solastalgia

During a recent visit to the blog of nature photographer Guy Tal I encountered a post entitled “Solastalgia.” The post began with a definition of that term by its creator, the Australian “environmental philosopher” Glenn Albrecht: “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.’”

Looking further, I found an article by Paul McFedries in Word Spy that explains the origin of the term. The first element is from Latin sōlācium, the source (via Provençal) of Spanish solaz and (via French) English solace. The Latin noun is from the same root as the verb sōlārī, a compound of which has given us consolar/console. The last element in solastalgia is the familiar -algia, from Greek algos, which meant ‘pain,’ and which we find in medical words like neuralgia and fibromialgia/fibromyalgia. We also find it in nostalgia, which incorporates Greek nostos ‘a return home’; therefore it’s apparently the already compound nostalgia that’s being combined with solas- to create solastalgia.

Readers who would like to learn more in English about solastalgia can read the article in Word Spy. There’s also a TEDxSydney talk by Glenn Albrecht at:

 

Readers who would like follow-ups in Spanish might check out the articles at the following links:

http://concienciangela.blogspot.com/2008/03/solastalgia-tristeza-por-el-medio.html

http://ecologia-accion.lacoctelera.net/post/2010/04/24/la-solastalgia

There’s also a Spanish-language interview with Glenn Albrecht, with his answers overdubbed in Spanish:

http://www.prismatv.unal.edu.co/nc/detalle-serie-ver-en-demanda/detalle-programa/article/solastalgia.html

 

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maria F.
    Oct 11, 2014 @ 09:48:45

    It’s a beautiful term, but now I wonder whether it’s a “neologism” (which I think it may be). What do you think?

    Reply

  2. shoreacres
    Oct 16, 2014 @ 07:41:53

    I’ve been pondering this one since you posted it. It’s good to have a word to describe a state I’ve been experiencing rather more often of late. I enjoyed all the links, and was glad to see that the term was broadened out here and there to apply to more than ecological issues.

    Beyond that, it occurred to me that solastalgics probably exhibit tendencies toward retrophilia from time to time.

    Reply

    • Steve Schwartzman
      Oct 16, 2014 @ 09:26:50

      For whatever reason, I’ve always been drawn to the past, even when I was younger (and what is etymology if not a trip back through time?). I’ve been telling people lately (and as recently as yesterday) that this year I’ve lost more properties to development than in any year I can remember: at least 4 places where I’ve photographed native plants, sometimes many times, are currently construction sites.

      The day I returned from my recent trip a couple of native plant friends tipped me off to a place I’d never been to and that was unusually good for fall wildflowers. Unfortunately that site appears to be part of a large tract that has already been and continues to be built on, so it seems it’ll be only a short time before the houses continue north and cover my newly enjoyed site. Yes, call me a retrophiliac.

      Reply

  3. shoreacres
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 21:00:48

    I didn’t expect to find such an excellent example of solastalgia quite so soon, but I certainly think this piece written by a Canadian in response to current events there qualifies.

    Reply

    • Steve Schwartzman
      Oct 22, 2014 @ 21:20:32

      Thanks for providing that excellent up-to-the-minute example of solastalgia from Canada. I’ve gradually been feeling more and more solastalgic about our country. I remember how, when I was young, I could walk into any office building in Manhattan and take an elevator up to any floor; nobody stopped me, asked me where I was going, or made me walk through a metal detector. Those of us who are old enough remember how we used to be able to board an airplane in the same way that we board a bus: no multiple document checks, no searches, no metal detectors, no shoe or belt removal, no sniffing dogs. Ah, solastalgia.

      Reply

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