Healing the Places We Dwell: A Paradigm for Gem Therapy and the Environment, Part 1
Points of Healing, Points of Mine is a series of posts discussing the interweavings of conversations of crystal therapy, alternative healing, science & conservation, and eco-consumerism.
Glenn Albrecht, the retired professor of sustainability at Murdoch University in Western Australia, published a new book this year — Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World (Cornell University Press) — nearly twenty years after coining the term solastalgia in 2003. The concept of solastalgia is my starting point in an attempt to situate diverse conversations pertaining to crystals, gemstones, and mining — conversations spanning a variety of influences including alternative healing practices, environmental repercussions, social justice issues, economics & consumerism, and metaphysical studies as they converge and diverge (often at odds and conflict with one another). The goal of this series is to facilitate communication and provide information & resources concerning these issues.
What is solastalgia?
This is a term that evades a concrete, boxed-in definition, but it allows a few distinguishing traits to attach to its meaning. In his article “Solastalgia: A New Concept in Human Health and Identity” which appeared in Philosophy, Activism, Nature (PAN) in 2005, Albrecht positions solastalgia among dimensions of the philosophical, the psychosomatic, and the empirical (46), describing it as “homesickness while still at ‘home’” (45). Significantly, he asserts the “diagnosis” of this condition is “based on the recognition of that type of distress within an individual or a community connected to the loss of an endemic sense of place… erosion of a sense of belonging to a particular place…the loss or lack of solace and the sense of isolation connected to the present state of one’s home or territory…pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and loves is under assault” (45–46). It is our response to detrimental events within our home territory and the sense of belonging that it provides.
Causes of solastalgia include individual and communal feelings of a loss of power & control due to events such as:
- hurricanes & tsunamis
- terrorism & war
- land clearing
What is not solastalgia?
Solastalgia directly represents our relationship to the environment that surrounds us, differentiating it from other forms of generalized nostalgia, discomfort, or unease such as:
*Sentimentality about the past (unless directly linked to deterioration in present environmental conditions)
* A desire to relocate (unless directly linked to deterioration in present environmental conditions)
*Depression due to discontent from personal issues such as relationship difficulties or job stress, although it is a feeling of being deprived of the sense of “solace” provided by the immediately surrounding atmosphere and landscape of the natural world that could otherwise assist to alleviate the above-mentioned troubles.
The importance of human connection to the land is verified by other research also. Justin Housman reports in Adventure Journal that doctors are “prescribing” spending time in nature to treat depression, blood pressure, and stress & anxiety among other ailments. Terms with similar definitions such as “ecological grief” are also appearing in conversations of mental health and climate change.
What does solastalgia have to do with gemstones?
Individuals suffering from ailments that tend to be dubbed ‘psychosomatic’ in conventional medicine often turn to drugs and alcohol, as Albrecht references (46), and/or they turn to healing approaches that are likewise frequently dubbed ‘pseudoscientific’ — one of the most popular and controversial of these approaches is crystal healing, which is popular among those seeking to enhance their connection to nature.
What’s the problem?
Whether we like to think about it or not, the mining of gemstones and other earth matter directly affects the global environment.
Do the crystals that can make us feel more connected to the earth, or feel better via ‘retail therapy,’ or through intrinsic energetic healing properties actually perpetuate our solastalgia through channels we may not be entirely conscious of?
We’ll take a close look at another aspect of this question in Part Two of this series next, “Tools for Healing? Buying into Gemstones.”
Note: To read more about Albrecht’s new book, see the interview with the author in Psychology Today.