Category Archives: Nature

New Visions of Science

by Jack Waro

Here in this series about spirituality, I’m going to talk about science. That might seem an odd choice. Typically, we think of science and spirituality as opposites, at best complimentary and at worst mutually hostile enemies. Navarre’s introduction put it this way:

“Science without spirituality becomes the fuel for cold, capitalistic domination of nature, and spirituality without science can lead to superstition and bigotry.”

Given the way science works in the modern world this makes a lot of sense. I am an ecologist by training, and I’ve certainly participated in my own moments of cold capitalist science (and on the flip side I’ve also seen some fairly wacky spirituality too). Some of the commonplace ideas about science are pretty bleak: science is a tool for imperial domination, science reveals the universe to be a cold dead machine, scientists are emotionless calculators heedless of the consequences of their actions, etc, etc. Today, science is the binary opposite of the spiritual.

Here I want to suggest that this view of science might one day go away.

I want to suggest that this view has little to do with science per se, and a lot to do with culture, economics, institutions, and metaphor. We might be looking at an historical artefact of one brief moment in time.

If the role of Solarpunk is to re-imagine the world, then we need to ask: “What does science look like in that world?” I’d like to suggest that in a better world, the harsh divide between science and spirituality might soften or even disappear.

This is an enormous subject, so I’ll just share a couple of ideas as food for thought.

Two Visions of Science: an example

I have on occasion done professional looking scientific ecology things. Most people haven’t had this kind of experience, so I want to give an example of what science looks like in practice. I will describe one scene in two ways, to highlight the basic problem with how we understand science.

The basic scientific setup was this:

A forest contained a set of “permanent plots”. These are marked survey areas where every tree has an ID tag. The job of the survey team is to go in and measure every tree. The forest had dozens of these plots, set up decades ago. From all this data we can answer all sorts of questions.

Now here’s two versions what it actually feels like to do this research. Both versions are true.

Description One

I catch my breath while I can. The work is hard, all this bashing through rainforest and mud and rain. I’m exhausted. To be honest I’m stressed out too. It’s a low wage precarious job. I’ve been flown in here for this gig, and when it’s done I’ll be yanked back out and off to something else. I barely know where I am. The lead scientist has gone AWOL to another project, overworked and underfunded. The rest of the team are consultants I’ve never met, the scientific equivalent of mercenaries.

In my hands I hold a clipboard full of numbers. A team member halfway down the muddy slope shouts out codes: “KNI-EXC, 21.5! CYA-DEA, 10.1! COP-ROB, 3.3!” I look around me, up at the tawa trees, the supplejack vines, the climbing ratas and epiphytic ferns, this overflowing mass, and I ask myself, “Do I understand this place? Do I really know this forest?” I can only answer, “No. Not by doing this.”

We are reducing this abundance of green life into a statistical abstraction. Life made into numbers. Later we’ll put out some graphs, maybe someone somewhere will argue about carbon credits, and this forest will be reduced again down into the one true number to rule all numbers: money. The forest will become an economic ecosystem service, entirely interchangeable with any other lump of biomass anywhere in the world, for the right price.

Don’t get excited about science, kids. It’s just a job. Get in, get out, go home. Become a plumber, you’ll get paid better.

Description Two

The leader of this group spent seven years before he could take the robes and receive the title of Doctor, in accordance with the ancient traditions and customs of his forebears.

Each member of the team has their chosen dedication. The Doctor dedicated himself to the land and soil, to the growing of food. A young woman has dedicated herself to a single species of insect, another to endangered bats, another to the moths that eat seeds on the forest floor. For my part, I chose the subtle flows of those elemental substances of life that pass between land, ocean, and sky.

We do this for love, not money.

Each of us has spent long years in detailed study of the infinite mysteries of the universe, as consumed by nature’s secrets as much as any monk or mystic. I know the balance between the forces of Earth and Sky. The Doctor knows what makes the fields lush and green.

We are inheritors of monasteries, of the temples of the world’s first cities, of those ancient priest astronomers who told their people when to reap and when to sow. We still use their techniques on occasion. We still share their quest. We live to make sense of our world, to give our knowledge, our guidance, to our people. If they will listen.

We see visions others cannot.

As I stand in the forest I perceive the hidden mysteries of worlds hidden in the curl of a leaf. I know the cosmic stories, the unfolding, the unfathomable reaches of space and time, the forces which unfurl these myriad forms and flows in which I stand, in which I live, in which we are.

To us the rainforest is an open book.

We read.

As we move through the forest we know each species we pass. We know their ways. We take joy in each familiar friend we see. We note the welfare and the stories of the trees.

Human eyes and mortal minds are prone to deceptions. We lie. We trick ourselves. We care more for human things than the ways of trees. Therefore we do all we can to overcome ourselves.

Most would think us mad, doing what we are doing. The process is painful, as gruelling as any penance. This is our sacrifice to know the way of trees. Even with all our efforts, we will never truly know this forest.

Those depths are too deep.

For those who have been here before, the visit is a reunion, checking in on the family of green. We see new children have been born, the middle aged have gotten fatter, and drama of tree-life is continuing along. These trees will outlive us all, as we outlive ants, and each visit made these decades apart is our reminder.

I have only been here twice.

I look up at a vast kahikatea, centuries old and still young. Her top reaches up beyond the canopy. With the feeble methods we humans have available I make my best attempt to understand her life on her own terms. Around her trunk I wrap a tape measure, and yell out: “DAC-DAC, 41.6!”

Two Visions of Science: a dichotomy

Both of the above are true. The first speaks to the conditions of science in the modern world. Cold, calculating, and commercial. Science is a tool for product development, market research, and government policy.

