Solastalgia

Ángel Marroquín

Everything is changing, and the environment around us also changes. For example, in the place where we live, formerly known for its winter rains, today the soil is dry in the middle of winter. On the contrary, unexpected hail falls in dry towns, and it rains in the middle of the summer.

As these changes happen around us, we get used to them. These changes have been taking place slowly, and we notice them because they have occurred during our lifetime.

Today the hometown where we lived as children appear unrecognisable to us. It does not rain as it used to when we were playing jump in the water puddles. Now it is less cold in the mornings than when we left the house to go to school, and the sun seems to be much more stinging than the one that bathed our face when we returned home in the afternoon.

If all these changes have occurred and we can all recognise them around us and talk about them: What word would you use to describe how the environment you knew as a child has changed?

Maybe you are one of those who believe that there is no word to describe that kind of nostalgia for the environment and climate in which we lived long ago. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and again Spring …

Yes, there is a word. It is Solastalgia, and it refers to the anguish produced by the change in the environment that impacts people in their intimate connection with their place of origin, their home[1]. This emotion arises when we realise that the environment that we knew has been degraded, destroyed or hopelessly transformed. To some extent, we all suffer from Solastalgia.

If the past does not come back, why do we need a word to recognise the changes in the landscapes of our childhood or youth?

Perhaps to tell others that the world was not always this way, perhaps to try to return to that time when you could expect the regular changes in the seasons, which are connected to memories and events of our life: the aroma of the first winter rain that contained the mystery of other winters; the aroma of the pines in Spring; the summer sun and the ascent of the sea, etc.

As in so many other things in life, having a word can help us mourn all the beautiful things associated with the environment that are lost forever in the climate crisis that we are going through.

However, what is tragic about this situation is not the Solastalgia, but the desperate present of all of us who depended on the regularities of the climate and environment taken for granted.

As we all know, the economic and social consequences of climate change and the risks associated with climatic events have increased, and the poorest are those who are most affected by them. Today thanks to Solastalgia, once again, we are reminded that, as the song says, we have nowhere to look back.

(c) Photography by Sebastián Silva. https://la-periferia-interior.tumblr.com/


[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18027145/

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