Monday, May 21, 2018

'Speciestalgia' is a new word for human distress caused by species loss

'Speciestalgia' is a new word for human distress caused by species loss

by Dan Bloom

see also:

the human-race-just-1-percent of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-percent of-wild-mammals-study says

A recent news article in the Guardian newspaper in London noted that while human beings are just 1 percent of all living life on Earth, we have been responsible for the disappearance and extinction  of over 80 percent of all non-human species. This got me to thinking that maybe we needed a new word, a new coinage, to represent the distress we feel that has been and will continue to be caused by species loss.

I put on my thinking cap and this is what I came up with: "speciestalgia."

It's a portmanteau of species and nostalgia. It describes the feeling of distress associated with the worldwide loss of many different
kinds of species -- large and small -- due to environmental change, global warming, climate change and industrial pollution. In the 21st century, it might become a key word.

I coined it because of the negative attitude of  "who the heck cares?" that so many of our fellow human beings have today about the fact that so many species are disappearing and going extinct worldwide.

I can imagine scientists who study endangered species and species loss, and the reporters who cover their work and academic papers, using this new term as a kind of wake-up call and a call to action worldwide.

Use the term as you wish. I also created a Twitter hashtag for the word: #speciestalgia. 

If you are a writer or a poet or an academic or a news reporter or a literary critic, and if you are novelist Margaret Atwood or essayist Amitav Ghosh or nature writer Robert Macfarlane or climate activist Naomi Klein or Bill McKibben, or you know someone like them and feel the same way yourself, feel free to start using this new ecological term as you see fit. Over time, it will create its own expanded definition and gain acceptance in the mass media. Give it five years or ten years or so. These things take time. But let's start now, as time is of the essence and in many cases, time is running out.

When I queried a few academics and activists in the field, to try to gauge their reactions to the new term, pro or con, I received a few encouraging emails.

"Dan, do you know the word "solastalgia?" asked Canadian activist Silver Donald Cameron. "It was coined more than a dozen years ago by a philosopher and professor in Australia, Dr. Glenn Albrecht, to refer to the sense of loss that comes from environmental loss. 'Speciestalgia' would be a piece of that I think -- a large piece. It's a good coinage." 

Janet Swim, a professor of psychology at Penn State University, told me in an email: 
"Nice specific concept to consider. I was just talking to a friend who said she started to make a list of trees that we no longer have (at least in North America) and those that are threatened. She was certainly feeling 'speciestalgia'."

Dr Swim says on her university website that her interest lies in understand people's involvement, or lack thereof, in environmental problems and willingness to take action.  

"I am interested in both basic and applied research that can motivate individuals and organizations to work toward a sustainable and vibrant world. My current areas of research include social sources of beliefs and actions including gender role norms and social networking; and creating effective climate change communications,'' she added.

New words and terms take on a life of their own, if they reach enough people and if they resonate with the right people. Perhaps "speciestalgia" will find an home on the scientific community worldwide and among general readers and writers

***"Curious, empathetic, compassionate: What we should be as human beings."***

1 comment:


Here's links for a couple of recent books relating to the history of nostalgia:

The Future of Nostalgia by Svetlana Boym:

What Nostalgia Was by Thomas Dodman:

And an article from The Atlantic, which I think is where I first learned that there was a deeper history of nostalgia: