Saturday, January 30, 2010

Readers comments on Solastalgia article about Glenn Albrecht by Dan Smith in the New York Times on Jan. 31, 4123 AD

readers' comments

Is There an Ecological Unconscious?Back to Article »
A branch of psychology says that there is — and that ignoring it puts not just the planet but also our minds at risk.

How do environmental changes affect your psyche? Share your thoughts.

Danny Bloom
Polar City One
January 30th, 2010

9:16 pmThis is a very important article, and both author and Dr Albrecht deserve high praise for this effort. As more and more climate refugees flood the northern regions of the world in the next 500 years, racing against time to find safe refuge in climate refugee settlements in Alaska, Canada, Russia, New Zealand and Tasmania, living in what I have dubbed polar cities -- google the term -- they will suffer exactly from solastalgia, and by giving us this word to contemplate Dr Albrecht has done the world some good. Some very good! Words give us visions and by speaking the word solastalgia and coming to understand what Dr A means by it, we and future generations will become more concious of where we are headed during the Great Interruption from 2500 to 3500 AD. Bravo to Dan Smith for a very good piece of journalism. Bravo a thousand times!1.mimosapudica9
Honolulu& Chicago
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amI think that gaining more knowledge about environmental changes drove my motivation to change the way I live. Seeing the power of nature, and the affects of human footprints really made me realize that we can take care of this planet. For some people (other culture or society), the need for scientific based data is not necessary, perhaps due to installed values.
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 2.Thomas Beale
New York, NY
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amI have felt the truth of this thesis in my own life. Having lived part of my adult life in Vermont, where I would argue there is a very real sense of soliphilia, and even more time in New York City, which couldn't be less natural, I know the mental peace that one environment can promote, and another makes challenging, to say the least. It's common sense that our mental state is not immune of influence from our physical environment. If we have any hope, as a species, to change our global mental health for the better, by way of our global relationship with the environment, it will be by pushing back the tide of broken minds and ideas from those citadels of sanity, whether those be the soliphilias of the Cape to Cape regions and the Northeast Kingdoms, or the deeply felt, though not always easy to embrace, reaches of our own pure minds.
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 3.Marthe Savage
New Haven, CT
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amThe artwork of Kate MacDowell, chosen for this article, is especially articulate on the subject.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 4.Jen
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amThese are great observations, but the stumbling block is that (in America, at least) people have been severed from their places of origin. It's not about "Nature," it's about "Nature in a specific place," specific to YOU. If you ask Americans where "their people" are right now, they'll say something like "Well, my dad's down in Florida, and my mom and her second husband are in Hartford... my cousins are in Atlanta and..." It's impossible to be true to one's "eco-psyche" when you aren't actually attached to a people who are attached to any particular place.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 5.Anne Lewis
Pierre, SD
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amThose involved in the environmental education field have long known that when children learn not just about the environment but _through_ the environment and _in_ the environment they are academically successful. A robust and thorough pre-kindergarten through Grade 12 integration of environmental education (“real” environmental education and not environmental advocacy with a teacher’s hat on) into the curriculum would go a long way to improving test scores AND repairing the psychological disconnect that many people apparently suffer from.

Environment Education Connections of South Dakota
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 6.BR
times square
January 29th, 2010
10:14 amHumanity living in cities, never mind all the other excesses of the industrial age, is only recent, a few thousand years old, since the invention of agriculture. Psychologically, humanity has huge powers of adaptation. But you don't take a roaming nomadic simian and subject him to our modern unnatural environments and alien assaults on the natural environment without triggering some sort of intrinsic unease, biological and psychological.

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 7.C. Antony
Ocala, Fla.
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pm"Solastalgia” = solacium (comfort) plus –algia (pain) = “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home’”?

A mongrel word with mongrel parentage, a word that allegedly means what the person who coined it tells us it means. He should have stuck with "nostalgia," which the dictionary defines (meaning #1) as "homesickness."

I can't help wondering if the Latin noun "solum" (soil, earth, land) isn't lurking in the background.
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 8.Leigh T
Tampa, Florida
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmIn my neighborhood, in the place where I was born and have lived most of my life, a celebrity (New York Yankee) is building a massive house that has totally destroyed the sense of ease I get from my place. Noise, dust, parade of strangers, cars, stalkers, loss of view and light - all have taken away the peace, privacy and beauty my family used to enjoy. One man can have a terrible impact on a place if he is allowed to. This article describes the sense of loss I have felt since construction began.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 9.alyce
far west texas
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmthis problem began in the 17th century western culture when bacon, galileo, descartes, newton, and leibniz introduced a “universe whose atomic constituents were only extrinsically correlated with one another, obeyed generic laws of interaction that made no provision for individual characteristics, and was held together by a mysterious yet clearly nonanthropomorphic force: gravity.” - from willis harman, global mind change. modern science and philosophy is based on the separation of observer from observed, human from nature, mind from matter, science from religion.

