The world is hurtling towards and past ecological tipping points while ghoulish inequality and waste continue to skyrocket. You’re here reading a ZNetwork post, so I don’t need to explain it or impart the gravity of it. Frankly, even if this was a post in the latest Vogue or Wall Street Journal or Sports Illustrated, I wouldn’t need to explain it or impart the gravity of it. We know.
I want to have a choice other than denial or depression. I want to channel my outrage and my dread and my exhaustion. How about you?
How might we imagine a better future? Sometimes we need to see it, to feel the emotions it engenders, to experience the relationships it fosters. When I write and talk about vision, I want to actually go there. I want to work towards a future that feels like going home, finally.
In this Z Staff Pick, I’ll share one such path towards the utopian imaginary… Solarpunk is a vision and aesthetic that elevates both human and ecological interconnectedness and reciprocity, quality of life, regenerative kinship relations, play, creativity, and a culture of abundance. I have included some links to recommendations for checking it out and enjoying some of its fruits.
The Monk & Robot Series, novellas by Becky Chambers
There is much content that predates the use of the word ‘Solarpunk’ which is foundational to this new and developing genre – from Miyazaki films, to Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, to Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture, to Michael Reynold’s Earthships, to Art Nouveau.
There are also plenty of present day manifestations that can be considered Solarpunk. Growing a food lawn instead of a grass monoculture, developing a communal “library of things“, fixing and mending and repurposing as opposed to buying and disposing. Living onboard a sailboat, I use simple “low-tech” technologies (like windscoops for cooling, sails for moving, and a rain catchment system for fresh water) that could be considered Solarpunk.
What about bigger systemic things? Too much traffic and pollution in your city? Instead of building bigger highways or simply making more electric cars, a Solarpunk infrastructure project could be building up clean public transportation, transitioning to a commons of transport, reorganizing residential, productive, and communal spaces to become better integrated and more accessible, etc etc. Solarpunk compliments practical social vision and movements ranging from participatory society, to library socialism, to degrowth, to social ecology, to rebuilding the commons, to solidarity economies, to honoring and learning from indigenous cultures. Solarpunk’s values are rooted in the traditions of anarchism, socialism, ecological reciprocity, and human creativity, while it rejects the dogmas of history and seeks instead to imagine a new aspirational future.
You and I, our community, together aspire to plant the seeds of the future in the present. Solarpunk can help us see, hear, feel, and immerse ourselves in the future we are building.
PS, This staff pick hatched into a full length article:
Solarpunk: Radical Hope
Counterculture for the Anthropocene