We need an outlet. No, not that kind.
At night after my cellphone is off, my computer is put to sleep, my electronic tablet is left to charge, I look at the stars and think about myself on this blue marble in the midst of billions and billions of other objects in space. Unplugged from the daily beeps, ticks, and notifications, I have a reconnection with my place; my alliance with the Earth and all of it’s wonders. All the wonderful wild places and open land with brilliant colors, the smell and feel and safety of trees and the respect and comfort of animals, a true feeling of purpose.
However, I question my place when I notice patches of the land of my childhood, both in Utah and abroad, turned into parking lots and mini-malls. When day after day I sit in class and become consumed by the endless numbers and statistics, and I feel helpless, the swarm of ideas and lack of action makes me feel frustrated and aggravated; it hurts my psyche, it hurts my inner self.
I know that many of my friends and family members feel this, a feeling I didn’t know how to describe until I came upon the term “solastalgia.”
Coined by philosopher Glenn Albercht, “solastalgia,” is a neologism that describes the innate human feeling of “psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change.” It combines the idea of “solace” and “algia” or pain, closely related to nostalgia, a longing for home. Albercht argues that humans long for their inherent home, in the heart of nature. When we see the destruction of “home,” we feel distressed. I perceive this pain in my fellow students.
Longing to belong, they find ways to escape: video games, television, violence, and depression. My tired generation, on prescription and recreational drugs, is Internet-dazed, media and fame crazed, depressed, idealistic, motivated, suppressed and lost. We are the byproducts of products. For us, the word “friend” is just a push of a button. Our lives revolve around things that must be plugged in. But we so badly need an outlet beyond the walls and bricks and artificial light. We need a way to express our solastalgia and our need for belonging, a connection beyond the plastics and concrete of our urban environment.
We need a new venue. We need a student nature network. We still have time and infinite capability. Let’s start talking, let’s start listening to one another, let’s start planning and let’s start doing.
As the inhabitants of a planet that is being destroyed, we need to become a united species. By bringing more nature into our lives, we can radically improve our schools, towns, cities, families and friendships. We can work less like machines – in sterile, gray windowless cubicles – and bring nature to where we work, receiving the physical and psychological benefits of the natural world. We have a place of belonging. We belong to the Earth. We must re-identify ourselves as Earthlings. We must do this not only for ourselves, but also for the wild forests, the streams, all the little creatures, the blue sky and our future children. We need an outlet.
Note from C&NN: We like Jai’s idea for a student nature network, and suggest that joining C&NN’s Natural Leaders Network may be a place for high school and college students to start. In conversation, Jai describes the need for college students to form discussion and action groups focused on experiencing the natural world — not only for outdoor sports or action on environmental issues — but for a reconnection with the Earth, self, and one another. We like that idea. What do you think?