The future is Solarpunk. The future is going to be fine.
What is Solarpunk?
Solarpunk is a concept of envisioning a positive future, where humanity lives in a sustainable and harmonic way with nature. We are past fossile energy and resource scarcity. The world itself must (and probably should not) be utopic, but at least reasonably realistic. People still struggle with their daily tasks and need to solve problems, but the overall tone is positive, embracing and inviting. In contrast to Cyberpunk portraing a dystopian future, Solarpunk offers an alternative, and this is what made me curious some time ago.
The genre is not new, it dates (at least) back to 2009, when Matt Staggs posted a “GreenPunk Manifesto” on his blog (now a private page), but Gizmodo has a quote of it:
GreenPunk: a technophilic spec-fic movement centered on characters using and being affected by the use of DIY renewable resources, recycling and repurposing. GreenPunk would emphasize the ability of the individual – and his or her responsibility – for positive ecological and social change.
Rejecting steampunk’s romanticism while embracing its focus on approachable, “knowable” technology (as opposed to the “black box” nature of digital tech), GreenPunk envisions a world in which the detritus of consumer culture as propogated by the Elite is appropriated and repurposed by the masses toward the reconstruction of a devastated ecology and the address of social ills.
Fast forward to 2019, there is the Solarpunk Manifesto, which outlines the basic ideas. From therein:
Solarpunk is at once a vision of the future, a thoughtful provocation, a way of living and a set of achievable proposals to get there.
A text copy of the manifesto is mirrored here: manifesto.txt.
Why do I care and why should you do the same?
In short: Because I’m sick and tired of all of the doomerism and dystopian futures out there. There’s gotta be a better way than heading towards a full Shadowrun-like future.
FFS, I mean it. Let’s acknowledge the difficulties of our times but without accepting defeat in the process of trying to solve those issues.
I refuse to believe that humanity is doomed. I refuse to accept defeat. I refuse to accept a future where we have to train and equip Edgerunners to get at least some kind of justice from the overly rich and powerful because all what society gets are bare breadcrumbs from the super-rich and the super-mighty.
We are at the point where we can decide if we want to go full Cyperpunk or something more positive. Solarpunk is the movement, the idea behind envisioning and then creating a better future based on humans which live in harmony with nature. At first Solarpunk might appear a bit dull and even boring, at least in comparison to the adrenaline-driven Cyberpunk stories (e.g. Cyberpunk 2077, Shadowrun or Cyberpunk Edgerunners). Young 25 year old me would find it very boring and much more appealing to be a shadowrunner, but luckily I’ve outgrown that phase. A calm and harmonic life is not boring - it provides a fruitful environment in which one can thrive. There’s just so much to do, to read, to write, to learn, that I cannot envision to ever ever ever running out of interesting things to do. Adrenaline aside, living in a world with unlimited access to technology, literature, arts and human invention unlocks your abilities for the good of yourself and your community. Getting the latest ICE to outrun the military-grade riot police scout unity “Omega Rammbock Neon Blade” after a successful shadowrun might be thrilling, but it is ultimately destructive and not really contributing to advancing humanity. And it gets you killed.
Solarpunk offers an alternative to doomerism and tries to encourage people from staying positive and doing amazing things. And this alone is enough for me to find it interesting.
Let’s embrace green tech, sustainability, resilience and humanity. Let’s do more Solarpunk!