Solarpunk is really going mainstream:
To quote from a Greek yogurt company’s advert:
“Chobani believes how we eat today has a direct and lasting impact on what tomorrow brings”
It’s created a bit of debate in solarpunk circles.
Here’s an excerpt from a piece in Vice earlier last year:
Imagine: A futuristic farm where robots pick oranges off trees and floating wind turbines generate energy. A multigenerational family gathers around for a meal outside to enjoy their locally harvested bounty. A woman tells her daughter: “Our job is to plant seeds, so our grandkids get to enjoy the fruit.” This imaginary world might just be an ad for Greek yogurt company Chobani, but it is also the most mainstream manifestation of Solarpunk, a movement built on visual art and speculative fiction that hopes to build a more sustainable world.
Solarpunk took inspiration from the Cyberpunk and Steampunk aesthetics that came before it—take the lush paradises of Studio Ghibli films with just a few more solar panels. Cyberpunk uses science fiction to explore our anxieties in the rapidly developing technical age, while Steampunk is nostalgic for the aesthetics of the industrial revolution. But unlike these dystopian and mechanical universes, Solarpunk is a more optimistic, regenerative vision of the future…
“One of the things that I often see that spurs people toward this very doomy place is they can’t imagine people as anything but destroyers,” Adam Flynn, a Solarpunk strategist and futures researcher, told me. “But why can’t you think of humans as stewards of the ecology and of a human society built on a more symbiotic partnership with nature?”
Many solarpunks agree that the “punk” element becomes clear when they go past the movement’s visuals and into the nitty gritty. Solarpunk is radical in that it imagines a society where people and the planet are prioritized over the individual and profit. Of course utopian visions of the future aren’t new and art and technology have long drawn from nature: Just take the example of Belgian architect Luc Schuiten, whose drawings and buildings often employ biomimicry, where the form and function of organic elements influence design. The movement gained traction in progressive circles on early 2010s Tumblr, but as its popularity has bloomed over the past 10 years, early Solarpunks fear capitalist co-option. Flynn calls it “fake Solarpunk urbanism,” luxury condos with a green roof that price out existing communities and might end up doing more environmental damage.
Jay Springett is a consultant strategist and the solarpunks.net co-administrator, along with Flynn. Springett remembers the days when he could easily monitor every post tagged with #Solarpunk, but the movement’s openness—and purposefully porous boundaries—raise questions: Is Cottagecore Solarpunk? What if the peasant dress was bought from fast fashion retailer SHEIN? “Solarpunk is so much more than the images that people generally first encounter,” said Springett, adding, “If you’re looking at an eco-future image and it doesn’t have people in it, then it’s not Solarpunk.”
The main concern is greenwashing without actually addressing environmental issues; although many Solarpunks saw the Chobani ad as fairly innocuous, given that the company sells a health food made with natural ingredients.
“It could be co-optation. It could also be the trickle down from the margins into the mainstream,” said Andrew Dana Hudson, a speculative fiction writer, sustainability researcher, and author of the forthcoming Our Shared Storm: A Novel of Five Climate Futures. “But in many ways, I was very surprised at how we went from not having anything like that to having something that was so very clearly matched up to a lot of Solarpunk visions.”
The advert was inspired by the Japanese anime: