Essay by Eric Worrall
A green language expert has channelled a 17th century medical student to capture the profound emotional impact looking at an open cut coal mine can cause.
The Era of Climate Change Has Created a New Emotion
What word might describe losing your home while staying in one place?
As a scholar, Albrecht was drawn to pondering language about and human relationships to the natural world. As a person, he also cared deeply for this place, which had been his home since 1982—Australia’s Hunter Region, a sublime area of dairy farms, wineries, and wallabies. The valley here offers a stopover along a flyway that runs from Alaska and Siberia all the way to New Zealand, and Albrecht’s enthusiasm for bird conservation led him to understand how coal mining was threatening the well-being of the valley’s feathered and human residents. From 1981 to 2012, the amount of land occupied by open-cut mines in the Hunter, akin to the mountaintop-removal mining that has devastated Appalachian landscapes, had increased almost twentyfold. The process leaves a permanent and raw scar, devoid of topsoil. Such mines can also discharge toxic metals into water supplies.
Over a period of decades, Albrecht has devoted himself to searching for language that might describe a type of sadness, shock, and loss that now seems more and more common—grief of displacement, unease with our surroundings, a sense that damage and disaster might lie just down the road. He would feel the same rush of grief and concern in 2009 when he moved to the Perth metropolitan area in Western Australia, where he had grown up. There, thanks partly to the early impacts of climate change, regional rainfall had dropped by about 15 to 20 percent since the 1970s, and the jarrah trees he had loved since he was a child—eucalypts with lustrous wood—were dying en masse.
In 1688, Johannes Hofer, then a medical student at the University of Basel in Switzerland, assembled a set of case studies to document the pain of home disruption. Hofer was born in southern Alsace two decades after the Thirty Years’ War—a conflict that turned the region into “a smoldering land, amputated of half its population,” writes the historian Thomas Dodman, and left this part of Europe in a state of economic stagnation and political instability.
To Hofer, nostalgia was also a medical condition whose symptoms included fever, nausea, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and respiratory problems, along with “palpitations of the heart, frequent sighs, also stupidity of the mind.” Untreated, it could be fatal, and there were documented deaths among Swiss soldiers attributed to this malady.
…Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/07/climate-change-damage-displacement-solastalgia/670614/
Perhaps Albrect is trying to say greens are too upset to think straight. If this is the case, I sure hope they make the effort to try.
In his 1688 dissertation, which is credited with creating the word “nostalgia”, Doctor Johannes Hofer recommended blood letting, laxatives and narcotics as a cure, but I recommend greens consult with their doctor before trying any of these remedies. Learning some science might also help.