Jargon Watch: Solastalgia

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Solastalgia -- "a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home," according to Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht; in essence, it's pining for a lost environment. It's the mashup of the roots solacium (comfort) and algia (pain), which, when combined, forms a term (and an idea) reminiscent of nostalgia.

Coined from responses from interviews Albrecht conducted over the past few years, the word describes Australians' deep (and growing) sense of loss as they watch the landscape around them change. "They no longer feel like they know the place they've lived for decades," he says.The theory is also a very interesting approach to thinking about climate change; it brings local context to a global problem that, to this point, has been very difficult to contextualize on an individual level. In addition to the predicted rising sea levels (that's San Francisco, above) and other additional consequences like habitat loss, ecosystem destruction and species' extinction, Clive Thompson argues in Wired, "we should also be concerned about the huge toll climate change will inflict on our mental health. In the modern, industrialized West, many of us have forgotten how deeply we rely on the stability of nature for our psychic well-being."

"This is a neat mythos, but in truth it's a pretty natural human urge to identify with a place and build one's sense of self around its comforts and permanence. I live in Manhattan, where the globe-hopping denizens tend to go berserk if their favorite coffee shop closes down. How will they react in 20 or 30 years if the native trees can't handle the 5-degree spike in average temperature? Or if weird new bugs infest the city in summer, fall shrinks to a single month, and snow becomes a distant memory? 'We like to think that we're cool, 21st-century people, but the basic sense of a connection to the land is still big,' Albrecht says. 'We haven't evolved that much.'"

Interesting stuff; this may be the first time we hear "solastalgia," but, until climate change is reigned in, it won't be the last. ::Wired

Tags: Australia | San Francisco

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