Memerosity and The New Mourning

dead-swan

I suggest that the ‘new mourning’ contains the emergent elements of detailed knowledge of causality, anthropogenic culpability and enhanced empathy for the non-human (Albrecht 2016-7). The etymological origins of the word ‘mourning’ come from the Greek language, memeros related to ‘a state of being worried’ and its meaning is associated with being troubled and to grieve. We can see from these ancient origins that mourning is a versatile concept that can be applied to any context, present and future, not just to the death of humans, where there is grieving and worry about a negative state of affairs.

To mourn is both a biologically- and culturally-mediated human (and other animal) experience and we have now entered a new phase of global-scale mourning.  All three elements of the new mourning alter the experience of death, grief and mourning about loss in a globalised human culture. Perhaps we should expand the psychoterratic typology beyond an established term such as ‘ecoanxiety’ to include a concept like ‘memerosity’ or what I would define as the pre-solastalgic state of being worried about the possible passing of the familiar and its replacement by that which does not sit comfortably within one’s sense of place. I begin to mourn for that which I know will become endangered or extinct. I often have a tight knot of memerosity inside me when I consider the scale of change going on around me and what might happen next.

Not only do we have global dread for the future but, since a great deal of negative change has already occurred to our planet, forms of mourning for that which has already gone or is under intense stress (solastalgia) are a perfectly reasonable response. If we go even deeper into The Anthropocene we can see the potential for psychoterratically-induced melancholia, grief and the emergence of hyper-mourning.  The psychoterratic drama is enhanced, as the ancient Greeks knew all too well, when disaster is self-inflicted.

Yet, it is our ability to foresee such potential for negativity that has prompted me to create a positive vision of The Symbiocene with new, positive psychoterratic concepts. Those whose emotions and thinking allow them to already feel part of The Symbiocene will have the ability to grieve and, where appropriate, to mourn the loss of individual life (all beings) and the vitality of ecosystems as negative change impinges on the planet. These people will also have the capacity and creative energy to transcend The Anthropocene and help others to enter The Symbiocene.

Albrecht G.A., (2016-7) Solastalgia and the New Mourning, in Ashlee Cunsolo Willox and Karen Landman, (eds) Mourning Nature: Hope at the Heart of Ecological Loss & Grief, McGill-Queen’s University Press (in publication).

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About glennaalbrecht

Farmosopher at The Wallaby Farm, NSW: Glenn Albrecht retired as professor of sustainability at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia in June 2014. He is now an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney. He was at the University of Newcastle as Associate Professor of Environmental Studies until December 2008. He is an environmental philosopher with both theoretical and applied interests in the relationship between ecosystem and human health, broadly defined. He pioneered the research domain of 'psychoterratic' or earth related mental health and emotional conditions with his concept of 'solastalgia' or the lived experience of negative environmental change. Solastalgia has become accepted worldwide as a key concept in understanding the impact of environmental change in academic, creative arts, social impact assessment and legal contexts. Glenn Albrecht’s work is now being used extensively in course readings, new research theses and academic research in many disciplines including geography and environmental studies. His work is also being published in languages other than English. He has publications in the field of animal ethics and has published on the ethics of relocating endangered species in the face of climate change pressures and the ethics of the thoroughbred horse industry worldwide. With Professor Phillip McManus (Sydney University) he has completed a book which was published in 2012 by Routledge on the thoroughbred industry. He also published with Professor McManus on the newly emerging domain of ‘psychoterratic geographies’ (McManus and Albrecht 2013). With colleagues, Nick Higginbotham (University of Newcastle) and Linda Connor (Sydney University) under Australian Research Council Discovery Project grants, he has researched the impact of mining in the Upper Hunter Region of NSW, Australia and the impact of climate change on communities, again in the Hunter Region. He has researched the impact of gas fracking and coal mining on people and communities in the Gloucester region of NSW. Glenn has also been involved as a Chief Investigator in an ARC Discovery Grant Project on the social and ethical aspects of the thoroughbred horse industry worldwide and was a partner investigator on ARC Linkage Grant funded research on the ethics of feral buffalo control in Arnhem Land. He has held an NCCARF grant at Murdoch University to study the likely impact of climate change on water provision in two inland cities (Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie). Glenn Albrecht is also a pioneer of transdisciplinary thinking and, with Higginbotham and Connor, produced a major book on this topic, Health Social Science: A Transdisciplinary and Complexity Perspective with Oxford University Press in 2001. His current major transdisciplinary research interest, the positive and negative psychological, emotional and cultural relationships people have to place and its transformation is one that sees him having a national and international research profile in an emergent field of academic inquiry where he has been recognised as a global pioneer. International citations to his academic works are now increasing annually and reference to his concept of solastalgia in global art and culture is now too extensive to fully document. Glenn now works as an independent academic based in the Hunter Region of NSW. He continues to research and publish in his chosen fields. He is a current grant assessor for Commonwealth Ministry of Arts grant applications and an Honorary Associate in the School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney.
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