Eco-Unconscious

Presenting the Psychoterratic Disorder, Solastalgia

Within the entire spectrum of what Australian professor Glenn Albrecht calls “psychoterratic disorders”, solastalgia describes the “form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change, such as mining, or climate change,” according to (yet another made-up word) Wikipedia.

Now, it’s not as if every new word that pops up is a winner (then, again, “google” made it into Webster). Occasionally, however, new words are invented that aptly capture occurrences of our time. Albrecht’s viewpoint on our environmental predicament, and how it relates to mental terrain also happens to include new words, such as those mentioned: psychoterratic, solastalgia, and soliphilia. Solastalgia, in particular, struck me as poetic.

Nostalgia describes a feeling of longing for your home, a return to which provides comfort. But, what if you haven’t gone anywhere, and your home is moving away from you? Say, a mining company comes in, and transforms your beautiful hometown into an industrial wasteland. As you watch your home, and its natural qualities diminish, you might experience some distress—that’s solastalgia. And, your unrecognizable home can no longer give you the solace it once could.

With climate change, our entire planet moves away from us in the sense of solastalgia, as certain natural elements become unrecoverable.

As for soliphilia—the new philia that Albrecht says is needed in our culture to return solace, accepting “the political responsibility for the health of our home, the earth”—I’m on board!

Watch Albrecht’s TED talk here.

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