The second speaks true to the deep social origins of what scientists are doing, and to the deep motivations in their hearts. Science reveals to us the mysteries of the universe, shaping our fundamental beliefs about who and what we are.

We have an odd dichotomy here.

Science in the modern world is simultaneously a cold materialistic tool AND a borderline religious experience.

Now, when it comes to Solarpunk, as we reach out into those possible futures and imagine new worlds, the first of these visions mostly goes away.

Science might retain some amount of coldness – it does tend towards pragmatism and abstraction over lived emotional experience. Science might still clash with spirituality – data has no pity on claims that can’t be verified. But other than that, much of what remains is transcendent.

The Machine World

Now I want to move in very different direction, but one which Solarpunk, as an artistic movement, is also well placed to address. This is a question of a bad metaphor, the vision of the universe as a machine.

This is the core teaching of science (according to the metaphor):

Existence is cold dead mechanism. Cogs and gears. Automatons and objects. An infernal contraption. Every measurement made strips away the mystery and reduces another part of the universe to mere machinery.

This metaphor turns up all over the place.

A recent example I stumbled across is the Kurzgesagt’s “You Are an Impossible Machine” video. Cells are protein robots. DNA is computer programming. You are an impossible machine. While the facts are great the metaphor is wrong, because…


This metaphor needs to die.

Let’s explore why.

The Clockwork Universe

The idea that the universe is some kind of machine is associated with Newton, as if this metaphor is some triumphant shift away from religion to a cold rationalist science. Weirdly enough the actual history might be the exact opposite.

Newton himself probably didn’t believe this clockwork metaphor per se. Instead, the machine universe is a medieval Christian idea.

Think it through, and it makes a lot of sense. Really, this is the “Intelligent Design” argument, which persists to this day. If the world was designed by God then the universe really can be compared to a machine.

God is a clockmaker. People and animals are machines designed by God. Causal power rests ultimately with God, as it would for a machine, and God himself holds the universe together, winding the mechanism back up when it runs down. The metaphor makes perfect sense. Indeed, it’s kind of cool to think of yourself as a soul riding around in a robot suit made by God.

That’s the origin.

The machine metaphor then went on to do something very un-machine-like. It started evolving.

From a clock metaphor in which God is active, winding up the clock so it keeps going, we shifted to a metaphor of a clock as perpetual motion machine. This is the Deistic universe. God set up the gears, pressed the ON button, and now the machine just keeps running forever. Like a machine every bolt and screw can be accounted for, and once humanity completes the task of measuring every mechanism we will understand the full design of God.

Later still we dropped God himself. We had no need for that hypothesis. The universe became pure machine. But now the mechanical metaphor becomes something horrifying and monstrous.

What does it even mean to be a machine without a maker? The universe is a purposeless machine. Mere mechanism for the sake of mechanism. Stripped of God and souls, the metaphor reduces the world to mere nuts and bolts. We are impossible machines caught in the cosmic gears, being ground to dust without reason. Science reveals a universe which is cold, meaningless, and dead. Like a machine.

At least, that’s according to the metaphor.

New Metaphors for New Science

The machine metaphor makes very little sense with modern science. Sure, the human body has joints and levers, and machines can have joints and levers too, but that’s about as far as it goes.

In biology, evolution and complex systems make a mockery of any attempt to think of the world as a piece of static industrial machinery. Quantum physics and General Relativity take us about as far from clockwork as you can get.

Once we strip out this defunct machine metaphor that harsh divide between science and spirituality begins to soften. Modern science confronts us with both profound mystery and a deep interconnection with the universe. That sounds fairly spiritual to me.

As an artistic movement, Solarpunk would be well advised to look for new metaphors when talking about science and nature. So, to that aim, here is my attempt:

You are not a machine.


The River

Rivers have been used as a metaphor for life for a long time (think “You can’t step into the same river twice” etc etc). I want to go a little deeper than the usual idea of life being like floating down a river. When I say, “You are a river”, I mean that you and a river are fundamentally in the same category of thing.

We live in a world of complex systems. Societies, economies, ecosystems, even our own bodies are complex systems. While it is possible to build complex systems (we do it all the time), the behaviour of these systems is vastly different from that of a simple mechanical clock.

So, if we want a metaphor that works, we need something which is also a complex system.

Like a river.


[ credit: ]

As a way to get this metaphor down into your intuitions, here is a simple exercise for people who are into that…

1) Find yourself a river. If you don’t have one, try online. Here’s one.

2) Get comfortable, and observe. (If you’ve done mindfulness meditation, bring those skills into it).

3) Watch the flow of water. Pay careful attention.

4) As you observe, let the patterns of what you are seeing get into you. A river is neither random nor an orderly mechanism. The river is a complex system.

Note things like the following:

– A standing wave that is constantly changing and yet always there.

– Repetitions in the pattern e.g. a big splash that comes after every seventh wave.

– Overlaid patterns. Maybe the wind is blowing, creating ripples across the flow. Maybe ripples bounce off one rock and intersect with ripples from another.

– Evolution over time and space. Notice how the water begins upstream, and changes speed and position as it flows. Throw a leaf into the flow and watch the twisting journey it takes.

Put all this together and you are getting an intuitive feel for how all complex systems behave.

5) Now extend your awareness beyond the river. The river is connected to the landscape, to the sky, to the sea. All these are complex systems too, forming one super-system. They share a family resemblance with the river, only in forms and on timescales of their own. The sky, the soil, the stones, the plants, the animals are all flowing like rivers in their own ways. Extend your “river-sense” up from the river and out to all the world around you. Feel it flowing as one vast river.

6) Extend this awareness to yourself. Pay attention to your own body and mind. You are also a complex system. You are a river too.

