Category Archives: Science

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.


by Ashton K. Arnoldy

As genres of speculative fiction—fiction which aims to imaginatively influence the manifestation of our collective future—solarpunk and lunarpunk hold a promise that their ancestral foil (cyberpunk) does not. Whereas cyberpunk exercises a predominately negative, or critical, purpose by presenting a dystopian future we ought to avoid realizing, solar and lunarpunk both aim to envision positive alternatives inspired by a renewed cosmic spirituality. This may seem like an idiosyncratic characterization, but in what follows I will try to make clear why the recontextualization of humanity in a meaningful cosmos is what essentially distinguishes solar and lunar from cyberpunk. And, in accord with the pluralistic ethos Navarre opened this series with, I want to acknowledge from the outset that my characterizations may not resonate with everyone—and that’s okay. While it’s true that—in relation to the Earth—the Sun and Moon communicate distinct, archetypal characteristics, it’s also true that archetypes are polysemous: they manifest themselves in a range of meanings. And yet, if we are to discern what actually is archetypally lunar or solar, we must refer to realities that are not reducible to human social construction alone. Cyberpunk also partakes of the archetypal and might arguably be seen as a contemporary form of mythology conveying the dangers of hubris (think of Prometheus or Icarus). The major difference between these ancient myths and cyberpunk, however, is that between then and now has stretched a period of radical industrialization and its corresponding ecological devastation. Human hubris is writ large in the last century’s capitalist delusion of endless extraction and technological innovation cued to selfish ends. Solar and lunarpunk speculatively intervene to renew humanity’s sense of proportion (etymologically, the word “cosmos” arises from the Pythagorean-inflected κόσμος, which once denoted the universe as a harmonic order). Such speculative interventions are crucial given how pervasive the cyberpunk imaginary is today. The oft quoted saying (attributed to both Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek)“it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism”—exemplifies this pervasiveness, for cyberpunk stories are typically characterized by a form of capitalism pushed to its most inhuman extreme. We need only call to mind Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, or Akira and we can see this possible future in vivid detail:

A man in a trench coat looks into the distance in a yellow, dusty environment. The visibility is low so nothing is visible in the distance except yellow sky.
A still from one of the latest cyberpunk classics, Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

The Earth has become a wasteland; cities provide the remainder of humanity refuge from the larger swaths of the planet that are now uninhabitable zones of nuclear fallout. Megacorporations have taken over the function of the state and exercise control over the cultural sphere, ensuring citizens are kept pacified by rituals of escapism (digital, chemical, etc.). The unfeeling, yet self-indulgent elites live high above the clustered and polluted chaos of the urban population, ruling over them through an authoritarian surveillance apparatus that records everyone’s activity. Nietzsche’s Übermensch is translated into a crude form of technological “enhancement” that only wealthy individuals can afford (unless you happen to be a test-subject); radically hybridized human-cyborg forms emerge and prompt one of the major questions of science fiction: What is the human being?

A person in a red cloak and grey tank top sits on a stone chair. Their cybernetic arm pulses and then explodes in a shower of wires which attach to the chair. A person walking up to the chair seems startled by the even and the seated person covers their arm with the cloak.
From Akira (1988)

The punk in cyberpunk often manifests through unlikely protagonists who represent the last bastions of higher values by raging against the machine—against a “society” that cybernetically reproduces inhumanity like a cancer. Whether they be actual humans or synthetic imitations who choose to honor such values, these misfits work against the “high tech, low life” character of their surroundings and shine as beacons of hope for a more humane world. A consistent archetype is the anarchist hacker who deploys their skills to throw a wrench in the system or divulge emancipatory information to the public. Sadly, their struggles usually amount to little given how pervasively the cancer has metastasized. Civilization—in these stories—seems beyond saving. Rather than presenting salutary visions of collective human flourishing, the cyberpunk genre has generally served to warn us of what we could become. These warnings are still relevant given that our world has grown to resemble the cyberpunk imaginary ever-more as the years go by. The ongoing incarceration and persecution of whistleblowers like Julian Assange exemplifies the extent to which cyber rebels pose a threat to the corporation-state juggernaut. This is despicably hypocritical given that social media and search engine companies openly track all user activity that transpires through their platforms. Our daily digital habits feed machines designed to enslave our attention and, increasingly, to shape our desires in ways that perpetuate the ravenous hunger of the monster that is neoliberal capitalism. How do we escape this capture?

The artist Grimes sitting in a stone chair with a red shirt and a red banner fluttering behind.
Grimes echoing a scene from Akira in “Delete Forever” on her last album, “Miss Anthropocene” (2019)

Enter solarpunk, the great potential of which is the return of the central, though unresolvable, question raised above—“What is the human being?”—to its cosmic context. Unlike cyberpunk, which, as a genre, broods over the dangers that arise from technologies borne of human alienation, solarpunk takes its inspiration from the more-than-human world—specifically, the giver of life on Earth: the Sun. Both genres reflect the Anthropocene—the name for our current geological age (cene) during which the human species (anthropos) has become a planetary force. But because the cyberpunk imagination is (typically) constrained to a mechanical vision of the cosmos, it perpetuates the worst kind of anthropocentrism—the kind which mistakes our theoretical models for reality. This mechanistic model—ranging from quantum physics, to biology, all the way to macroscopic cosmology—is defined exclusively by the inorganic laws of nature and can thus only amount to a vision of death. The mysteries of life and human consciousness—in this imaginary—are reduced to sophisticated computational processes that will soon be both explained and rendered obsolete by the rapidly evolving machinations of artificial intelligence. According to adherents of this mythos, technoscience will one day realize its ultimate goal: material immortality.

