Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is considered to be an example of solarpunk architecture and design. Photo by xiquinhosilva

Solarpunk is both a lifestyle movement and a relatively new eco-futurist, speculative fiction subgenre focused on envisioning a positive future beyond scarcity and hierarchy, in which humanity is reintegrated with nature, and technology is used for human-centric and ecocentric purposes.[1]

Solarpunk philosophy tends to be fairly pragmatic and proactive, it asks 'what can we do right now' and then does whatever that is.

Solarpunk is the first creative movement consciously and positively responding to the Anthropocene. When no place on Earth is free from humanity's hedonism, Solarpunk proposes that humans can learn to live in harmony with the planet once again.
— Ben Valentine, Solarpunk wants to save the world, quoted in [1]

History[edit | edit source]

The early ideas of solarpunk can be traced back to 2008; in that year, a blog named Republic of the Bees published the post, "From Steampunk to Solarpunk."[2] The post begins the conceptualization of solarpunk as a literary genre inspired by steampunk.[3]

In 2012, the first solarpunk anthology, Solarpunk: Histórias ecológicas e fantásticas em um mundo sustentável,[4] was released in Brazil; the English translation was released in 2018.[5]

Solarpunk attracted a larger following in May 2014 when Miss Olivia Louise published a Tumblr post that began to establish solarpunk aesthetics.[6] In September 2014 Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto[7] was published.

In October 2019 A Solarpunk Manifesto,[8] "a creative re-adaptation of ideas about solarpunk written by many people" was published, signed as The Solarpunk Community.

Lifestyle[edit | edit source]

Community gardens are an excellent example of solarpunk principles in action: DIY, gardening, feeding people, improving local ecology. Photo by Osbornb
"Solarpunk is everything from a positive imagining of our collective futures to actually creating it. The only reason why we don't live in a solarpunk world right now is because no one has bothered to make it yet. We'll have to make it ourselves, and we'll have to help each other make it. That's why it is solarpunk. "
— r/solarpunk/, "Wiki", from [2]

Some people consider it to be a lifestyle or political movement, and are interested in learning how to create the solarpunk futures they imagine. Multiple communities across multiple social media and internet platforms have been created to share, discuss, and debate everything from aesthetics and philosophy, to learning hands-on practical skills like gardening or repairing clothing or dumpster diving. Others are focused more on activism, which includes everything from helping to organize protests to trying to help unionize their workplaces or forming cooperatives. Politics, a source of some debate, usually leans on the left side of the spectrum. Many aspects of the environmental movement would be considered solarpunk, however solarpunk does embrace the thoughtful use of science and technology. The use of nuclear energy is debated within the community, as are issues surrounding the mining of materials used to create photovoltaic solar panels, among other difficult topics.

Permaculture and ecovillages are very popular within the solarpunk community, and are considered by many to be ideal forms of living in community with the earth and other people.

"Those pushing for more immediate practical efforts believe a solarpunk movement could, among other things, help bring attention to communities already experiencing climate change most seriously, reminding audiences of an already-dangerous present. But whatever the preferred tactic, participants view solarpunk as ultimately having the potential to affect meaningful long-term political change."
— Adam Boffa, At The Very Least We Know the End of the World Will Have a Bright Side, quoted in [3]

Fiction[edit | edit source]

"Rallying under the banner "solarpunk," a ragtag band of freelance futurists and science fiction writers have argued that we have an obligation to imagine positive futures where plausible technologies give us practical green solutions... Solarpunk is still a new genre, more a call to arms than a substantial body of literature. Still, in the Tumblr posts and stories that have been written so far, a few recurring themes emerge. Solarpunk writers are interested in how an ecologically balanced post-scarcity sustainable future will look and feel to ordinary people."
— Jeet Heer, The New Utopians, quoted in [4]

Solarpunk fiction arose within the larger movement of cyberpunk, steampunk, biopunk, and related subgenres.[9] It distinguishes itself from these other movements by being more optimistic. In particular it contrasts greatly with postcyberpunk, which accepts the world we have and the systems that support it like globalization, industrialization, and exploiting resources in slightly-less-bad ways. Solarpunk aims to subvert those systems and replace them with ones that work better in the long-term through local communities, supporting artisans, and living sustainably.

