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Solarpunk may take practical inspiration from Earthships, which are an example of sustainable architecture.[1][2]

Solarpunk is a literary and artistic movement that envisions and works toward actualizing a sustainable future interconnected with nature and community.[3][4] The "solar" represents solar energy as a renewable energy source and an optimistic vision of the future that rejects climate doomerism,[5] while the "punk" refers to the countercultural, post-capitalist, and decolonial enthusiasm for creating such a future.[6]

As a science fiction literary subgenre and art movement, solarpunk works address how the future might look if humanity succeeded in solving major contemporary challenges with an emphasis on sustainability, human impact on the environment, and addressing climate change and pollution. Especially as a subgenre, it is aligned with cyberpunk derivatives, and may borrow elements from utopian and fantasy genres.[5]

Solarpunk serves as a foil to the cyberpunk genre, particularly within the fashion industry.[7] Both genres create and consolidate post-industrial countercultures; Solarpunk incites rebellion through its depiction of protoenvironmental socioecological relationships, whereas Cyberpunk advances the theme of rebellion through detached secondary environments, which often takes place in tangible dataspheres, virtual landscapes, and dystopian urban environments. Solarpunk draws inspiration from Bohemian style. The convergence of environmentalism and art serve as a framework for both subgenres. Solarpunk's interpretation of social collectivism strongly contrasts the individuality of Bohemian counterculture; Solarpunk recognizes individuality as an integral component of progressivism and identifies sociocultural distinctions as an impetus for change, though Solarpunk encompasses these elements within the greater socioecological scaffolding in a manner that contrasts the Bohemian assertion that individuality alone acts as the sole impetus for change. [8]


The term solarpunk was coined in 2008 in a blog post titled "From Steampunk to Solarpunk",[9] in which the anonymous author, taking the design of the MS Beluga Skysails (the world's first ship partially powered by a computer-controlled kite rig) as inspiration, conceptualizes a new speculative fiction subgenre with steampunk's focal point on specific technologies but guided by practicality and modern economics.[10] Along a similar vein, in 2009, literary publicist Matt Staggs posted a "GreenPunk Manifesto" on his blog describing his vision of a technophilic genre focused on knowable, do it yourself technologies and with emphasis on positive ecological and social change.[11][12] After visual artist Olivia Louise posted concept art on Tumblr of a solarpunk aesthetic in 2014,[13] researcher Adam Flynn contributed to the science fiction forum Project Hieroglyph with further definition of the emerging genre.[14][15] Based on Flynn's notes and contributions on the website, A Solarpunk Manifesto was published in 2019 that describes solarpunk as "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?'".[16]

Themes and philosophy[edit]

Renewable energy[edit]

While solarpunk has no specific political ideation, it does by default embrace the need for a collective movement away from polluting forms of energy.[17] It practices prefigurative politics, creating spaces where the principles of a movement can be explored and demonstrated by enacting them in real life. Solarpunks practice the movement in various ways, including creating and living in communities (such as ecovillages), growing their own food, and a DIY ethic of working with what is available, including the thoughtful application of technology.[18][19]

Refusing pessimism[edit]

Even stories set in the far future or fantasy worlds portray societal failures recognizable to contemporary audiences.[20] These failures may include oppressive imbalances of wealth or power, degradation of natural habitat or processes, and impacts of climate change. Evidence of injustices, like social exclusion and environmental racism, may be present. Disastrous consequences are not necessarily averted but solarpunk tends to present a counter-dystopian perspective. Their worlds are not necessarily utopian but rather solarpunk seeks to present an alternative to a pessimistic, consequential dystopian outcome.[21] To achieve this, themes of do it yourself ethics, convivial conservation, self-sustainability, social inclusiveness and positive psychology are often present. This perspective also more closely embeds the ideals of punk ideologies, such as anti-consumerism, egalitarianism and decentralization, than cyberpunk which typically includes protagonists with punk beliefs but in settings that are used more of a warning of a potential future.[21][22]

Sustainable technology[edit]

The integration of technologies into society in a manner that improves social, economic and environmental sustainability is central to solarpunk.[21] It is starkly contrasted to cyberpunk which portrays highly advanced technologies that have little influence on, or otherwise exacerbate social, economic, and environmental problems. Whereas cyberpunk envisions humanity becoming more alienated from its natural environment and subsumed by technology, solarpunk envisions settings where technology enables humanity to better co-exist with itself and its environment.[citation needed]

