this post in Italian
by Giulia Abbate
English translation by Antonio Ippolito

Some months have passed since the inauguration of portal, months which to us have meant a whirlwind of translations, popularizations, organization of contents, presentations and discussions; all this while we have been realizing a fact: in the portmanteau “solarpunk”, meant to be explanatory of the movement and of the literary genre, it is much easier to explain the root “solar” than the suffix “punk”.

Solar moment: expounding

Usually, it is simple enough to explain how “solar” includes two entwined concepts:

  1. “solar” as in alternative energies, and by extension for sustainability, ecology, new possible ecologies.
  2. The writing of utopias: “solar” here stands for a stance of “solarity”, ironically set against the dystopia of the “rainy cities” and of really bad futures. We are not talking about dystopia per se, beware: buy about that dystopic narrative that has become mannerism, conservativeness, obstinacy, and, even worse, mainstream in its most trivial and commoditized sense.

In our manifesto, we have narrated the “solar” in this way:

Solar. Solar is the primal spring and symbol of life, is the energy alternative to fossil fuels, is what is already here, and that we must employ in a sustainable and shared manner in order to survive.

Solar is the utopian will to (literally) cultivate hope.

Solar is the light of the day, which is opposed to the rainy, enclosed and post-urban scenery of dystopia.

As regards “punk”, in the Manifesto we have expounded in a likewise synthetic and consistent way:

Punk. The germs and the practice of uprising. The refusal of the unsustainable, predatory, killing capitalist model of development, openly adverse to life and vitality not only human. An opposite rection to dystopic narrative, which no longer purveys to us useful instruments for reacting and slips into fashionable conservativism or extinctionism.

As we wrote the Manifesto, it seemed to us that for both components of portmanteau “solarpunk” the matter was likewise straightforward, and that it was clear that “punk” in “solarpunk” is the uprising against the capitalist system.

We could say it even more tersely: solarpunk is punk because it is anticapitalist.

Let us state it with different words: punk in solarpunk adds to utopia an anticapitalist strain which should be intrinsic to it, but which in this moment is subversive. We call ourselves “punk” because we rebel against the TINA narrative (there is no alternative) and we mean to anticipate in narrative real alternatives, many possible alternatives, which then we mean to build actively in the world.

Punk is rebellion: rebellion to the capitalist neoliberal system, now dominating the minds more than any kingly divine right ever did. A system which, to cite Jason Moore, wants to be ecology-world, and which we now refuse.

And punk is also rebellion to the belief/narration that there are no better futures, that we are done for, that “we deserve extinction”, that après nous le déluge.

We have repeated these concepts every time we’ve been asked, and when we noted that they weren’t well focused: still confusion lingers on; several misunderstandings remain about the “punk”. Why this?

Punk moment: polemikòs

After reading some recent exchanges, I start wondering whether some misunderstandings aren’t actually intentional, and whether, in contacting the novelty of solarpunk, somebody is putting in place a willful mystification, in order to remain tightly closed to any real debate.

As far as I’m concerned, I do not demand that everybody agrees on everything, and (as I happened to say time and again) I’m not interested in convincing anybody. I am not scared by debate, in fact I like it, and I am aware that no instance can always be understandable: hence it must be clarified, reasoned, revised, updated, also thanks to criticism.

But I have to reckon that in front of “punk” in solarpunk problematic arguments are rife, based on interpretations refractory to any clarification and not corresponding to the real principles.

This is why I thought of writing this post, after all: for it to be a quick and ready-to-use handbook to the most common objections to this theme. After reading it, objections may still be there, or may even accentuate; but they will have to be consequently based on arguments, brought deeper, further defined. Should this appear not possible, they would necessarily be abandoned, wouldn’t they? And then we might move on to something else, wouldn’t we?

Quickly, so, and readily:

  • Solarpunk is punk but Sex Pistols and “no future” punks from the Seventies have little or nothing to do with it.
  • Solarpunk is punk but fad and trend have little or nothing to do with it (for the moment, now, and I do hope it stays so for long, otherwise we will probably find ourselves in having to defend it from trivialization and de-activation by mainstream, the entertaining arm of dear old usual extractive capitalism).
  • Solarpunk is punk but dieselpunk and atompunk and steampunk are different things: they are literary currents not necessarily engagés, whereas solarpunk is constitutively an activist and political movement.
  • Solarpunk is punk and yes: utopia and uprising can live together very well, thank you, and no: utopia does not imply creating worlds like huge pink marshmallows. Solarpunk includes, even expects conflict which can be savage. In order to further understand the discourse on narrative conflict we are shaping in these pages, please refer to: Utopia and conflicts. But it’s not really necessary, after all: whoever has read some solarpunk story should already have realized the inconsistency of such doubts, and be able to move on.

After all, I am afraid that the issue is: in order to become knowledgeable about a topic and discuss it constructively, it is necessary to really want it. If not, we do not have a debate, but something else, which personally I am not even interested in defining.

Let me now make another fact very clear: we in Solarpunk Italia are investing so much energy and work, in a totally voluntary and no-profit way, in order to do several things. To inform, translate, publish, popularize, offer ideas, arise interest, connect to other literary and activist groups, create networks, be together well, take care of the stories we meet if these stories want to take care of the world. To do so, we have necessarily to take care of ourselves as well, and of the time we offer to such a volunteer activity (which is not worthless just because it is free). This intention excludes for us the availability to bickering without a common ground where a dialectic, even contrary, could be based: it could not be honest, constructive, sensible.

Solarpunk moment: synthesis

Our invitation remains the same, so. In order to know what solarpunk is, read our manifesto: we have written it ex novo after a careful study of international solarpunk manifestos and of solarpunk narrative production available as of January 2021.

And then, if something resonates with you, go ahead: read solarpunk! Read the stories, the novellas, the novels, or just some well-written article (here in the site we propose many to you, some we have translated on purpose). Chart your own personal route, which makes you cognizant and instruments to interpret / question / write your own solarpunk.

If on the contrary you’ll find you don’t like solarpunk, if you find it disagreeable, if you think it the case for starting debates, criticisms, arguments, or fighting against… here we are, we will not avoid confrontation, because together we can converse and create itineraries of criticism useful to both parties and to whoever will join.

On the other hand, we will always avoid discussing with who talks about solarpunk not having read even a line of it; and considering as a counterpart who assumes a sarcastic stance because they feel their reading habits or their unshakeable faith in a very, very bad future under threat. Finally, we declare our absolute indifference towards who willfully and instrumentally mystifies the concepts on which we work day after day with attention, time, care, energy and effectiveness.

We will anyway be always open to those who get to be informed also in the future, and perhaps wish to return to the debate with some more cognizance and fairness. Utopia? Surely: what would it be worth, shouldn’t we practice it also in such a case?
Mala tempora currunt, sed…  meliora paramus!

Giulia Abbate

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