7) Extend this awareness to the invisible. Down to microscopic cells and DNA. Up to the entire planet, the Solar System, even the galaxy. All this too flows like a river.

8) Hold this awareness of yourself and the world, flowing, evolving over endless time and space.

9) Afterwards, as a bonus extra consider spending some time watching footage of Earth from space (here’s one). Patterns you saw in that river can be seen playing out over the whole surface of our world.

This is the universe that modern science reveals, metaphorically speaking. If that’s not spiritual, I don’t know what is.


I’ve only scratched the surface here. Nevertheless, there’s reason to believe that our modern view of science and spirituality as being opposites is an historical artefact unique to our moment in time, rather than anything natural and enduring. Throughout history the questions, “How does the universe work?” and, “How should we live in this universe?” have almost always been united. As we re-imagine better futures, our answers may inevitably join together once more.

Jack Waro is either a climate change expert and/or hobo and/or prone to exaggeration. He can be found in the Land of the Long White Cloud, under the trees, having conversations with the fantails. For more check out Jack Waro Writes Bad Ecology.

Animism and Solarpunk

trees on forest at daytime
Photo by zhang kaiyv on

by Craig Stevenson

Have you ever had that funny feeling where you have the shape of an idea in your head? A notion, or maybe the thread of an idea. Not yet fully formed, but it’s there. You know the rough shape of it in your brain, but don’t have the words to describe it to others.

That’s how I felt for a long time around what animism is really about.

When reading articles describing it, it’s often as the belief or idea of ascribing sentience or personhood to inanimate objects. Whenever I would read that, it felt fundamentally wrong. That’s not really what it was in my head. That didn’t fit the shape and my experiences held in my brain. It’s not viewing everything as another kind of human. I don’t think trees and rocks are human minds in tree and rock suits. Rocks don’t have feelings, trees don’t get anxiety about the future. But I couldn’t put words as to why. What was the big missing description, the missing words I was needing?

The answer was given when I read Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The book is a dive into Kimmerer’s experiences as a member of the Potawatomi Nation in the field of biology. Comparing, contrasting, and marrying the traditional teachings and philosophy of the Potawatomi people with scientific attitudes and methods.

And an ongoing theme of the book finally put words around the idea of animism in my head I lacked: Relationships.

Animism is about Relationships.

It is about gaining the understanding that the world is built on relationships, and all other things are entities deserving of consideration and respect. They are not just objects to be used or rejected. They are not resources to be consumed without reciprocity.

And I think this is an important concept to be held within Solarpunk when we talk of building the futures we wish to see, both in fictions and in the world. It becomes a lot harder to mistreat the environment and damage it when you see it for what it really is: a web of relationships you are part of. Things are not just resources to be extracted, they are things deserving of consideration. And if you mistreat the surrounding entities, be they animal, vegetable, or mineral, you are hurting the web of relationships upon which you rely.

In Brading Sweetgrass, there is a particular chapter on the author’s difficulty trying to learn the Potawatomi language as an adult. A large difference from English is how things are not talked about or described in an object action format. Instead, much of the language is describing entities in states. The example given in the book is instead of saying “I’m going to the creek” you would say “I’m going to where the water is being the creek”.

It’s built into the language that everything is talked about as an entity in a state.

When conceptualizing a solarpunk world, be it for fiction or a future we want to see, we rarely consider how language will change to reflect changing attitudes to the world around us. In what terms will we talk about our environment, embed how we see it. How we consider it, and so how we treat it.

There are already real world examples of this mindset being used to enshrine ecological protection. Two rivers, the Mutuhekau Shipu river in Canada and the Whanganui in New Zealand, have made headlines after being granted personhood as part of efforts to protect them through legal systems. There are many other efforts like this across the globe to challenge the object and ownership model embedded in current legal systems and to introduce a rights based viewpoint of the environment being made up of entities with fundamental rights just like humans have.

Now, so far I have talked about this in terms that are relatively material, and that may surprise those of you who were here to read an essay on the spiritual side of Solarpunk.

This isn’t a contradiction of terms. For me, the spiritual dimensions of things are an emergent property of the material world. The profound sense of connectedness being an animist has brought me is deeply spiritual in nature.

Learning to perceive the connections and cycles of reciprocity between human, plant, animal, and land led to me feeling more connected to all of them in a way that is hard to articulate, and my behaviour changed along with it.

I can no longer go for a walk round my local woods without actively picking up all the litter, because after all the woods have given me, it would be rude and unneighbourly to not actively help out with the issues affecting the wood in turn.

I do wonder: if we once again started to collectively take a more animist mindset, how much would naturally change from simply how we would inherently think of how our actions affect others?

Image of a white male with pink hair and mutton chops. He has a pink flower over his left ear and a black necklace with three silver beads on it. There are trees and various other humans in the background.

Craig is a London based daydreamer who loves to speculate. His various essays and musings can be found at, and he has been published as part of the Almanac for the Anthropocene: A Compendium of Solarpunk Futures.

Solarpunk as a Spiritual Framework for Everyone

A number of people sitting in groups on green grass. There are green trees and a small mountain or hill in the background.

by Justine Norton-Kertson

In today’s fast-paced and tumultuous world, finding a sense of meaning and purpose can be a challenge, especially for those who identify as atheists. While many religious and spiritual traditions offer guidance and support to believers, atheists may struggle to find a philosophical foundation on which to ground their values and ideals. Solarpunk, an emerging cultural, aesthetic, literary, artistic, and political movement, can provide a unique and inspiring spiritual framework for those seeking a sustainable and community-driven way of life that is not rooted in theism and other common religious beliefs.

