We started writing Thinking Like a Human back in 2012. That now seems a long time ago, in our own lives, and in the world around us. At the time we had adjacent offices in the Department of Geography in Cambridge, and lots of opportunities to meet and chat. Since then, Chris has moved to the new Cambridge Conservation Initiative building, and taken over as Director of the Masters in Conservation Leadership. Bill has retired after a period as Head of Department. In 2020 and 2021, Covid has made a shambles of all routines of academic life: we are both working from home, and the idea of being able to meet in person and spark ideas seems something from a remote world.
It has been replaced with a world of all-digital communication. This feels very different. It is pretty good for some things – seminars or committee meetings, for example, or conferences attended by people from all over the world, no longer constrained by visas and costly air flights. But it has been bad for others. We have found it especially poor as a medium for conversation. And so, while the world of blogs, and social media of all kinds, has blossomed under Covid, we have found ourselves lonelier and more isolated. We miss being able to talk about things we have noticed, or what we feel about things happening in conservation or the wider world. We miss the opportunity to urge each other on to develop and write some passing thought (or to stop being silly about others). We have found ourselves more easily drowned by the onrush of digital stories. We have both been challenged by the simple logistic and emotional demands of lives under lockdown.
And so, ironically, in a time of digital supremacy we find we have written less since the early days of Covid-19 than at any time since we started. It is not (we hope) that we have stopped thinking or dreaming, or being irritated, or rejoicing, but that we have found it harder to find the space to reflect and to write.
Doubtless both urge and opportunity to write will return, and Thinking like a Human will be back to business-as-usual. Until then, we will be self-indulgent. Our output has always been episodic (neither of us is a diligent digital animal). But now, more than ever, we will ignore the siren call of ‘more is better’ – more words, more ideas and arguments and more readers. We will write when we see opportunity or a need, or have an idea that won’t stop bugging us. We hope you will understand, and stay with us through what seems to be emerging as a bit of a fallow period.