Solastalgia and soliphilia

The Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, after studying people living in an area transformed by open-pit coal mining, invented a word for the anguish we feel when beloved natural places change beyond recognition: solastalgia, which pulls from the roots of pain and desolation. Though we talk despairingly about how little people care about the environment, we’re now starting to recognize a different problem: Often, we care more than we can stand.

Brooke Jarvis uses Glenn Albrecht’s concept of solastalgia to try to understand our gut-level response to Chris Jordan’s harrowing photos of the plastic-filled corpses of Laysan albatrosses.

For Albrecht, solastalgia is just one of several psychoterratic diseases—earth-related mental health states. But Albrecht knows better than to focus solely on the doom and gloom. For each negative psychoterratic state, he has identified a positive. In his 2010 TEDxSydney talk, Albrecht identified solastalgia’s opposite as soliphilia.

Soliphilia is manifest in the interdependent solidarity and the wholeness or unity needed between people to overcome the alienation and disempowerment present in contemporary political decision-making.

The language here feels academic to me, but I like the underlying sentiment: people feeling enough of a sense of community and responsibility to make a change.

This contrast between the hopeless and the hopeful (or the battle between the forces of destruction and forces of creation, as Albrecht puts it in his TEDxSydney talk) also comes out in Chris Jordan’s later photos of Laysan albatrosses and their chicks.

For an introduction to solastagia, soliphilia and other psychoterratic states, Glenn Albrect’s TEDxSydney talk is well worth a watch.