A GIF beginning with a stream of green numbers on a black background and then moving to what appears to be the assembly of a white android around a black interior structure. A green brain being crossed by a green plane ends the image.
From Ghost in the Shell (1996)

Solarpunk arises dialectically as a healthy reaction to the death-drive made conscious by cyberpunk and responds by reinstating the primacy of Life in the rhythmic organism that is our cosmos. Mechanism is subsidiary to organism, the organic; life is not *in* molecules; rather, molecules arise from the symphonic action of the entire cosmos and this music is life. The wish of solarpunk is to let the light of this cosmic Life inspire all of science and invention. What are science and technology for if not the flourishing of humanity and the wider Earth-community on which we depend? As Matt Bluemink writes, “at its core, solarpunk is the ecological antidote to cyberpunk… [an impetus] to imagine a world where human beings live in harmony with nature, but in a way that embraces developments in modern eco-friendly technology.” To live in harmony with nature is to rediscover the spiritual symphony of our living cosmos. Apart from the more obvious association with solar-power and renewable energy, the solar in solarpunk also refers to the salvific fire of optimism. Solarpunks are punk to the extent that their willful optimism goes against the grain of today’s complacent irony, cynicism, and destructive nihilism. And, sharp contrast to the extrinsic individuality that characterizes cyberpunk societies (and today’s neoliberalism), the solarpunk ethos implies a perception of humanity as a whole—a whole organism to which we as individuals belong. As Adam Flynn writes in Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto, “Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level, rather than individually.” The films of Hayao Miyazaki are among the major influences on the solarpunk aesthetic, and this is unsurprising given that Miyazaki’s films are saturated with an environmental ethic that flows from the Japanese Shinto tradition. Indeed, it seems that solarpunk is generally inspired by indigenous wisdom traditions to reintegrate humanity in the great web of life.

An animated image of a cow and butterflies in a field below a solar array. There are trees in the distance.
From the solarpunk-inspired short, Dear Alice (2021)

Though this characterization is by no means exhaustive, I have tried to distill what seems most essential to the spirit (or spirituality) of solarpunk: the light of optimism, the primacy of Life, and the perception of an underlying wholeness (i.e. the human species, the web of life, etc.). And—importantly—these features are not arbitrary, but issue directly from our actual experience of the genre’s namesake: Sol, the Sun. Those who have spent a substantial amount of time enduring frigid nights will know how natural it is to connect the light of optimism with the promise of sunrise. Anyone who pays attention to the flora and fauna of their local environs will know what praises Life sings to the break of dawn. And many will have heard the saying, “For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike.” We do not make these things up; we either attend to such features or blind ourselves to them. The spirituality of solarpunk consists in choosing to recognize that an essential part of our humanity is connected with the Sun, that we are partially constituted by it, and that, just as it inspired our ancestors for thousands of years, it can likewise guide our own aspirations for the Anthropocene. This light-filled renewal of cosmic spirituality is one possible future; a darker future, presented by cyberpunk, consists in the further intensification of alienated anthropocentrism and its ironic apotheosis in the subhuman automaton. We have reached a fork in the road.

Astrologically speaking, we are on the cusp of Pluto’s ingress into the sign of Aquarius (a 20 year transit in total) which many astrologers predict will usher in a form of surveillance more oppressive than we have yet to experience. Many astrologers also anticipate the boundary between machines and (some) humans to increasingly blur. The pervasiveness of the cyberpunk imaginary certainly facilitates our passive entry into this Brave New World, but have the hopeful tales and practical initiatives of solarpunk done enough to prepare us to face the panoptic beast of mass surveillance? Rachel-Rose O’Leary doesn’t think so, and in her widely circulated essay “Lunarpunk and the Dark Side of the Cycle,” she furthers the dialectic of cyber and solar by positioning lunarpunk as a kind of higher synthesis of the two. According to O’Leary’s genealogy, lunarpunk flows from the lineage of cypherpunk—a movement of coder-activists who anticipated the coming dangers of mass surveillance already in the early 1990s. Cypherpunks—including Julian Assange—advocated for and innovated encryption techniques to protect user privacy. Unlike the anonymity enjoyed in the analog world of cash exchange, digital transactions are vulnerable to prying eyes. As Eric Hughs writes in “A Cypherpunks Manifesto,” “when my identity is revealed by the underlying mechanism of the transaction, I have no privacy. I cannot here selectively reveal myself; I must always reveal myself.” It is this freedom to selectively reveal oneself that cypherpunks aim to protect. Why? As Hughs writes, “we cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant us privacy out of their beneficence. It is to their advantage to speak of us, and we should expect that they will speak.” The parasitic collaboration between advertisers and social media companies to farm our attention is an obvious example of what happens when we allow such entities to “speak of us.” China’s inhumane, authoritarian public health measures are another example of what can happen when citizens lack the negative freedom (protection) of privacy. As early resistors to mass surveillance, cypherpunks resemble the rebellious (because humane) protagonists of cyberpunk stories. And indeed, as O’Leary characterizes the subgenre, lunarpunk continues this resistance, reminding solarpunks that utopia will only ever be elsewhere, while dystopia is nigh.

