I came across this term in the week when I was writing about the effect of landscapes on our well being. It is a term coined by an Australian eco-philosopher called Glenn Albrecht, in response to a phenomenon he first noticed back in the early noughties when the residents of Upper Hunter Valley, a heavily mined area of NSW contacted him for help. He was surprised to realise that the inhabitants of this once lush and fertile green vally seemed to be phyisically suffering and in real despair when they described the transformation of their local environment into the open cast coal mines that now cover an area of about 500 square kilometres of their home valley. It was almost like a home sickness, but they had not left their home, instead their home landscape had been changed all around them, by forces that felt largely out of their control.
Solagtalgia is the phrase used to describe that pain and longing for the home that once was when one is, in fact, still residing at home. Since this type of illness was first identified, awareness of the role that landscape plays in our well being and psyche's has become mainstream, and a whole range of earth-related conditions have been identified.
With a growing number of people surrounded by farm-scapes destroyed by war and bombs, development, intensified agriculture, or drought as their water is siphoned off elsewhere, these conditions are becoming ever more prevalent. Sometimes it is the little things too- a friend of mine expresses real sorrorow when she speaks about the growing tick population in Sweden which means that her children will not know the long carefree barefoot summer days that she once knew as a child.
So what can be done? As a counter weight to solistalgia, Albrecht is now promoting its opposite, soliphilia. This is the action that grows from a sense of the love for the land, the creative action that comes from the pain of seeing what is loved being trashed- and stepping up to protect that which protects and supports us- the landscape.