urban activity

Solarpunk Musings

I’m looking at a lot of stuff about solarpunk, and I love so many of them, but then so many of them make it seem like this far distant future thing. And it’s like, why? I feel like people spend a lot of time developing an appreciation for aesthetic, and dreaming about the day when all roofs are green. And what it reminds me of is books about revolution. You have all kinds of books, popular books (the Hunger Games, Divergent, Trickster’s Choice, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings) that are about bring down a great evil, that affected society in a negative way. Once they win, once the evil is defeated, the books always end. Because getting there is the exciting part. I won’t say ‘fun’, because especially in those books, getting there is so often covered in blood. But it’s the part that interests people, the part that gets them bound together and working towards common goal. Once that goal is achieved, once you’ve beaten Voldemort, it comes time to re-shape society.

And that is where the books all end. Because the same things causing people to bind together against a common threat don’t necessarily mean that they have the same vision of what to do after. Defeating the big bad is always the focus, what to do after is ‘something we’ll worry about later’. And then suddenly later is now, and people realize that they have completely different ideas about what to do with this country they suddenly have. “Winning is easy, son. Governing is harder.”

So there are all these posts about the ‘maybe somedays’ of solarpunk, and the art is nice, sure. But overall they make me crazy. Because solarpunk is something we can /have/, not something we can just post and dream about. It’s something we can have /now/. We just need to think about it in terms of incremental change, and doing what we can, rather than waking up to a beautiful, clean, solar utopia.

There’s a mentality that I see about social change; that it isn’t worth having if it doesn’t happen suddenly. That you are selling out to the man if you don’t work towards change in a way that is radical (and here, radical is almost always a synonym for violent destruction). Some people, that model of working for change is what works for them. But it isn’t the only way that works.

If I drop a rock on a flower, that flower is going to be crushed. But if I cultivate flowers to grow among the rocks, then given enough time, given enough nurturing, the roots will grow deep. They will slide into the chinks in the rock, and widen them until the stone breaks. And by the time the stone is broken, those plants will be large and strong and well established. And people will be able to look around and clearly see a garden, instead of a field full of broken stones that might be something beautiful, someday, maybe.

Every action we take, every small, deliberate choice to create a better, greener now, is a seed planted towards our goal. So dreaming of earthships that we might live in one day is all well and good, and god knows I do it too, but it can’t be all. The worst thing you can possibly do isn’t to plant a seed that doesn’t grow. The worst thing you can do is spend so much time looking at seed catalogues that you never plant anything at all. To convince yourself that you don’t have all the tools to do everything you want now, so what’s the point of doing anything?

If you can’t have a garden, can you have a plant in the windowsill? For today, that is enough. If you can’t have solar panels on your house, can you get yard stakes, so that your outdoor lighting is solar? For today, that is enough. If you can’t buy fair trade, bamboo fiber clothing, can you buy clothes second hand, and donate your own old clothes, or turn worn out items into rags to give them another life? For today, that is enough. If you can’t heat your house sustainably, can you choose to keep the heat at a slightly lower temperature, and wear slippers? For today, that is enough.

And if that is what you can do for many days, for many years, it is /still enough/. What makes an action radical is not the fact that you are setting something on fire. It is radical because you, as an individual, are choosing in that moment to be more than yourself. You are choosing to be part of a ‘we’, instead of a ‘me’. And slowly but surely, we can make a difference. We just need to have the courage to start from where we are, rather than waiting for our ‘someday’ to arrive in order to begin from there.