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We Feel Our Pain

3/15/2006 12:00:00 AM


A couple years ago I signed up to receive “word of the day” emails from (like I needed one more thing every day in my in box, but I couldn’t help myself…I’m a word nerd). It’s amazing how often the word I find among my morning incoming is right on with what I’m thinking or talking about at that moment. It happened again last week, when the word weltschmerz appeared. Literally meaning “world pain” (in German) and translated as “world weariness; pessimism, apathy or sadness felt at the difference between physical reality and the ideal state,” the word captured a couple of conversations I’d been having with some Natural Home staff members just the day before.

We were confessing our “eco-sins,” the little environmental baddies that we do even though know we shouldn’t. One of us (I won’t say who) admitted that she drinks a Diet Coke for lunch every day. What? All those chemicals and caramel color and corporate globalization—on ice, every day? The shame of it.

I fessed up to driving every day to yoga class—an easy 10-minute bike ride at most. I’ve stopped even justifying it with the fact that my car is a Civic Hybrid because that vehicle, which was supposed to erase all my driving sins, is getting only 40 mpg in my mostly city cold-weather driving right now. I’m bad. I’m just bad.

Our publisher, Bryan Welch, listened to our conversation and decided this eco-angst might be a female phenomenon, as he’s not wracked with any of this green guilt. (My husband feels none of it, either.) Bryan did mention, however, that several of his friends are experiencing almost depressive states about global warming and climate change—a syndrome that seems to be spreading. We didn’t know this word, weltschmerz, yet, so we tried to coin a term for the phenomenon he spoke of. The best we came up with was “climatitis.” Climatic weltschmerz? Well, it’s a mouthful.

I wonder, though…are my fellow (female) staffers and I weirdos, or are others out there plagued with this eco-guilt? Does anyone else have secret eco-sins that need to be outed? Would coming clean with our dirty little secrets relieve us of our guilt and allow us to live happier, healthier lives (even while driving ten blocks or sucking down an aspartame-laced beverage?) Maybe. Maybe not. But to lift a line from another of my guilty little grocery store line pleasures, inquiring minds want to know.

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