Solarpunk fiction is usually set in a semi-utopian future, either near-term or long-term or more rarely the far past. As in other genres of speculative fiction fantastical elements are common; for example: solar-sail-powered, bio-plastic flying ships or organisms reminiscent of mythical creatures, probably genetic engineered.

"Pleasant green architecture means nothing if it becomes an extension of colonialist fantasy via the narratives of the same heroes that much Steam and Cyber abound with. To prevent earnestness from devolving into twee, the stories themselves need to be dislocated along with the imagery. Dislocation, rather than utopianism, is what will keep Solarpunk from running off as a libertarian seasteading vision, accelerationist implosion, or even just a store in the mall—and maybe even reclaim, if there such a thing, punk."
— Elvia Wilk, Is Ornamenting Solar Panels a Crime?, quoted in [5]
"...This vision is a call back to the Victorian dreams of William Morris (who wrote his own utopia, News From Nowhere, in 1890), John Ruskin, and the members of the Arts and Crafts movement who hoped to humanize industrialism. Carrying forward and advancing the kind of utopianism that runs from Morris to Robinson, and now solarpunk, is a heartening sign that the dream of a better tomorrow is still possible, even in the face of the apocalypse. To build a better future we have to first imagine it."
— Jeet Heer, The New Utopians, quoted in [6]

Art, music, and fashion[edit | edit source]

'Solarpunk Girl' by Matt Zeilinger

Art, music, and fashion are also considered by many to be important aspects of solarpunk, equally important as future technology. As with everything else in the community, there is some debate as to what qualifies as solarpunk or not. However, some creators are explicitly labeling their projects as solarpunk or solarpunk-inspired. One example is the the band Sieudiver,[10] who has a song entitled 'Solarpunk City',[11] or asanamusic's song 'Solar Punk'.[12] Another example is the artist Matt Zeilinger,[13] who created a piece called 'Solarpunk Girl'.[14] The Canadian performance artist Tonzi[15] desires to create a 'Solarpunk village'. She explains: "The vision is to spread light through music and solar energy. The ultimate 3-year goal of the magical music project is to solarize (equip with solar panels) a Solarpunk Village. A Solarpunk Village is a fusion of nature and technology to create a beacon of abundance".[16]

Solarpunk has a distinct set of aesthetics. Heavily influenced by Art Nouveau in shapes and colors; greens, earth tones, and bright yellows, golds, whites, silvers and blues predominate the color palette. Buildings and machines have organic shapes and integrate plants into their forms. Light, loose-fitting garments typify solarpunk fashion, although anything clearly DIY, repaired, or repurposed is included and encouraged. There are multiple blogs[17] and Pinterest boards dedicated to solarpunk fashion. As of yet, cosplay has not yet played a large role as in steampunk.

Philosophy and Politics[edit | edit source]

While solarpunk is a fiction movement that can help show us our hopeful dreams made manifest, it is a great solution for apathy, activist burnout, and despair. It will need to be a synthesis of leftist thought: anti-capitalist, anti-hate, anti-fascist, and anti-hierarchy. We can't say any one political theory has "The Answer" or can do things the Right Way, so we need to build solidarity through this love-filled movement in order to find the best way forward for everyone. We will help build on existing activist movements, through our hopeful fiction and our idealism. Our politics are not any one theory, but based on love and compassion for one another. We stand with each other, for each other. We believe no one should be left behind for the sake of progress or profit. We believe in the inherent goodness and curiosity of humanity; the traits that have driven us from nomads to civilization builders. We are here to be wardens of Earth and observers of the universe. We are here to not just exist, but to live and to grow.

