7 reasons why solarpunk is the most important speculative fiction movement in the last 20 years
- It’s hopeful. Solarpunk doesn’t require an apocalypse. It’s a world in which humans haven’t destroyed ourselves and our environment, where we’ve pulled back just in time to stop the slow destruction of our planet. We’ve learned to use science wisely, for the betterment of ourselves and our planet. We’re no longer overlords. We’re caretakers. We’re gardeners.
- Scientists are heroes again. And not just physicists and astronomers. Knowledge of biology and earth sciences matter, they’re the building blocks for a future on Earth. Scientific literacy isn’t just for academics – it’s part of daily life. People know how the things they use work, and if they don’t, they can access that information.
- It’s diverse. Solarpunk is rooted in using the environment, so it looks different in different places. Alternative energy is best when specific to place (I imagine geothermal, wind, tidal, and hydroelectric energy sources are still used in certain places) so no overarching government system is needed. Communities can organize themselves, taking their own location and needs and history into account. Brazilian, Inuit, Egyptian, Pacific Northwest, and New Zealand solarpunk can all look very different, but be unified in resourceful, intentional, low impact living.
- Individuality still matters. In a post-scarcity society, ingenuity and self-expression are not sacrificed on the altar of survival. With solar power there’s no reason not to go off grid, if that’s what you want to do. Communities can self-organize. You can find a community that suits you, or go live by yourself if that floats your boat.
- There’s room for spirituality and science to coexist. Solarpunk is rooted in a deep understanding and reverence for natural processes. There’s room for spirituality there, be it pagan, Buddhist, Sufi, Transcendentalism – anything. There’s so much to explore, from nature worship to organized monotheistic religions, and how they interact with solarpunk.
- It’s beautiful. The most common solarpunk aesthetic is art nouveau, but again there’s room for diversity, incorporating art styles from multiple cultures in respectful, non-appropriative ways. The most important aspect of solarpunk aesthetic is the melding of art and utility. The idea of intentional living is strong in art nouveau, but it’s not the only art movement with that philosophy.
- We can make it happen. Now. Earthships. Permaculture. Aquaponics. Algae lighting. Compostable products that turn into fields of flowers. Buy Nothing organizations. Tiny, beautiful, efficient homes. Solar power cells you can see through. That’s all happening now. Solarpunk is within our grasp, at least on a personal level. I’m not saying there aren’t still big, ugly infrastructures devoted to unethical consumption, but we can start to tear them down. We can build a solarpunk world with stories and small changes. And small changes lead to big changes. That’s the real beauty of solarpunk. It’s not a post-apocalyptic power fantasy. It’s not a wistful daydream, or an elite future only for physicists. It’s something we can work towards right now. It’s tangible.