I’m torn about the whole SolarPunk aesthetic/genre. While I really appreciate some of the aspects to it, I keep seeing posts going around about it that, well, make me feel less enthusiastic about it than I might otherwise be, considering I’m an environmental engineer (seriously, you’d think that this genre would be my precious).
As I recall, most of the ________Punk movements, such as SteamPunk, are most assuredly not utopian vistas (Boneshaker comes to mind as a good example). But “utopian” is exactly what one whole post describing all of the best parts of SolarPunk is, even if they don’t use the word “utopia.” Which, sort of makes it not so much of the _______Punk tradition, as far as I can tell. But what bothers me about labeling it as something that is from a tradition that is a heavily romanticized, but still “gritty”-not-all-skittles-and-beer world, is that it’s a kind of false advertising. I like my Utopian World fictions (did you block all the Trek crap I reblog?), but I also think it’s important to recognize that the those worlds *are* set up to be utopia. And here’s why.
I think that by failing to recognize that a setting is a utopian vision, it becomes more difficult to understand/recognize the inherent difficulties, and maybe even the impossibilities, that the creators of the Utopian vision didn’t have to worry about, because they were creating a fiction.
For example, while one post was waxing super poetic, it describes SolarPunk as a world where we are all gardeners. There are several questions that I could bring up, but assuming it was just a bit of exaggeration for romance or a sort of humanity descriptor shorthand, rather than reality, there is to me a glaring omission in the world. I have yet to see explained in SolarPunk where all those amazing photovoltaics come from (and how they work at night).
Even a hand-waving bit of magic would be fine by me, because doing that might make it sink in a little more that this is a utopia- a no place. The OP was going on about how this was all attainable, but I can’t help but think that the reason it seems so attainable is because there isn’t recognition of some of the immense hang ups present. It’s not just that we live in an unequal society and it would be a long hard haul to get to where we can have these nice things. Right now, we don’t have the means- the technology- to make SolarPunk a workable reality for one big reason (maybe two) which I know I’ve harped on before.
How does mining fit into the SolarPunk universe?
I imagine, based on what I’ve seen the answer is either a) “oh, uh, it’s all perfectly sustainable now and doesn’t hurt the environment” or b) “oh all mines were of course closed and destroyed and turned into nature preserves/gardens so now they are not evil ugly scars on the land.”
Neither option makes *any* sense in reality. Mining cannot be made sustainable, the metal ores don’t grow back. And the big issue with just closing them is that even with all the metals we have pulled out so far, I’m not convinced we can just recycle them out of what those components are currently in and have enough to make these SolarPunk dreams a workable reality. Only in a Utopia, where somehow, the materials needed to have metal and silicone and rare earths just show up in unending supplies at factories (or artesian workshops, your preference).
And I guess that’s what rubs me the wrong way about SolarPunk. It looks so pretty and seems so attainable, and people fall in love with it and want to make it a reality by, well…
Let’s just say that anytime I see a world with no explanation of manufacturing and construction that people want to create IRL, I can generally assume that I’m going to end up with an even harder job. Yes, scientists aren’t evil in SolarPunk, thanks for that. But by not recognizing a utopia for what it is- something that can inspire, but cannot literally be made, I fear that making realistic progress on many of the problems of the day, particularly for the planet in terms of resources and production, will be harder accomplish. Because the SolarPunks are convinced that it can be done, and me? Well, I’m just going to be sen as some old-world industrialist who wants to destroy the planet and shouldn’t be listened to.
So, somewhat sadly, given how much I kinda liked SolarPunk, I’m mostly going to stick to Trek for my utopia right now. Because I know that warp drive, while mathematically possible, would melt the ship, and replicators are cool, but not real feasible without a fuckton of power. Star Trek was meant to be a utopia and was labelled as such. And that makes me more comfortable interacting with it; I know it’s not strictly attainable, but I can take the inspiration from it and dial it in to what is workable, maybe in part due to how outlandish some of the technology seems.