re-dreaming society

Art has the power to shape our attitudes, so perhaps it’s time – as Nigerian poet Ben Okri said recently – for artists of all kinds to “dedicate our lives to nothing short of re-dreaming society”.

Solarpunk: Visions of a just, nature-positive world

What does a sustainable civilisation look like and how do we get there? A burgeoning movement of artists and activists is seeking answers.

“It is 2050. In most places in the world, the air is moist and fresh, even in cities. It feels a lot like walking through a forest, and very likely this is exactly what you are doing. The air is cleaner than it has been since before the Industrial Revolution. We have trees to thank for that. They are everywhere.”

In the current moment, these words from Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac’s 2020 book The Future We Choose might seem like pure fantasy. The world they describe seems so far from the present, where over 90% of the Earth’s population breathes air deemed unsafe by the World Health Organization, scientists warn that humans are causing “irreversible” changes to the climate and nature is declining globally at an unprecedented rate.

But a burgeoning artistic and political movement known as “solarpunk” is trying to bring this lush, verdant world closer to reality.

In contrast to today’s industrial-scale animal agriculture – a major source of carbon emissions and cause of declining biodiversity – rural livelihoods in a solarpunk future centre around self-sufficient, small-scale farms (Image: Fernanders Sam)

Although it may seem utopian and idealistic, solarpunk attempts to answer real questions being asked more and more often in light of the unfolding climate and ecological crisis. What can be saved? What does a truly sustainable civilisation look like? How do we get there?

It may be a big ask, but it’s increasingly clear that the scale of the environmental crises facing humanity demands transformational changes to the way we live, as well as the way we think. Art has the power to shape our attitudes, so perhaps it’s time – as Nigerian poet Ben Okri said recently – for artists of all kinds to “dedicate our lives to nothing short of re-dreaming society”.

Solarpunk: Visions of a just, nature-positive world