Solarpunk envisions a world that thrives on renewable energy, sustainable practices, and an ethos of community building and interconnectedness. It combines elements of science fiction, utopian ideals, and a focus on environmentalism to create a vision of a brighter, more equitable future. With its emphasis on sustainability, creativity, and hopeful future, the solarpunk framework is not only compatible with atheism, but also provides a solid foundation for exploring and embracing a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

The desire for a spiritual framework among atheists, while by no means universal, is not a new concept. Many individuals who identify as atheist or agnostic still crave a sense of connection, meaning, and personal growth. We seek a guiding philosophy that can help us navigate life’s challenges and contribute positively to the world. Solarpunk, with its forward-looking and action-oriented approach, has the potential to fill this void by fostering a sense of belonging and purpose that transcends religious boundaries.

In this article, we’ll briefly review the core principles of solarpunk, explore its spiritual significance for atheists, and examine the practices and rituals that can be integrated into daily life to help foster a sense of meaning of purpose. In addition, we’ll touch on the impact a solarpunk spiritual framework can have on mental and emotional well-being.

As we embark on this exploration together, I invite you to stay open and consider how solarpunk’s principles and practices can provide a spiritual framework for your life as an atheist (or as a theist, for that matter). By embracing solarpunk’s radically hopeful and eco-conscious vision, you may discover a newfound sense of purpose and a deeper connection to the world around you, leading to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

Solarpunk: A Brief Overview

Solarpunk Origins and History

Solarpunk emerged in the early 2010s as a response to growing pessimism regarding the future, and the flood of dystopian narratives that dominated popular culture and science fiction. It was born out of a desire to imagine a brighter future that prioritized environmentalism, social justice, and sustainable technology. The term “solarpunk” itself is (prepare to be shocked) a combination of “solar,” referring to the movement’s focus on renewable energy, and “punk,” a nod to the DIY ethos and rebellious, counterculture, even anarchist spirit that infuses the movement.

Over the years, Solarpunk has evolved from a niche subgenre of speculative fiction and art to a broader cultural movement encompassing fashion, architecture, and present day, real world activism. It has inspired a growing number of individuals and communities to adopt its principles and work towards creating a more sustainable and harmonious world.

Solarpunk’s Core Principles and Values

Let’s take a moment to review four of solarpunk’s core principles and values. This list is not necessarily exhaustive, but it’s sufficient for our purposes here.

  1. SUSTAINABILITY: Solarpunk emphasizes the importance of living in harmony with the environment, advocating for renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and eco-friendly technologies. It envisions a technology-driven future where human societies have a minimal ecological footprint and are able to meet their needs without compromising the well-being of future generations.
  2. COMMUNITY BUILDING: Solarpunk promotes the idea of strong, interconnected communities that support one another and work together to address local and global challenges. It values cooperation, mutual aid, and inclusive decision-making processes, encouraging people to actively participate in their communities and take responsibility for the collective well-being.
  3. RADICAL HOPE: In contrast to the dystopian narratives that often dominate popular culture, solarpunk is inherently optimistic. It embraces the belief that humanity has the ability to overcome current challenges and create a more sustainable and equitable future, and that by working together, we can bring about positive change in the world. This is not a naive optimism, but rather hope born out of struggle, out of the realization that if we want to survive and thrive, that we have no other choice but to hope, to fight, and build a new world.
  4. CREATIVITY: Solarpunk celebrates the power of imagination, creativity, and innovation to reshape our world for the better. It encourages individuals to explore new ideas, experiment with alternative solutions, and engage in artistic expression as a means of challenging the status quo and inspiring others to do the same.

Aesthetic and Cultural Elements of Solarpunk

Solarpunk’s aesthetic is characterized by a fusion of futuristic technology, traditional craftsmanship, and lush greenery. It draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including Art Nouveau, Afrofuturism, and biophilic design. Common themes in solarpunk art, fashion, and architecture that are relevant to our discussion in this article include:

  1. NATURE-INSPIRED MOTIFS: Solarpunk aesthetics often incorporate organic shapes and patterns, mirroring the movement’s reverence for the natural world. This can be seen in architectural designs that incorporate living walls, rooftop gardens, and biomimicry principles, sleek curves, as well as in clothing and accessories made from natural, sustainable materials.
  2. RENEWABLE ENERGY AND TECHNOLOGY: Solarpunk envisions a world powered by clean, renewable energy sources. Art and design within the movement frequently incorporate solar panels, wind turbines, and other non-fossil fuel technologies that are more eco-friendly, emphasizing the harmony between nature and human innovation.
  3. DIY AND MAKER CULTURE: Reflecting its punk roots, solarpunk embraces a do-it-yourself ethos and a focus on local, decentralized decision making and production. This can be seen in the movement’s support for community workshops, makerspaces, and upcycled fashion, as well as in the encouragement of self-sufficiency and skill-sharing.
  4. DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVITY: Solarpunk is an inherently inclusive movement that celebrates cultural, racial, and gender diversity. Its aesthetics and narratives often feature a wide range of perspectives and experiences, highlighting the importance of collaboration and unity in the pursuit of a sustainable future. Rather than being a tokenized diversity, solarpunk is about justice and lifting up the voices and leadership of those from communities that are marginalized and oppressed under capitalism.

It might already be apparent from this brief review that taken together, combining the aesthetic and cultural elements with its core principles and values, solarpunk offers a holistic vision of a future that’s not only sustainable and equitable, but also beautiful, inspiring, and infused with both meaning and purpose.

The Spiritual Significance of Solarpunk for Atheists

The Need for Meaning and Purpose

Finding meaning and purpose in life is a fundamental human desire, regardless of one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. Atheists, like anyone else, seek a guiding philosophy that can help us navigate life’s challenges and contribute positively to the world. Many atheists have found this through humanism, a philosophy that places humanity, rather than a divine being, at the center of moral and ethical concern. Solarpunk, with its focus on sustainability, community, and optimism, offers an alternative framework that is less human-centric for atheists to explore their values and aspirations.

