To make our homes and gadgets run
Where else can you have such fun, environmentally?!"
Solar Punk is a genre of Speculative Fiction that focuses on craftsmanship, community, and technology powered by renewable energy, wrapped up in a coating of Art Nouveau blended with African and Asian drawings. It envisions a free and egalitarian world with a slight bend toward social anarchism. Standing as both a reaction to the nihilism of Cyber Punk and a solution to a lot of the problems we face in the world, Solar punk works look toward a brighter future ("solar") while deliberately subverting the systems that keep that brighter future from happening ("punk").
Other aspects of Solarpunk include a quasi-Utopian setting, usually 20 Minutes into the Future, with the occasional Crystal Spires and Togas and even sometimes Petting Zoo Animals (Bio(-genetic) engineered or not) to add weirdness or other unwanted proposed elements. Like the Tumblr community that fostered the genre, Solarpunk also tends to feature a high level of cultural awareness, gender equality, self-expression, and artfulness. And there even likely combine lighter and more utopic versions of Biopunk, Oceanpunk and Skypunk themes that randomly set in near/far future with rarely set in far past (again) with realistic (sci-)fantastic elements.
Contrast with Post-Cyberpunk, which saw the Cyberpunk movement and came to different conclusions. Post-Cyberpunk accepts the world we have and the systems that support it like corporate globalization, industrialization, and exploiting resources in slightly-less-bad ways. Meanwhile, Solar Punk aims to subvert those systems and replace them with ones that work better in the long-term through local communities, supporting artisans, and living sustainably.
Like any budding genre, the number of works is still low. However there are works that are distinctly Solar Punk, and many more works contain important Solar Punk elements or are Solar Punk without knowing it.
A helpful intro to the whole concept can be found here.
- Ecoriums of Philip Sibbering's Warhammer 40,000 fanfiction are a dark subversion of this trope. They are sustainable environments run entirely by renewable energies, designed to meet every community need... which are sealed away completely from the outside world in colossal, Gothic structures to prevent nuclear attack. Most of their inhabitants live a dismal existence reminiscent of medieval peasants, and it's explicitly stated that the vast, vast majority of their inhabitants will never see the Sun, or even go outside unless they're conscripted into the Imperial Guard.
- Treasure Planet features a blend of Victorian and Art Nouveau styles with futuristic technology powered by solar sails.
- The works of Hayao Miyazaki, while created before the Solar Punk movement began, have helped to shape the movement:
- Princess Mononoke: A village in the throes of industrialization clashes with the forces of nature, but they ultimately learn to coexist? Sounds about right.
- Castle in the Sky: The city of Laputa features hanging gardens and overgrowth that's reminiscent of the urban farming movement of today.
- The cities in Howl's Moving Castle, while not actually this (there are some Dark Secrets in the way) have design elements reminiscent of the genre.
- WALL•E: As the credits roll, we see that the newly-returned humans build a society that's a lot healthier for themselves and the world.
- Zootopia: The city of Zootopia itself fits the aesthetic with its beautiful architecture, sprawling design and districts environmentally controlled through advanced civil engineering. Although the perfect utopian aspect of this trope is somewhat subverted, as it turns out to be a real city with real social issues like prejudice, stereotyping and political corruption.
- Beasts of the Southern Wild: The film starts with a local teacher warning about global warming and the rising sea levels, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. The people in the Bathtub refuse to let a levee ruin their way of life, so they break it down. Then the city government forcibly removes them from the Bathtub, so they rebel even more. The film is steeped in environmentalism, anti-authoritarian characters, but the Bathtub manages to retain a sense of happiness with their way of life.
- Black Panther (2018): Wakanda is an Afrofuturist paradise, thanks to its abundance of vibranium. The major conflict of the movie boils down to whether Wakanda should be doing more to share their resources and technology to help the world, which they ultimately opt to do. The design of Wakanda has many elements commonly seen in solarpunk, such as vertical gardens, renewable and nonpolluting energy in the form of vibranium, and high tech in naturalistic and simple forms. (Afrofuturism and Solarpunk as movements are quite friendly due to the mutual focus on better, more equal, and diverse futures and often share themes or outright crossover.)
- The Summer Prince features a blend of tech and tradition in the tropics of a future Brazil.
- Wings of Renewal, an anthology of dragon-themed Solarpunk short stories.
- Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home—which is set in a distant and seemingly postapocalyptic future—is written as an ethnography of the Kesh culture, whose agrarian (athough they’ve got Internet…in a book written in the ‘80s) classless society is depicted in sharp contrast with the warlike, stratified, and expansionist Dayao.
- In Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, the Earthseed ideoology employs a lot of garden metaphors along with actually encouraging its adherents to garden. (When you consider that Earthseed was born in part out of resource scarcity, both of the above make sense.)
- In Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, the future which protagonist Consuelo has the most contact with is the one in which the seemingly utopian (although the inhabitants admit that there are flaws in the system, and they haven’t eliminated war or capital punishment) community of Mattapoisett, which blends small-scale agrarianism with advanced green tech, exists. Oh, and there’s a war going on against a horrific (if only vaguely outlined) dystopia.
- Miriam “Starhawk” Simos’s The Fifth Sacred Thing is a tale of Magical Realism set in a 20 Minutes into the Future version of San Francisco which the residents are in the process of rebuilding into a haven of green tech and sustainability. Oh, and there’s a war going on against a horrific (and far more clearly defined) dystopia.
