What is Solarpunk?


A solarpunk imagines new futures in the shadow of and in opposition to environmental collapse, then works to create those futures. A solarpunk doesn’t just have ideas and beliefs; a solarpunk enacts. On paper, being a solarpunk might sound like being a Marxist, a municipalist, or another ideology entirely. Yet, a different kind of necessity turns solarpunk thought into action. Mainly extinction. A solarpunk might approach a problem with the following questions: How do my actions impact my human and nonhuman community? What intentionality fuels this issue? Does the following action dismantle a damaging system like capitalism? Does this action produce radical care of self and others? Does this action overcome the cultural desire to consume?

In other words, being a solarpunk is not just about solar. Neither is it Woodstock for the new millennium. The emphasis on solar reminds us of environmental interconnectedness. Human-nonhuman-sunlight-nightlight-mineral-oil-ocean-and-and-and.

Solarpunk grew to life online sometime in 2008 but became more widely recognized with the publication of Solarpunk: Histórias ecológicas e fantásticas em um mundo sustentável edited by Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro in 2012 and Adam Flynn’s “Notes toward a Solarpunk Manifesto” in 2014. Returning to the collective roots of cyberpunk, the first solarpunks gravitated to online spaces to build the lifestyle. A consistent interest in community, green spaces, and practical but pleasant art-nouveau design defined early solarpunk, though the community debated how these elements would be included in deserts or less hospitable climates. Foundationally, solarpunk rejected the dystopian hopelessness of speculative literature trending after 9/11. This rejection of dystopia did not mean embracing utopia, however. Rather, solarpunks aimed for something in the middle, such as the ambiguous utopias of Ursula K. Le Guin’s work. The goal of solarpunk was not to dream of perfect worlds but to strive for something sustainable in the Anthropocene.

When opening submissions for our first book Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation (2016), we defined solarpunk as:

We often look at (the aftereffects of) environmental disaster with a defeated, capitulating attitude. But what are the stories of those inhabiting the leverage points, the crucial moments when great change can be made by the right people with the right tools? Stories of the peoples living during tipping points, and the spaces before and after them, the stories of those who fought to effect change and seek solutions, even if it was too late–that’s solarpunk.


Suggested Reading:

Solarpunk: Notes Toward a Manifesto” by Adam Flynn

Solarpunk: Against a Shitty Future” by Rhys Williams

Solarpunk: Histórias ecológicas e fantásticas em um mundo sustentável edited by Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (translated by Fabio Fernandes)

Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers Anthology

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation Anthology