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Solarpunk Constructs a Sustainable Reality

by Nikita Ephanov
Solarpunk Constructs a Sustainable Reality

How Eco-friendly offshoot of Cyberpunk Can Help Save the Environment

Solarpunk launched into the air by the tug of a real sail, attached to a cargo ship setting off into open waters. The German engineers of Beluga Skysail had no idea their canvas would spiral into a new blog zeitgeist; spawning, and fermenting inside the burrows of internet rabbit-holes. Now their 15-20% fuel efficiency reduction project is perpetually separated by only two clicks from a Brazillian sci-fi anthology, or gardening, fashion, and consuming Dahlia

And so Solarpunk flew away on simultaneous internet currents, growing in separate biospheres and concocting a lush new movement. Part fictional literary scene, large part aesthetical fantasy hashtag and also a DIY home and garden blogging niche, the genre unifies in a reblogged hope for the near future. 

Such internet phenomenons are far from unusual. Just a quick browse of other Cyberpunk derivatives displays the diversity of internet subcultures. Yet Solarpunk possesses a deeper breadth than the others, starting at its conceptual political high ground, all the way down to grooming the physical earth. It incites to take action and to thrive. To deliver the hopes of our future through our cooperative action, starting at dust.

Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.

Isaac Asimov

Solarpunk Restructures Society through Energy Redistribution 

In 1833, a German-American named John Adolphus Etzer published a mostly unread literary outcry titled The Nature within Reach of All Men, without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery. A fervent technologist, Etzer insisted he possessed blueprints to redesign a world run on wind, tidal and solar energy. 

Norry Bamboo Train (image by AG Gilmore)
Norry Bamboo Train (image by AG Gilmore)

He reached out to Congress for funds, stating within ten years the entire globe could be transformed into effortless, communal splendor.

The essay was reviewed by none other than Henry David Thoreau, who found intrigue in finding Transcendentalism in Mechanics. Although Etzer disappeared into relative obscurity, his blueprint remains as an initial rebuttal from the steam engine churn.

Solarpunk plucks at the same rhetoric; shifting energy sources to rework societal structure. A globe spun on renewables but fed from interdependent local springs. Major energy companies have invested billions in clean energy. A budget of their magnitude is an impactful contributor to technological development.

Solarpunk imagines a sustainable energy source without such oligopolies. Rather than relying on innovation from overwrought capitalist splendor, Solarpunk incites to readjust in localized settings. Build a neighborhood garden, maintain your community solar-panel. Shift from utility dependence to personalized waste and water treatment. The movement encourages Jugaad constructions:a DIY, permaculture ethos. 

There’s no reason to wait for clean energy to become ubiquitously profitable. With a reaffirming surrounding network, there’s a prospect in unlatching from runaway rev of bloated enterprise.  A protest isn’t going to work anymore, we need to start digging into the ground now.

Taos Earthship House Design By Biodiesel33(Own_work, CC BY-SA_3.0)
Taos Earthship House Design By Biodiesel33(Own_work, CC BY-SA_3.0)

Earthship House Designs and Water Filtration Devices: The First Steps to Solarpunk

Solarpunk collects drizzles of various 20th Century designs in its rain catch. Communal initiatives have existed for decades in many forms, from intentional communities to permanent autonomous zones. It’s possible to purchase Earthship designs, off-grid houses built from recycled materials and constructed in energy-efficient manners. 

Thousands live in such environments, their daily reality without a tinge of awaited sci-fi. It’s supplemented by economic theory like appropriate technology coined from E.F. Schumacher’s 1973 essays Small Is Beautiful. Remember those bicycle-powered mini-industrial machines found in Facebook videos of third-world villages? Or gravity-powered water filtration devices? Solarpunk rejects dangerous globalization through the implementation of such projects. Commerce should not be tipped with a bias towards a merchant’s profit. Economic growth pours outward from the core, for the construction of individual freedom. We’re all marketable artisans with skills to sell. Small scale, tailored technology enables the choice of specialization.

Through such hashtag reposts, the soil is dusted off old concepts, not to be recontextualized but to be reaffirmed. Ideas are recycled like material, molded into a new foundation. The globe needs more of this, even though it may already exist. Fictional realities are not the aim, but a vehicle of amplification. Imagination constructs a beautiful result, and we lay a path to get there.

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Internet-based Cultural Punks

A cursory scroll through the Solarpunks subreddit reveals the associated visual aesthetics. Art Nouveau gardens intertwined with high rises. Agrarian bohemians landscaping terraforms. Tokyo’s ideals for cyberpunk becomes  like Singapore with lush ivy and jungle interlaced amongst dense urban dwellings. 

Unlike most modern community restructuring efforts, Solarpunk does not idealize a reformation to a rural setting. There’s no strive for radical revolutanized autarky. Instead, an emphasis on revamping existing structures into interconnected fully renewable versions. No need to sell your apartment to join a commune. Just grow some plants and recycle your wardrobe. Complain about your landlord and write a story of your block transitioning to a cooperative.The fictional world-building occurs as an imagination of a viable alternative. The foundations of Solarpunk in parallel online forums harnessed inspirations in a more scattered manner than previous sci-fi genres.

Singapore: Real Life Solarpunk Inspiration
Singapore: Real Life Solarpunk Inspiration

There are no essential works, a literary vanguard, or a critical popular media influence. Ideas are shared rapidly, constructing mood boards, DIY projects and self-released Amazon E-books. Anything that could fit, fits. The protest is not homogeneously targeted at capitalist unsustainable hierarchies. It’s more of a loosely-held cultural-political unification. A network of ideas to promote a common goal.

Howl's Moving Castle from Hayao Miyazaki
Howl's Moving Castle from Hayao Miyazaki

Solarpunk As Inspirational Cultural Movement

In the Technogaian sense, proto-Solarpunk Viridian Manifesto Bruce Sterling advocates for the new millennia to open new technocultural industries. Instead of a focus on the worker bound by their efforts as a sacrifice, the flow is reversed through the emphasis on leisure. 

Consumption of culture receives higher priority, and we pull and magnet monetary attention from the creators. Media and technology don’t intertwine to promote the same messages for the benefit of the corporation. Rather, the culture industry promotes independent, careful thought. We are the craftsmen, offering the world something to sell.  

Couture is on the agenda. We need a form of Green high fashion so appallingly seductive and glamorous that it can literally save people’s lives. We have to gratify people’s desires much better than the current system does. We have to reveal to people the many desires they have that the current system is not fulfilling

Proto-Solarpunk Author Bruce Sterling

In much the same manner, solarpunk is a cultural movement dependent on the transaction of inspiration starting at the individual. A tangible hope unifies all of solarpunk’s creations, whether fictitious or an earthly construction. A beautiful optimism can become an achievable act if one sets it into action. Although a perfectly verdant future is a sci-fi construct, it is just within reach of realizable reality.

Hey, chum. These posts don't write themselves. If you wanna stay in the know, it's gotta be a two way street.*

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