Black and white image of two round mirrors facing each other with a zoomed in eye in each. There is an animated sun near the left mirror and an animated moon near the one on the right. Text in the image says, "Lunarpunks are the solar shadow-self."
From the video essay “Lunarpunk and the Dark Side of the Cycle,” via Rekt News (2022)

But, significantly, O’Leary isn’t writing speculative fiction, rather, she seems to be going a step further by attempting a more direct intervention into history itself, engaging in what might be called mythospeculation. But she doesn’t claim to be any kind of messiah, rather, she points to the advent of crypto as containing its own speculative, sci-fi potential. As she writes, “crypto is an extreme kind of sci-fi because as well as offering a vision of the future it also provides the tools to make that future possible.” She goes on to describe how the future of crypto is predominately envisioned through the idealism of solarpunk. Now there are many in the solarpunk movement who reject the whole world of crypto as merely a transposition of neoliberal capitalism into the digital sphere. A thread in the solarpunk subreddit titled “Crypto is not (solar)punk” provides a snapshot of the various perspectives involved in the debate. As one user writes,

“Regardless of the environmental impacts, which are sus at best, creating an unregulated currency that is already controlled by the rich and powerful and literally siphoning production and wealth out of the labor force of the country with get-rich-quick schemes, pump and dump, and pyramid schemes is not my idea of solarpunk. Currency as we know it wouldn’t even be needed in a truly post-scarcity solarpunk world. Cryptocurrency is just capitalism turned up to 11.”

With the recent downfall of FTX we know that this is indeed an accurate characterization of some developments in the world of crypto, but others argue that this just proves the true potentials of blockchain technology have yet to be tapped. Another user in the subreddit debate conveys this with respect to the capabilities of NFTs:

“an NFT is really just any data stored on a blockchain that isn’t interchangeable with the other items on it (in the way that one bitcoin can be interchanged with any other bitcoin, because they’re all the same as each other). That means that NFTs could conceivably be used not just for securely keeping track of ownership, but generally for issuing records that can’t be forged or modified, or (along with smart contracts) exchanging data between two parties when the terms of an agreement are fulfilled. We can do those things without trusting a third party – or really, trusting anything except math – and without centralizing authority in the hands of a bureaucracy which might become inefficient, abusive of its power, or corrupt. A large part of solarpunk is the smart and responsible application of technology to improve our lives, and if blockchains were applied properly, they have the potential to legitimize and strengthen the sort of bottom-up social relations that, to me, are vital to the successful implementation of solarpunk ideals.” It is presumably this capacity to cut out third parties (i.e. banks, governments, etc.) and the centralizing power such entities currently enjoy that makes crypto, as O’Leary suggests, an “extreme form of sci-fi” by providing the “tools to make that future possible.”

Blockchain technology, as this user points out, enables peer-to-peer transactions that could provide bottom-up, grassroots movements an economic alternative to the state-mediated systems currently in place. This potential of decentralization is presumably what O’Leary means when she describes crypto as an extreme form of sci-fi, one that provides a vision and the tools to realize it. Unfortunately this potential is hampered by another widely celebrated feature of the blockchain—transparency, the expectation being that public access to transactions will mitigate corruption, or at least make it easy to spot when it does take place. But if we recall the central concern of cypherpunks—privacy—then we might rightly hesitate to celebrate a technology that exposes our transactions to prying eyes. Indeed, this is O’Leary’s main concern, for while many in the Global North might look upon the insistence for privacy with suspicion, those who have faced state-sanctioned oppression know better. That O’Leary knows better becomes evident in another article in which she compares the lunarpunk insistence on encryption with the guerilla style warfare of the Irish during their recent revolutionary period:

“Fighters lacked weapons, but the people and rugged landscape protected them. The new warfare favored hit-and-run tactics and disrupting enemy intelligence. It was the dawn of modern guerrilla tactics – and it won Ireland its independence. These guerilla tactics are no longer feasible today. Modern surveillance technologies and automated weaponry have turned the world that we inhabit into a desert with no protective cover. Resistance fighters are easy targets.”

Transparency, for O’Leary, is like the first iteration of the Irish revolution—when Irish fighters tried to overcome colonial rule by occupying the most public outposts of their territory. But being so conspicuous backfired when the British army arrived and closed-in, catalyzing the recourse to guerilla tactics. Today’s mass surveillance is a similar development. Those solarpunks who, having recognized the emancipatory potential of crypto, opt to join forces with popular blockchains like Ethereum and Bitcoin, put themselves at risk when—in the near future—state regulation sweeps in and transparency backfires. O’Leary and others in the DarkFi movement refer to the latter development—state-based crypto regulation—as “the coming storm,” and position lunarpunk as a revolutionary countermeasure. As she writes, “lunarpunk is a guerrilla movement committed to establishing a digital forest in cypherspace using tools like encryption that its fighters can recede into.”

