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.”