Understanding Solarpunk 101 - When Solar Meets Decentralisation Technologies

6 months ago
74 in philosophy

Before starting this off, please note that the solarpunk movement is one that borderlines fiction and reality. Just like any good sci-fi, there just comes a point in time when things just might become possible..

For example, a "Fireball" spell is simply framed as magic when you read a fantasy novel. Now if we're in the realm of science-fiction, how do we explain away the possibility of casting magic fireballs out of thin air? Advanced nanotechnology will be my best guess.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
by Arthur C. Clarke

In that vein, solar power is quite like magic if you think about it. Maybe not quite as magical when compared to nuclear power, but it's certainly way safer. Also, solar energy is abundant and with any sufficiently advanced web-of-technologies, such energy can ultimately be manifested into anything useful. It is the universal enabler for all of humanity. Just think about the relationships between light, energy, and matter in Albert Einstein's E = MC2.

A brighter future

Solarpunk is sort of a counter-culture to cyberpunk. While this genre has certainly developed its own sense of visual aesthetics, the spirit behind this culture is one that is optimistic in nature. Just like sunlight. Here are the most interesting bits on the subject, as found in [Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solarpunk):-

Solarpunk is a relatively new eco-futurist speculative movement focused on envisioning a positive future beyond scarcity and hierarchy, where humanity is reintegrated with nature and technology is used for human-centric and ecocentric purposes.

Its economic orientation entails looking beyond both market capitalism and state socialism in favour of a decentralised and egalitarian "economy of the commons"; based on democratically-run cooperative enterprises, local community stewardship of resources, and automation of labour by decentralist eco-technologies.

In this nascent stage, solarpunk appears as a loose collection of ideologies, manifestos, and desires for a sustainable, achievable future. It's elegant high-end technology powered by renewable energy. It's a shift away from geometric centralised infrastructure to a decentralised, organic, free-flowing design.

It's microgrids instead of national grids. It's stained glass solar panels, and natural fabrics merged with solar cells. It's bespoke instead of mass-produced. It's permaculture and microbreweries. It's communal instead of corporate. It's radical sustainability: when hippies and hipsters meet, and techno-geeks crash the party.

That said, @gardenofeden seems to be a model precursor. It's a sign that such societies are coming up, and it's only going to pop up like mushrooms all over the world as both solar and blockchain technologies make progress. "New ways of doing things" are always being transmitted and distributed in social networks all the time.

A new world order / disorder


Upon discovering this genre a year ago through the Ethereum subreddit, it lit up some lightbulbs in my mind. I've seen patchworks of Solarpunk reflected in many different projects all around the planet. Solarpunk is actually rather symbolic of freedom - it allows for both isolation and connectivity. Solar energy is in itself free and enabling. Thinking along that line, nano - renewable/recyclable technologies for 3D-printing materials seems to be the way of the future.

Here's an excellent tumblr post on why solarpunk is the most important speculative fiction movement in the last 20 years. It's a highly recommended read if you're getting into the groove. Here's an interesting excerpt:-

Individuality still matters in Solarpunk. In a post-scarcity society, ingenuity and self-expression are not sacrificed on the altar of survival. With solar power there’s no reason not to go off grid, if that’s what you want to do. Communities can self-organize. You can find a community that suits you, or go live by yourself if that floats your boat.

The future has always been around

It is as eternal as energy itself and hidden from sight, always waiting to be unravelled and explored by our imagination. Solarpunk is the culmination many great, cohesive, and liberating ideas that seems to be achievable within the turn of the century.

While the Solarpunk movement itself is still very new and not a very active, I hope that the spirit of this genre will go on in the hearts and minds of its readers. Maybe someday you'll see hints of solarpunk-esque concepts sprouting up in your neighbourhood. For now, it'll continue brewing in virtual space such as this little post here.

Here's part conceptualisation of solarpunk, meme-fied to epic proportions: http://hermicity.org/. Jokes aside, I hope this has been an interesting topic for you. Thanks for reading!


The video that might've triggered Solarpunk: Humans Need Not Apply by CGP Grey
Suggested further-reading: https://solarpunkanarchists.com/

Image sources 1 - 2 - 3 - 4


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63
  ·  6 months ago

Thanks for sharing. Now I have a name to put to the movement I have been observing in fiction. One of my favorite parts of science fiction is the optimism for the future. Interested to see how solarpunk grows.

I've long been a fan of cyberpunk literature and I think the nature of cyberpunk lends itself well to novels. Solarpunk seems to involve less conflict, so authors may need to get more creative to drive the plot.