“in contrast, the world-picture of renaissance nature philosophy had been of a cosmos composed of intrinsically correlated elements, holarchically ordered in accordance with anthropomorphic values, and held together by a force called love.” – from willis harman, global mind change. in the 16th century, people took for granted that the mind and nature were fused.

it seems another kind of renaissance is afoot. as we hurl ever forward into an age of quantum-techno-science, our need to rekindle relationships with the unquantifiable and the invisible has reemerged. giant atom smashers may never be able to isolate the “string” in string theory. we are called upon to create elegant theories to describe the ineffable, use our senses, our intuition in ways emphasized by goethe when he spoke of the need for a kind of "delicate empiricism" – “the effort to understand a thing’s meaning through prolonged empathic looking and seeing grounded in direct experience” – from goethe’s way of science ed. david seamon and arthur zajonc.

artists, shamans, permaculturists (see bill mollison’s book “permaculture, a designer’s manual), buddhists, radionics practitioners and homeopaths all have highly developed “subtle reality technologies” - techniques for connecting with nature and its unseen forces. nature was here long before there were humans to inhabit it – that we have come to perceive ourselves as outside of it or above it is evidence of a profoundly fundamental disconnect. it’s no wonder so much of society is experiencing solistalgia…

the problem is deep, and especially complex for those living in environmental war zones. fortunately, some elixirs exists. planting seeds (even an avocado pit in a glass on the counter in a small apartment works), meditating, listening to music are all food for with those parts of our humanness that go beyond that which meets the eye.

alyce santoro
center for the improbable & (im)permacultural research

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 10.schreinervideo
Salt Lake City
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmHaving grown up hating the Chicago suburbs, I spent my life looking for home I felt part of. To many of my friends' horror, I found it in Utah. When I explain to them that it has nothing to do with religion, politics or economics, they are even more aghast and confused. When I tell them it's because I love it and want to help protect as well as enjoy it, it only confuses them more. Now I can email this article to them and, because it's the New York Times, they might finally understand and respect me again. Thank you.
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 11.Elizabeth
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmWhen I first moved to Houston from my farm in TN, I had that feeling of grief and disorientation that is described in this article, the feeling that happens to people removed from their land. Luckily, I can go back to my farm in the summer, and for a while in the winter. If I couldn't, I don't know what I would do. I think I would be crazy or dead.

When we had a bad drought in TN that lasted 18 months, I got so worried that I cried a lot. Certain springs that have run reliably for decades dried up. The newcomers didn't notice, but the old-timers like me did. We were very scared.