Solarpunk is more similar to steampunk than cyberpunk. Both steampunk and solarpunk imagine new worlds but with different primary sources of energy; respectively, the steam engines, and renewable energy.[23] Though, whereas steampunk focuses more on history and uses Victorian era aesthetics, solarpunk uses more Art Nouveau style and looks to the future. Solarpunk also shares some elements with retrofuturism, Afrofuturism, Bionics and Arts and Crafts. The retrofuturist reevaluation of technology, its desire for understandable mechanics, and rejection of mysterious black box technology, and in favor of appropriate technology,[24] are found in solarpunk works. As is the Afrofuturist's counter to mass-cultural homogeneity, the reckoning of injustices, and use of architecture and technology to correct power imbalances and problems in accessibility.[21]

Do-it-yourself ethos[edit]

Although solarpunk is concerned with technology, it also embraces low-tech ways of living sustainably such as gardening, permaculture, regenerative design, tool libraries, maker spaces, open-source, positive psychology, metacognition, and do-it-yourself ethics. Its themes may reflect on environmental philosophy such as bright green environmentalism and social ecology, as well as punk ideologies such as anarchism, socialism, anti-consumerism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-capitalism, civil rights, commoning, and decentralization.[25]

Art movement and aesthetics[edit]

solarpunk flag
A proposed flag of the solarpunk movement.

As an art movement, solarpunk emerged in the 2010s as a reaction to the prevalence of bleak post-apocalyptic and dystopian media alongside an increased awareness of social injustices, impacts of climate change, and inextricable economic inequality. As post-apocalyptic and dystopian was ubiquitous in media, solarpunk became an attractive alternative.[22] Solarpunk is optimistic yet realistic in confronting contemporary problems.[26]

The solarpunk visual identity, as expressed by Olivia Louise and subsequent artists, is compared to Art Nouveau with its depictions of plants, use of sinuous lines like whiplash, and integration of applied arts into fine arts. The ornamental Arts and Crafts movement, an influence on Art Nouveau, is present[27][28] and its built forms reflect Frank Lloyd Wright's organic architecture.[20] The solarpunk aesthetic typically utilizes natural colors, bright greens and blues, and allusions to diverse cultural origins. Examples of this aesthetic include Boeri Studio's Bosco Verticale in Milan, the depiction of Wakanda in Marvel Studios' Black Panther and Auroa in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Cities: Skylines's Green Cities expansion, and some Studio Ghibli movies, particularly Castle in the Sky and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.[29][30] Contrasted to cyberpunk which is portrayed as having a dark, grim aesthetic surrounded by an artificial and domineering built environment which is reflective of alienation and subjugation, solarpunk is bright, with light often used as a motif and in imagery to convey feelings of cleanliness, abundance and equability but, also, alternatively could be used to symbolize something that "subsumes everything beneath it, [an] emblem of tyranny [and] surveillance".[10]



An aerial view of a futuristic, sustainable Berlin - with lots of solar power, trees and greenery, airships, walkable streets, clean water. By Aerroscape & Lino Zeddies.

In literature, solarpunk is a subgenre within science fiction, though it may also include elements of other types of speculative fiction such as fantasy and utopian fiction. It is a cyberpunk derivative, contrasted to cyberpunk for its particular extrapolation of technology's impact on society and progress. Cyberpunk characters are typically those marginalized by rapid technological change or subsumed by technology, while the solarpunk archetype has been described as a "maker-hero"[20] who has witnessed environmental disaster or failures by central authorities to adapt to crises or injustice, often in defense of nature and in ways that allow the story to illustrate optimistic outcomes.[29] Its fictions illustrate feasible worlds that do not ignore the mechanics or ingredients of how it was arrived at.[28]

Previously published novels that fit into this new genre included Ursula K. Le Guin's Always Coming Home (1985)[31] and The Dispossessed (1974), Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia (1975), Kim Stanley Robinson's Pacific Edge (1990), and Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993), largely for their depictions of contemporary worlds transitioning to more sustainable societies.[21] However, the first explicit entries published into the genre were the short stories in anthologies Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastic Stories in a Sustainable World (2012) (which was the third part of the publisher's trilogy of short story collections preceded by Vaporpunk and Dieselpunk),[32] Wings of Renewal: A Solarpunk Dragons Anthology (2015), Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation (2017) and Glass and Gardens (2018).[33] In 2018, author Becky Chambers agreed to write two solarpunk novellas for Tor Books and published A Psalm for the Wild-Built (2021) and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (2022).[34]

