In 2003 the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the term solastalgia to mean a “form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change”. Albrecht was studying the effects of long-term drought and large-scale mining activity on communities in New South Wales, when he realised that no word existed to describe the unhappiness of people whose landscapes were being transformed about them by forces beyond their control. He proposed his new term to describe this distinctive kind of homesickness. Where the pain of nostalgia arises from moving away, the pain of solastalgia arises from staying put. Where the pain of nostalgia can be mitigated by return, the pain of solastalgia tends to be irreversible. Solastalgia is not a malady specific to the present – we might think of John Clare as a solastalgic poet, witnessing his native Northamptonshire countryside disrupted by enclosure in the 1810s – but it has flourished recently. “A worldwide increase in ecosystem distress syndromes,” wrote Albrecht, is “matched by a corresponding increase in human distress syndromes”. Solastalgia speaks of a modern uncanny, in which a familiar place is rendered unrecognisable by climate change or corporate action: the home become suddenly unhomely around its inhabitants. Albrecht’s coinage is part of an emerging lexis for what we are increasingly calling the “Anthropocene”: the new epoch of geological time in which human activity is considered such a powerful influence on the environment, climate and ecology of the planet that it will leave a long-term signature in the strata record. And what a signature it will be. We have bored 50m kilometres of holes in our search for oil. We remove mountain tops to get at the coal they contain. The oceans dance with billions of tiny plastic beads. Weaponry tests have dispersed artificial radionuclides globally. The burning of rainforests for monoculture production sends out killing smog-palls that settle into the sediment across entire countries. We have become titanic geological agents, our legacy legible for millennia to come. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Rainforest burning in Brazil, 1989. Photograph: Sipa Press / Rex Features The idea of the Anthropocene asks hard questions of us. Temporally, it requires that we imagine ourselves inhabitants not just of a human lifetime or generation, but also of “deep time” – the dizzyingly profound eras of Earth history that extend both behind and ahead of the present. Politically, it lays bare some of the complex cross-weaves of vulnerability and culpability that exist between us and other species, as well as between humans now and humans to come. Conceptually, it warrants us to consider once again whether – in Fredric Jameson’s phrase – “the modernisation process is complete, and nature is gone for good”, leaving nothing but us. There are good reasons to be sceptical of the epitaphic impulse to declare “the end of nature”. There are also good reasons to be sceptical of the Anthropocene’s absolutism, the political presumptions it encodes, and the specific histories of power and violence that it masks. But the Anthropocene is a massively forceful concept, and as such it bears detailed thinking through. Though it has its origin in the Earth sciences and advanced computational technologies, its consequences have rippled across global culture during the last 15 years. Read more…
Is it possible to hold all the grief in the world and not get crushed by it? I ask this question because our failure to deal with the collective and individual pain generated as a result of our destructive economic system is blocking us from reaching out for the solutions that can help us to find another direction. Our decision to value above all else comfort, convenience and a superficial view of happiness, has led to feelings of disassociation and numbness and as a result we bury our grief deep within our subconscious. The consequence is not only a compulsion to consume even more in an attempt to hide our guilt but also a projection of our hidden pain onto the world around us and at the deepest level, the Earth itself.
looking forward to reading this..
Interesting new title from Harvard University Press can be found here:
Nature no longer exists apart from humanity. Henceforth, the world we will inhabit is the one we have made. Geologists have called this new planetary epoch the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. The geological strata we are now creating record industrial emissions, industrial-scale crop pollens, and the disappearance of species driven to extinction. Climate change is planetary engineering without design. These facts of the Anthropocene are scientific, but its shape and meaning are questions for politics—a politics that does not yet exist. After Nature develops a politics for this post-natural world.
Jedediah Purdy begins with a history of how Americans have shaped their landscapes. He explores the competing traditions that still infuse environmental law and culture—a frontier vision of settlement and development, a wilderness-seeking Romanticism, a utilitarian attitude that tries to…
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“Ah, this dear old planet! All is clear now. We know ourselves; we now know of what we are capable.” —Albert Camus, The Fall
“It is the worst of times and the best of times; the end of the world and the beginning of the world. The tipping points between creation and extinction, between apocalypse and revelation, are everywhere you look. Like the fabled kingdom of God, the tipping points are inside you and all around you.
It’s easy to get lost in the information age, and a vague foreboding sense of doom sprinkled with distractions isn’t the best path to peace and justice through the turbulent times ahead. Edward Gibbon, writing about the decline and fall of empire, wrote that, “The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” So we must learn to navigate. A survey of the tipping points that define our precarious calendars and geographies may help – to understand our world, to understand ourselves and to guide both into better harbors.
As Camus said, all is clear now – we know we are capable of both dreadful and beautiful deeds. We need only to look at the world, and then look into the mirror, and decide if we will fulfill or betray the mission history has put before us; we who live at the tipping points; we who are the tipping points. … ”
see more of this important essay at…
The postmodern greens aim to reorient conservation’s primary focus away from establishing protected areas intended to help prevent human-caused extinctions and to sustain large-scale natural ecosystems. Instead, they advocate sustainable management of the biosphere to support human aspirations, particularly for a growing global economy. If some species go extinct that may be regrettable, goes their thinking, but the bottom line is that nature is resilient. As long as “working landscapes” (places we manipulate to produce commodities) are managed well enough to sustain “ecosystem services” (things like water filtration, soil health, and crop pollination), human welfare can be supported without lots of new protected areas (habitat for other species) getting in the way of economic growth.
Some of the most prominent of these new conservationists have warned against critiquing the techno-industrial growth economy that is everywhere gobbling up wild nature. “Instead of scolding capitalism,” they write, “conservationists should partner with corporations in a science-based effort to integrate the value of nature’s benefits into their operations and cultures.”
“Today, humanity faces our greatest challenge, and our most precious opportunity. Our activity as a species has put the Earth in jeopardy. We can directly observe that our use of resources must change. We are threatening the ability of the biosphere to support our continuity, and the future of all complex forms of life. We appear to have reached one of those rare, extraordinary junctures in human history when a thorough transformation of society, culture, and consciousness is necessary. Climate change is the most urgent of many impending threats. As individuals, we must understand and accept the critical nature of our time. For the sake of future generations, we can become part of a wave of awakening and of action, that grows exponentially.
Under this extreme time pressure, there is great potential to quickly develop and distribute a new social model based on an ethos of global citizenship and planetary stewardship. For this to happen, humanity must act upon our unique capacities for self-awareness and foresight. We must fully activate the prefrontal cortex – the brain structure that makes us uniquely human, which developed in the last forty thousand years. We must envision a new model for planetary civilization, then design and manifest it.”
On World Water Day, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has released a study that maps for the first time the water resources available to support fracking in the world’s largest shale exploration areas. The study, “Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability and Business Risk,” found that 40 percent of countries with the largest shale energy resources could suffer from water stress: competing demands on their renewable water supply that could make it problematic to use that water for fracking.