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1/03/08

12:45 PM Photo of the day, taken at Tsongo Lake in Sikkim, near Gangtok:

Do not walk on frozen lake

1:14 PM From article on how the changing environment (global warming, etc.) is adversely affecting our mental health:

Albrecht has given this syndrome an evocative name: solastalgia. It’s a mashup of the roots solacium (comfort) and algia (pain), which together aptly conjure the word nostalgia. In essence, it’s pining for a lost environment. “Solastalgia,” as he wrote in a scientific paper describing his theory, “is a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home.’”

This is a neat mythos, but in truth it’s a pretty natural human urge to identify with a place and build one’s sense of self around its comforts and permanence. I live in Manhattan, where the globe-hopping denizens tend to go berserk if their favorite coffee shop closes down. How will they react in 20 or 30 years if the native trees can’t handle the 5-degree spike in average temperature? Or if weird new bugs infest the city in summer, fall shrinks to a single month, and snow becomes a distant memory? “We like to think that we’re cool, 21st-century people, but the basic sense of a connection to the land is still big,” Albrecht says. “We haven’t evolved that much.

“What’s more, Albrecht has noticed that the more quickly environmental change occurs, the more intense the solastalgia. The mental-health effects can be powerful. In the Australian outback, industrial activity — notably open-pit coal mining — has turned verdant areas into moonscapes seemingly overnight, and the suicide rate in the region has skyrocketed. Or witness New Orleans, where a Harvard survey found that survivors of Hurricane Katrina reported suffering a “serious mental illness” at roughly double the rate of the city’s residents three years earlier. Fully 6 percent have thought about suicide. Trauma and personal loss obviously play a role in this, but the decimation of the city’s physical environment surely does as well.

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