allow people to slow down and cultivate meaningful relationships. Many changes have already occurred in the ways we engage with communities. I have read fascinating tales of researchers in Fiji leading projects in the absence of parachute science, ornithologists in the United States collectively working together to decolonize bird names, and ecologists in India advocating for recognizing the labor of invisible field assistants. When I read these stories, I find that they all share a common theme of community and care. Community is what holds us together, especially in uncertain times. Community is what we fall back on when the uphill becomes all too steep. Community is what gives meaning to our existence.
In the spirit of that community, I encourage you to think about and envision what a new normal would look like for environmental social science. As Blog Editor, my aim is to increase diversity and representation in the blog operations, with hopes to including more posts of international breadth. I am especially interested in fieldwork stories that remain hidden in journal articles, and posts on teaching the commons, as well as theories, concepts, methods, and general environmental social science musings on the commons. I also plan to encourage submissions from early-career scholars, practitioners, journalists, and students to increase the visibility of their work within the environmental social science community. I intend that the blogs, along with the podcasts, will continue to foster, expand, and bring our environmental social science community closer together as we cultivate a new normal that is, hopefully, kinder, and more empathetic in these trying times.
If you have an idea for a blog for the In Common Podcast, or have questions and comments, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.