Solastalgia


I think last year I wrote here about the sadness I, and presumably other people, were feeling at the thought of our landscape — esthetically, economically, culturally — under threat from global warming. What is Italy without its vineyards and olive groves?

Now a great writer at Wired magazine has given this feeling of sadness a name: solastalgia. Appropriately in my view, he likens the feeling to what indigenous people felt as they were taken from their traditional homelands.

Dislocation can be mental as well as geographical. The Inca, Aztecs and Mayans suffered through it even though they never migrated elsewhere; in a relatively small but deeply felt way, my mother and her cohort of pre World World II Triestines, raised on Austrian wine, pastry and waltzes, and German culture, lost a part of their personhood when that all disappeared with the armistice; and older generations here in Oregon probably aren’t sure of where they are when former cow fields turn into strip malls.

But what we are facing with climate change is a fundamental loss of bearings that is worldwide and simultaneous. Five hundred years later, the Incas’ descendants in Peru and Bolivia still sing plaintive, haunting songs about their history of cultural upheaval and impoverishment. As writer Clive Thompson postulates, we will suffer an enormous toll on our mental health alone from the loss of our sense of place.

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About kmazz

I spend as much time as possible pursuing my interests in global culture, arts and politics.
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2 Responses to Solastalgia

  1. greg says:

    Hi KM-Clear, it was great to read your comments on the emerging phenomena known as solastalgia.
    I particularly liked how you drew historic parallels between the experiences of the indigenous people of the Americas’ and the changes our planet is faced with today.
    I was also struck by your observation of your mother’s generation reaction to the changes that were forced upon them in pre-WWII Triestines, then half-a-world away, how older Oregonians are reacting to the changes being wrought upon their once farm framed landscape.
    You wrote that the term – solastalgia was used in an article (20-Dec-07) by regular Wired contributor Clive Thompson. It was inferred in your blog that it was Thompson that coined this term. I just need to say that this is incorrect.
    In fact the word was created by Australian philosopher and academic Dr Glenn Albrecht from Newcastle University and his wife, some years ago. It has formed the basis of some significant research that he and his colleagues have been doing since 2003, both here in Australia and overseas. Interestingly, some of that work has been among the indigenous peoples of Canada. I’ve included a web reference for your interest. It was published by the media unit at his university.
    http://www.newcastle.edu.au/news/2006/09/newsyndrome.html
    As a journalist and producer, I think it important, that the right people are given the credit for naming this emerging condition, as the work they have done is fascinating, as you will see if you have a chance to look at the Newcastle Uni site and research the term.
    Since then Glenn has gone to do further research, and recently has just returned from Canada where he was the McConnell Foundation Visiting Professor in Ecosystem Health, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, Canada.
    I look forward to reading more of your writing in the near future. All the best Greg Hall, Newcastle, Australia.

  2. KM says:

    Greg, thanks very much for your comment and the correction.

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