Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Solastalgia: Feeling Homesick While Still At Home

There's a fascinating new word that seeks to capture the feeling of homesickness that I've come to associate with No-Place. Glenn Albrecht, a professor at the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle recently coined the term "solastalgia" and defines it as the distress within an individual or a community about the loss of endemic sense of place.

While studying the distress of farmers in drought-striken lands, Albrecht learned that there was no word in the English language that completely expressed this feeling, so he crafted his own. “Solastalgia” combines solacium (solace)with nostos (to return home) and algos (pain). Basically, Albrecht explains, it's the feeling of "homesickness while still being at home."

Though specifically used to capture the human pain wreaked by environmental damage (e.g. Hurricane Katrina's impact on the people of New Orleans, the earthquake's impact on the people of Haiti, etc.), the term is also a perfect one to capture the pain and homesickness many people feel as our small towns turn into suburbs, our farmland disappears, and the things we've known forever no longer apply.

It's a term that may become common as our consciousness increases about what we're doing to the human ecology.


Rob DeHaven said...

I have felt Solastalgia in the past! Growing up in Winchester my entire life and seeing how things have changed makes me miss the way the town use to be. Every time I see a farm sold off and houses built, it brings on these emotions. The truly sad part about the way these communities are placed, its more about maximizing profits and not enough effort is spent thinking long term.

If the land developers and zoning approvers would think about the long term impacts and not about how much profit can be made and tax revenue will be generated, the parcels might look differently. Residents could be happier and they might even be healthier!

If you want to truly understand something, try to change it. ~Kurt Lewin

Our Founders said...

I agree completely Rob. Nicely said.

Anonymous said...

Do you happen to know more information about that feeling?
Because I've been experiencing that nowadays for no obvious reason, I'm not depressed nor particularly anxious. It comes & goes & it's not a very good feeling. I live with my parents in Cairo, nothing has changed in the house in a long time. The only thing that I could say is that I've been dealing with some family problems at home, could that be the reason why i feel this detached feeling? as if i don't belong where I am anymore? is it me longing for how my family was in the past?
I don't know. I keep thinking about it. I'll resume the research. Great post though :) Cheers!

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- Mark

Anonymous said...

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- Lora

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Anonymous said...

I always wondered if that feeling that i had of "homesickness" while still at home was because of the change in human ecology. Although, I've never seen it change much, I've always lived in a city and am only 16, haven't lived much of my life. Until now did I bother to search for an answer to this feeling.