In a 2019 Slate article, author Lee Konstantinou stated that solarpunk authors "...proclaim their commitment to "ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community", while going against the "nihilistic tendencies of cyberpunk and the reactionary tendencies of steampunk." He argues that solarpunk is aspirational, as it aims to provide "suggestions for the kind of science fiction or fantasy we ought to be writing".[35] Solarpunk can include elements of mundane science fiction. In a Solarpunk Futures interview with Nina Munteanu regarding her solarpunk novel A Diary in the Age of Water, she said that she added elements of mundane science fiction to add "the gritty realism of the mundane" to the story.[36][self-published source?]


In a study of the forty-four most popular American science fiction films, nature was found to be ignored in visions of the future, depicted in cities with monoculture lawns and ornamental gardens. Nature is never portrayed in these films in an innovative or integrated way with future human civilization. At best, nature is simply portrayed as a background motif. The study suggested for artists to "collaborate to imagine how to integrate nature and biodiversity into the depictions of future cities."[37]

Tabletop RPGs[edit]

Numenera is post-apocalyptic, but does include punk elements by having authoritarian medieval European-style governments and a reliance on sustainable technology.


Some, like solarpunk researcher Adam Flynn, worry that solarpunk can risk being greenwashed through aesthetics that give the appearance of sustainability without addressing the root causes of actual environmental issues. Flynn notes how depictions such as "luxury condos with a green roof that price out existing communities and might end up doing more environmental damage" is "fake solarpunk urbanism".[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thompson, Claire (2022-04-04). "Do you believe in climate solutions? You just might be a solarpunk". Fix. Retrieved 2022-10-18. For practical inspiration, solarpunk looks to permaculture and Indigenous agriculture, sustainable architecture like Earthships and Arcosanti, as well as the maker movement and DIY culture.
  2. ^ "Earthships: The sustainable buildings made from trash". Freethink. Retrieved 2022-10-18.
  3. ^ Reina-Rozo, Juan David (2021-03-05). "Art, Energy and Technology: the Solarpunk Movement". International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace. 8 (1): 47–60. doi:10.24908/ijesjp.v8i1.14292. ISSN 1927-9434. S2CID 233805052. 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?'
  4. ^ Anderson-Nathe, Ben; Charles, Grant (2020-04-02). "The Radical Potential of the Imaginary". Child & Youth Services. 41 (2): 105–107. doi:10.1080/0145935X.2020.1789297. ISSN 0145-935X. S2CID 221051729. Solarpunk might be easiest understood as a response to environmental degradation and social conflict that centers hope and possibility rather than futility and despair. It is a relatively new expression and has popped up across genres: in art, literature, and activism.
  5. ^ a b Johnson, Isaijah (May 2020). ""Solarpunk" & the Pedagogical Value of Utopia". Journal of Sustainability Education. 23. "Solar" is itself a reference to solar energy, from photovoltaic cells to passive heating—clean, sustainable, renewable energies with minimal carbon footprint. In the darkness of climate anxiety, solarpunk is a beam of hope showing the way toward a livable future.
  6. ^ Reina-Rozo, Juan David (2021-03-05). "Art, Energy and Technology: the Solarpunk Movement". International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace. 8 (1): 47–60. doi:10.24908/ijesjp.v8i1.14292. ISSN 1927-9434. S2CID 233805052. The 'punk' in Solarpunk is about rebellion, counterculture, post-capitalism, decolonialism and enthusiasm. It is about going in a different direction than the mainstream, which is increasingly going in a scary direction.
  7. ^ Reina-Rozo, J. D. (2021). Art, Energy and Technology: the Solarpunk Movement. International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace, 8(1), 47–60.
  8. ^ Wilson, Elizabeth. "Bohemian dress and the heroism of everyday life." Fashion Theory 2.3 (1998): 225-244.
  9. ^ "From Steampunk to Solarpunk". Republic of the Bees. April 30, 2008.
  10. ^ a b Williams, Rhys (September 2019). "'This Shining Confluence of Magic and Technology': Solarpunk, Energy Imaginaries, and the Infrastructures of Solarity". Open Library of Humanities. 5 (1): 1–35. doi:10.16995/olh.329. S2CID 194629261.