A quarter moon over an animated dancing forest. Fireflies appear in a few of the frames. Text in the image says: "Lunarpunk is more like a forest. A dense cover of encryption protects tribes and offers sanctuary for the persecuted. Wooded groves provide a crucial line of defense. Lunar landscapes are dark. They are also teeming with life."
From the video essay “Lunarpunk and the Dark Side of the Cycle,” via Rekt News (2022)

In contrast, “by building transparent systems, the solarpunk says: I have faith that the law won’t turn against me. Its insistence on optimism prevents it from preparing for the worst case scenario.” She goes on to compare this situation with the harsh desert landscape where there is no cover, no escape from the relentless exposure of sunlight. In stride with the aforementioned astrologers who anticipate Pluto’s ingress into Aquarius to herald new depths of surveillance, lunarpunks are fostering the growth of forest-cover in cypherspace in hopes of preserving the mere possibility of freedom. O’Leary and others in the DarkFi movement refer to this anonymizing process as “going dark” and in so doing articulate a key feature of lunarpunk. Whereas some solarpunks enthused with crypto might hold out hope for transforming the current system through public projects transparently mediated through Ethereum, lunarpunk—according to O’Leary—is about seceding from the system altogether. As she writes in her conclusion to “Lunarpunk and the Dark Side of the Cycle,”

“Lunarpunk’s believe freedom can only be found outside the logic of domination. This means lunar society must completely decouple itself from the current paradigm. As such the lunarpunk future is born from a conflict that solarpunks seek to avoid.

This solarpunk repression is its weakest point. Solarpunk cannot build the vision it projects if it has already integrated the oppression that it hopes to break away from. By favoring transparency in its systems, solarpunk is tragically engineering its fate. Surveillance – the mechanism of authoritarianism – is bound to the solarpunk destiny.

For solarpunk to succeed it must integrate the lunarpunk unconscious. The only hope for solarpunk is to go dark.”

Just as many in the solarpunk movement reject crypto altogether, many might also take issue with the claim that solarpunk has “integrated the oppression it hopes to break away from.” This may not be true of the movement broadly speaking, but it is an unfortunate fact that the greenwashing powers of capitalism have already made inroads into solarpunk aesthetically. The short film “Dear Alice,” a Miyazaki-inspired animation, is a case in point because it doubles as an advertisement for the Greek yogurt company Chobani. The product placement is truly cringe in an otherwise diverse, utopian vision of a solarpunk future. The presence of a decommodified version of the animation on YouTube and a thread discussing the advertisement on the solarpunk subreddit are enough to show that many in the movement do not wish to capitulate to the powers that be.

An animated woman in a blue shirt, red kerchief around her neck, and a tan apron sets a steaming mug of tea on the rail of a porch. There are flowers and plants hanging from the rail and in the background.
From the commodified version of Dear Alice

As O’Leary understands it, the darkness of lunarpunk refers not only to the cover of anonymity, but also the willingness to look into the dark—to accept uncomfortable truths. For lunarpunks this means embracing the fact that we are living in the midst of a dying empire—a phase of decline which typically features an intensified effort of the state to exert control over citizens—hence the unwillingness to reform. And like fungi in the midst of this decay, the lunarpunks of DarkFi are generating an anonymity-focused layer 1 (foundational) blockchain in hopes of fostering a decentralized economy that could unite a patchwork federation of anarchist communities around the globe. Herein lies another important feature of lunarpunk: the recognition that—out of death—new life can emerge. And whereas solarpunk especially emphasizes a compassionate perception of humanity as a whole (including the future of our species), lunarpunks insist on the integral role each individual plays in the moral drama of history. Up until this point a question may have been hovering in the mind of the reader: “But isn’t anonymity a potential hazard? Won’t it incentivize and facilitate criminal behavior?” Justin Murphy posed this question to O’Leary during a dialogue the two had on the zero-knowledge crypto-anarchy of DarkFi; her response conveys the spirituality that undergirds true anarchy when understood as an ethical form that arises spontaneously from the human heart when we have had the chance to grow into virtue rather than be coerced to imitate it:

“I don’t think anonymity is necessarily a catalyst for bad things, and I also have optimism and faith in people, and I don’t think we need to persecute everyone with this invasive surveillance in order to protect us. No, I believe that people can live ethically and that their ethics should come from themselves and not be imposed on them… let the people do their things, fulfill their destinies—let that arise from them organically, as it should, in the spirit of affirmation.”

By insisting on the negative freedom that cryptography provides (freedom from prying eyes and coercion), it might seem like lunarpunks prize technological fixes over the cultivation of inner freedom and virtue. But the convictions O’Leary expresses above convey the exact opposite. The negative freedom of privacy becomes necessary in our technologically mediated world so as to carve out enclaves where the positive freedom of affirmation can flourish organically. One might discern echoes of Nietzche’s yea-saying here. Cryptography can support the latter, but true virtue can only arise out of individual self-transformation. No technology—no matter how sophisticated—can achieve this for us. Such transformation is the spiritual basis of ethical anarchy. If solarpunk steers science and technology away from the alienated and hubristic ends of cyberpunk, lunarpunk rounds off by reminding us that the key to a future of mutual flourishing ultimately lies within.

An image of a silhouette of darkness and one of light standing in a black and white forest with a quarter moon in the sky above. The dark silhouette touches the light silhouette and the rest of the image fades to darkness.

Text in the image says, "For solarpunk to succeed it must embrace the lunarpunk unconscious. The only hope for solarpunk is to go dark."
From the video essay “Lunarpunk and the Dark Side of the Cycle,” via Rekt News (2022)

Heeding O’Leary’s appeal, Dr. Paul J. Dylan-Ennis imagines a harmonization of solar and lunarpunk achieved when the former integrates the latter by going dark. “Absolutely, in terms of strategy,” he writes,

“Yet, we should also demand the light, the transparent fullness of solarpunk optimism. This is how I imagine a perfect synthesis of solar- and lunarpunk. A transparent society of utopic quality (demand nothing less) protected by a vigilant darkness. Without the light what is there to protect anyway? We should never give up the sun to the state.”

