At its core, and despite its appropriation, Solarpunk imagines a radically different societal and economic structure.
Solarpunk took inspiration from the Cyberpunk and Steampunk aesthetics that came before it—take the lush paradises of Studio Ghibli films with just a few more solar panels. Cyberpunk uses science fiction to explore our anxieties in the rapidly developing technical age, while Steampunk is nostalgic for the aesthetics of the industrial revolution. But unlike these dystopian and mechanical universes, Solarpunk is a more optimistic, regenerative vision of the future.
It imagines a world where energy, usually from the sun or wind, can be used without harming our environment. Where green roofs and windmills allow humans to live in harmony with nature. On the surface it might seem like a rosy, perhaps even naive perspective for our moment, when climate change-fueled disasters are in the news every other day. But imagining Solarpunk purely as a pleasant aesthetic undermines its inherently radical implications. At its core, and despite its appropriation, Solarpunk imagines an end to the global capitalist system that has resulted in the environmental destruction seen today.
“One of the things that I often see that spurs people toward this very doomy place is they can’t imagine people as anything but destroyers,” Adam Flynn, a Solarpunk strategist and futures researcher, told me. “But why can’t you think of humans as stewards of the ecology and of a human society built on a more symbiotic partnership with nature?”
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