- Joe Kimball's 2011 novel Timecaster has some proto-solarpunk elements. The setting is a demi-utopian, biofuel-driven future in which virtually every available surface is used for gardening; it's also a Free-Love Future whose politics are projected from present-day progressivism. However, the implications of this are contrary to solarpunk's natural-fiber aesthetic and to some aspects of its focus on craftsmanship. Because the demand for biofuel is so great, making durable goods or luxury consumables out of natural materials is seen as wasteful; wooden furniture is rare, paper is against the law, and even historical artworks are supposed to be gathered up and converted into fuel.
- News from Nowhere by William Morris. A utopian novel from the late 19th century in which an author-insert character named William Guest travels to the year 2002 to find Britain transformed into a decentralised, egalitarian, and ecological paradise where the government has been turned into a dung market, people administer their communities through participatory democracy, war and poverty are distant memories, and even money no longer exists.
- The short story "Sunjammer", aka "The Wind from the Sun", by Arthur C. Clarke, describes a race between solar sail spacecraft.
- Nnedi Okorafor's Zahrah the Windseeker takes place on Ginen, a City Planet where everything is made by plants, including technology and housing. Additionally, the planet is populated entirely by black African-appearing Human Aliens.
- The 1975 novel Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach is described on The Other Wiki as having "decentralized and renewable energy production and green building construction. The citizens are technologically creative, while remaining involved with and sensitive to nature. Thorough-going education reform is described, along with a highly localized system of universal medical care."
- Poul Anderson's Maurai use solar power along with wind and wave power to provide energy for their civilization. The last book in the series, Orion Shall Rise, includes the Domain of Skyholm whose capital is in a solar powered dirigible aerostat.
- The novel "Songs from the Stars" by Norman Spinrad features a society called Aquaria that runs on "White Science" and only uses renewable energy, accepting "the law of muscle, sun, wind, and water" as its technological foundation. Notable for its portrayal of flying bicycles. The plot, naturally, involves a conspiracy by practitioners of Black Science to bring back forbidden energy sources and also to revive the space program.
- Gerard K. O'Niell's 1981 futurist non-fiction book, 2081: A Hopeful View of the Human Future, posited a society with elements that fall somewhere between a Zeerusty "World of Tomorrow" a la Disneyland and this trope.
- The /tg/-created RPG setting CATastrophe combines this aesthetic with Ocean Punk, After the End, and Little Bit Beastly.
- Magic: The Gathering has the plane of Kaladesh, where the technology is directly influenced by the wildlife. It helps that the technology is based on Aether,note which is a relatively green power source for its cities.
- In Ravnica both the Selesnya and Simic guilds use this aesthetic, blending nature with civilisation, the former focused more on aesthetics and the latter more on bio-engineering.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog CD, traveling back to the past and destroying the robot generators found in the first two Zones of each Round will prevent the Bad Future where the environment is corrupted into a Polluted Wasteland. This leads to a new timeline where widespread technology works in harmony with nature to create a lush and vibrant good future devoid of Badniks.
- Numbani, the "City of Harmony" and Robot player Orisa in Overwatch, featuring curved bronze skyscrapers◊ and African tribal decorations, where humans and robots live together in peace.
- The actual game itself takes place approximately thirty years after a failed robotic uprising dubbed "The Omnic Crisis", so it did take sometime being a Cyber Punk-like atmospherenote until it eventually evolved into the Post-Cyberpunk/Solarpunk-like setting as we see in-game over the last few years.
- Poptropica has Time Tangled Island, which involves averting a Bad Future and replacing it with this.
- This is present in AnnoDomini, specifically Anno 2070, where the Eden Initiative is an Eco-Faction with the main goal of achieving what essentially amounts to Solarpunk.
- The people in the parallel world in Lighthouse: The Dark Being turned to this, after their ancestors' drive for industrial mastery turned the world into a Polluted Wasteland; This change allowed the planet to recover over time.
- Pokémon is a Bio Punk version of this. There's light industry, powered either through mundane renewable resources or Pokémon, but also vast swaths of virtually untouched nature in between. The most popular form of travel besides the Pokémon themselves is the bicycle.
- Probably the best example and counterexample of this trope in Pokémon is in Sinnoh.
- Played Straight: First, you have Floaroma Town, a quaint breezy town in the middle of a flower meadow right next to a small wind farm. Then you also get Sunyshore City, which is a relatively-unindustrialized coastal city with massive two-storey roads built completely out of solar panels, which help power things like the city's lighthouse and the local Pokemon Gym.
- Subverted by Oreburgh Town, one of the first settlements you visit in the Sinnoh games whose economy relies almost completely on coal mining operations, which is even maintained by the local Gym Leader. This is the natural antithesis to Solar Punk.
- Fortree City is also a good representative of Solar Punk's aesthetic, being a small city built completely in the woods to the point that many of them live in tree houses connected via wooden bridges crossing the city. The entire city is completely green, just like the best Solar Punk imagery. It doesn't meet the sci-fi technology aspect of Solar Punk though, leaning a bit too heavily on the rustic side.
- Probably the best example and counterexample of this trope in Pokémon is in Sinnoh.
- Technological utopianism as along other futurist/technological focused movements seen below are qualified here.