Solarpunk

Image by Owen Carson
Image by Owen Carson

Have you heard of Solarpunk? It’s a futuristic subculture that looks forwards to a bright, shiny world. But where most future time-lines rely on technology and invention to bring humanity out of this pit of misery and murder, Solarpunk looks at people changing themselves and working with technology towards a better future. Essentially making the world a better place from the inside out.

Solarpunks come across as eternal optimists and it’s nice to see this outlook on life. An article on Heiroglyph says: We are Solarpunks because the only other options are denial and despair.

It’s hard to imagine our own steampunk culture as either of those. Especially with us all being light-hearted chaps. But when you really think about it, they may actually have a point. Strip away all the pomp and delightful clothing and what do we have? A bunch of people running around trying to reclaim the days of yesteryear. Living in a past that we consider so great and beautiful that we think that it would be perfect as our future too. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But are we in denial that we hate the world as it is? So we look to absorb ourselves in an alternate reality where we’re nice to each other? Where people actually make products to a high standard and take pride in their creations? Arguably.

Solarpunk doesn’t have that problem though. It seems to acknowledge that there’s an impending issue that it needs addressing. Like steampunk ignoring the poverty and hardship that the Victorian age saw, Solarpunk ignores the problems of today and looks at solutions of the future. However, they don’t want the world to change on the back of large technological creations or by cheap third world labour. They want the entire planet to benefit from evolution into a future of happiness through hard work and dirty hands.

Looking at some of the architecture alone, it’s incredibly beautiful. Nature merges with technology; stained glass windows are solar panels and angular, sharp designs of the past amalgamates the fluidity of the future. Indeed, when thinking of a perfect future time-line like this, it’s easy to think white, clean, curved pods as homes with robots doing everything for us. All around us is a sterile and minimalist world. Solarpunk doesn’t necessarily go in for that. In fact, some suggestions on Tumblr incorporate 19th Century inspiration in the designs. The article on Heiroglyph lists Solarpunk as a blend of (quote):

  • 1800s age-of-sail/frontier living (but with more bicycles)
  • Creative reuse of existing infrastructure (sometimes post-apocalyptic, sometimes present-weird)
  • Jugaad-style innovation from the developing world
  • High-tech backends with simple, elegant outputs

It appears that the basis for Solarpunk is to use the world around us and recycle it into a better world for all of us to enjoy. By each one of us changing our own little part of the world, eventually, the whole world will change. It also incorporates the world around us into its technology. Futuristic suggestions include irrigation systems powering computers. Already there’s a campaign to build an eco-friendly village in Jackson, Mississippi which will incorporate the fundamentals of Solarpunk. This where the punk element comes in. Currently, in reality, we’re looking at a future where technology carries us forward. Solarpunk looks at a future where technology, humans and land work hand in hand. Where technology and the landscape have a symbiotic relationship to create clean energy. It goes against the current conformity which will see everything done for us.

As an outsider, it seems to me that it resembles a similar reality to Star Trek (NG onwards) where people work to further themselves and poverty is a thing of the past. But it’s less clean lines and not as much reliance on technology furthering them, more them using the world around them to aid technology. There’s also an element of the website futuretimeline.net which is a semi-fictional work that predicts what could happen in the future based on technological developments of today.

If I’ve at all got it wrong what Solarpunk is about and you know about it, then please feel free to comment in the box below. I see Solarpunk as an exciting alternative to a rather bleak global reality.

2 thoughts on “Solarpunk

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