What is solarpunk? It’s a not-so-futuristic movement that dreams of uniting modern civilization and technology with the abundance of nature. Solarpunk has recently grown in popularity, ignited by an interest in creativity, innovation and environmentalism. It whispers of a harmonious future where technologies like solar energy help people live a more sustainable lifestyle and truly address climate change. Some are wondering if it’s the key to saving our planet.
As folks who always see the sunny side of things, you know we had to take a closer look at this particular trend. Here’s an interesting glance at solar punk.
What is solarpunk?
Solarpunk began as a subgenre of science fiction literature. Then, it expanded into an art and lifestyle movement that reimagines society as we know it. Solarpunk focuses on functional and awe-inspiring sustainability that directly addresses humanity’s impact on the environment.
In 2010, solarpunk took off on Tumblr as an antithesis to the dystopian world often portrayed by the media. It was a light shining on the social and economic inequalities, as well as the negative impact humanity has on the environment. Comparable to other movements of similar names, solarpunk shares the technological aesthetics of cyberpunk and steampunk. Yet, it differentiates itself by being more optimistic, with its focus on correcting prevalent societal issues and rebuilding a better world.
Although solarpunk originated in fiction, it’s important to understand that this movement is anything but. And leaning more into the solar punk aesthetic could do wonders for our planet, along with our quality of living.
Building a solarpunk city
Solarpunk is an optimistic look at the future. It centers on stripping away many of the familiar elements of our society and building back a braver new world. Let’s look at some key features of a solarpunk world that have already become part of ours, as well as plans for expansion and inventions to come.
The solarpunk aesthetic blends nature and technology with an Art Nouveau flair. This is an ornate style of art that flourished between about 1890 and 1910 throughout Europe and in the U.S. Often, you’ll see lush green shrubbery covering meticulously designed buildings or long tendrils incorporated into the natural spiraling architecture of the landscape. These design techniques are being implemented in spaces all over the world, so the solarpunk revolution really is gaining some traction.
Take the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, a self-proclaimed “plant kingdom.” The park is over 250 acres and has several phenomenal attractions, including the Cloud Forest, an architectural marvel that contains one of the world’s tallest indoor waterfalls and an exotic plant covered mountain.
A subtler rendition of the solarpunk aesthetic is Fallingwater, designed by visionary Frank Lloyd Wright. The house features clean lines and a design that seems to bring nature into the home with its low ceilings and plentiful views. The Pennsylvania vacation home is nestled in a forest and positioned above a free flowing waterfall. Solarpunk aesthetics shine through in various designs, like the ones mentioned, all over the world.
One of the concerns with the popularity of the solarpunk movement is of “greenwashing,” or the creation of a greener aesthetic that isn’t functional or sustainable. But a true hallmark of solarpunk architecture is not only the beauty of blending nature into design, but also keeping environmental impact top of mind during the design and building process. Ultimately, the key to sustainable architecture lies with utilizing low-impact building materials and creative approaches to tackle climate change, like roofs that capture rainwater and solar energy or buildings that feature vertical gardens on the walls.
Right now, Carbon Upcycling Technologies (CUT) is implementing solarpunk ideas into their technology with a key principle to “reuse everything.” CUT has reactor technology that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) before it enters the atmosphere. Then, it combines the harnessed CO2 with natural materials to repurpose them as enhanced concrete additives, paintings and even T-shirts!
Carbon capture and storage can be a great way to reduce air pollution if used on a wider scale — and this is just one effort. Through the solarpunk movement, more innovative and creative ideas can be fostered.
Probably one of the most compelling features of the solarpunk movement is its intuitive use of renewable energy. How can we evolve through our technological advancements, while still being grounded in nature?
Abundant renewable energy sources like water, wind and, of course, solar energy, can make a difference. For example, the R&B singer-songwriter, Akon, has plans that will truly test the bounds of a futuristic solarpunk city in Senegal. His AKONCITY will become a beacon for transformative, contemporary development.
Often referred to as the “real-life Wakanda,” this city plans to run 100% on solar energy and use its own form of cryptocurrency, AKoin. The districts of AKONCITY have buildings with flexible designs that can capture sunlight and power this city. Renewable energy is nothing new for the mogul. Akon has previously given light through renewable energy to 80 million people in Africa through his company, Akon Lighting. With the strides Akon has already made, AKONCITY is anticipated to do more good through clean energy.
How to join the solarpunk movement
Now that you’re equipped with the basics of the solarpunk movement, it’s time to get practical! Here are some phenomenal resources about how to get involved with the movement today.
1. Solarpunk books
Gather around, sci-fi fans! Since solarpunk originated in the fiction world, it makes sense that you’d want to dip your toes in that way. One of the most captivating features of solarpunk is the ability to create a vision of it for yourself. As mentioned with the aesthetic, creating a solarpunk reality starts with sharpening your own dream and figuring out ways to implement components into your life. Here’s a great list for solarpunk readers. It includes titles that highlight sustainability, technology and social equality.
2. Solarpunk fashion
Who says style can’t be eco-friendly? Remember when we talked about how the solarpunk aesthetic leans into Art Nouveau? This is the use of elaborate, decorative designs featuring long-flowing, curving lines and natural drapings that are inspired by nature. But the key here is to use sustainable materials and look good doing it.
For instance, you could check out solar nanotech-powered clothing, which weaves special filaments into threads to make fabric that cultivates solar energy. We talk more about how solar fabric is used here.
3. Solarpunk community
It’s so important to surround yourself with like-minded individuals, and it helps a bunch if they’re all committed to driving the solarpunk movement forward. Here are a few great ways to get involved and let your voice be a part of the solarpunk movement:
- Solarpunk Summit – Whether you’re an artist or a scientist, Solarpunk Summit in Kingsbury, Texas is a great event to collaborate with other people interested in solarpunk.
- Solarpunk social media – Connect with solarpunkers online through various social media platforms like r/solarpunk on Reddit. We’ve built up this extensive solarpunk board on our Pinterest to inspire cool ideas.
Solar punk is the dream of a brighter future for humanity, but it’s not just a dream. It’s possible. Learn more about how embracing solar energy can help the environment and bring us one step closer to solar punk’s vision of the future.