The Future (I hope), Solarpunk: How Good Does That Sounds?

Fun fact: In 9th grade, my English teacher tasked us with the difficult assignment of creating our own utopian society. We needed to create the foundation which included the Declaration of Independence and the geography of our population, the culture our residents would uptake, the economy such as jobs and agriculture, and finally the laws and policies within our society. As most 14-year olds would think, it was a pretty good project. It meant that we could build our very own world from the ground up but, most importantly, it meant that we didn’t have to read any more boring books.

For me, the project was extremely enjoyable and some may say I took it very seriously. This was partly because I already saw the injustices and forms of oppression marginalized groups in America had to overcome. Growing up, I saw my parents experience racism, prejudice, and all the injustices an 8-year old shouldn’t be able to see nor know about. It was simple to understand back then and now: the color of your skin dictated the way you were treated in the U.S. Of course, that isn’t always the case because as times progressed more and more people have become accepting our each other’s differences. But, there are still cases of oppression that remain so vividly present in our society. In regards to my perfect world, I made it so unreal that it seems impossible today.

This all related back to me when we learned about Solarpunk in class a couple a weeks ago. To be honest, I had never heard of it but when I did I completely fell in love with the whole idea. Basically, Solarpunk is many things. According to The Medium Magazine, it is a movement in speculative fiction, art, fashion and activism that seeks to answer and embody the question “what does a sustainable civilization look like, and how can we get there?” It is a reaction to climate change, inequality, and our cultural obsession with dystopian futures. It is a rebellion against the structural pessimism in our late versions of how future will be. Solarpunk can also be utopian, just optimistic, or concerned with the struggles en route to a better world but it is never dystopian. It also resists the present by imagining a future that requires radical societal change.

But, how does this look like? A Solarpunk city might have things like towering vertical gardens, sidewalks that use the kinetic energy of people walking to generate electricity, solar panels integrated to buildings as windows, wind farms, and a large underground mass-transportation system that makes it easy to travel between cities (reducing or eliminating the need for personal vehicles like cars). Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? This way, we will not only be improving the quality of life for many people who have terrible living conditions but we will also be making a contribution to the fight towards a more sustainable world.

Below are a couple of photos that are so freaking cool:

An example of vertical building structures with gardens
The beauty of Solarpunk
The way people will live integrated and surrounded with nature

Although Solarpunk does have to do with how we can improve our future by enforcing structural changes to our buildings and ways in which we take up space, it also changes the way our cultural society will work. Therefore, the culture within these cities might include the equal representation and equal integration of constituent ethnic and cultural groups within the society. As well as equally represented and integrated art forms and music from those cultural groups. Solarpunk is a Revolt of Hope Against Despair. It prioritizes hope and resilience in the face of the climate crisis. It is about “ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community” and “infrastructure as a form of resistance.” In sum, Solarpunk represents the hope in the community, in recognition, and in nourishing the potential of every individual. Also, technology and sustainability don’t usually go hand and hand but, in this case, technology is used to better the future. Solarpunk is for everyone. It’s so beautiful to think about. A future that can be for all.

In N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy, The Fifth Season starts with the end of the world (quite literally) and progresses through the books as she continually brings up societal issues that will lead up to our own Stillness. If it’s not the oppression, it’s the environmental issues caused by humans, one way or another our future looks pretty troubling. But, that’s why I like the whole concept of Solarpunk because it is based on all the ideals I wished I would’ve thought of back in 9th grade and what I hope will become a reality in the future.

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