In the era of Maduro, Bolsonaro, Trump, Orbán, Putin and many more; in the era of walls, nation states, corruption, corporate ruling and inequalities; in the era of extreme loss of biodiversity, coral bleaching, increasing wildfires and water shortages, plastic bags and pesticides; in the era of rising mental health issues, burnouts and stress, it is challenging to be optimistic about our future. I certainly struggle with being constantly bombarded with news about how many more species are going extinct, about how much food is being thrown out, about how many people are still discriminated, displaced and devalued.

It makes me angry, because on my less mentally strong days I feel hopeless, as if there is not much I can do about all the mess going on around me. In a sense I find it fascinating, how humanity has managed to completely disrupt the balance of our planet in a human lifetime, having to call it the Anthropocene. I´m in awe of our ability to always evolve and create, but what good is technology for, if it´s being used to further exploit finite resources. Or if WhatsApp and Facebook can influence elections, Instagram makes us think life has to be a constant high, parents can´t unglue screens from their children´s faces, not to mention the very scary world of the Dark Web?

Despite all this, people, including myself, are trying. Consuming less animal products, avoiding packaged products, trying to buy local food, riding the bicycle, flying as rarely as possible, cleaning with vinegar, only buying second hand or ethical clothing. These actions are quite obvious and relatively easy. The point here is not for you to be perfectly sustainable all the time. It´s that you try and therefore become part of the change. In my experience, more and more people are concerned about our future and are ready to take action. But let´s be honest; we are not going to solve this on an individual level. We need to demand an honest dialogue about the state of our world as we know it, and for that, we need to come together. We need to demand policies, governmental and corporate action towards a sustainable and equal future.

But what is solarpunk and what does it have to do with all of this?
The term originates from sci-fi, referring to a counter-narrative to the well-known dystopian stories. It is a rebellion against the pessimism in our visions of how the future will be. To put it into perspective, while steampunk imagines a past that might have been, based on Victorian-age technology, solarpunk imagines a future that could be, based on current-age technology. It has grown into a movement, a hashtag, a statement of intent about the future. But what is so “punk” about what at first glance might seem like a hippie´s futuristic ideas? Punk implies a rebellion against a repressive and dominant paradigm, in this case a system leading our ecosystem into collapse, threatening anything and everything as we know it. So in this sense, solarpunk might just be the most “punk” movement of all.

The world is deeply flawed. But I refuse to not try and hope, and most importantly, do something for a better future. We have a great number of tools available at our hands. If we consciously and drastically reduce our consumption of energy, land, water and food, renewable energy can be enough to sustain our needs. This requires an active fight against the man-made obsession with material goods, a deep consideration of what is truly important in our lives. This accounts for people used to living a western lifestyle the most.

Urban-gardening, permaculture, community-supported agriculture, and vertical farms could provide us with foods to feel our best. Switching from cotton to hemp, not buying that sweater from one of the fifty-two collections (in a year) from H&M to ease our bad moods, supporting conscious designers and brands and mending our socks for the fourth time would mean garments that reflect our own style, and don´t exploit Bangladeshi women and children. It is important to realize the privilege it is to be able to have the choice of changing. The most vulnerable people are the ones on the frontlines of what our actions have caused, and it is time to take responsibility. If we realize the unity in our diversity, women, indigenous people, people of color, the lgbtq+ community and even the elderly could enrich the world with their knowledge, potential and experience.

Sure, it doesn´t sound easy. We could all drink our anxiety away, smoke ourselves deeper into depression, work ourselves to our next burnout, blame politicians, or just create an apathy towards our surroundings and eat chips while watching Netlix. We could ignore the humanist side of the discussion and lay back with the reasoning that people don´t change out of their free will, and everything is a reaction to our environment´s conditions. But if, thanks to our technology, we have an idea of what our environment is going to look like because of our actions in the past and today, would it hurt to try and do something about it beforehand, not just as a reaction? And can´t we interpret this uncomfortable feeling in our stomach about the years to come as the ignition, and the part of this process? Change is always uncomfortable, but it also means development. If we don´t make a change now, that will mean development for planet earth, and an end to humanity as we know it. Solarpunk encompasses sustainability, renewable-energy, anti-capitalism, ecofeminism, queer politics. Imagine a house made out of mudbricks, powered by solar panels. Imagine picking an apple on your way to work in a capital city. Going into gender non-conforming toilets with grey-water systems. Eating lab-grown, cruelty-free meat. The technology is there, we just have to implement it in an ethical, resourceful way.

So if you find yourself questioning why you are pursuing a field to hopefully achieve financial stability while politicians and corporations get richer and richer by exploiting nature, animals and people every minute. Why you are compulsively checking your social media to get your daily dose of dopamine, telling you that to be happy and content, you need to be flawless and dressed by the latest trends and happy all the time, while you could just go out for a run and accept that low´s are necessary and normal in life. Or why you have been strolling up and down in a supermarket for twenty minutes, trying to buy a product that isn´t in some way contributing to another being´s suffering or isn´t full of artificial shit, then I encourage you to tap into your solarpunk. Connect with others, protest about it, sign it, write it out, paint it, express it and implement it in your own way and contribute to the bitter change that might lead us to a not-so-horrible future.