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74
  ·  6 months ago

Yup.. there was a proposal for coming up with another literary genre called Etherpunk. But by all means, thats quite like Solarpunk with an emphasise on world computing (Ethereum). One of the main concerns was about having stories that are not so inpactful because its pretty much based on non-conflict! But i think themes of centralization agents vs decent agents will do for now.. until the art gets better and developed by others

69
  ·  6 months ago

Thanks for posting on this, Kevin, I had not come across it before.

After reading your post and the kdhume reference, I have to say that "I like it a lot!" I am very much enthused at the notion of being caretakers of the earth, as I feel that is part of our original purpose as humans.

I of course also very much like the "individual contribution" part, the "no apocalypse necessary" component, and that it doesn't bash technology or wealth.

I find it also quite reminiscent of Gerard K. O'Neil's leadership in the development of a conceptual and engineering framework for Space Colonies. Appreciated! 😄😇😄

@creatr

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74
  ·  6 months ago

After reading your post and the kdhume reference, I have to say that "I like it a lot!" I am very much enthused at the notion of being caretakers of the earth, as I feel that is part of our original purpose as humans.

I of course also very much like the "individual contribution" part, the "no apocalypse necessary" component, and that it doesn't bash technology or wealth.

That's one of the reasons it pulled me into checking it out too. And it's actually not very easy for Solarpunk writers to write something very impactful.. because dramatic elements are somehow difficult to introduce. I guess there needs to be more folks exploring this genre and find out what can go wrong. The thing is, solarpunk doesn't admit perfection.. it's part accepting that our first nature is the unfiltered, undisturbed natural world.. and then our second nature is the cultured world

I find it also quite reminiscent of Gerard K. O'Neil's leadership in the development of a conceptual and engineering framework for Space Colonies. Appreciated!

This is the first I've seen of this lol - thanks! Personally I think that space travel will solve irreconcilable differences between people, but at the same time, it'll also spread our "stupidity" all around the universe.. LOL.

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69
  ·  6 months ago

The universe is a very, very, very large place! Large, I think, beyond our ability to imagine. Seems to me that it would be pretty hard for us to truly mess up the whole thing. Then again, I guess we've done a bang-up job with earth... ;)

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54
  ·  6 months ago

As Einstein said, two things are infinite... :) Could it be he case of infinite force meeting immovable object? What spreads faster, universe or human stupidity?

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69
  ·  6 months ago

Hahahaha!

We can only hope that, similar to light, there is a limit to the speed of stupidity! ;)

68
  ·  6 months ago

I'm definitely going to borrow this term from you for an upcoming post... excited to learn about it / never heard this used before. It's perfect for a medley of ecologically adaptive and futurist. (Futurology in this case ;)

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74
  ·  6 months ago

If you study what Solarpunk folks have cone up with.. the aesthetics have inklings with a movement called Art Nouveau and it seems very fitting. Reminds me of your logo too with its organic linework :)

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68
  ·  6 months ago

Thanks bud! I'll dig more into this.

67
  ·  6 months ago

I love the pictures in any case ^^

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74
  ·  6 months ago

:D I've a pinterest filled with scifi art and stuff

69
  ·  6 months ago

Hi! I am a robot. I just upvoted you! I found similar content that readers might be interested in:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solarpunk

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74
  ·  6 months ago

Yup, I've cited above using blockquotes :)

64
  ·  6 months ago

This is a very cool movement indeed. I think that like Steempunk Solar punk will become very popular.

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74
  ·  6 months ago

Perhaps, especially when solar stuff becomes cheaper and effective :)

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64
  ·  6 months ago

I agree, Solar is very expensive right now and not very cost effective or efficient. More development and research should give light to many more ways to bring effectivity.

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74
  ·  6 months ago

Yup and I suspect corporate, closed-wall development will pave the way first before the open-source community starts getting good ideas on reverse-engineering certain technologies :)

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64
  ·  6 months ago

Yea, any advancement would be a good one. Although if we crowd funded and brainstormed through social media, we might be able to come up with groups for funding as well as new inventions and ideas. Possibilities are endless but not likely.

Very good information my friend, I have enjoyed this conversation.

72
  ·  6 months ago

Great post Kevin!

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74
  ·  6 months ago

Thanks man @hilarski :)

66
  ·  6 months ago

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69
  ·  6 months ago

Very interesting! thanks for sharing!

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74
  ·  6 months ago

Makes me want a fully solar powered home (hopefully with no downtime lol)

54
  ·  6 months ago

Love it. Positive futurism, positive attitude towards the green stuff, technology oriented but not blinded by it, castles in the sky and floating cities. It contains all my favorite themes, apart from the dark and gloomy, for which I have rather platonic feelings - I like the apocalyptic visions, but would much prefer to live in green and light :)

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74
  ·  6 months ago

Pretty exciting both ways xD
Better than idiocracy type scenario lol