This is an aesthetic movement – which has become a cultural and political one.
And it’s gaining a lot of interest – and a lot of ground, in many different spheres.
SCIENCE FICTION – BUILDING UTOPIAS:
Here’s a view from a book-lover’s website:
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SOLARPUNK GENRE
Emily Wenstrom Mar 23, 2021
While a great deal of science fiction involves gloom, doom, and cynicism about humanity’s fate (Apocalypse! Dystopia! Grimdark!), there are bright spots of optimism within the genre. Meet solarpunk.
WHAT IS SOLARPUNK?
The overall vibe of the solarpunk genre is often described as inspired by Art Nouveau, Victorian, and Afrofuturist motifs. Illustrations of solarpunk landscapes often look hypermodern, light, airy, and colorful, but can also be rich in elegant detail. Most of all, everything is so, so green. Just covered in leaves.
Along with this visual style, the spirit of solarpunk is one of craftsmanship, egalitarianism, and optimism where technology can be put to work to solve our greatest problems.
The first mentions of solarpunk trace back to the late 2000s, but the sub-genre became more widely recognized thanks to the Tumblr of Miss Olivia Louise, who frequently posted images that reflect what’s become recognized as the solarpunk aesthetic, and had a post in this style and explaining it go viral in 2014.
With a new book just out:
HI-TECH – LO-TECH:
Here’s the perspective from “the online community for startups and tech companies“:
SOLARPUNK IS A TUMBLR VIBE. IT’S ALSO A PRACTICAL MOVEMENT.
Stephen Gossett February 2, 2021 Updated: March 24, 2021
The sunny, internet-born aesthetic continues to evolve online. What does that mean IRL?
Scan the #solarpunk hashtag on Tumblr or the 30,000-plus-member r/solarpunk subreddit and you’ll likely encounter several examples of a certain subgenre of architectural rendering: dramatically geometric towers dotted with rooftop forests or tree-sprouting condos, far easier imagined than built. Or you might see the 3D-art cousin to such renderings — grander and greener still.
So why, when I ask Jay Springett — longtime co-administrator of solarpunks.net — about what solarpunk looks like in practice, does he talk about an old phone box that was converted into a seed library?
“That wouldn’t be out of place in a solarpunk story,” Springett said. “But also it’s real life”
The humble example gets to the true crux of solarpunk. It centers ecological responsibility, and it maintains a fundamentally DIY impulse — community-minded, self-sustaining and, importantly, hopeful.
Over the last six or so years, solarpunk has graduated from an aesthetic to something more akin to a practical movement, but it began in earnest primarily as a visual vocabulary and literary subgenre of science fiction. The “punk” suffix places it in a sci-fi lineage that includes dieselpunk, steampunk and cyberpunk, but the vision and iconography of solarpunk is dramatically different.
In fact, Solarpunk is often framed specifically in opposition to cyberpunk. Blade Runner and its brethren envisioned a dystopian singularity and, as Springett has noted, were rooted in the anxieties of the 1980s — urban decay, monolithic corporatism and, in sadly xenophobic streaks, Asia’s growing influence. Solarpunk, on the other hand, imagines a world in which today’s existential threat — the climate crisis — is either resolved or being approached with camaraderie and adaptive ingenuity.
In fiction, protagonists might be working to rewild an Australian suburb in the near future, or competing factions in a devastated landscape might be uniting to disseminate sustainable innovations. Cover art often favors the lush greenery and plant-like curves of Art Nouveau. It’s not all unmitigated harmony — this is fiction, after all, with narrative tension and dramatic obstacles. Still, a resolute sense of optimism pervades.
In the words of preeminent solarpunk thinker Rhys Williams, solarpunk stands “against a shitty future.” The planet is on the clock, and there’s just no time for fashionable pessimism, it implies.
Because the climate anxiety the literary subgenre engages is so palpable in the real world — “science fiction is really about now,” as Margaret Atwood has said — solarpunk has come to encompass a practical movement and subculture too. It considers how technology, sustainable agriculture and reoriented social and economic systems might help communities grapple with a world besieged by climate threats.
Like solarpunk the aesthetic, solarpunk the movement can seem almost collagist in its wide-ranging scope. Renewable energies, solar power, rainwater harvesting, DIY community gardening, decentralized technologies and more all fit into the framework — though never uncritically. Any ethically sourced, community-focused solution that might stand resilient in the face of natural or manmade disaster will likely get a look.
With a view from a website which “chronicles technological progress by highlighting the breakthroughs, players, and issues shaping the future“:
SUSTAINABILITY AND RESILIENCE:
Here’s how it looks from the “Red, Green and Blue” website:
Why “Solarpunk” Gives Me Hope for a More Sustainable Future
“Minimum Viable Planet” is a weeklyish commentary about climateish stuff, and how to keep it together in a world gone mad.
BY SARAH LAZAROVIC | Published on February 6th, 2021
One of my most oft-repeated climate maxims is “paint the positive future.” We need to visualize what a sustainable, decarbonized world looks like if we’re going to get people excited about climate action (cue jazz hands and zero-carbon fireworks). But while there are a few great examples hither and thither, these positive visions of the future are not as plentiful as they ought to be…
The point of solarpunk is to start telling that new, creative story. Illustrating a world where humans don’t live in opposition to nature, and where we also don’t forfeit the advancements of modern life, but instead flourish in harmony with the environment. The air is clean because we’ve decarbonized. The soil is healthy, people are healthy, communities are healthy. Food tastes better. People are happier. Technology facilitates life without undermining it. There is no fascism, racism, or autotune. The whole world is thriving to a catchy beat. (And everyone is dancing all the time. OK, that part’s just me.)
My solarpunk is a mix of kibbutz, absurdist art, rooftop gardens, mangroves, and Mary Poppins. But seeing my daughter’s epic Minecraft creations (a waterfall inside the house?), I realize how limited I’ve been in envisioning this positive, sustainable future. In-home renewable hydropower waterfalls for everyone. And fizzy water on tap. Can the future please have carbonated drinking fountains?
Here’s a piece from a freethinking science and tech website – with lots of links:
IT’S HAPPENING INTERNATIONALLY:
And it’s happening in a place near you NOW:
Arts project to set out how St Helens could look way into the future
By Kelsey Maxwell 23rd February
HAVE you ever wondered what the world we live in will look like in a 100 years’ time?
St Helens’ Library Service is inviting the public to take part in a free virtual workshop to feed ideas into a project and imagine – without limits – what a St Helens of the future might be.
As part of a digital development strand of work, in partnership with Ideas Alliance, St Helens Library Service is working with composers Leo & Hyde, and virtual-reality artist Rosie Summers, to deliver ‘Solarpunk St Helens’ – inspired by an art movement which envisions how the future might look if humanity succeeded in solving major contemporary challenges, with an emphasis on sustainability problems such as climate change and pollution.
An open workshop, led by Leo & Hyde, will empower attendees to explore creative ways in which technology can tackle some of the biggest challenges the borough and the world face – and form a discussion with some practical exercises that people can enjoy at home that will enable participants to think outside the box to imagine a utopian vision of a future St Helens Borough.
An attendee at a previous taster workshop said: “This was a really brilliant session, enabling me to really think what I would like a future St Helens to be.
“I’ve got absolutely no artistic skill and really didn’t need any to attend. Solar panelled flying cars and parking spaces that double up as artist studios – brrrrilliant.”
Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture & Heritage, said: “With exciting regeneration plans in place to improve our borough which the arts will play an important role in, this is a creative and accessible opportunity for people to share their ideas on what they hope for a St Helens of the future. You don’t need any artistic experience to take part – just an open mind.”