“Solarpunk is the first creative movement consciously and positively responding to the Anthropocene.”
“The planet is on the clock, and there’s just no time for fashionable pessimism.”
“Radical optimism is a powerful thing!”
Perhaps this doesn’t sound very ‘Sidmouth’ – or perhaps it does:
It’s about being positive and creative:
We’re Solarpunk because the only other options are denial or despair. —Adam Flynn
Enter the coalescing movement called Solarpunk. In a 2015 blog post titled “Solarpunk wants to save the world,” writer Ben Valentine summarizes: “Solarpunk is the first creative movement consciously and positively responding to the Anthropocene… Solarpunk proposes that humans can learn to live in harmony with the planet once again. Solarpunk is a literary movement, a hashtag, a flag, and a statement of intent about the future we hope to create.”
It’s about being ‘collagist’:
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 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.
It’s certainly about ‘radical optimism’:
For something to be truly labeled “punk,” it must include an element of the radical. For solarpunk, it’s optimism. Solarpunk and cyberpunk share a love of technology, but where Blade Runner and other staples of the cyberpunk genre show us how technology can lead us down a hard, dark road, solarpunk shows us where things can go so, so right. It’s a brighter outlook on the future, and one that I personally find refreshing in light of the doomsaying of the current era. Radical optimism is a powerful thing!
Turn your lawn into a meadow.
DIY air conditioning.
Sew mesh bags into kitchen scrubbers.
Save fruit and vegetable scraps to regrow.
Use the Internet of Things to maintain your garden with a Raspberry Pi.
Build a small solar charging station.
Fight for the right to repair.
Perhaps it sounds a little more Singapore than Sidmouth:
But, to finish, why can’t an optimistic vision also apply to these parts?
Solarpunk is a movement in speculative fiction, art, fashion and activism that seeks to answer and embody the question “what does a sustainable civilization look like, and how can we get there?” The aesthetics of solarpunk merge the practical with the beautiful, the well-designed with the green and wild, the bright and colorful with the earthy and solid. Solarpunk can be utopian, just optimistic, or concerned with the struggles en route to a better world — but never dystopian. As our world roils with calamity, we need solutions, not warnings. Solutions to live comfortably without fossil fuels, to equitably manage scarcity and share abundance, to be kinder to each other and to the planet we share. At once a vision of the future, a thoughtful provocation, and an achievable lifestyle.