  11. ^ Davis, Lauren (2009-08-19). "Could Greenpunk be the New Steampunk?". Gizmodo. Archived from the original on 2021-07-04.
  12. ^ Hageman, Andrew (July 2012). "The Challenge of Imagining Ecological Futures: Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl". Science Fiction Studies. 39 (2): 301. doi:10.5621/sciefictstud.39.2.0283.
  13. ^ Louise, Olivia (2014). "Land of Masks and Jewels - Here's a thing I've had around in my head for a..." Land of Masks and Jewels. Archived from the original on 2014-11-23.
  14. ^ Flynn, Adam (2014-09-04). "Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto". Project Hieroglyph. Archived from the original on 2015-06-28.
  15. ^ Jacobs, Suzanne (2015-11-10). "This sci-fi enthusiast wants to make "solarpunk" happen". Grist. Archived from the original on 2015-11-11.
  16. ^ "A Solarpunk Manifesto". Regenerative Design. Archived from the original on 2019-10-12. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  17. ^ Hamilton, Jennifer (July 19, 2017). "Explainer: 'solarpunk', or how to be an optimistic radical". The Conversation.
  18. ^ Peskoe-Yang, Lynne (23 November 2018). "What You Can Learn From the Solarpunk Movement". Rewire. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  19. ^ Stępień, Katarzyna. ""THE FUTURE'S [NOT] OURS TO SEE"—VISIONS OF FORTHCOMING HUMANITY IN SOLARPUNK" (PDF). CURRENTS. A Journal of Young English Philology Thought and Review. Retrieved 9 September 2022.
  20. ^ a b c Hunting, Eric (September 30, 2021). "On Solarpunk". Sci Phi Journal.
  21. ^ a b c d e Johnson, Isaijah (May 2020). ""Solarpunk" & the Pedagogical Value of Utopia". Journal of Sustainability Education. 23.
  22. ^ a b Ism, Carin; Leyre, Julien (2020-09-06). "Solarpunk Is Growing a Gorgeous New World in the Cracks of the Old One". Singularity Hub. Archived from the original on 2020-09-06. Retrieved 2021-08-18.
  23. ^ Boffa, Adam (12 December 2018). "At the Very Least We Know the End of the World Will Have a Bright Side". Longreads. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  24. ^ Reina-Rozo, Juan David (2021-03-05). "Art, Energy and Technology: the Solarpunk Movement". International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace. 8 (1): 47–60. doi:10.24908/ijesjp.v8i1.14292. ISSN 1927-9434.
  25. ^ "Solarpunk: A decentralized society". 12 July 2018.
  26. ^ Strong Hansen, Kathryn (2021). "Optimistic Fiction as a Tool for Ethical Reflection in STEM". Journal of Academic Ethics (19): 425–439.
  27. ^ Heer, Jeet (2015-11-10). "The New Utopians". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  28. ^ a b Wilk, Elivia. "Is Ornamenting Solar Panels a Crime?". Archived from the original on 2018-04-11. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  29. ^ a b Ong, Alexis (April 28, 2021). "Enough cyberpunk—it's solarpunk's time to shine". PC Gamer.
  30. ^ Praise, Zee (2021-01-13). "The Definitive Guide To SOLARPUNK: Fashion, Movies, Aesthetic & More". IMPOSE Magazine. Archived from the original on 2021-01-13. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  31. ^ Wenstrom, Emily (March 2021). "An Introduction to The Solarpunk Genre". Book Riot.
  32. ^ Cogbill-Seiders, Elisa (September 2018). "Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World". World Literature Today.
  33. ^ Cameron, Rob (October 30, 2019). "In Search of Afro-Solarpunk, Part 2: Social Justice is Survival Technology".
  34. ^ "Introducing Monk & Robot, a New Series by Becky Chambers". April 16, 2020.
  35. ^ Konstantinou, Lee (15 January 2019). "Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction Why can't we move past cyberpunk?". Slate. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  36. ^ Munteanu, Nina (January 2022). "On Writing Hopeful Dystopias and the Blur of Fiction with Non-Fiction". Nina Manteanu Writing Coach. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  37. ^ Hedblom, Marcus; Prévot, Anne-Caroline; Grégoire, Axelle (2022-08-01). "Science fiction blockbuster movies – A problem or a path to urban greenery?". Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 74: 127661. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2022.127661. ISSN 1618-8667.
  38. ^ "Solarpunk Is Not About Pretty Aesthetics. It's About the End of Capitalism". Retrieved 2022-10-21.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]