Solarpunk 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?”Jay Springett, Co-administrator of solarpunks.net
What is Solarpunk?
Solarpunk is a visionary movement that emerged as an antidote to the dystopian themes of Cyberpunk and the nostalgia and aesthetics of Steampunk. It offers an optimistic outlook on the future amidst the climate crisis, envisioning a society in perfect harmony with nature and equally shared with everyone on the planet. A Solarpunk future is one that is sustainable at a not-just-for-rich-people level but a human-friendly future that can scale.
In the Solarpunk world, technology is developed in tandem with nature, and clean energy sources like solar and wind power entirely sustain cities. There are no existential threats like the climate crisis looming over society. The focus is on regenerative and sustainable practices, with a circular economy at its core.
The Solarpunk Manifesto
“Solarpunk” was coined in 2008 in a blog post from the Republic of the Bees. Over the years, Solarpunk has evolved from a small online community to a promising speculative subgenre. In 2014, Adam Flynn penned down his notes toward the Solarpunk manifesto, while an ultimate Solarpunk reference guide was created by Jay Springett in 2017. The Solarpunk movement has evolved with its distinct aesthetic and an emerging manifesto.
Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us… Our futurism is not nihilistic like cyberpunk and it avoids steampunk’s potentially quasi-reactionary tendencies: it is about ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community.Adam Flynn, “Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto“
To grasp some main ideas of Solarpunk, you can read this interesting Tumblr post explaining why solarpunk is the most important speculative fiction movement in the last 20 years.
Essential Elements of Solarpunk
Decentralization is a fundamental element of the Solarpunk movement. Unlike Cyberpunks who envision a world controlled by oppressive corporations, Solarpunks envision a future where power is distributed among individuals and communities, fostering a sense of autonomy and empowerment. Instead of centralizing authority in the hands of a few, decisions are made collectively, with a focus on sustainability and environmental harmony. By embracing open-source technologies, information is freely accessible to all, driving innovation and progress for the betterment of society.
The core idea of Solarpunk is to create a world where lush natural landscapes abound, as we see in the Studio Ghibli films, and human activities coexist peacefully with the environment.
Renewable and Sustainable Technologies
Renewable energy, especially solar power and its representation are the foundation of the Solarpunk ideology, which characterizes “gentle, non-centralized, and non-mediated”, the Solarpunks envision a world with collaboration and communities, in which no one is left behind.
Solarpunk Aesthetics and Art
Solarpunk’s visual aesthetics embrace an ever-changing fusion of influences. It weaves together the charm of 1800s age-of-sail/frontier living, now enhanced by the eco-friendly elements of nature and the modern touch of technology. The landscapes showcase the creative reuse of existing infrastructure, offering glimpses of both post-apocalyptic and present-weird worlds.
In 2014, Olivia Louise’s Tumblr post went viral. She integrated the art nouveau elements and gave the concept of Solarpunk a visual language. The work of Hayao Miyazaki, one of Japan’s greatest animation directors, is also considered a representation of the Solarpunk art style.
For more Solarpunk art, check out the Solarpunk Magazine, concept artist Jessica Woulfe (Solarpunk Art Contest Winner in 2019), graphic designer Nusa Stiglitz (who did the Solarpunk city design for Fuzzy Binary Games), Elijah Johnson (Solarpunk Art Contest winner in 2021).
Solarpunk Movies, Fictions, and Architectures
The animated commercial by the Yogurt company Chobani in 2021 made Solarpunk concepts and aesthetics reach a greater audience. Solarpunk futurist Stephen Magee also posted the video to Twitter, claiming that the lifestyle in the video is the Solarpunk future that he’s fighting for.
- Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation (2017)
- Wings of Renewal: A Solarpunk Dragon Anthology (2015)
- Chameleon Moon (RoAnna Sylver, 2014)
- Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastic Stories in a Sustainable World (2013)
- Parable of the Sower (Octavia E. Butler, 1993)
- Mars trilogy (Kim Stanley Robinson, 1992)
- The Dispossessed (Ursula K LeGuin’s, 1974)
- Looking Backwards (Edward Bellamy, 1888)
- Black Panther (2018)
- Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
- Princess Mononoke (1997)
- Castle In The Sky (1989)
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1987)
Architecturally, Solarpunk is characterized by buildings adorned with vegetation, including rooftop gardens and vertical forests. The aim is to integrate nature into urban spaces and create a more harmonious coexistence between humanity and the natural world.
- Architect Vincent Callebaut (Belgium)
- Architect Francis Kere (Burkina Faso)
- Gardens by the Bay (Singapore)
- Jewel Changi Airport Waterfall (Singapore)
- Golden Bridge (Vietnam)
- Bosco Verticale (Italy)
Solarpunk and Web3
In a world with constant tensions between different groups and the environment, Solarpunk is our alternative for doomerism in a world of rising coordination failure. With Web3, the transparent, immutable, programmable, and global structure that can unlock better coordination, we can leverage collective intelligence to make the world better.
Solarpunk in Web3 highlights cooperativism, coordination, cooperation, communities, and collective benefits. Scott Moore, Co-Founder of Gitcoin, highlighted how Web3 reimagines public goods, emphasizing the positive externalities on society.
Kevin Owocki, CEO of Gitcoin, also tweeted that Web3 builders are creating economic systems with various mechanisms like NFTs, Quadratic Funding, and Retro Public Goods Funding, aiming to generate a positive impact.
Unlike Web2, Web3 developers are incentivized to construct transparent infrastructure for public goods. Examples like open-source software and Decentralized Science, as highlighted by Kevin Owocki, demonstrate their commitment to providing public access to a decentralized and transparent financial system. Their ultimate goal is to foster a world with increased fairness and justice.
Sustainability is a vital element in Web3, aligning closely with Solarpunk principles. Increasing discussions arise around mining crypto with a green footprint, leveraging blockchain to improve the circular economy, or building projects for human rights and social equality. The emergence of Regenerative Finance (ReFi) protocols in the Web3 space further demonstrates the commitment to effectively address sustainability challenges.
Web3 is not just some sort of a speculative game. It’s actually building new kinds of regenerative ecosystems, and ReGen is fundamentally Solarpunk.Scott Moore, Co-Founder of Gitcoin
Lunarpunk and Privacy
Lunarpunk originated as a subset of Solarpunk, sharing the values of decentralization, diversity, and inclusivity. However, it has diverged from Solarpunk’s optimistic outlook. While Solarpunk focuses on transparency and openness, Lunarpunk emphasizes sovereignty and privacy.
Lunarpunks argue that optimism leaves Solarpunks unprepared for potential challenges, giving rise to what they call “Solarpunk Fragility.” In response, Lunarpunks advocate for robust defense and the use of cryptography to safeguard user identities. They believe in the inherent conflict between cryptocurrencies and existing institutions, fearing that regulators will ban cryptocurrencies while using anonymity as an excuse to extend control.
The development of zero-knowledge technology, self-sovereign identities, and decentralized IDs reflects the LunarPunk value of privacy preservation in the Web3 space. Privacy will be the future of Web3 and how to balance privacy and surveillance will be an important question to consider.
Read more about privacy and trust in Web3: