The second part in series of opinion articles looking at SolarPunk. This time we are look at what SolarPunk is, as well as the role it has and will play in achieving a sustainable future.
The seeds for Solarpunk have been sown since the early 2000’s. The growing progressive art movement has inspired artists and architects to share a new view on the world. Our current state of affairs is leading to an impending climate crisis, major economic downturn and a refugee crisis from houses entering Atlantis’ city limits. Whilst the soil our foundations for society were built on is tainted beyond ability to bring life into our dying world, there is a brighter, greener and more sustainable future ahead.
We can’t watch the buds of Solarpunk start to bloom though until we escape from the capitalist dystopia we have found ourselves in. A world without universal health coverage which has been made starkly clear with the sheer length of time it took most of Africa to receive a first vaccine dose whilst we lived the up the highlife like we were on Vax-ation. By implementing solarpunk we would move from a global capitalist system to one of eco-socialism. This must come with new systems of governance: an accountable government working for the benefit of all their organised people.
In her 2018 TEDx Talk Keisha Howard says “We need an apocalypse to change this”. This pandemic has taught us many things; that our friends and family mean so much more to us than we thought before, that being able to take spontaneous trips without needing to book ahead was a great luxury, that we actually really enjoy cheeky cats interrupting our meetings. This pandemic also taught us that capitalism doesn’t care about it’s means. Workers were sacked, overworked and forced into unsafe conditions to meet new targets and goals. Under solarpunk we would ensure workers co-operatives and consumer co-operatives work in the best interest of every service user and provider. If we want that change we need to do it now before we fully recover and cement in our future.
A solarpunk future would harness technology we already have. Rapid rollout of solar power and wind turbines as well as tidal energy which was unveiled in early 2021 off the coast of Orkney. A return to early twentieth century small farming practices would also go a long way. Making food for the people who will eat it, not using toxic pesticides in the fertiliser and polyculture farming would create enough food for us to live off, a manageable field for workers to farm and a rich environment for other organisms which can thrive in fresh soil. Crucially, we would also downscale all systems of government to ensure the people we elect to represent us can do that effectively. Bodies like Highland Council need to split up to focus on regional regeneration and growth. Archaic systems like Westminster also need major reform to truly represent the people.
The branches of solarpunk can go wherever we want it to be. There are two brownfield sites in Aberdeen - Broadford Works and Woolmanhill Hospital. What better way to kickstart our Green Recovery by revitalising old buildings into beautiful social housing developments with vast community spaces and eco friendly, low cost housing units. The opportunity to create vibrant communities is right in our grasp. The sites have been vacant for decades and who really wants to see another granite cluster of modernist gloom?
Individual contributions may seem small but something as simple as Guerilla Gardening can go a long way. This miniature example of anarchism puts the power and tools to create greenspaces wherever we want them in our hands. Just picking up a bag of seed, a trowel and some buddies can lead to a more aesthetically pleasing society, even if it doesn’t cause ever lasting change.
We do need radical reforms to many parts of our society. Eco-friendly home building, advanced carbon capture technology and a serious shift to green energy alternatives to allow our reliance on fossil fuels to blow into the polluted wind. Unlike Cyberpunk, Solarpunk isn’t the end of the road for a depressed world. The sooner we move to a more equal world the better for all life on our green Earth. Solarpunk is a way to breathe new life into a hopeless arrangement. We all need better. Let’s shape it together.