Amen—we should never give up the Sun to the state, for the transparent light of surveillance is only a counterfeit of the true, life-giving light of our star. Dylan-Ennis’ vision of synthesis and O’Leary’s Jungian call for solarpunk to “integrate the lunarpunk unconscious,” are—in my perspective—contemporary intimations of the ancient Pythagorean understanding of the cosmos as a harmonic order. But this harmonic order is not something that is merely given, rather, it is something human beings must participate in if we wish to keep the music of the universal process going. The bare attempt to discern the distinct archetypal character of Sun and Moon at work in these subgenres and the relation that inheres between them is an exercise in this cosmic participation, this renewal of cosmic spirituality. If, in the constraints of this post, we take the light of optimism, the primacy of Life, and the perception of an underlying wholeness to convey the essence of solarpunk, lunarpunk bodies forth the inverse: a familiarity with darkness that wisely guides the light of optimism, a sober recognition that the mystery of Life is ineluctably bound up with the mystery of Death (including the death of empires), and—alongside the light-filled perception of wholeness—an equal respect for difference, for the multeity at work in this harmonic unity we call our cosmos. Whereas the Sun, shining on all below irrespective of differences, occupies the daytime sky alone, the Moon shares the vault of heaven with other planets and a countless host of starry worlds. Contemplating this great celestial diversity, we are filled with awe, perhaps terror—or maybe even a bit of both. Just as the Sun can shed light on what it means to be human and guide our aspirations for the future, so too can the Moon. Unless (or until!) we discover humanoid beings elsewhere in the universe, we ought to measure our essence in close connection with the planet which hosts us: Earth. We are not just on the Earth, but are brought forth through the dynamism of its being. But the Earth would not be what it is if it were not simultaneously dancing with the Sun and the Moon. The three celestial bodies constitute a whole in the form of a tri-unity, with Earth harmonizing the polar extremes of Sun and Moon. Unlike the irresolvable negation of contradiction—the stasis of binary opposition—the tri-unity is a dynamic, ever-evolving harmony that recapitulates itself at all scales throughout the cosmos. In a similar vein, BrightFlame speaks of the “nonbinary nature” of solar and lunarpunk, describing their connection “as varied and changeable, not fixed like a molecular bond,” that they “don’t just touch one another, they overlap.” Her characterization is reminiscent of how many have described the Chinese yin-yang which features an interpenetration of light and darkness, one that is more suggestive of a dynamic tri-unity than a static, binary opposition.

An animated Yin and Yang. They are circling each other at a 90˚ angle. The dots go through the hole on the other piece as it spins around.

The same intuition of threefoldness manifests itself in the Celtic triquetra. Indeed, a trinity in some shape or form shows up in the symbol systems of many ancient cultures across the globe, a fact which may be taken to suggest that the harmony of three was an obvious feature of the natural world for our ancestors. But between now and then our thinking—especially when it comes to number—has become woefully abstract. The emergence of lunarpunk in wake of solarpunk bespeaks the potential each imaginary has for overcoming this abstractness through a reattunement the meaningfulness of the more-than-human world. That this is already happening is evident in the sequence of their articulation: given that we are beings of the Earth—cradled between the weaving of Sun and Moon—it was inevitable that a genre inspired by the light of day would be followed by the darkness of night. The two constitute a polarity, a rhythm—a dynamic relationship undergirded unity (i.e. harmony). Aesthetic sensitivity to the natural world expresses itself as a creative continuation of this polar rhythm. We see this in the first characterizations of both genres, but particularly in the effort to articulate the essence of lunarpunk always in relation to solarpunk. As Justine Norton-Kertson writes, “Lunarpunk is to Solarpunk as flowers are to fungi”—a very apt transposition of this polarity, for most flowers do open to greet the daylight, whereas mushrooms tend to thrive in the damp breath of shadows.

If cyberpunk serves to warn us of the destructive potential that human hubris writ large spells for the future, solar and lunarpunk—taken together—enjoin human beings to become capable of comprehending the speaking world once more. This renewal of cosmic spirituality is what we need to offset the damage that has been and will continue to be wrought by technologies concocted by alienated anthropocentrism. Only a spirituality that flows from a recognition of our cosmic context will know how to wield the power of technology responsibly. Though we cannot separate solar and lunarpunk, we can and must distinguish them to better understand the task ahead. Sol ignites the salvific light of optimism, reattunes science and technology to the primacy of Life, and perceives the wholeness of humanity and the Earth community; Luna reminds us that we’re already in the midst of a dystopian cyberpunk story, that we can skillfully negotiate the decay of empire by receding into the dark forest of a parallel cypherspace-economy, and that this technology can help to safeguard the freedoms necessary, though not sufficient for, human actualization. Most of all, Luna reminds us that the latter—the actualization of human potential—can only be achieved at the individual level as we each work inwardly to transform ourselves into ethical beings who are capable of partaking in the spiritual anarchy of the future by striving to live up to it in the present.

