Solastalgia

Interesting article on Worldchanging: What Does Climate Change Do to Our Heads?

Solastalgia describes a palpable sense of dislocation and loss that people feel when they perceive changes to their local environment as harmful.
[…]

The melancholia of solastalgia is not the same as clinical depression, but it may well be a precursor to serious psychic disturbance.

That said, it’s worth remembering that up until the mid-twentieth century, the medical profession viewed nostalgia as a diagnosable psycho-physiological illness in which, for example, soldiers fighting in foreign lands became so homesick and melancholic it could kill them.

Today psychiatrists would see the condition of rapid and unwelcome severing from home as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an outcome of an acute stressor such as warfare or a Hurricane Katrina.

Solastalgia on the other hand is most often the result of chronic environmental stress; it is the lived experience of gradually losing the solace a once stable home environment provided. It is therefore appropriate to diagnose solastalgia in the face of slow and insidious forces such as climate change or mining.

I’ve definitely been feeling increasingly disconnected from Wellington lately – there’s a multitude of potential reasons for this, of course, but it can be approximately reckoned pre- and post-bypass – and solastalgia is an interesting term to describe it.

I also wonder if it is a general feature of adaptation to an ever changing technological environment. Humanity has never before experienced a pace of change as seen in the past century, and that curve is only accelerating. We learn patterns and habits, but whether those patterns and habits are going to be adaptive (or even relevant) to the very near future is less certain than at any point in human history. More than ever before we are going to need to let go of the familiar and adapt to the new. But we are inextricably bound up with the familiar. Our identity and sense of self is tied to things external to us. This, of course, is identified as a human problem in most spiritual traditions. Interesting that the environment itself can be seen as prompting us to relearn those teachings to adapt to the times by provoking any number of crises… though, in the end, the choice is ours as to how we deal with things.

4 Responses to “Solastalgia”

  1.   Sangrail
    March 26th, 2008 | 11:01 am

    I’m sure I read a quote once upon a time, something like, the past is a land we can never return to.

    Still, it hurts. My memory is very tied up with places, objects, physical reminders – without those, it’s gone. As I walked around Tonks Ave & Arthur St, before the final few houses were destroyed, I knew there was part of my memory being destroyed with them, but there was nothing I could do.
    Now it’s entirely gone, and there’s just a flat shiny bypass, and new-looking dead houses around it (they’re dead because they’re empty) like a large swathe of new scartissue, or worse, a plastic bandage medical bandage, spray on skin, all sterilised, but no life to it, no life returning to it.

    More than anything, at this point I just wish they’d at least fill the houses around there, start gardens in Footscray (sp?) Ave again, rather than the Nursing Home/Zombie front they have going now. Dammit, even build some new houses (nice ones!), it’s a wasteland around there at the moment.

    And if I wished anything else, it’d be that they’d actually rearrange the houses they plonked down in there, all kitty-corner, which just looks and feels *wrong*, and have them directly facing the street, squashed together like good Victorians should be. ;P

  2.   Janet
    March 26th, 2008 | 11:53 am

    ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” – L.P Hartley.

    Am I thinking of the right quote?

    I was going to say something about being forced to adapt to change versus change for it’s own sake, but I’m feeling quite inarticulate at the moment and I’m about to go meet the administrator for lunch 🙂 so it somehow doesn’t seem relevant. I don’t feel as connected to Wellington as I did in the 90s, but I don’t know whether that’s age or what. I think my disconnect started while I was living in Tory Street.

  3.   Janet
    March 26th, 2008 | 11:53 am

    ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” – L.P Hartley.

    Am I thinking of the right quote?

    I was going to say something about being forced to adapt to change versus change for it’s own sake, but I’m feeling quite inarticulate at the moment and I’m about to go meet the administrator for lunch 🙂 so it somehow doesn’t seem relevant. I don’t feel as connected to Wellington as I did in the 90s, but I don’t know whether that’s age or what. I think my disconnect started while I was living in Tory Street.

  4.   Pearce
    March 26th, 2008 | 5:19 pm

    I’ve started feeling like Wellington is where I come from, rather than where I belong.