|Violin Glacier, Greenland|
photo by NASA's IceBridge
19 May 2016
Coined by transdisciplinary philosopher Glenn Albrecht, solastalgia is our emotional response (e.g., distress, angst, unhappiness, weltschmerz) to rapid changes to our habitat at all scales — from observing perennial flowers blooming earlier and earlier over successive years to the accelerated warming of the biosphere — by forces beyond our control.
weltschmerz is German for world pain. It describes the weariness felt from a perceived mismatch between an ideal image of how the world should be with how it is.The forces beyond our control range from our neighbors spreading fertilizer and weedkiller on their lawns, to large-scale extraction, transformation, and fouling of natural resources, upward to biospheric-scale climate change from human activities.
Degradation from oil spills, open pit mining, clear cut forests, plastic waste in the oceans, or garbage littered landscapes evoke a similar kind of grief.
Albrecht describes an age-old human drama between the forces attempting to create and the forces attempting to destroy.
The tension between creation and destruction are themes represented in art and literature.
"In the past, as a patch disturbing species, we've been able to disturb a patch and move on...
The Scream (1893)
Now the patch is the whole planet."
— Glenn Albrecht, TEDxSydney talk
"One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream."
— Edvard Munch
Albrecht studies the relationship between humans and the built and natural environment focusing on our psychological well-being. Albrecht has introduced the opposing term solophilia which is the love and responsibility for place and planet.
- Environment Change, Distress & Human Emotion Solastalgia, Glenn Albrecht, TEDxSydney, 1 June 2010.
- Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever, Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian, 1 April 2016.
- How to Tell Whether You've Got Angst, Ennui, or Weltschmerz, Arika Okrent, Mental Floss, 6 August 2014.