A celtic knotwork combination of the Tree of Life and a Triqutra, presumably made of copper or bronze with blacked out background. The GIF distorts the image in a disturbing manner.

An AI-generated avatar of the author. The appearance is of a man with sideburns and spikey hair and traces of facial hair. He has green earings and various green, pink, and blue devices around his temples, forehead, and beneath his eyes.

Ashton K. Arnoldy is a Ph.D. candidate in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at the California Institute of Integral Studies; his dissertation is focused on the evolution of consciousness as presented by Owen Barfield. Ashton doubles as Aʅʂσ Kɳσɯɳ Aʂ, a multimedia avatar dedicated to fostering anthropogenesis and cosmological orientation. For more, check out the multimedia lunarpunk series Lunar Return, the blog/podcast MicroKosm, and the weekly Calendar of the Soul livestream.

Seeds For the Swarm – A Review

A young woman with freckled skin and red hair wearing black goggles looking up at three green cicadas with red eyes circling the book title, "Seeds for the Swarm."

Glowing yellow/white particles waft upward from the bottom of the background which looks like a watercolor of red/orange evocative of fire.

Listen to this review on the If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) podcast

Seeds for the Swarm by Sim Kern takes us on a journey of the near future where warming has continued and much of the United States is now barely habitable. People from the “Dust States” try to emigrate through a tightly-controlled border to the “Lush States” or muddle through with that rugged individualism we take so much pride in here in the United States.

This feels like a very likely future with continued exploitation of oil and corporate/government collusion leading to huge sacrifice zones where people work hard in polluting industries that are choking their communities so they can put food on the table for their families. Rylla, our protagonist, wants desperately to go to college, but doesn’t have much hope of getting out of the Dust States even though she’s in the top of her nationwide virtual high school.

When she finds out the oil company in her hometown plans to destroy the watershed that provides what meager water is available to her region and is the last thing to give her hope, she gets a ride to speak to the state legislature committee in charge. Despite an impassioned speech, her entreaties fall on distracted ears beholden to corporate overlords and gadget addictions. One viral, embarrassing remix of her speech later, she gets recruited as a scholarship student at a university in the Lush States.

Starting with her interaction with the elected representatives, Rylla does a lot of growing up in the course of this book. It felt like Kern took everything I learned during the course of my twenties and made Rylla face these hard truths all in the course of a single year. During her many misadventures, I identified with Rylla’s tendency to get swept up in the ideology of the groups she would spend time with before becoming disillusioned when she found they didn’t have the answers she needed.

This future has glimmers of hope, but the carcass of our current world is still the dominant society. While there are a variety of themes explored, I think the most important is how the protagonists push against eco-fascism being the only solution to solving the climate crisis regardless of who is promoting it. I think it really fits into what Andrew Dana Hudson said when he was interviewed by Solarpunk Magazine:

a solarpunk future is one in which the climate crisis is escalating, institutions are failing, late capitalism is getting even more precarious and putrid, and while technologies of sustainability might be becoming ubiquitous, we haven’t yet managed to fully phase out the toxic old for the green new. It’s a future (slash present!!) in which we need a movement of solarpunks to shove us onto a better path

Our Shared Storm: An Interview with Andrew Dana Hudson

As someone who is an engineer, I really love the interactions between Rylla, a humanities major, and all of her engineering/scientist friends. They’re preoccupied with how to get their projects to work the way they want them to without necessarily thinking about what secondary or tertiary effects the technology might have on the world. They are often dismissive of Rylla’s legitimate concerns and only later realize that she was right in being worried. The Ian Malcolm quote from Jurassic Park comes to mind of “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

An image of Jeff Goldblum in black glasses and a leather coat with the text "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

Rylla’s other main companions are her fellow humanities majors including her previous public school rival from another Dust State and her nonbinary roommate who literally smashes the patriarchy. As one might expect, it’s up to Rylla to join the forces of science and the humanities to defeat the eco-fascist Big Bad at the end of the book. I do feel like this book is a little better about explaining why the kids have to be so instrumental in saving the day compared to most other YA novels where it seems the adults just really needed to go on vacation that week.

There are plenty of mishaps, victories, death, and embarrassments to go around in this story, making it a solid entry into the YA genre. I could’ve done without the love triangle, but I know that’s a hard trope to kill. Rylla and the other characters feel like real, messy humans who are doing their best to make it in an imperfectly hopeful world.

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.

What is Lunarpunk?

Lunarpunks are the night dwellers of our solarpunk futures. Biomimmicry of bioluminescent creatures, moth-themed cloaks, and gossamer fabrics fluttering in the night breeze are some of the aesthetic influences here. Winter would be the lunarpunks’s time to be more active, hosting events in the crisp nights from art exhibits to street festivals.

Creatures of the Night

Lunarpunk focuses more on the night than solarpunk’s sunny disposition. Because of this, lunarpunk aesthetics are heavy in purples and blacks as opposed to the greens and yellows of solarpunk. Bioluminescent creatures provide inspiration for clothes that glow either under black-light or as a result of smart textiles. Lunarpunks love their fellow creatures of the night – moths, mushrooms, and bats.

Where the punk really comes in is that in a lunarpunk society, people feel safe going out at night. Social safety nets mean that people don’t have to resort to crime to get by, rape culture has been excised from the cultural consciousness, and sex work is demarginalized, voluntary, and safe. Police, prisons, and punitive justice have given way to restorative justice and a world where anyone, regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation, can feel safe walking down the street at night.

