I have been diagnosed with an Acute Case of Solastalgia.

And there is no apparent cure

Ernesto van Peborgh
4 min readFeb 7, 2024

“So, doctor, what is the diagnosis?” The question, heavy with the weight of unspoken fears and observed changes, hangs between us.

“You have an acute case of solastalgia,”

comes the reply, introducing a term that, though unfamiliar, resonates with a depth of meaning I instinctively understand.

Coined by philosopher Glenn Albrecht, Solastalgia offers a name to the homesickness felt while still at home, capturing the emotional and ecological dissonance that grips me as the landscapes I cherish undergo irrevocable transformations. This diagnosis is not merely clinical; it’s a narrative that binds my personal experiences with a global story of environmental degradation and climate change, highlighting the deep pain of witnessing the places we love altered not by time or distance, but by human action and inaction.

In navigating the intertwined narratives of our global and personal landscapes, I’ve come to recognize the profound echo of solastalgia. It articulates the dissonance I feel as cherished environments are marred by the harsh impacts of human activity. This feeling, deeply personal yet universally relevant, mirrors Aldo Leopold’s poignant reflection on living “alone in a world of wounds.” His words resonate with me, blending the analytical clarity of my observations with a deep, intrinsic connection to the Earth. This convergence of scientific understanding and spiritual connection forms a holistic view of the environmental crisis, underscoring its impact not just on our planet, but on the human spirit.

My deep connection and affection for Patagonia stand as a poignant example of solastalgia. My initial encounter with its heart at the tender age of eight revealed a haven of unspoiled splendor, a realm where the natural world flourished in abundant harmony. Now, as I return to Patagonia as often as possible, I am faced with the harsh truth of solastalgia. The once pristine wilderness was now scarred by the careless acts of those who failed to respect its sanctity. The transformation from a deep connection with nature to witnessing its degradation by unsustainable tourism and exploitation starkly manifests solastalgia. The sacred act of exploring and connecting with the land has been overshadowed by a superficial engagement with nature, prioritizing personal experience over our collective responsibility to nurture and protect our environment.

In the last week alone, I’ve witnessed the heartbreaking loss of 6,000 acres of pristine national park Los Alerces, a sanctuary that cradles sequoias over a thousand years old. Additionally, another 1,000 acres of untouched forest in Nahuel Huapi National Park have succumbed to the flames. These fires, fueled by rising temperatures and prolonged droughts, have become a devastating constant, extinguishing life and nature in what are among the most breathtaking landscapes on our planet. The frequency and ferocity of these fires starkly underscore the tangible consequences of our warming world, laying bare the urgent need for action to protect these irreplaceable treasures.

Los Alerces, a sanctuary on fire

Witnessing the degradation of Patagonia, my heart aches not just for the loss of its pristine beauty but for the broader implications of our relationship with the natural world. This experience serves as a powerful reminder of our duty to safeguard the places that shape our understanding and appreciation of the Earth, emphasizing the importance of walking gently upon this land, leaving marks of stewardship rather than scars of conquest.

Yet, amidst the sorrow of solastalgia, I find a seed of hope. The pain we feel for the changing landscapes is a testament to our love for this planet — a love that can inspire action and healing. By embracing our roles as observers and participants, journalists and naturalists, we can forge a path toward restoration and reverence for the natural world.

As we navigate through the challenge of solastalgia, let us craft a new narrative for our future — a narrative that honors our grief while celebrating our capacity for regeneration and healing. This narrative invites us to reimagine our place within the natural world, encouraging us to embody the roles of guardians and caretakers. Drawing upon our shared humanity and the resilience of the Earth, we can restore not only the environments we cherish but also our connection to them, fostering a future where humans and nature thrive together in mutual respect, care, and love. In this journey, solastalgia transforms from a condition of despair into a catalyst for change, guiding us toward a world that embodies the harmony and balance of the web of life.

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Ernesto van Peborgh

Entrepreneur, writer, filmmaker, Harvard MBA. Builder of systemic interactive networks for knowledge management.