Monday, April 25, 2011

Solastalgia: The Pain People Feel When the Place They Love Is Under Assault

"Is There an Ecological Unconscious," by Daniel B. Smith was published in the New York Times Magazine more than a year ago, but it's such an important piece that it's worth recirculating. Smith explores the science and psychology in the relationship between humans and nature.

Smith opens the article with the story of Glenn Albrecht, the Australian philosophy professor who coined the term "solastalgia," meaning “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home.’ ” Albrecht came up with the term after getting calls from people suffering from anxiety, stress, and depression as a result of the massive open-pit coal mining taking place around their homes in Hunter Valley, a formerly lush and beautiful place known as the "Tuscany of the South."

Albrecht has continued to study the effects of ecological damage on people's psyches. This link will take you to his blog, where he pursues the subject from many different angles.

That's Glenn Albrecht in the photo above. It was taken on June 19, 2010, as he and his wife participated in the first annual Radical Joy for Hard Times Global Earth Exchange. He writes: "The location was chosen as it has a commanding view of the desolation of the Hunter Valley by open cut coal mining. My wife Jill and I selected white stones in the immediate area to build an Earth Dove [Radical Joy for Hard Times bird]. The Earth Dove had an olive branch placed in its beak as a peace offering to the earth. The olive branch was taken from the garden of a person in the Hunter Valley whose life has been badly affected by open-cut coal mining. She has had to move from her ancestral home to a new location to avoid mining, but now it too is under threat from an expanding coal mine."