Building a Sense of Interconnectedness

One of the core tenets of solarpunk is the emphasis on interconnectedness within human communities, between individuals, and between humans and the natural world. This sense of interconnectedness can foster a deep feeling of belonging and connectedness for atheists, both to other people and to the natural world. In this way solarpunk provides a spiritual foundation that promotes empathy, compassion, and a sense of responsibility towards others and the environment. By embracing solarpunk’s community-driven values, atheists can cultivate a worldview that acknowledges the profound interconnectedness of all life on Earth, and find spiritual fulfillment through meaningful connections with others and the planet.

Reverence for the Natural World

Solarpunk’s focus on environmentalism and reverence for the natural world provides atheists with a spiritual framework that celebrates the awe and wonder of the Earth’s diverse ecosystems. This reverence for nature can inspire a profound sense of gratitude and humility, fostering an appreciation for the complex web of life that sustains us. By nurturing a deep connection to nature, atheists can find spiritual solace in the beauty and harmony of the natural world, experiencing a sense of wonder that is both rooted in the real, physical world and transcends the need for religious beliefs.

Emphasis on Personal and Collective Growth

Solarpunk encourages individuals to engage in personal and collective growth, emphasizing the importance of learning, self-reflection, and self-improvement. This focus on growth and self-discovery can provide a spiritual foundation for atheists, helping us develop a sense of purpose and meaning in life. By embracing solarpunk’s principles and practices, atheists can embark on a journey of personal growth that not only benefits themselves, but also contributes to the betterment of their communities and the wider world.

Solarpunk Practices and Rituals for Atheists

Developing Eco-Friendly Habits

Adopting eco-friendly habits is a cornerstone of the solarpunk lifestyle, and serves as a practical way for atheists to engage with the movement’s principles through a spiritual lens grounded in deeper (even if symbolic and allegorical) meaning. These practices not only have a positive impact on the environment but can also provide a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Some eco-friendly habits to consider include:

  1. Embracing a zero-waste lifestyle (or as close to it as possible)
  2. Choosing sustainable and ethically-sourced products (or making your own when possible)
  3. Conserving energy and water in daily life (even if using renewable, non-fossil fuel based energy sources)
  4. Utilizing public transportation, biking, or walking instead of driving
  5. Supporting local, organic, and plant-based food options

Participating in Community Gardening and Environmental Projects

Community gardening and environmental projects are excellent ways for atheists to connect with others who are more likely to share solarpunk values, while also making a tangible impact on the world around them. These activities can provide a sense of accomplishment and foster a deeper connection with nature and the community. Some examples of community-based initiatives include:

  1. Joining or starting a community garden
  2. Participating in local clean-up efforts or tree-planting events
  3. Engaging in habitat restoration or conservation projects
  4. Supporting community-driven renewable energy initiatives

Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation

While there’s no “Secret” or spiritual magic bullet, mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools for personal growth and self-discovery. When practiced with consistency, they can enhance one’s connection to the natural world as well as the present moment. By incorporating these practices into our daily lives, atheists can cultivate a greater sense of calm and inner peace, resilience, and awareness of our interconnectedness with the world around us. Some mindfulness and meditation practices to explore include:

  1. Nature-based meditations like forest bathing or walking meditation
  2. Mindful eating, focusing on the sensory experience and the origin of the food
  3. Guided meditation or breathwork exercises to promote relaxation and self-awareness
  4. Gratitude journaling to foster appreciation for the beauty and abundance of the natural world

Celebrating Seasonal Festivals and Events

Seasonal festivals and events can provide a meaningful way for atheists to connect with the natural world and their community while celebrating solarpunk values. A common practice in paganism and witchcraft spiritualities, these gatherings can easily be secular and free of theism, focusing on the changing seasons, the Earth’s cycles, and the importance of community and environmental stewardship. Four obvious examples of seasonal celebrations include:

  1. Spring Equinox celebrations focused on renewal and growth
  2. Summer Solstice events honoring the sun and its role in supporting life on Earth
  3. Autumn Equinox harvest festivals, emphasizing gratitude and the abundance of nature
  4. Winter Solstice gatherings, celebrating the dark time, self-reflection and growth, as well as the return of light and the importance of resilience

By engaging in these solarpunk practices and rituals, atheists can deepen our connection to nature, to each other, and to the solarpunk movement’s core principles. In this way, we can cultivate a spiritual framework that aligns with our principles and values.

Solarpunk’s Impact on Mental and Emotional Well-being

Embracing solarpunk principles and practices can have a significant impact on one’s mental and emotional well-being, particularly in terms of building resilience and adaptability. By focusing on sustainability, interconnectedness, and personal growth, Solarpunk encourages individuals to develop the skills and mindset needed to navigate life’s challenges with at least something approximating grace and perseverance. This resilience, in turn, can lead to greater overall well-being and a more fulfilling life.

Solarpunk’s inherent optimism and hopeful outlook serves as a powerful antidote to the pessimism and cynicism that can often pervade modern society. While healthy doses of skepticism and negativity by all means have their place, by envisioning a brighter, more sustainable future and actively working towards it, we can cultivate an outlook on life that is both more positive while at the same being rooted in realism. This realistic optimism, or radical hope, can contribute to improved mental health, increased motivation, and a greater sense of hope and purpose in the midst of the rather dystopian reality we live in.

One of the most significant aspects of solarpunk’s potential impact on mental and emotional well-being is its emphasis on community building and interconnectedness. By engaging in solarpunk practices and rituals, individuals can develop a strong sense of belonging and connectedness, both to their local communities and the larger global community. This sense of belonging can provide a powerful source of emotional support, reducing feelings of isolation, alienation, and loneliness while promoting overall mental health and well-being.


