In his book Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World (2019), Glenn Albrecht elaborated the term ‘solastalgia’. A portmanteau coinage, embracing ‘nostalgia’ (longing for the past) and composed of the Greek term algos (pain) and Latin solacium (solace), solastalgia alludes to the feeling of being homesick while you are at home. If you have never lived in a house threatened by rising waters, think of how, upon arrival at a pleasant destination when travelling, you can be instantly overwhelmed by homesickness for precisely that place, because you know your stay will be of short duration. The medical journal The Lancet has already referenced ‘solastalgia’ as a useful concept to assess the effect of climate change on mental health. (Quoted from an article by Thijs Weststeijn)

Comparable terms in other languages might be: saudade, banzo, dor [Portuguese], hireath, cwtch [Welsh], momo no aware, wabi sabi [Japanese], ma [Chinese], Sehnsucht [German], tizita [Ehtiopian], añoranza [Spanish], morriña [Galician], regrette [French], also from English : melancholia, sadness, grief, blues, longing, absence, pining, yearning…

Devi – the universal truth resides deep in the ocean

The Devi Upanishad is one of 19 sanskrit texts that lay out the philosophical concept of Hinduism. Written somtime before 1400 CE, the text describes the goddess Devi as the highest principle, and the ultimate truth in the universe. According to this text the “highest principle” was born in the oceans and whoever wants to follow the “truth”, needs to “know the water”. These are the first seven verses of the text:

All the gods stood around Devi and asked: "Who  art  thou,  0  great  goddess?" to  which she  replied, "I  resemble  in  form  Brahman,  from  me  emanates the  world  which  has  the  Spirit  of  Prakrti  and  Purusa,  I  am empty  and  not  empty,  I  am  delight  and  non-delight,  I  am knowledge  and  ignorance,  I  am  Brahman  and  not  Brahman, I  am  the  five  perishable  and  imperishable  elements,  I  am the  whole  world,  I  am  the  Veda  and  not  the  Veda,  I  am knowledge  and  ignorance,  I  am  not  born  and  am  born,  I  am below,  above,  and  horizontal,  I  walk  about  with  the  Rudras and  Vasus,  and  the  Adityas  and  Visvadevas.  I  carry  both Mitra  and  Varuna,  Indra  and  Agni,  both  the  Asvins,  I  hold Soma,  Tvastr,  Pusan  and  Bhaga,  I  hold  the  broad-stepping Visnu,  Brahman,  and  Prajapati,  I  give  the  money  for  a  good  purpose  to  the  sacrificer  who  offers  oblations  and  pours out  soma-juice,  I  am  living  in  every  country,  I  confer wealth,  I  produce  at  first  the  father  of  this  world,  my  birth- place is  in  the  water  inside  the  sea,  who  knows  the water  obtains the  abode  of  Devi."

(Quotes from Gustav Oppert: The Original Inhabitants of Bharatavasa or India, 1893) 

climate change and human anger

Pak Permadi, an Indonesian expert for paranormal
events from Java made the following statement at a seminar at Jogjakarta University in 1995: »If people are not happy with their treatment by those in power but cannot defend themselves, their anger, which expresses itself as energy, is taken up by nature. If nature is angry, disasters such as a volcanic eruption occur because nature is not afraid of human rulers.«

In this oppinion, an animated nature or deity does not cause disasters directly and intentionally to comment, punish or influence human vices, but rather nature is the transmitor of a human justice. Interestingly enough, this view resonates with current climate change discourse, wherein it is human behaviour that has cuased nature to react in disastrous ways.

See: Hans-Rudolf Meier, The Cultural Heritage of the Natural Disaster: Learning Processes and Projections from the Deluge to the »Live« Disaster on TV (2007) and Judith Schlehe, Cultural Politics of Natural Disasters in Indonesia (2008)

Physico-Theology: Disaster becomes beautiful

In her essay on the motive of Mount Vesuvius, Valerie Hammelbacher traces the beginning of the image of disaster in art history back to the Britsh enlightment and the philosophy of physico-theology. More often referred to as natural theology, this school of thought challenged the prior concept of natural disaster as divine punishment and instead tried to find scientific explanations while maintaining the idea of divine power. Thomas Burnets treaty “The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of Creation” (1691) ushers in the age of physico-theology. According to Burnets and his colleagues, any natural phenomenon is logical, useful, immaculate and thus beautiful. This includes a disaster like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which could now become a topic for fine arts. Consequently, natural disasters were a popular, technically challenging yet rewarding motiv for painters in the following decades. In his painting from 1780 English painter Jospeh Wright of Derby (1734 – 1797) depicted the eruption of Mount Vesuvius as a sacred epiphany.

UK; 18. Century; Christian; Philosophy; Painting; Vesuvius