All of us have some special location that speaks to our hearts. A field of corn as far as the eye can see. A mountain that draws our eyes upward. A beach or seashore where we gaze toward a far-distant horizon. A valley of wildflowers. An old homestead where even the footprint of an old structure stirs warm memories.
All of us, too, have had the experience of watching a place change in a way that destroys its specialness for us. A highway comes too close; toxic waste clogs a stream; developers cut off the top of a beautiful hill; smog obscures a distant vista. Something very important is lost to us. We feel sad.
Researchers in Australia assert that this is a new type of sadness. When parts of our landscape change in detrimental ways, we lose the sense of “home” that these locations provided us previously. A name has been coined for this phenomenon: solastalgia. Solastalgia comes from the root word that means comfort: solacium and from the root word that means pain: algia. Solastalgia is the condition when we long for a natural setting that is now changed forever. As one researcher put it, this is a form of homesickness we experience even while we are still “at home.” (more…)