I think last year I wrote here about the sadness I, and presumably other people, were feeling at the thought of our landscape — esthetically, economically, culturally — under threat from global warming. What is Italy without its vineyards and olive groves?
Now a great writer at Wired magazine has given this feeling of sadness a name: solastalgia. Appropriately in my view, he likens the feeling to what indigenous people felt as they were taken from their traditional homelands.
Dislocation can be mental as well as geographical. The Inca, Aztecs and Mayans suffered through it even though they never migrated elsewhere; in a relatively small but deeply felt way, my mother and her cohort of pre World World II Triestines, raised on Austrian wine, pastry and waltzes, and German culture, lost a part of their personhood when that all disappeared with the armistice; and older generations here in Oregon probably aren’t sure of where they are when former cow fields turn into strip malls.
But what we are facing with climate change is a fundamental loss of bearings that is worldwide and simultaneous. Five hundred years later, the Incas’ descendants in Peru and Bolivia still sing plaintive, haunting songs about their history of cultural upheaval and impoverishment. As writer Clive Thompson postulates, we will suffer an enormous toll on our mental health alone from the loss of our sense of place.