Person wearing a black, white, and crimson cape patterned like moth wings. Cape is wider than armspan in width, makeing the wearer appear to have moth wings.
Moth Wings Cape by CostureoReal on Etsy


Biotechnology will have a big role to play in our solarpunk future, but I especially associate lunarpunk with biotechnology. I think this might be because of the aesthetic associations with mushrooms and bioluminescence. Bioluminescent trees or algae lamps could provide electricity-free path lighting in the cities of the future, and amazing different materials are being created from mushrooms like leather, wood, paper, or even structural building materials. Hempcrete and coral-inspired biomimetic concrete are being investigated to replace the carbon-intensive traditional concrete we use for so much infrastructure today.


Maybe it’s all the purple hues or the influence of the Moon, but lunarpunk feels more magical than solarpunk to me. As solarpunk is a movement that accepts both the spiritual and the scientific, this distinction is probably due more to my own cultural biases of magic being dark and mysterious than it is to any preference for solarpunks or lunarpunks to practice magic or not. The Solarpunk Druid and Justine Norton-Kertson have said something similar though, so it seems I’m not alone. While not a large percentage of the population yet, the growing number of pagans in the world will find a home in a lunarpunk future.

Photo by brenoanp on

Space, the lunarpunk frontier

Space has also become tied to lunarpunk expressions of a hopeful future. One series that I’ll talk more about in a future article that embodies this is the Earthseed duology by Octavia Butler. While the events of the books are terrestrial in nature, the main character is driven to help humanity reach the stars while not neglecting the planet we call home. Lunarpunk offers an alternative to the current thrust of private, corporate space exploration making space travel only for the rich and powerful to escape the planet they’ve ruined by ignoring the toll their activities exact from the natural world.

A proposed lunarpunk flag. A crescent moon in white overlays a black half circle moon silhouette which turns into a gear. These are overlayed on top of a purple (top-left) and black (bottom-right) flag, cut through on a 45 degree angle as many anarcho-fill-in-the-blank flags are.
A proposed lunarpunk flag

Upcoming lunarpunk projects

If you want more lunarpunk, there are two upcoming projects worth checking out. Submissions are open until March 14 for the lunarpunk-themed issue of Solarpunk Magazine, and until March 31 for Bioluminescent: A Lunarpunk Anthology. The Solarpunk Magazine submission window may tentatively reopen in May if they are still looking for submissions.

I’m really interested to see if there will be any stories that are both tidalpunk and lunarpunk, since the Moon’s influence on the tides makes me feel that there is a strong connection between the two subgenres.

Do you know of any other cool projects in the lunarpunk sphere right now? Let us know in the comments below, and have a great night!

Electrify by Saul Griffith – a Review

I think at this point just about everyone knows someone who thinks climate change is a problem, but that it will be too expensive to fix, or that the solutions just aren’t viable. I think Saul Griffith’s new book, Electrify, is the perfect book for this audience.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but the blue foil shimmering on the white background of this cover certainly conjures images of the future. While tech bros promise techno-utopian carbon capture machines more efficient than trees, this book excels in rampant pragmatism. Griffith lays out a pathway to decarbonizing the United States transportation and power sectors with only currently existing technologies.

I don’t think I’m the target audience for this book, but I do think the plan to #ElectrifyEverything is a necessary, but not sufficient part of a solarpunk future. The catchphrase usually comes with some caveats, like probably not all industrial processes, and I do feel that solar thermal needs more love since a large percentage of energy use in the home is used for heating, but it’s a decent simplification for the bulk of our current fossil fuel applications.

Electrify can be criticized for not addressing climate justice beside a passing mention. We can’t afford to reinforce the racist and otherwise imbalanced power structures that originally lead to climate change during the energy transition. That said, this book isn’t designed to message an entire Green New Deal in one fell swoop. As someone who grew up listening to talk radio as a red state Republican (more on that later this year), I think Griffith does an excellent job of doing what we engineers do best – sticking to the facts.

He lays out a clear, but concise, explanation of how daunting climate change is, but then paints a solution by the numbers to how we can overcome it and be more prosperous by doing so. I’m not usually a big fan of all the militaristic language used to describe climate work, but the comparisons in this book to World War II mobilization are useful to put the scope of the issue into perspective. In short, reducing most of our emissions will cost a little less than it cost the US to fight WWII in terms of national GDP.

I think part of the reason climate inaction has been such an easy sell is because it feels too big for any one person to have any agency in the fight. Griffith points the way for how families, especially when bolstered with government-backed loans, can replace the pieces of equipment that generate the bulk of their carbon emissions – their car(s) and their appliances. This gets people in the door for the climate conversation.

A snowy field full of solar panels with a large wind turbine reaching toward the sky in the background. There are two buildings in the background, and one appears to be a silo or astronomy tower based on the hemispherical top.

I know centrism is a dirty word in solarpunk circles, but I don’t think we’re going to succeed in overcoming climate change or climate injustice if we decide that we can’t work with people who are coming from a different political background. Red states already generate the majority of the renewable power in the country, so that’s a starting point. The Republicans I know believe in fairness and justice, but the party and conservative talk show hosts have had decades to distort what those words mean in a political context. We aren’t going to overcome that conditioning overnight, but this book is a step in the right direction, even if it does just seem like neoliberal techno-utopianism at first blush. I feel there’s more going on here than that, but maybe I’m naive.