Luckily we had a very wet summer and fall, and those springs are running again. But I dread the coming changes. I know my home will change, irrevocably. I try to have faith in Gaia. I hope she will live, even if humans don't.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 12.Dena
Iowa City, Iowa
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmFeelings of despair. That's the overwhelming experience for me. Second, I look into what I might possible be able to do to be a part of the solution. But then sometimes, those thoughts lead to more despair--all of us well meaning ones, cutting back on our own personal use of resources, trying to buy less and buy right, voting for the green candidates, etc., etc., then you read about or watch some documentary about some sort of degradation and the thoughtlessness behind it . . . It's a matter of keeping up the good fight and hoping for the best.
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 13.Lee
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmDitto to reader Thomas Beale. My stress levels rise as I head southbound to Long Island from my current home in Vermont; heading northbound, I heave a sigh of relief as soon as I cross the border back in to Vermont. I know many, many Vermonters who say the exact same thing. Crossing the border one experiences physical and emotional relief. We have a lot of problems here, too; but we face them as small, local communities and the prevailing mentality is to sustain the people and businesses (read "farms") in our own neighborhoods.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 14.Kim
Washington State
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmIn the United States from a young age most people are taught to use the earth as a resource for getting more things. It is not viewed as a home. You can buy a good view (like from a cruise ship or resort), but cherishing your own view is not thought of. Our homes are mere places of investment. Keep this attitude up for years and pretty soon the health of the planet is so remote that our inborn sense of wanting to take care of our planet is gone. But the unease is still there, only reduced to a very dark chord that is felt once in a while.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 15.Janica
January 29th, 2010
12:54 pmThis article resonates. I'm an artist and a native to this state of Wisconsin. When I moved to New York City, it was an eventual sensory overload for me. Noise, millions of people, dusty air, smells of urine in the subways and in the front doorways of my two loft buildings.
(New York City is magnificent, however) the imprinting of this landscape where I'm from was too strong and I eventually returned here. My ancestors came to the United States as far back as the mid 1700's, from the woodlands of Eastern Europe to the Midwest. Certainly, this desire for
clean open spaces is hardwired into my psyche.
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 16.RS
January 29th, 2010
12:54 pmWhat phenomena like global warming really threaten is not the environment, but human control over the environment. Having exercising control over our environment in a way that underestimates nature's power, we threaten to lose all control over the natural environment, unleashing natural catastrophes and human health consequences that we can only imagine. While I am no professional psychologist, I am sure the idea that loss of control is sometimes responsible for psychological phenomena like anxiety and depression is nothing new. I am sure there is some principle in psychology that when psychological phenomena can be well explained by existing frameworks, there is at least a presumption that these known psychological ailments--and not some previously unstudied ailment--is the cause. Since I feel the anxiety, depression, and grief people face over environmental degradation can be well explained by humans' demonstrated loss of control over nature, it seems without credibility to explain this behavior with some yet-to-be-documented eco-consciousness that operates in a different way than the rest of our thoughts and feelings.
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 17.Larry
January 29th, 2010
2:14 pm"at the pathological end of the spectrum, for example, after psychotic delusions, he places “frank denial” of environmental issues. "

Denial of high fertility/population/overpopulation as the primary driver of ecological destruction, and an unwillingness to take action on this driver, is the "type case" of this pathology.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 18.michael
January 29th, 2010
2:15 pmI've always had a strong visceral reaction to seeing an ancient tree felled, a farm turned to subdivision, or a river dammed. My grandparents' farm of 40 acres used to have 2 ponds, 2 groves of trees, a garden, an orchard, grapes, chicken house, milk barn, and a seasonal stream. Since they were forced by old age to leave the farm, it has been cleared of all features saving one of the ponds and a few scattered trees. The first time I saw it's altered form (years later), I felt like I had been shot. I had no idea a place could be taken away so completely.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 19.Yummy Supper
Berkeley, California
January 29th, 2010
2:15 pmFor readers interested in more on this topic, but from a neuroscience perspective, I recommend Alva Noe's Out of Our Heads: Why You are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness. Hammering another nail into Descartes' well-sealed coffin, Noe proposes that consciousness is not just a product of the human brain, but arises from a complex interaction of brain, body, and surrounding environment. I would think his work, and the research he synthesizes, would be quite helpful in supporting the essential argument of the ecopsychologists. Solace for humans and the earth will only come through the restoration of relationships. Interdependency is a biological fact, why should it not have psychological and neurological dimensions?
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 20.Susan Fassberg
San Francisco, CA
January 29th, 2010
2:16 pmI can’t think of a better way to respond to this wonderful column than to quote from Jeanette Armstrong’s essay that appeared in YES! magazine some years ago:

“I am from the Okanagan, a part of British Columbia that is very dry and hot. Around my birthplace are two rocky mountain ranges: the Cascades on one side and the Selkirks on the other. The main river that flows through our lands is the Columbia.

My mother is a river Indian. The Kettle River people are in charge of the fisheries in the northern parts of the Columbia River system in our territories.

My father's people are mountain people. They occupied the northern part of British Columbia, known as the Okanagan Valley. My father's people were hunters. My name is passed on from my father's side of the family and is my great-grandmother's name. I am associated with my father's side, but I have a right and a responsibility to the river through my mother's birth and my family education.

So that is who I am.

When I introduce myself to my own people in my own language, I describe these things because it tells them what my responsibilities are and what my goal is, what I need to carry with me, what I project, what I teach and what I think about, what I must do and what I can't do.”

(J. Armstrong is an author and director of the En‘owkin Centre, Okanagan Indian Educational Resources Society)

How far most of us have traveled from this P.O.V.!

I serve on the board of Your column reinforces Terralingua’s obligation to ensure that future environmental work takes into account the profoundly deep cultural (emotional, spiritual, psychological, practical) connections to the land that many people still hold.

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