Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods

From the Blog

The Age of Emptiness or the Coming Creativity?

One day, while driving down a freeway, I looked up to see an empty sky where there had been mountaintops.

Dust was rising as massive earth graders rumbled across a now-blank plain. Seemingly overnight, they had sliced away the horizon. Later came rows of mini-mansions devoid of color or individuality or visual meaning, and shopping malls, one after another after another after another, with the same anchor stores, the same stucco, the same cars, the same dreamlessness.

Perhaps you’ve shared this feeling – this solastalgia, as Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht calls it: a form of human psychic distress caused by the loss of nature.

The disappearance of that horizon serves as example and metaphor, a reflection of how our society is out of balance, often overwhelmed by technology. Every day, it seems, we’re enervated by empty calories, empty suits, empty politics, empty financial institutions, empty architecture, empty schools, empty news -- emptied land.

Do we live in the age of emptiness?

Shift the view just a bit, and the world fills with possibilities. By restoring our kinship with other species, we restore ourselves. Imagine nature-rich and nature-smart homes, neighborhoods, schools, parks, urban and rural farms, workplaces, whole cities. To build this kind of a world, we need more than conservation. We need a new nature movement, not one that urges us back to nature, but forward to nature.

The eco-theologian Thomas Berry, a man who knew the power of practical dreaming, said the "Great Work" of the 21st century would be to reconnect our humanity to the reality and spirit of nature, to the fullness of life. Instead of settling for an age of emptiness, we could be entering one of the most creative periods in human history.

It’s a choice.

_________________________

Richard Louv is author of THE NATURE PRINCIPLE and LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS. He is also chairman emeritus of The Children & Nature Network 

Photo: RL

Next post: Every Child Needs Nature, Not Just The Ones With Parents Who Appreciate Nature

Prev post: You're Part of the New Nature Movement if...

Comments

I had no idea that there is actually a word, solastalgia, describing this feeling.
I often feel anxious at work, in that massive building, or while commuting.
Just dreaming about the wooden cabin far in the woods and away from the horrible pace of the everyday routine.
Thank you for the post

Dear Richard,
The feeling that you describe is one that I have very frequently, and I know that we are far from alone in this.
In our attempts to “get” more things, we risk losing everything that really makes life worth living.
Your proposed solution, a reconnection with nature, seems ideal - for we are less likely to despoil something to which we recognise our connection.

I definitely believe we are in an age of emptiness. Our younger generations are growing up without any substance and it is becoming more apparent everyday. Children are experiencing anxiety without reason, and it is most likely due to the heavy social pressures placed on them.

I had no idea that there is actually a word, solastalgia, describing this feeling.
I often feel anxious at work, in that massive building, or while commuting.
Just dreaming about the wooden cabin far in the woods and away from the horrible pace of the everyday routine. Great post Richard.

I notice this once in a while, but I didn’t know it is particularly called solastalgia. It’s frustrating when you want to take a break from a busy environment but you can’t because nothing is “not busy” anymore, especially in business areas.

Richard,

Thank you for this post and your ongoing work.  It was a pleasure to hear you at McKee Gardens yesterday.  I really appreciate you raising this concept of solastalgia.  I think it’s important for more of us to get in touch with our feelings about what we are doing to ourselves, and as you said in your talk, to offer up a more compelling vision of our shared future.  To this end, I offer this slight edit that we need a “forward WITH nature” movement, joined arm and arm, as co-creators.  To me, ours is not a future of restoration, because we can never go back to what was.  Rather, we should engage in the enterprise of symbiotic regeneration with our fellow species.  Certainly an invitation to evolve in our maturity as humanity. 

Best,

Curtis

Yes, I feel we do live in a age of emptiness. And when the rain forests are gone it will be even more empty. Once the beauty of the land is gone for the sake of more oil it will be more empty. When and where does the madness stop?

I do feel this anxiety quite often when I’m sitting in class on a beautiful day.  I am part of the “first generation to grow up in a largely de-natured environment,” to use your words.  I was lucky enough to be one of those children who stayed outside all the time instead of sitting in front of the T.V. and now that I’m in college and I’m forced to stay inside for long classes and forced to be glued to my computer to write papers, I miss the care free days of my childhood when all I had to worry about was missing my curfew.  I see more and more buildings being put up and more and more of nature being torn down.  It’s absolutely sad.

Add a new comment here

Name:

Email: (not shown)

URL:

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below: