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  • Ayah Khan

Solarpunk generating hope for the future

Figure 1: Before and after mitigation strategies were done to reduce the risk of climate change

The general populace is familiar with climate change, having heard about it in school and reading about it in the news on social media. Climate change, according to at least one person, will lead to a nightmare future in which the sun will burn skin or cause heat stroke, and all of the ice caps will melt, resulting in an endless cycle of flooding. Cities are buried in sand, human civilisation will perish in a few decades, and hurricanes are wreaking havoc on infrastructure. This is usually the first thing that comes to mind when people hear the phrase "climate change." Destruction, ruined ecosystems, people blown off their feet by strong winds, and flooded cities are all part of the picture. Many works of art, photographs, and creative writing include apocalyptic imagery. A grim story is common in Western culture. This story has been given to us that it is realistic, and we must accept it. However, a better future and environment are possible.


Dystopian fiction has taught us many valuable lessons and assisted us in avoiding past errors. On the other side, dystopian fiction typically lacks a sense of hope and hence offers no active solutions. While dystopian fiction depicts acts of insurrection on occasion, it typically lacks active change or engagement from those who must bring about change.


Snowpiercer portrays Earth’s environment as encased with ice, no longer habitable. The film and series is set in the future, when a botched climate-change geoengineering experiment sends the Earth into a new ice age, killing all life on the planet except those who boarded the titular train. Figure 2 illustrates a planet that is no longer fit for humanity, with cities blanketed in snow and architecture frozen in ice.


Figure 2: Screenshots of scenes seen in season 1 of Snowpiercer (2020).

The Day After Tomorrow (movie) is another dystopian film. The film showed the abrupt transition of the Earth's climate system into a New Ice Age. As a result of a tsunami and ice storm, New York is destroyed in the film. The movie had heightened people's concern on climate change, but they didn't act. While some film viewers in the US, UK, Germany, and Japan were more concerned and aware of climate change, this wasn't followed by anything concrete, long-term, or personal (Reusswig and Leiserowitz, 2005). Framing global warming as catastrophic has various ramifications. Global warming, according to its apocalyptic narrative, is extra-human, propelled by cosmic powers, and thus Fated. As a result, humans are not held liable for the release of greenhouse gases into the environment. We are disturbed by apocalyptic language that reduces global warming to a simple increase in temperatures, absolving people of responsibility for causing, or even contributing to, climate change, and diminishing human duty to counteract global warming. The Day After Tomorrow, in the end, did not have the major impact on society that the producers had planned for (Reusswig and Leiserowitz, 2005). As this example shows, dystopian tales are unlikely to inspire audiences to take action to combat climate change. It's also plausible that 'apocalyptic' tales or dystopian literature might not encourage climate action since they delegate responsibility. Waiting for climate change to reach an irreversible, 'runaway' threshold may lead to inaccurate conclusions. To begin with, we can presume that nothing unpleasant will occur until we reach that tragic conclusion (Skrimshire, 2010). It could also lead to the belief that there is nothing we can do to prevent a catastrophe once we reach that point as well as there not being one person or thing to get rid of.


This is when Solarpunk comes into play. Think of Studio Ghibli's verdant paradises, but with more solar panels. While steampunk is nostalgic for the industrial revolution's aesthetics, cyberpunk is concerned with our worries in a rapidly changing technological environment. In contrast to the bleak and mechanistic futures depicted in dystopias, solarpunk is more optimistic and regenerative. The illustration depicts a scenario in which energy may be harvested from the sun or wind without harming the environment. Green roofs and windmills make it possible to live in harmony with nature. Towering vertical gardens, kinetic energy-converting walkways, solar panels incorporated in buildings as windows, wind farms, and underground mass-transit systems that make it easy to commute between cities are all features of solarpunk cities (thereby reducing or eliminating the need for cars).


Solarpunk is a collection of images or stories that depict futuristic cities brimming with vegetation, innovative renewable energy infrastructure plans, and imaginative bottom-up solutions to the ongoing struggle to secure our planet's long-term sustainability. Its purpose is to answer the issue, "How can we establish a sustainable civilization?"


In creating alternate realities, art and technology play a crucial role. Imagining the world of the future has been made possible in part by literature, particularly science fiction. This is where solarpunk got its start. This movement emerged in Brazil at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century, particularly in 2011, as a reaction to previous creative works' gloomy pessimism (Reina-Rozo, 2021). Social ecology, democratic technology, solar, wind, and tidal energy are key factors for collective well-being transcending social inequality and fossil fuel extraction and combustion.


Solarpunk is a science fiction and fantasy subgenre that envisions sustainable communities after the energy transition. These are worlds where energy transition involves not only technological innovation but also social and value system changes (Williams, 2010). Smaller-scale communities or egalitarian eco-city-states are a more common focus than nations, communal ownership is often the norm, and ideals of community, care, and humility—especially in regard to humanity's relationship with the ecosystem—are valued above economic growth or competition, along with the abundance of solar technology. In the wake of daily misery in these times, solarpunk is an outpouring of hope. In some ways, solarpunk is a countercultural uprising that aims to enhance literature's pessimism regarding the future (Solarpunk Anarchist, 2016).


In solarpunk cities, vehicles are rented rather than owned. Scooters, bicycles, electric automobiles, and power wheelchairs are all possibilities for sharing (Williams, 2019). Shopping and other high-load activities would be easier if cargo bike rental schemes were connected to the public transportation network. Subscriptions to public transit in the metropolitan region would be free for the poorest inhabitants and based on income for everyone else, ensuring a fair distribution of resources (Williams, 2019). By reducing pollution and noise levels, all of these measures would enhance health outcomes.


Solarpunk cities will be able to significantly reduce both their carbon footprint and fuel poverty by refurbishing old structures. New homes would be earthquake-resistant and passively energy efficient. Building codes based on communal standards and structured choices, like those described in Kelvin Campbell's book Making Massive Small Change, will encourage self-builds and community buildings by allowing for variety in look, feel, and use while adhering to agreed-upon standards, like increasing green areas (figure 3). Brownfield developments will be built on previously developed lands such as former industrial or commercial complexes, but greenfield and rural development will be unaffected.


Figure 3: Solarpunk art of future city

In the same way that nature blurs the divide between urban and rural, solarpunk cities would do the same. Parking lots and other locations that are unnecessarily paved may be deprived if demand for cars drops. Urban parks, riverbanks, and other green places, as well as urban wildlife and pollinators, will be rewilded. The elimination of urban heat islands, the improvement of urban soils, the reduction of runoff into sewage systems, and the production of more food for communities will all benefit from tree planting (walnuts, chestnuts and fruit trees). Many large cities have forestry programmes in place (for example, Milan, Italy, wants to plant 3,200,000 trees by 2030), but solarpunk cities would go even further. The city's general colour is green, as shown in figure 3, due to the trees' integration with the structures; manmade and natural merged.


One example of a story inspired by solarpunk is Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers. It’s an anthology of short stories. Despite the prevailing peace in the world, the seventeen stories in this collection deal with real-world themes such as the future and ethics of food supplies, and the relationship between technology and the environment. The plot features an art installation in Milan, a murder mystery set in a weather manipulating lab, and a world where the brightness of your solar implants determines your worth. From a crocodile ranch in Malaysia to an opal mine in Australia, these tales are about adaptation, innovation, and optimism for our globe and others. For readers tired of dystopias and apocalypses, these views of a better future will be a breath of fresh air.

The solar punk genre can provide hope for the future as it doesn’t reiterate how screwed the future can be. It provides another outlook to the future which can aspire people to do something to aid in making it a reality. There is hope for the future. Providing a prosperous future for future generations is not too late.


Bibliography:

Reina-Rozo, J.D., 2021. Art, Energy and Technology: the Solarpunk Movement. International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace, 8(1), pp.55-68.

Reusswig, F. and Leiserowitz, A.A., 2005. The international impact of the day after tomorrow. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 47(3), pp.41-44.

Skrimshire, S. E., 2010: Future Ethics: Climate Change and Apocalyptic Imagination. Continuum Press, 312 pp

Solarpunk Anarchist. (2016). What is Solarpunk? Retrieved August 1, 2020

Williams, R., 2019. 'This Shining Confluence of Magic and Technology': solarpunk, energy imaginaries, and the infrastructures of solarity. Open Library of Humanities, 5(1).





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