Healing the Places We Dwell:

A Paradigm for Gem Therapy and the Environment

In 2019, Glenn Albrecht, retired professor of sustainability at Murdoch University, released a new book, Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World, but his coined term solastalgia, which has appeared in a few mainstream environmental discussions, was first published in his article of 2005, entitled "Solastalgia: A New Concept in Human Health and Identity," in Philosophy, Activism, and Nature.

I find the concept of solastalgia to provide a starting point in my 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 and consumerism, and metaphysical studies as they converge and diverge (often at odds and conflict with one another). The goal of these posts is to facilitate communication and provide information & resources concerning these issues.

What is solastalgia?

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:

*mining

*drought

*fire

*flooding

*hurricanes & tsunamis 

*terrorism & war

*land clearing

*gentrification

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I think of solastalgia as including reactions such as shock to sudden disasters—and also including the longer-term effects of the aftermath after the initial shock has passed. Solastalgia may additionally describe subtler responses to environmental changes that don't take shape with a sudden crisis but happen gradually (varying degrees of drought, for instance).

What is not solastalgia?

*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.

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 Albretch references (46), and/or they turn to healing approaches that are likewise frequently dubbed ‘pseudoscientific’—such as the controversial approaches of crystal healing, which is popular among those seeking to enhance their connection to nature.

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What’s the problem?

Whether we like to think about it or not, the mining of gemstones 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? It's a conflict that those seeking alternative spirituality and alternative health approaches — but also want to be including in the sustainable living movement — could carefully consider.

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Works Cited

Albrecht, Glenn. “Solastalgia: A New Concept in Human Health and Identity.” Philosophy, Activism, Nature (PAN) 1.3 (2005): 41-55.

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Points of Healing, Points of Mine is a series of articles discussing the interweavings of conversations of crystal therapy, ethical gemstone jewelry, alternative healing, science & conservation, and eco-consumerism. Initially published as its own site in 2018 as the final project of ENGL 513, Science, Environmental, and Medical Writing at the University of New Mexico, it has now been integrated into a section of Re-Sourced (https://www.projectresourced.org/).