As an emerging cultural, aesthetic, and political movement, Solarpunk has the potential to inspire significant change on both a local and global scale. By envisioning a future that prioritizes environmentalism, social justice, and sustainable technology, solarpunk empowers individuals and communities to work together towards a more sustainable and harmonious world. The movement’s optimistic and action-oriented approach can serve as a catalyst for innovation, creativity, and collaboration, fostering a sense of hope and determination in the face of today’s challenges.

Similarly, solarpunk offers a unique and inspiring spiritual framework for atheists, providing a foundation for meaning, purpose, and interconnectedness that transcends theistic and religious boundaries. Through its focus on sustainability, community building, optimism, and personal growth, solarpunk encourages us to develop a deeper connection with the natural world and our fellow humans. By engaging in solarpunk practices and rituals as atheists, we can cultivate a spiritual framework that aligns with our beliefs and values and has a tangible impact on the world around us, while positively impacting our mental and emotional well-being.

For all the atheists out there, I invite you to explore and embrace the principles and practices of solarpunk as a means of enriching your life. By delving into the world of solarpunk, you may discover a newfound sense of meaning and purpose, a deeper connection to the natural world, and a greater sense of belonging and interconnectedness. As you embark on this journey, remember that every step you take towards living a more sustainable, community-driven, and hopeful life contributes not only to your own well-being, but also to the creation of a brighter, more equitable future for us all.

Photo of the author, a genderfluid individual with grey, black, and purple shoulder-length hair. They are smiling and wearing round black glasses and a brown zippered jacked with a heather grey turtleneck underneath.

Living in rural Oregon with their partner, puppies, cats, goats, and beehives, Justine can often be found out in the garden or floating down the creek in a kayak. They’re the editor-in-chief of Android Press and Solarpunk Magazine, and they compose and record music as Ashera. A long-time community organizer, Justine has helped organize labor unions, worked with tenants and houseless communities to defend against eviction, and was campaign manager for Oregon’s $15 minimum wage fight. Her work has appeared in Utopia Science Fiction Magazine, Solarpunk Magazine, and Jupiter Review, among others. Their debut nonfiction book, Solarpunk Witchcraft, is forthcoming from Microcosm Publishing in 2024. They’re on Twitter and Instagram @jankwrites.

Arboreality – A Review

The book cover of Arboreality. The title is written in gold font on a hunter green background. This looks like an old leather book cover with a burnt bottom right half revealing botanical drawings and "by Rebecca Campbell" on the "first page" underneath the cover.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Arboreality, but Campbell really pulled off multiple perspectives in a short book, which is no small feat. I was anxious about how well head hopping across time would work without something the length of a Sandersonesque tome, but by keeping the geographic scope limited and the characters within a few degrees of separation of each other, the narrative stays tight enough to stay invested in the outcome.

This book also does a good job of walking the line between climate apocalypse and everything was fine because of some hand wavy solution. Things are pretty rough throughout the book, but it does feel like things are slowly getting better. Wildfires, future pandemics, and sea level rise are just some of the issues facing our protagonists.

What I really appreciated is that there is no one hero to save us from climate change. The characters can’t save the world on their own. What they can do is plant seeds, both literal and figurative, for the next generation. That’s what spoke to me in this book. It really brought the concept of being a good ancestor to life, something my own ancestors might have thought of as “cathedral thinking.”

At this point, a certain amount of warming is baked into the climate system and I’m not going to see things return to “normal.” If you and I each do our own part to make the world a little better than we left it though, maybe my kid will see a stable climate or the next generation after them. It really puts all the struggles we’ve faced in the climate movement into perspective and makes them feel worth fighting even though they often don’t feel like enough.

If you even have the slightest care for future generations, do yourself a favor and read this book!

Thanks to Stelliform Press for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to support the blog, please use the affiliate link to the book above, or consider supporting us on Comradery, a cooperatively-owned patronage platform.

Weird Fishes – A Review

Weird Fishes by Rae Mariz was a wonderful journey that reminded me of how I felt the first time I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a kid. This book is definitely going on my recommendations list for tidalpunk literature, as it very deftly addresses climate change and its effects on the ocean without feeling preachy.

The story is an interesting take on the buddy genre, pairing a sheltered octopod scientist with an emotionally-vibrant and well-traveled mermaid. Amusing and profound interactions between the two characters help them grow as individuals while they investigate the cause and solution to slowing ocean currents.

Mariz’s prose is beautiful and evokes a true feeling of wonder and connectedness to the ocean. Clever twists on common turns of phrase remind you that the main characters aren’t human, and the interplay of the many different species of the ocean gives hints at the biodiversity teeming below the surface. There’s even a cameo by 52 Blue, the “world’s loneliest whale.”

This book helps you remember that we came from the sea and that it still exerts an emotional pull on us like the tide. One of my favorite lines from the book is “People carry the ocean inside them. On an upright fishbone spine sits the soul of an octopus.” Not every line in the book is that poetic, but I feel that encapsulates my feelings when I read this book.

While I wholeheartedly enjoyed this book, it isn’t for everyone. The book doesn’t shy away from the real world consequences of microplastics, commercial fishing, and warming oceans. Many creatures die, often in graphic, but not prolonged, ways. This book also has a content warning for sexual assault.

If you’re looking for a tidalpunk read that rekindles your love for the ocean, I can’t recommend Weird Fishes enough. If you’ve read any good tidalpunk books lately, let us know down below! I just started The Deep by Rivers Solomon and hope to report back on it soon!

