Solastalgia: The Psychological Impact of Environmental Change


Leah Prussia, College of St. Scholastica.

Earlier this month, I attended the St. Louis River Summit. This science conference about the largest river that empties into Lake Superior (on the U.S. side) has gradually been incorporating more presentations that aren’t as “sciencey” as usual.

One of them caught my interest. Presented by Leah Prussia with the College of St. Scholastica, it was called “Solstalgia: An Intersection of Shared Knowledge.”

“What is solastalgia?” you may ask. Solastalgia is an English term for the mental or emotional distress that people feel from harmful environmental changes. It’s made up of “solace” and “nostalgia.” People feeling solastalgia no longer receive solace from their environment. Due to changes, they feel nostalgia for the way the place used to be. It’s a relatively new word, coined in 2003.

The changes can be from environmental catastrophes, such as volcanoes or floods, or from human-made changes like development or climate change.


St. Scholastica students gathering stories about people’s experiences with solastalgia.

Prussia, a social work professor, had her students at the Summit to collect people’s stories during lunch. I told them the story of a grove of trees near my home where I used to play with other neighborhood kids. I was devastated when the grove was cleared for a new house.

I remember complaining to the neighbor boy about it while we were on the swing set in my back yard. He said I’d get over it. That was almost fifty years ago!

I’m obviously still not over it if I can remember the pain I felt at the change. Have you ever felt solastalgia?