In a Word: Solastalgia

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Solastalgia: Psychological distress caused by climate change. 

While the word “solastalgia” might never have rolled off your tongue, you’ve likely felt its meaning deep in your bones.

Solastalgia the word is a combination of the Latin sōlācium (comfort) and the Greek root -algia (pain). It’s also a play on “nostalgia” — a combination of the Homeric word νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming,” and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain” or “ache.”

Solastalgia the feeling washes over us as we read the latest news of the record-setting heat that blanketed the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada and parts of the Middle East as this was being written. It’s the feeling that pins us to our beds when we think of coral reef bleaching, or mass extinctions, or note that fewer songbirds visit the tree under which we love to read in the shade.

Yes, there’s lots to feel solastalgic about, but there’s also plenty to feel hopeful about: Smart people fighting for what they love. Kind people reaching out to help. Hopeful people refusing to give in to despair.

Solastalgia might not have an antonym but it does have an antidote: Join the folks who take action. 

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Leslie Garrett
Leslie Garrett has written for the Washington Post and The Atlantic, among others. She writes frequently on environmental and social justice issues, and is the author of The Virtuous Consumer: Your Essential Shopping Guide for a Better, Kinder, Healthier World (and one our kids will thank us for!). Her Bluedot hack? “My clothesline! Is there anything lovelier than slipping between crisp, line-dried sheets that smell of fresh air and sunshine at day’s end?

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