Solarpunk is a genre and art movement that envisions how the future might look if humanity succeeded in solving major contemporary challenges with an emphasis on sustainability, climate change and pollution. It is a subgenre within science fiction, aligned with cyberpunk derivatives, and may borrow elements from utopian and fantasy genres. Contrasted to cyberpunk's use of a dark aesthetic with characters marginalized or subsumed by technology in settings that illustrate artificial and domineering built environments, solarpunk uses settings where technology enables humanity to sustainably co-exist with its environment with Art Nouveau-influenced aesthetics that convey feelings of cleanliness, abundance and equability. Although solarpunk is concerned with technology, it also embraces low-tech ways of living sustainably such as gardening, positive psychology and do-it-yourself ethics. Its themes may reflect on environmental philosophy such as bright green environmentalism, deep ecology, and ecomodernism, as well as punk ideologies such as anti-consumerism, anti-authoritarianism, and civil rights.

As an art movement, solarpunk emerged in the 2010s as a reaction to the prevalence of post-apocalyptic and dystopian media alongside increased awareness of social injustices, impacts of climate change, and inextricable economic inequality. Solarpunk emerged as artists and their followers sought alternatives to consequential dystopic futures that were pragmatic and did not rely on mysterious black box technology. The genre became better defined through online communities that shared content and discussions on media platforms and dedicated websites. Solarpunk has been applied to a multitude of media such as literature, fine arts, architecture, fashion, music, tattoos, and video games. In literature, numerous previously published novels have been identified as being solarpunk, including Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed, Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia, and numerous works by Kim Stanley Robinson. The first works written purposefully in the solarpunk genre were short stories collected in anthologies and later in novellas and novels, such as Becky Chambers's A Psalm for the Wild-Built.


The term solarpunk was coined in 2008 in a blog post titled "From Steampunk to Solarpunk"[1] in which the anonymous author, with the MS Beluga Skysails as inspiration, conceptualizes a new speculative fiction subgenre with steampunk's focal point on specific technologies but guided by practicality and modern economics.[2] Along a similar vain, 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.[3][4] After visual artist Olivia Louise posted concept art on Tumblr of a solarpunk aesthetic,[5] researcher Adam Flynn contributed,[6] in 2014, to the science fiction forum Project Hieroglyph with further definition of the emerging genre.[7] 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?""[8]

Themes and philosophy

The central theme throughout solarpunk is the integration of advanced technologies into society in a manner that improves social, economic and environmental sustainability.[9] 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. Differing stories and visions may reflect on questions in environmental philosophy or possibly invoke ecomodernism's pursuit of technological solutions, deep ecology's holistic views, or bright green environmentalism's convergence of technological and social change with the adoption of sustainable development.[citation needed]

Even stories set in the far future or fantasy worlds portray societal failures recognizable to contemporary audiences.[10] 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.[9] 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.[9][11]

Solarpunk is more similar to steampunk than cyberpunk. Both steampunk and solarpunk imagine new worlds but with different primary sources of energy, steam engines and renewable energy.[12] Though, whereas steampunk focuses more on history and uses Victorian era aesthetics, solarpunk uses more Art Nouveau style and looks to the future. Solarpunk shares some elements with retrofuturism and Afrofuturism, too. The retrofuturist reevaluation of technology, its desire for understandable mechanics and rejection of mysterious black-box technology are found in solarpunk works. As are the Afrofuturist's counter to mass-cultural homogeneity, reckoning of injustices, and use of architecture and technology to correct power imbalances and problems in accessibility.[9]

While solarpunk has no specific political ideation, it does by default embrace the need for a collective movement away from polluting forms of energy.[13] 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 thoughtful application of technology.[14]

Art movement and aesthetics

As an art movement, solarpunk arose in the 2010s and 2020s amidst more exposures to extreme weather events, an increasing psychological impact of climate change, inextricable economic inequality, and spread of awareness and protests on social injustices. As post-apocalyptic and dystopian was ubiquitous in media, solarpunk became an attractive alternative.[11] Solarpunk is optimistic yet realistic in confronting contemporary problems.[15]

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[16][17] and its built forms reflect Frank Lloyd Wright's organic architecture.[10] 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.[18][19] Again, 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".[2]


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"[10] who has witnessed environmental disaster or failures by central authorities to adapt crises or injustice, often in defense of nature and in ways that allows the story to illustrate optimistic outcomes.[18] Its fictions illustrate feasible worlds that do not ignore the mechanics or ingredients of how it was arrived at.[17]

Previously published novels that fit into this new genre included Ursula K. Le Guin's 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.[9] 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),[20] Wings of Renewal: A Solarpunk Dragons Anthology (2015), Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation (2017) and Glass and Gardens (2018).[21] 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).[22]

See also


  • Williams, Rhys (March 10, 2018). "Solarpunk: Against a Shitty Future". Los Angeles Review of Books.
  • Förtsch, Michael (2019-06-13). "Fridays for Future treffen Science Fiction: Was ist eigentlich Solarpunk?". 1E9 (in German). Archived from the original on 2019-09-22. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  1. ^ "From Steampunk to Solarpunk". Republic of the Bees. May 27, 2008.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Davis, Lauren (2009-08-19). "Could Greenpunk be the New Steampunk?". Gizmodo. Archived from the original on 2021-07-04.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Flynn, Adam (2014-09-04). "Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto". Project Hieroglyph. Archived from the original on 2015-06-25.
  7. ^ Jacobs, Suzanne (2015-11-10). "This sci-fi enthusiast wants to make "solarpunk" happen". Grist. Archived from the original on 2015-11-11.
  8. ^ "A Solarpunk Manifesto". Regenerative Design. Archived from the original on 2019-10-12. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  9. ^ a b c d e Johnson, Isaijah (May 2020). ""Solarpunk" & the Pedagogical Value of Utopia". Journal of Sustainability Education. 23.
  10. ^ a b c Hunting, Eric (September 30, 2021). "On Solarpunk". Sci Phi Journal.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Boffa, Adam. "At the Very Least We Know the End of the World Will Have a Bright Side". Longreads. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  13. ^ Hamilton, Jennifer (July 19, 2017). "Explainer: 'solarpunk', or how to be an optimistic radical". The Conversation.
  14. ^ Peskoe-Yang, Lynne. "What You Can Learn From the Solarpunk Movement". Rewire. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  15. ^ Strong Hansen, Kathryn (2021). "Optimistic Fiction as a Tool for Ethical Reflection in STEM". Journal of Academic Ethics (19): 425–439.
  16. ^ Heer, Jeet (2015-11-10). "The New Utopians". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  17. ^ a b Wilk, Elivia. "Is Ornamenting Solar Panels a Crime?". Archived from the original on 2018-04-11. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  18. ^ a b Ong, Alexis (April 28, 2021). "Enough cyberpunk—it's solarpunk's time to shine". PC Gamer.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Cogbill-Seiders, Elisa (September 2018). "Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World". World Literature Today.
  21. ^ Cameron, Rob (October 30, 2019). "In Search of Afro-Solarpunk, Part 2: Social Justice is Survival Technology".
  22. ^ "Introducing Monk & Robot, a New Series by Becky Chambers". April 16, 2020.

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