Tag Archives: Nature

Animism and Solarpunk

trees on forest at daytime
Photo by zhang kaiyv on Pexels.com

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 solarpunkdruid.com, and he has been published as part of the Almanac for the Anthropocene: A Compendium of Solarpunk Futures.

Looking to the Past to Move Into the Future

man in gray tank top on a cliff. There are clouds below the outcropping
Photo by M Venter on Pexels.com

by Luca Sumitra

The exploration of ancient cultures and their wisdom can help us develop a deeper understanding of our environment and our lives. These cultures often had a close relationship with nature and understood how to manage natural resources in order to preserve them for the long term. Additionally, they grappled with the big questions of life and often developed spiritual and philosophical answers to them.

This knowledge and understanding can be used today to create a sustainable and friendly future. If we learn to treat our environment with respect and mindfulness and engage with the fundamental questions of life, we can build a harmonious relationship with our environment and initiate a positive change.

The Solarpunk/Lunarpunk movement embraces this idea and promotes renewable energy and responsible use of our resources. They strive for a harmonious coexistence of humans and nature and develop creative and innovative approaches to realize this vision.

In daily life, we can contribute practically to achieving these goals. For example, we can switch to renewable energy by obtaining our electricity from a green energy supplier or generating solar or wind energy ourselves. Also, a conscious consumption of regional and seasonal food can help to conserve our environment and strengthen the local economy.

Moreover, we can connect with nature by spending time outdoors and engaging in nature conservation projects. The contemplation of spiritual and philosophical questions can also help us better understand ourselves and our relationship to the world, and provide a foundation for a more sustainable life.

Overall, it’s about developing a holistic and respectful relationship with nature and ourselves. By combining ancient wisdom and modern approaches like the Solarpunk/Lunarpunk movement, we can create a positive future based on sustainability and community.

Here are three small practical exercises that fit with the above text and can help contribute to saving the world more relaxed:

  • Date your breath: A simple breathing exercise can help us relax and strengthen our connection to nature. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, and consciously inhale and exhale deeply. With each inhale, welcome in fresh and new air and with each exhale, release all the old and used-up air.
  • Sustainable consumption: Another exercise is conscious consumption. Take the time to select local and sustainable products when shopping. Avoid unnecessary plastic waste and opt for reusable alternatives. By consuming mindfully, you can help conserve the environment and strengthen the local economy.
  • Spend time in nature: Another way to connect with nature and do something good is to spend time outdoors. Go for walks, have picnics, or explore new nature reserves in your area. By spending time in nature, you can relax and strengthen your connection to nature. This is also a great opportunity to pick up the trash that you come across on your way.

A man with long brown hair and a beard. He has a silver nose ring and a small six-pointed star tattooed under his right eye.

Luca Sumitra is currently living out of his backpack traveling the world. He works as a consciousness mediator and teaches mainly at festivals and events, but also works with educational institutions, with a focus on children and young people.

Bicycle Innovations

red cruiser bike parked on metal bike stand

Photo by Jodie DS on Pexels.com

While cars have continued to iterate convenient features like cup holders and hill holding assist, bicycles haven’t really changed much since the safety bicycle was introduced in 1876. While some of that is because the diamond frame bike is actually a pretty cool design, it feels like unless it’s something to make a racer on the Tour de France go faster, the bicycle industry has ignored it.

As a solarpunk, I feel that bikes are a really great option for low carbon transportation for the able-bodied. What about people who need adaptive solutions? Luckily, one of the areas that there has been innovation in the bicycle industry is in adaptive bicycles. I didn’t really know much about them, but I stopped by a bike shop in Vienna, VA where they told me about some of the models they stock.


Hase TRETS trike (image from Hase’s website)

Accessible bikes are available with electric assist and other adaptive technologies to make riding fun for people who might not be able to ride a more traditional bicycle. Handcycles are available for people who can’t use their legs to pedal, and Hase makes a popular recumbent/upright tandem that can accommodate a wide level of abilities. I was able to test ride the tandem, and while I think the handling would take some getting used to, it’s a very well-built machine.


Hase Pino tandem (image from Hase’s website)

The rise of cargo and urban bikes will hopefully help with adoption of bicycles as a transportation method. This article at Bike Shop Girl, “What If Bicycles Were Designed Like Cars?” discusses how most cars are designed around the normal user, but bikes have been designed around racers for a long time. Ron George over at the Cozy Beehive has an article titled “Brainstorming Bicycle Design Ideas with an Example” further discussing the lack of innovation in the bicycle space.

When looking for practical bicycles, my wishlist would be:

  • Internally geared hub
    • Internal hubs are available from 3 to 14 speeds and pretty much eliminate all that mucking about with drive-train maintenance required with a regular set of gears (bonus points if it has a belt drive!)
  • Step through design
    • Nobody wants to have to swing their leg over the back of their bike or the center bar to get onto their ride.
  • Electric assist
    • While I don’t yet have electric assist for my bike, I’ve heard it makes a great difference in your ability to carry heavy loads (including other humans) or ride up hills. Being sweaty on arrival is a big turn off for many aspiring riders, so I think this is a good piece of tech to get more butts on bikes.
  • Racks and fenders
    • You should be able to carry stuff and not get splashed if it’s wet out.
  • Lights
    • Ideally charged via a dynamo or connected to your electric assist battery. They don’t sell cars without headlights, so why are they extra on a bike?

Granted, I’m a privileged person who doesn’t have any major physical problems. I really think tooling around town on a bike is super fun, so hopefully accessible bikes (and trikes) will be easier to find with time. I don’t think we should be forcing people to ride bikes to get around in a solarpunk society, but I think we should make it a lot better option. Investing in biking infrastructure and making bikes easier to adopt for newbies are the two main barriers to adoption here in the US. I’ve been riding for over a decade now, and I still find bike shops intimidating, so I think there’s a lot of room to grow. If you want to know more about making bicycling more inviting, be sure to check out Bike Shop Girl’s Shift Up Podcast.

Do you ride a bike? If not, what would make you feel more comfortable doing so?


Green Jobs: A review


Green Jobs: A Guide to Eco-Friendly Employment (2008) promises the following on its back cover:

> Get up to date on the green movement’s latest trends
> Choose a career that’s good for the environment — and for you!
> Go for extra training, if needed
> Learn about the exciting advantages of “green collar” employment

Let’s look at how it stacks up…

This book was published in 2008, so we get an interesting snapshot of the “green revolution” right before the Great Recession caused a major setback to climate action. Having 10 years of perspective on where things have gone gives a bittersweet read of what the authors expected of the future. A few of the technologies touted in the book have proven to be dead ends, including a particularly bullish look at fuel cells. Refreshingly, there is some treatment of the geothermal industry which is an often overlooked part of the energy puzzle.

As far as finding a career in the green industry goes, this book has a lot of good resources on companies and organizations to investigate, broken down by job type and skill set. Some of the companies are now defunct, but there is enough information here to get you started looking into interesting industries and finding positions that are a good fit for your particular set of skills and training.

Many community colleges and universities now have programs either in green trades or degrees available. Many of these programs were just starting in 2008, so there may be good programs now in your neck of the woods. As a quick example, the solar industry now employs more people than the coal industry, and most of those workers are in the solar installation business. A large number of schools offer training for the skills you need to install solar panels all around the United States. I suspect this is similar in other countries, but I’m not super-familiar with education abroad.

The primary advantage of getting a job in the green industry is having a job that aligns with your personal values. Some other possible benefits include getting help with cycling or using public transit to go to work. Some companies are headquartered in LEED certified buildings as well, reducing your impact and exposure to VOCs further. Most green jobs will come with your standard benefits of 401K, health insurance, etc. as well.

TL;DR: Green Jobs is a good read, and while some of its information is outdated, it is still a solid starting point if you want to get a job in environmentally sustainable businesses/organizations.

Disclaimer: I use Amazon affiliate links to help keep the lights on here at Solarpunk Station. I borrowed this book from my local library, so you might check out yours to see if you can read it for free. If you do decide to buy, using the links here will help keep the site running. Thanks!