Thanks to Stelliform Press for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to support the blog, please use the affiliate link to the book above, or consider supporting us on Comradery, a cooperatively-owned patronage platform.

Revisiting Offshore Wind

A large wind farm consisting of many large, three-bladed wind turbines sits in the ocean. The waves are a choppy dark blue and black while the sky is a light blue.
Windmills in the Ocean

Offshore wind is going to be a big part of our clean energy future, and if you like podcasts, you’ll really want to listen to Windfall, a mini series from Outside/In. Windfall follows the development of the US offshore wind energy from the ill-fated Cape Wind project up through the approval of Vineyard Wind. This is a great explainer for why the US is so far behind Europe and China in the offshore wind space.

One thing I really appreciated about the podcast was its nuanced take on some of the drawbacks of offshore wind while still showing it as an important climate solution. The ocean is a big place, but siting an offshore wind project in a way that promotes a just transition is no easy feat. Some areas contain indigenous cultural heritage (Cape Wind) while others impact fisherfolk who’ve been plying their trade for centuries (Vineyard Wind). Now that oil companies are fronting as clean energy pioneers, are we going to let them repeat the same injustices with a shiny green wrapper? The podcast stops short of offering answers.

I’ve mentioned before that offshore wind has the potential to be a great resource in a tidalpunk future, but that I wasn’t sure how to fit the billion dollar megaprojects into a *punk framework. Just after listening to Windfall, I found out that Denmark, one of the leaders in the offshore wind space, actually requires 20% of any new wind project to be community owned, and the Middelgrunden installation is actually 50% cooperatively owned. Scotland is another place where community ownership of renewables, including offshore wind, is revitalizing communities that had been in decline for decades.

Offshore wind will generate cheap, renewable energy a lot more consistently than land-based turbines, but we need to hold those building these facilities accountable so we don’t see a repeat of the injustices baked into our current energy system.

Do you know of other solutions to deploy renewables while avoiding handouts to the same old energy companies we love to hate? Share with us in the comments below!

House of Drought – A review

The House of Drought is a WEIRD novella. I don’t typically read horror, so this is from the perspective of a fantasy/scifi reader. To that end, I really loved the folklore aspects of this story. Seeing what elements of stories are common and different across cultures is always facinating to me, and this story definitely delivers there. There aren’t any concrete explanations of what’s going on, and the multiple names and explanations for any given phenomena by different people bring the folklore to life. Knowing nothing of Sri Lankan folklore, I’m led to believe the author did this part justice.

Since the story hops around between several characters and timelines in the space of a novella, I never really felt a strong connection to any one character. I think that this is where the story would’ve benefitted from being fleshed out into a full length novel or cutting the number of viewpoints if it needed to stay a novella. I really want to give this story four stars since the setting was so interesting, but the lack of engaging characters drops it down to a three for me.

Speaking of multiple timelines, if you really need your books to be linear, this isn’t the story for you. There are frequent time jumps within a chapter, although they do follow a pattern once you realize what’s happening. It’s an interesting approach, but I don’t think it was really necessary to the story.

This is one of the first times I’ve seen a piece of fiction really try to connect colonialism and climate change and how imperialism has wounded the natural world. It’s not an easy thing to accomplish without getting preachy, but the author managed to weave it into the story without it feeling too heavy-handed. The tension between the House of Drought and the surrounding forest becomes an analogue for the tension between colonialism/capitalism and nature. I wouldn’t call it subtle, but by these forces being more animate setting than viewpoint character, it feels like an innate truth suffusing the story and not something the author slows down to explain in a pedantic manner.

This novella had me turning pages to find out what happened, but, like I said, the lack of any compelling characters makes it hard for me to give it more than three stars. I’m very interested to see what Mombauer can do with a full length novel though, since I think the rest of this story is pretty solid.

I’d like to thank Stelliform for providing an ARC in return for this honest review.

Tidalpunk Energy – Offshore Wind in the US

Greater Gabbard Wind Farm in the UK – photo by SSE via a CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Offshore wind is gearing up in the United States. The federal government has announced a goal of 30GW of offshore wind generation by 2030 and 110GW by 2050. For reference, the current largest wind turbine available generates 15MW, so it would take 2,000 of these turbines to reach the 2030 goal if that were the only turbine type used.

One bottleneck for getting these projects started is Wind Turbine Installation Vessels (WTIVs). The first European offshore wind installations started in the 90s, but existing European ships can’t be used because of the Jones Act which stipulates that vessels operating in US seas must be built, owned, and operated by US citizens or corporations. Dominion Energy’s Charybdis WTIV is under construction in New Orleans and should be operational in 2023.

Charybdis will first get to work here in Virginia building the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project. Hampton Roads, Virginia has been billing itself as a hub for the offshore wind turbine industry. There’s a long history of maritime industry on the Virginia coast, so it’s great to see these communities able to transition with the winds of change.

The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project isn’t the only offshore wind farm to be in development here in the US. After the failure of the Cape Wind Project in Massachussetts, offshore wind’s future was murky in the US. However, Maine appears to be the only state explicitly rejecting offshore wind, with new projects being planned on both coasts including New Jersey and California.

A pile of one dollar bills spread across the frame.
Photo by Pixabay on

As mentioned previously, one problem I see with a lot of developments in tidalpunk-related tech is that so much of it is big money, high technology equipment that is difficult to build and procure without large governments and corporations. For instance, Dominion Energy has had a stranglehold on the state legislature in Virginia for decades due to their shady business and political practices. Offshore wind offers a big opportunity for cutting carbon emissions in the grid, but I’m wary of the lack of community control over these generation resources.

As I live in the US, this blog tends toward developments here. Do you have offshore wind in your area? Let us know about it in the comments!

