Solarpunk – A New Future

So you’ve got your Steampunk, Cyberpunk and Dieselpunk genres straight. You can tell at a glance whether a movie belongs in one category or breaks the rules altogether. (Although, since a rule breaking punk is a bit of an oxymoron perhaps these sorts of films are really punkpunk?) But when it comes to rebelling against the future there’s a brand new sub-genre of punk culture you may not have heard of before: Solarpunk!

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In  a world filled with dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels some may despair of our planet having a happy ending. But never fear–Solarpunk to the rescue! Solarpunk is best described as a rebellion against pessimism. Solarpunk stories are set in a future where the enviroment is sustainable and green, the world hasn’t been overrun by zombies, and human beings are still around. Solarpunk design incorporates aspects such as solar powered homes, wind turbines, and roof gardens.

You’d be hard pressed to find a novel set in this genres. The only known book is an anthology of short stories from BrazilHowever, there’s a tumblr blog devoted to the topic and a quick google search yields a plentiful harvest of sunny, green images and hopeful blog posts. There’s also an online magazine devoted to the subgenre. It just launched, so how popular it might be remains to be seen.

Solarpunk in Popular Fiction

Doctor Who: The ending of the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Daughter” (Season 4, Episode 6) has the Doctor breaking a terraforming device which turns the brutal, barren planet the episode is set on into a paradise of green plants. This effectively ends the war between the two species present on the planet and presents a hopeful future instead of a destructive one. This presentation of hope and peace as opposed to war and destruction is an essential element of solarpunk.

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Star Trek: While a space western to the core, when its at home Star Trek is about as solarpunk as it comes. Future-Earth is green and stable and beautiful. There are very few visits to present-day earth in the series, but there are a few episodes set there during the later seasons of Deep Space Nine that give us a glimpse of how humanity managed to turn their doomsday predictions around to become peace loving space explorers, willing to give of themselves to others without seeking personal gain. For the most part.

The Science of Solarpunk

Solarpunk features sustainable energy and a green future, so it probably features a lot of cool stuff that you see ecologists talking about today. An optimistic view of the future always puts the spotlight on different technology than a doomsday or militaristic view. Solar panels are a hot topic in today’s energy crisis, with the price dropping steadily in accordance with Moore’s law. Electric cars are a real possibility, with the movement being led by Elon Musk’s already legendary company: Tesla Motors.

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Other aspects of sustainability include solving over-farming and desert issues through things like hydroponics or roof gardens. Genetic engineering can make important crops like corn and wheat immune to diseases or irrigation by salt water. 3D printers also have an important role to play in making the individual less reliant on large corporations. Their capabilities are currently limited to printing prosthetic limbs and sonograms for blind mothers, but they are a crucial first step towards Star Trek-esque replicators that could make every home self-reliant.

Solarpunk Design

It’s the optimistic future. Everything is light and airy, made from plastic, and equipped with batteries and solar panels. There are trees and plants everywhere–in cities, in your living room, in the middle of streets. Buildings, tools, equipment and vehicles are fashioned from smaller pieces printed in living room 3D printers. Gas stations have been replaced by electric charging stations.

People are still people, though, and evil corporations still exist, they simply haven’t won. The earth is still here, and thriving. It’s not a perfect world or a utopia, it’s simply . . . the optimistic future!


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