The concept of ‘home’ is difficult to define. For some people, it’s another person; for others, it’s an indefinable feeling. But all of us have places that we call home, whether they’re imbued with childhood familiarity or borne of new attachments made later in our lives. That connection to a familiar environment brings with it […]
The concept of ‘home’ is difficult to define. For some people, it’s another person; for others, it’s an indefinable feeling. But all of us have places that we call home, whether they’re imbued with childhood familiarity or borne of new attachments made later in our lives. That connection to a familiar environment brings with it community, identity and comfort – and a sense of permanence, reassuring us that whatever may change in our own lives, home will still be there to welcome us back. But our homes are changing, and the damage it’s doing to our collective psyche is profound.
“Solastalgia” is the word that describes the new nostalgia for this generation: that deep sense of distress experienced by those watching their homes, those places familiar to them, be drowned, burned or swept away by the increasingly erratic forces of nature. It describes the psychological effect of climate change’s intrusion into our personal lives – a homesickness for the home you once had, but are losing before your eyes. Solastalgia has been documented among Australian farmers watching their beloved fields waste away under aggressive droughts, Appalachian citizens whose mountainous homelands are being cut away to enable coal mining, and Arizonans that have lost their neighbourhoods and communities to ever more frequent forest fires. Symptoms of solastalgia include hopelessness, fatigue, anger, guilt and despair.
Sound familiar? You’re definitely not alone. Depending on where you live, the circumstances of climate change and environmental disruption might not be so drastic, but it turns out that it doesn’t take much to throw the delicate mental and emotional balance between us and our surroundings out of whack. It’s now widely recognised that there’s a close link between mental health and the world around us: a ten-year survey of 2 million people found that for every increase in temperature of 1 degree Celsius in an area of America, the area’s population saw a 2% rise in mental health issues. It gets worse: an analysis of multiple studies concluded that the higher the heat, the greater the increase in interpersonal conflict, violence and suicide. Destroying our planet means destroying ourselves.
The relief of naming this desperate sense of loss is the first small step towards recovery. But what else can we do about it? Here’s a toolkit for the days when it feels like your footprints are too heavy for the earth.
More of Imogen’s work here
More on climate change at Hope For The Future’s website here
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