This is Part 3 in our feature on tidalpunk for August. See Part 1: Can Maritime Shipping Go Tidalpunk?, Part 2: Tidalpunk Food – Fishing and Farming the Sea, and Part 4: Plastics – A Tidalpunk Antagonist.

Tidalpunk Food – Fishing and Farming the Sea

The camera looks up at a school of fish from below. They appear to be swimming in a circle around the center of the image.
Photo by Harrison Haines on

Dr. Sylvia Earl says we need to stop commercial fishing if we want to keep our oceans healthy. Over-fishing and pollution are driving many species to the brink, not to mention the harm of increased ocean temperatures and acidity brought on by climate change. For those of us not in societies where fishing provides subsistence, is there a better way to get our fix of fish?

On the horizon, and already on some store shelves, plant-based seafood could prove to be a way to get that taste of the sea without the environmental and human toll. This is good news since beyond the environmental toll, industrial seafood also has more than its share of human rights abuses. Current faux fish focuses on staples that are more about what you do with them than the underlying flavor of the meat. Crab cakes, shrimp, and canned tuna substitutes are the leaders of the pack here. While lab-grown seafood is getting a lot of investment, it is still nascent at best like lab-grown meats. Unsurprisingly, it takes a lot of work to grow cells outside of a living organism.

A diagram showing a boat on the surface of the ocean over seaweed on a line and oyster, mussel, scallop, and clam cages.

The image describes the advantages of this "polyculture farming system:"
-High yields of shellfish and seaweed
-Small footprint
-Low barrier to entry
-20 acres, a boat, and $20-50k
-Carbon and nitrogen sink
-Zero inputs: no fresh water, fertilizers, or feed
-Storm surge protection
-Rebuilds marine ecosystems
GreenWave’s Aquacultural Model

The real rock star when it comes to aquaculture and sustainability is seaweed. Able to sequester carbon, serve as a protein source, reduce emissions from cattle, and provide oil for biofuels, kelp is truly the wonder algae. One of the best primers on the potential of seaweed to help in the climate fight is the two-part podcast on kelp farming from “How To Save a Planet.” These episodes center on the efforts of GreenWave, a non-profit developing a 3D “polyculture” system for growing kelp and shellfish in the ocean. Since kelp and shellfish don’t require agricultural inputs (fertilizer, fresh water, etc.), this form of aquaculture is both eco-friendly and economical. Plus, with all the co-benefits to shoreline and marine communities, this is a great example of multi-solving.

Unfortunately, a lot of the ocean-related technologies being developed right now are from big governments or big corporations. GreenWave is focused on building a network of small holding ocean farms instead of replicating terrestrial agriculture’s industrial model though. They’re putting the punk in tidalpunk!

If you have ideas on how to bring these emerging technologies into the commons, let us know below!

This is Part 2 in our feature on tidalpunk for August. See Part 1: Can Maritime Shipping Go Tidalpunk?, Part 3: Tidalpunk Energy – Offshore Wind in the US, and Part 4: Plastics – A Tidalpunk Antagonist.

Can Maritime Shipping Go Tidalpunk?

A cargo ship sails down a channel next to a tug boat. A series of cranes dot the sides and background.
Photo by Martin Damboldt on

Since summertime is beach time here in Virginia, this month we’ll be taking a look at some developments toward our tidalpunk future. Today, we’ll be looking at how the maritime shipping industry is working to clean up its act.

While at sea, the majority of cargo ships use high sulfur fuel oil, the most polluting fuel in use today. With a global target to reduce maritime shipping emissions by half by 2050, however, the shipping industry is looking at its biggest change since switching from coal to diesel 100 years ago. While diesel won’t be going away soon, a mix of new and old technologies are receiving interest to replace fossil fuels in shipping.

The most exciting development in my mind, is the interest in bringing back sailing vessels for cargo transport. While a handful of clippers are still operating as cargo vessels, new ships in development like the EcoClipper500 could pave the way for a retro-futuristic tidalpunk future. As we’ve discussed before, the best way to clean up shipping emissions would be to exercise the first R and reduce the amount of stuff being shipped around the world in the first place. A combination of sailing vessels and distributed manufacturing of goods could make a big difference in carbon emissions and material waste.

A sailing ship with a white hull sails along a mountainous background. It has three large masts that are only partially rigged, presumably to keep speeds low for maneuverability.
Photo by Inge Wallumru00f8d on

In port, those diesel fumes can add up to some gnarly local air pollution for these communities. Oslo, Norway intends to be the world’s first zero emission port by investing in electrification of ferries and installing shore power so visiting boats can cut their engines while docked. Cleaning up the air is good for humans and wildlife that live near these industrial hubs, so cleaning up ports is an important piece of environmental justice work. Other ports are cleaning up their acts around the world including Los Angeles, Auckland, and Valencia showing this trend isn’t isolated to Scandinavia.

Despite their questionable environmental cred, cargo ships can still be a less carbon intensive option for long passenger journeys when compared to flying. According to Will Vibert, a cargo ship passenger, they can also feel surprisingly luxurious. “As I soon came to understand, the luxury of being at sea is not about fine food or a plush mattress; rather, life at sea itself – the tranquil pace and intoxicating sense of adventure – is the true luxury.” Later in the article they relate a similar luxury in the time-consuming, but languid process of North American train travel as I have experienced myself.

Do you have any thoughts regarding the maritime shipping industry and tidalpunk? Have you seen any cool initiatives at a port near you? Let us know in the comments below!

This is Part 1 in our feature on tidalpunk for August. See Part 2: Tidalpunk Food – Fishing and Farming the Sea, Part 3: Tidalpunk Energy – Offshore Wind in the US, and Part 4: Plastics – A Tidalpunk Antagonist.