Note — Jun 27, 2021

Beyond the Green Smart Cities, Solarpunk Can Also Be Dark

In the last issue, I wondered about quadrants or an axis to map “climate crisis perspectives in relation to techno optimism and pessimism.” Peter very appropriately reminded me of Bruce Sterling’s Viridian design movement which, in a nice bit of serendipity, is part of the above piece. Lidia Zuin starts from a view of solarpunk as “histories of a future more ecological, sustainable and optimist,” and considers whether the movement is too naive or if it can attract “even to the most pessimistic and grim fans of cyberpunk.”

I read the next piece first, where Paul Graham Raven adds his own ideas and references to this line of thought. You need to read both together.

It was this last title that made me consider how solarpunk could have a more bizarre, mysterious approach that would be closer to the new weird rather than an optimistic narrative with some shades of “greenwashing. […]

[I]t could be a genre that poses the opportunity to criticize, resist, and address metaphors about other philosophical topics that are not necessarily related to concrete issues coming from climate change or the side effects of late capitalism. […]

viridian is a kind of fluorescent shade of green, with a more artificial aspect, and this is why it connects to themes such as innovation through design and technology, in a counterpoint to a “leaf green” traditionally used by classic environmentalism.


If you passed the previous article over, go back and read my blurb, the two pieces go together and Raven’s additional context here is what gets the pair over the “featured in Sentiers” threshold. (Sorry if that sounds pretentious but I’m sure you understand what I’m saying.)

That Zuin mentions Le Guin and Delany as possible inspirations to be drawn upon underscores my point: that this reaching toward a more gothic iteration of solarpunk is—or at least could be—a reaching toward a more critical-utopian mode for the genre.