I am sending this book and my copy of Repair Revolution to my dad. He’s retired and does solar installs on the side since he has his certification as well as experience from wiring up his old and new houses for solar. He’s also a Trump supporter which led to some… strain in our relationship over the last few years. I’m hoping that this book will at least show how we have viable path forward to overcoming the worst effects of climate change without some massive government takeover of every industry, which is what many Republicans fear. Is it going to make him gung-ho about climate equity? No, but at least maybe he’ll be interested in talking about climate solutions instead of automatically shutting down the conversation. It’s not going to be an easy process to get to a solarpunk future, but we’ll get there, step by excruciating step. Electrify shows how the energy transition can at least be a relatively painless part of the process.

Is saving money and increasing our resiliency a way to bridge the political gap, or is storytelling the answer? I think it’s probably a mix, but let me know what you think below!

Disclaimer: If you order the book using the Indie Bound affiliate link above, I may receive a small commission.

A Better Way to Tell Time – Solarpunk Chronometry

Our modern methods of timekeeping have changed our relationship with the world around us, giving us more precise measurements for science, but also abstracting us further from the natural world. I think it’s time we looked at how a solarpunk future can incorporate a saner method of chronometry.

A photo of several vintage clocks lined up in rows.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Our neolithic ancestors lived and moved according to the cycle of seasons and the rising and setting of the sun. Before the widespread adoption of the clock, we slept in segments, instead of all the way through the night. With the rise of the train, time zones kept people on track to their destinations. Now, some people have suggested returning to local time based on solar noon and setting any meeting times based on Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). After a year of online meetings that were held in various time zones around the world, I really see the appeal of UTC so I wouldn’t have had to run calculations to figure out when the meetings were in my own time zone. Don’t even get me started on my feelings toward Daylight Savings Time.

An image of Stonehenge. Clouds hang over the monumental stones and the grass is green.
Photo by Pixabay on

On the calendar front, there have been several attempts at calendar reform to oust the Gregorian Calendar, including the French Revolutionary Calendar, the World Season Calendar, and the International Fixed Calendar (IFC). The IFC has 13 months of 28 days resulting in a weekly layout that is the same each month. This leaves one or two extra days depending on if it’s a leap year that go into Year Day and Leap Day. I really like the IFC, and one of the oft-cited drawbacks, constant Friday the 13ths, is easily remedied by changing the first day of the month to Monday according to ISO standards. Kodak even used the IFC for more than 60 years since George Eastman thought it was so elegant.

My version of the International Fixed Calendar (all months are the same)

What do you think? Would changing the calendar and time zones be more trouble than it’s worth? Let us know below!

Plastics – A Tidalpunk Antagonist

A plastic bottle and some other detritus are very close to the camera and litter the shore. There are sticks mixed with the litter, and the ocean and some mountains are in the background, but out of focus.
Photo by Catherine Sheila on

Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to ocean life. While images of chairs and tires on the seafloor can get a visceral reaction, it’s the small stuff that will cause the biggest problems. Plastics don’t truly degrade, but break into smaller and smaller pieces until they become microplastics or microfibers. The chemical additives in these plastics negatively impact ocean life and human health as they’re eaten and move through the food chain. A tidalpunk future will have to deal with this legacy of waste.

Microfibers are fibers smaller than human hair shed when cloth wears down. While all microfibers can have potential hazards, plastic microfibers like polyester have the added threats of never breaking down and leaching chemicals like endocrine disruptors. At the Mid-Atlantic Marine Debris Summit in July scientists presented work on microplastics and and other sources of human trash in the ocean. I was surprised to learn that dryers, and not just washing machines can be a source of microfibers. There are now some microfiber filters available like the Cora Ball, Guppyfriend bag, or Lint LUV-R for catching microfibers from the wash.

Microplastics come from many sources, but single-use plastic packaging is especially prolific. Some scientists have called for a global ban on virgin plastic since plastic is an inexpensive byproduct of fossil fuel extraction and there is no incentive for the material to return to the technical nutrient cycle. Moving forward, we need to drastically reduce the use of plastic to prevent further proliferation of microplastics. Holly Grounds’s dissolving ramen packet is a great example of rethinking packaging design. Another promising development is plastics that can actually biodegrade outside of a high temperature composting operation.

Hands reach into a bin full of soda bottle caps.
Photo by Krizjohn Rosales on

Plastic wasn’t always a throwaway material, and Precious Plastic designs open source machines for processing and reforming waste plastics into durable goods. Communities in the developing world are finding ways to repurpose the waste dumped on their countries by the rest of the world. You can check out organizations like Surfrider or Plastic Oceans for other ways to help.

YES! did their entire summer issue on the plastic crisis, so I’d encourage you to check out their coverage. If you want to learn more about the current lifecycle and impacts of plastic, I’d suggest The Story of Plastic as an introduction and the longer and NSFW This Week Tonight piece on plastics as a good follow up.

While you can reduce your own use of plastic to some extent, unless you are dedicated to going zero waste, plastic is almost unavoidable in everyday western life. This is a big issue, and I feel that it’s something we’ll be dealing with for generations, even if we stopped using all plastics now.

How can we build a plastic-free future? Share your ideas below!

This is Part 4 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 3: Tidalpunk Energy – Offshore Wind in the US.

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.