Note — Nov 27, 2022

Can Solarpunk Save the World?

Excellent piece on solarpunk by way of reviewing three books, Solarities: Seeking Energy Justice, Solar Politics, and Multispecies Cities: Solarpunk Urban Futures. Useful piece, even for those who might have read every other solarpunk article I’ve shared, because instead of ‘just’ talking about the genre, Stacey Balkan also weaves in some contemporary examples of applied solarpunk, like Casa Pueblo in Puerto Rico demanding decentralized solar energy, or Queremos Sol (“We Want Sun”) which “imagines a state powered by localized solar energy, routed through substations positioned across the island.” She also writes about solarpunk as literature, as solidarity, as politics, as æsthetic revolution, and as worldbuilding.

It’s also where I learned the word ‘solarity,’ which “could refer to Socrates’s description of the solar elements that inhabit and enliven planetary life, or to what energy humanists define as ‘a state, condition or quality developed in relation to the sun, or to energy derived from the sun.’” According to Balkan solarpunk is drenched in the light of solarity and “advance[s] a liberatory politics that marshals solar power in the spirit of a true energy commons.”

[I]n a discussion about climate and energy justice, we must acknowledge that, for many Indigenous communities, the “apocalypse” happened long ago: during the long 16th-century, when an expanding plantation system expedited the removal and enslavement of millions of BIPOC persons in order to accommodate the hyperconsumption of imperial centers like London. […]

Consequently, solarpunk worlds are not necessarily postapocalyptic (nor set in the future), but they are postextractivist. Responding to the ethos of extractive capitalism—whereby the colonized exist as “fuel … for the sake of someone else’s good life”—solarpunk imaginaries demand a thorough dismantling of fossil-fueled modernity and the material infrastructures (and attendant cultural expressions) that occasioned our comprehensive dependence on prehistoric carbon. […]

“[S]olidarity-oriented solarity” also “require[s] stories that move away from solitary, individual heroes to multispecies stories that are grown over time, stories that are intertwined with other beings and celebrate not individual feats but the mutual creation of new ecosystems … solarity means asserting that we matter only by relation.” […]

Despite the myriad examples of productive violence, the negative consequences of that violence are often borne by industrial workers and their families, rather than their corporate overlords. Consequently, I find far greater value in the transformative power of the imagination [than in revolution], and I am drawn, as a result, to the generative, instrumental, worldbuilding potential of solarpunk—its ability to imagine new, workable infrastructures and assemblages.

What if we cancel the apocalypse? Another piece about solarpunks, focused on replacing the apocalypse with something less ‘doomy.’ “There are only so many ways one can be told that the future is going to be dark. At some point, there has to be concrete imaginaries readily available for anyone who wishes to cancel the apocalypse. Solarpunk can provide a much-needed critique of the hegemony of apocalyptic visions of the future.”