Neologism needed: extinctostalgia, thanatalgia or some such

I was in a museum the other day, with my wonderful wife.  There was one section that I dreaded as soon as I knew it existed.  And it was as bad as I thought it would be. Not the quality, you understand, but the feelings it provoked in me.

It was the hall full of animals (especially fish), and the dioramas and the (accurate) explanatory plaques about climate change and the collapse of biodiversity from multiple causes.

I used to love these things. These opportunities to think about the natural world.  I remember when I was 8 years old, I started collecting stickers to put in one of those “learn about” books.  It was confiscated off me by my art teacher at the boarding school I was in because my parents were sorting out whether they would stay together or not (they did).  It was put in a drawer and then not there a day later when the teacher went to retrieve it for me.

I used to love documentaries about this stuff. I remember “Life on Earth” – the David Attenborough thing that came out at the same time.

And then came the realisation – sharpened since 2009 – that it’s totally fucked. That we are committing an act of such absurd vandalism, such ludicrous and self-destructive massacre and shitting-in-our-nest that you want to puke.

We aren’t going to stop. We aren’t even going to slow down our acceleration towards the brick wall/off the cliff.

All those beautiful species (and I don’t just mean the charismatic bloody megafauna). All that intricacy.  All that, well, life.  Toasted.  Because we can’t deal with our own mortality, or rein in our psychopaths, or worship more than one dickish God, or whatever reasons we want to give for the gap between the potential capacity of our cerebral cortex and our thumbs and the grubby reality of our pillaging.

So I couldn’t find hope, or even simply enjoy, the display.  And I am casting around for the words to label that pit-of-the-stomach, numb haze of unease/loss.

Recently I highlighted the neologism “solastalgia” – “a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home,”

Do we need one for the fear, dread, sadness, anger, disbelief around the sixth extinction?  What would it be? Extinctostalgia?  Thanatalgia?  Something else?  I’m all ears…
Syndrome without a name – “the inability to find wonder and joy in representations of the diversity of life on earth because of the knowledge of the inevitable pending ecological debacle.”

About dwighttowers

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4 Responses to Neologism needed: extinctostalgia, thanatalgia or some such

  1. Dear You, do not despair so much-
    You have forgotten what happens after mass extinctions: life takes over, multiplies and diversifies. We are stuck with a discourse of “saving the planet”, when what we actually mean is “saving mankind and the current flora/fauna”.. But we are very transient in geological terms. Once you get over the fact that our planet as a whole will look after itself, you can be reassured that life will not disappear but evolve and adapt. A few millions years down the line and the “Earth experiment” has a new set of species – built from the very same building blocks we are made of, but maybe with a chance to develop higher post-human intelligence too.

    • dwighttowers says:

      You’re right, of course. Over the scale of a few million years… it didn’t have to be like this, but it is. Was talking to a friend tonight, and compared it to sky-diving (something I’ve not done, so just going on my imagination). The view is the same both before and after you pull on your ripchord. Of course, if the ripchord comes away in your hand,and no parachute billows out above you, your appreciation of the view changes somewhat!! All best wishes…

    • pendantry says:

      You’re right, of course. Even if, as seems increasingly likely, we drive the thin crust of life around this ball of rock into a state where it cooks itself into oblivion, the universe is vast; life seems to find a way, and I don’t for a second believe that this sorry clump is all there is, so it will continue, somewhere. Just, probably, not on this planet, because we will have driven it over the edge.

      And for that reason, you’re wrong (of course) to take the stance that despair is not a useful path to take. Perhaps If more of us were to despair, instead of continuing to buy iThis and iThat and oh-so-many other iRrelevancies, perhaps the planet that gave us birth would be able, at the last, to recover from the insults we, even now, in our sagacity (hah!) continue to inflict upon it.

      • dwighttowers says:

        iRrelevancies!! LOL. That’s great. You could get a publishing deal and have one of those little stocking-filler books and make loads of money and buy a flash sports car and be really happy and… no, wait, am I missing something?

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