To Talk About the Anthropocene, We Need New Words

The “Bureau of Linguistic Reality” is coining them

Clive Thompson

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Heidi Quante and Alicia Escott of the Bureau of Linguistic Reality

As any psychologist will tell you, a key part of grappling with your emotions is naming them.

So back in 2007 I was particularly struck when I learned of the word “solastalgia”. It was a neologism coined by the philosopher Glenn Albrecht, to give a name to a new emotion: A sort of sadness caused by climate change.

Albrecht had been doing work in Australia, where a brutal heat wave and persistent drought was changing the landscape and the fabric of daily life. Crops and flowers wouldn’t grow; coral reefs were dying off; the government was rationing water.

Albrecht noticed that people were getting depressed, and that their depression was driven by feeling that the physical world they knew was vanishing. It was, he realized, a form of nostalgia. They were homesick, even though they hadn’t left home. Home had left them. Climate change had taken it away.

So he coined a word for this new emotion: “Solastalgia”. “Sol” borrows from the Latin words solari, or “comfort” — but also from the Latin solus, or “devastation.” Algia is the Latin word for “pain” and “suffering”.

I wrote a Wired column about solastalgia, and ever since then I’ve found it an incredibly

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Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”. @clive@saturation.social clive@clivethompson.net