- Negating Solastalgia:An Emotional Revolution from the Anthropocene to the Symbiocene
I shall situate the emerging literature on eco-grief, climate grief, and ecological grief within the concept of solastalgia. I argue that the concept of solastalgia, as created and developed to the present, has strong affinities with the eco-grief literature. Solastalgia, the lived experience of negative environmental change, has much to offer those who seek clarification about the relationship between the state of human emotions and the state of the built and natural environment. In order to negate the distress and grief of emergent solastalgia, I have also created a new meme, the Symbiocene, which is the locus for the full expression of positive emotions that counter, or are the opposite of, solastalgia and other negative Earth emotions. I shall conclude with the idea that Generation Anthropocene, the ongoing cause of negative Earth emotions, shall be confronted by Generation Symbiocene and their suite of positive Earth emotions. This war of the emotions, I argue, shall determine the fate of humans on the Earth.
I created the concept of solastalgia in 2003 in order to give conceptual clarification to the experience of people whose home environment was being changed in unwelcome ways. By the term "environment," I was thinking of the biophysical spaces and landscapes within which people live and which they call "home." I wanted the human emotional, psychological, and cultural equivalent of what biologists called "ecosystem distress syndrome" (Rapport & Whitford, 1999). [End Page 9]
Negative change in both natural and built environments can be a source of distress to one's sense of place. Due to the increasing pace of "development" and environmental and climatic pressure, human distress connected to disrupted relationships to "home" and landscape has become a defining feature of the twenty-first century (Albrecht, 2005; Albrecht, 2012; Albrecht, 2019a).
Humans have no recent evolutionary experience of rapid global-scale environmental change. All cultures in all parts of the world are now experiencing something new. It is no wonder languages do not contain concepts and words for the lived experience of such shared change. Our languages have substantially evolved in the Holocene, an 11,000-year period of relative climatic and environmental stability and predictability. We now live in a new era, an era of pervasive change, where the old languages, like the wisdom of the elders, have diminishing relevance and traction with respect to how we should live for the future.
In 2003, when creating the neologism "solastalgia," I wanted to illuminate a conceptual space where, instead of placing a prefix such as "environmental" or "eco" in front of an existing term—for example, distress, sadness, melancholia, homesickness, or grief—I felt the need for a new concept. A neologism was needed to indicate a complex yet distinct human emotion that was being experienced by people in circumstances where they were confronting a changing and distressed environment, one that they loved. It was this set of circumstances that was not previously given adequate recognition in the English language. The feeling of psychic distress caused by negative environmental change deserved a word of its own.
The original definition of solastalgia suggested:
Solastalgia, in contrast to the dislocated spatial and temporal dimensions of nostalgia, relates to a different set of circumstances. It is the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault (physical desolation). It is manifest in an attack on one's sense of place, in the erosion of the sense of belonging (identity) to a particular place and a feeling of distress (psychological desolation) [End Page 10] about its transformation. It is an intense desire for the place where one is a resident to be maintained in a state that continues to give comfort or solace. Solastalgia is not about looking back to some golden past, nor is it about seeking another place as "home". It is the "lived experience" of the loss of the present as manifest in a feeling of dislocation; of being undermined by forces that destroy the potential for solace to be derived from the present. In short, solastalgia is a form...