Tired of dystopias dominating what our future might look like? Move aside cyberpunk. Here comes Solarpunk!
Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now and for the generations that follow, extending human life at the species level, as well as individually. Solarpunk futurism is not nihilistic like cyberpunk and it avoids steampunk’s potentially quasi-reactionary tendencies: it is about ingenuity, thrivability, generativity, independence, and community.
The “solar” in solarpunk is both a description and metaphor for a commitment to a utopia that is accessible to every human on earth, as well as to all of our planet’s lifeforms. No single business can capture and privatize sunlight to hoard it for itself or sell it at a cost. It’s one of the only universally accessible goods. Solarpunk futures envision a world of distributed clean energy, available and benefiting everyone.
The “punk” in solarpunk is about rebellion, counterculture, countereconomics, enthusiasm, and individuality. It’s about going in a different direction than the mainstream, that’s increasingly going in a scary direction. A counterculture and economics that values individual choice, freedom, decentralization, self-direction, love and hope – qualities missing in mainstream culture. It’s about creating a safe space for free expression, creativity, to “punk out” and express your unique and true self.
At the heart of Solarpunk is that the “MegaCrisis” (global ecological and economic collapse) can be overcome by a “Mega-Convergence” of abundant clean energy, abundant use of recycled and upcycled materials (circular economy), and cheap and ubiquitous desktop manufacturing.
Solarpunks believe the technology we need for a utopia is already here; we just haven’t found the political will to enact one. Instead of imagining dystopian futures of networked crime and surveillance, Solarpunk taps into an extant community of “can do” optimists, makers, permaculturists, bright green designers, artists, activists, builders and visionaries.
Solarpunk fully embraces radical abundance. Artificial scarcity is not sustainable as the tools of abundance become more available. Through advanced biodegradable materials, recycling and regeneration of existing materials, the material loop can be closed, such that no further consumption needs to happen beyond the planets capacity to regenerate it. As regenerative technological systems improve, the use of natural resources will actually return far below what the planet naturally regenerates, resulting in a planet whose natural resources (forests, rivers, oceans, fisheries, etc) are restored to pre-industrial levels. This means we can create ever better tools and standards of living for everyone while decreasing the overall footprint that humankind has on the planet. This is what Buckminster Fuller called “ephemeralization” – doing more and more with less and less. This is now possible with things like the advent of cheap and self-replicating (locally 3D-printed) organic solar cell technology, radically increased batter storage capacity, 3D printing, wide-scope open-source innovation feedback networks, and better tools for collectively intelligence collaboration.
There is no reason why this trend will not continue ever upwards to greater and greater levels of abundance for everyone, both on this planet and off.
Some articles I wrote about this over the last decade:
- Ecological Architecture – February 2004
- The Solar Economy and the Regreening of the Earth – June, 2008
- Heal the Planet, Live Forever, Travel the Stars – December, 2008
- Bye Bye Apocalypse – February 2009
For recent commentary on the new genre: