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A New Type of Sadness at Three Roads Blog
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A New Type of Sadness

Talking to my mom on the phone yesterday, the subject of the weather came up. The temperature in Vermont—keep in mind this is January—was pushing 60 degrees. Earlier that day, I’d heard there were flood warnings for upstate New York and parts of Vermont.

Here in Colorado, winter is typically peppered with mild days, some of which go into 60 degree territory. Vermont, however, is not supposed to be like Colorado.

“It’s creepy,” my mom said of the warm spell.

I agreed. Pause.

This month’s issue of Wired Magazine features a short article with the headline, “How the Next Victim of Climate Change Will Be Our Minds,” and it tells the story of Glenn Albrecht, an Australian philosopher who has created a new word.

The word, solastalgia, is an amalgam of the latin words solacium (comfort) and algia (pain), “which together aptly conjure the word nostalgia,” notes the author of the story.

Albrecht created the new word to describe the reaction of his fellow Aussies to the effects of climate change.

In interviews Albrecht conducted over the past few years, scores of Australians described their deep, wrenching sense of loss as they watch the landscape around them change. Familiar plants don’t grow any more. Gardens won’t take. Birds are gone. “They no longer feel like they know the place they’ve lived for decades,” [Albrecht] says.

The current and potential economic and environmental effects of climate change are forefront in people’s minds. But what about the mental effects? Albrecht’s observations are a wake-up call: there will be a mental toll to climate change. “In the modern, industrialized West, many of us have forgotten how deeply we rely on the stability of nature for our psychic well-being,” says Albrecht.

Thinking about my conversation with my mom, with this new word in my brain, I guess there was a sense of loss in our exchange. It wasn’t creepy that Vermont was so warm in January—it was just sad.

Writer Clive Thompson closes the article with this harrowing thought: “In a world that’s quickly heating up and drying up, you can’t go home again — even if you never leave.”

7 Responses to “A New Type of Sadness”


  1. 1 logan

    This is an opinionated rant so reading is not necessary. If only they had defined this sense of loss earlier in the century when the planet was beginning to experience rapid commercial and urban development. Maybe it would have caused things to be different now. Were people not recognizing the loss of natural areas as this occurred in the recent past? Or their mindset was different so it didn’t count until now when the group conscience is more aware? Our minds have handled all the changes just fine up til this new fangled climate one so what makes this change so different to get a new word made up for the way we feel about its effects. I guess the changing climate is a lot more delocalized than the expanding development, but either way it results in local changes of the same nature. “their deep, wrenching sense of loss as they watch the LANDSCAPE AROUND THEM CHANGE”. Does this only happen from climate change? I consider myself to be a moralistic individual but I have mysteriously justifed my need to drive to the ski hill. Conflicted? Sure. Still going skiing? You betcha. This solastalgia people are getting is from the idea that soon we aren’t going to be able to go skiing or anything else so conveniently. It is not from missing birds and plants cause that’s been happening for a long time. This is a nice way to say that we all just don’t care enough and now we can claim innocence. Damn this climate change and what it is doing to our birds! It’s making me solastalgic. And I’m spent.

    Glenballs, put your pants back on!

  2. 2 logan

    I just encountered this topic on another blog that I thought you might find interesting/know a lot about and that is whether or not blogging is truly defined by the term journalism. Do you consider yourself a journalist by way of this blog? Anyway it seems relevant with all the media hoo haa going on these days.

  3. 3 Jeb

    Our minds have handled all the changes just fine up til this new fangled climate one so what makes this change so different to get a new word made up for the way we feel about its effects.

    My guess, Logan, is that changes of the past century—perhaps two centuries—have had a greater toll than we thought. If anything, we’re finally noticing the psychic pain that’s been with us for years as a result of changes in our environment. Now we have a word to describe it.

    For me, solastagia doesn’t apply only to climate change. I think it’s comes with any fundamental change in the landscape, either in a direct anthropogenic way (the building of a strip mall where an open field once was, for example) or in an indirect anthropogenic way (the barely perceptible change in weather patterns as a result of our carbon burning activities).

    I consider myself to be a moralistic individual but I have mysteriously justifed my need to drive to the ski hill. Conflicted? Sure. Still going skiing? You betcha. This solastalgia people are getting is from the idea that soon we aren’t going to be able to go skiing or anything else so conveniently. It is not from missing birds and plants cause that’s been happening for a long time. This is a nice way to say that we all just don’t care enough and now we can claim innocence.

    Hmmm. I guess I’m not quite so cynical. I don’t think it’s a matter of trying to claim innocence. I think Albrecht’s point is that we don’t quite understand how connected to the land we are. We think such ties are something of the past. But you don’t have to be an ornithologist to get sad when you don’t hear certain birds anymore. You don’t have to be a conservationist to lament the loss of open space in your hometown. We are connected to the land, even if by our actions we hurt the land we love.

    We’re all conflicted.

  4. 4 logan

    I think I was taking the idea too literally. And I struggle with cynicism on a daily basis.

  5. 5 Jeb

    It’s almost impossible to not feel either cynical or hypocritical these days.

    While I agree with you about not being able to claim innocence, I suspect a lot of people were simply ignorant of the fact that they would be profoundly impacted by climate change on a psychic level. That doesn’t exonerate us—we should have known this would happen—but it leaves room for the idea that we’re not total a-holes.

    Honestly, though, I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Brain. Not. Working.

  6. 6 Jeb

    Logan:

    To answer your question about whether I consider this blog journalism, I guess I’d say no. I also don’t think of it as a journal or diary. That is, I try to keep the minutiae of my personal life out of it.

    Some blogs are journalism—namely, the ones that are timely a provide original reporting.I think Three Roads fails on both of those counts.

    It’s funny you should ask. In journalism school, back in 2004, I wrote an article for a school publication on this very subject. You can read it here. Please pardon the dated references and typos. :)

  7. 7 logan

    Jeb,

    That was a really good article. Thanks. I am sure you caught this in the description of the author: “Foster has never considered starting his own blog.”

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