"...I want to talk about what Solarpunk activism is in a Trump presidency. It means resistance in every sense. A couple weeks ago, it looked like we were going to be fighting in the U.S. to push hard to make a fundamentally Liberal establishment live up to the highest form of it's ideals. Now we know we're facing an administration that rejects facts, that rejects personhood, that rejects compassion. First and foremost, American solarpunks should understand that Trump is just one manifestation of a global wave of fascism. This isn't just our problem. It's the world's.

Second, solarpunks should take Trump at his word. A person who makes it to office promising massive human rights violations doesn't get a grace period where we wait to see if he was serious. He may backpedal, but he's backpeddling from atrocity to mere horror.

Third, solarpunks should embrace a diversity of tactics. This is one of my favourite phrases that came out of American activism. It's an alternative to the maxim of non-violence, saying those who follow it tend to do what optimizes for the respect of human life. That means non-violence, when it's proportionate. But it also means self-defense, and aggression against openly murderous enemies.

I think in today's activism, diversity of tactics has another important connotation, all the way on the other end. Participate in the system. Engage in local politics.

Vote, and help other punks vote. Do what you can in local government to build islands of safety, insulating from the federal level. Build local counter-examples to the narratives of how a government works in America. It isn't a form of hypocrisy to vote to minimize harm, while you work to build systematic alternatives to the state as it exists. It isn't a form of hypocrisy to vote all the way down the ballot, not because these people represent your best interests, but because they'll be easier to lobby than their opponents.

A better future doesn't blossom if no-one plants seeds, so make gardens out of Town hall where radical politicians grow, and see what happens to the tower of fascism when the bottom floor crumbles. Sorry for mixing metaphors. But just as when can expect the fascist state to move faster than reason suggests it should, systematic harms can collapse faster than we might anticipate when we foster a political environment that's hospitable to informed and compassionate politicians"
— T.X. Watson, Solarpunk in Trump's America,[18]

On the concept of innovative dissent:

"Some of that is rooted in the idea of infastructure as a point of resistance: If you're better able to withstand being shut off from the system as-it-is, you're more able to protest against it. Self-reliance and communal resilience helps safeguard you against reprisal. But a lot of it is coming out of just being alive and watching Twitter. Greenpeace activists are doing crazy daredevil boat-climbing to scale and chain themselves oil rigs before they're delivered to the drill site. First Nations groups are doing amazing things to block pipelines through their land. There are drawings of Bree Newsome as Wonder Woman, taking down the confederate flag. Every day, some group is doing something brilliant, innovative, and fearless to punch through the bubble of manufactured normalcy that we tend to live in. It's there if you follow the right people."
— Adam Flynn, Interview with Adam Flynn on Solarpunk, quoted in [7]

Quotes[edit | edit source]

a beautifully inspirational quote from Orla the Witch

"Move quietly and plant things." - Andrew Dana Hudson[19]

"Imagine A Future Worth Fighting For" - Zabet (online user at solarpunk discord)

"We're Solarpunk because the only other options are denial or despair." — Adam Flynn[20]

"The dreamer is the designer of tomorrow" - Felix the Cat

"We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words." - Ursula K. Le Guin[21]

"If it's inaccessible to the poor, it is neither radical nor revolutionary." -[22]

"Think globally, act locally" - Patrick Geddes[23]

"UNLESS someone like you / cares a whole awful lot, / nothing is going to get better / it's not." -Dr Seuss, The Lorax[24]

"I would say that "Walkin' on the sun" by smash mouth is the solarpunk anthem" - Corey Hindin

External links[edit | edit source]

BedZED ecovillage, the first large scale ecovillage in the UK. Photo by Tom Chance

Solarpunk fiction[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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Authors Planty, Ethan, Alessandro Ardovini, DrZekker
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Created August 17, 2017 by Ethan
Modified July 25, 2023 by Sam uk
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