Episode 25 – Solarpunk: A Mindful Movement | Mindful Ways of Living Series

Hello Friends,

This month we bring you an exciting new series where we explore mindful ways of living. In this first episode we explore the Solarpunk genre – an uplifting vision for what a utopian society built mindfully could look like; one where we live in collaboration with nature and innovate sustainably.

We hope you are as inspired by the Solarpunk movement as we are! Here are some resources to get you started and let us know what more you can find!

Until next time, Be well friends!

Show Notes & Links


E25 – Solarpunk – A Mindful Movement Series: Mindful Ways of Living

Maria: Hello and welcome to the Becoming Mindful Podcast. In this episode, we will talk about solar punk, what it is or where its origin lies, and how it integrates with mindfulness. I am Maria.

Jackie: And I am Jackie, and we are becoming mindful.

Maria: Let’s talk about what Solarpunk is.

Jackie: Yeah, I mean, for anyone unfamiliar, it’s a literary genre, right? It’s kind of an artistic vision for what a future could look like that is more regenerative, inclusive, eco-centered, and sustainable, more so than our current society. But it’s a beautiful movement of imagining this possible utopia of integrating technology and the natural world and building for our future.

Maria: Yeah, it’s more than just a literary genre or an aesthetic. It’s almost a whole movement. Right. Contrary to many dystopian futurists, Solarpunk is more of an uplifting vision of our world, with a sustainable kind of post-capitalism, community-oriented society.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: Using technology to uplift humanity and the planet emphasizes real-world applications. And it also recognizes social issues and climate change damage, right? Like the damage is, that’s being done. But kind of with a hopeful focus on the future for focusing on environmental sustainability and community and decentralized systems.

But also social justice and technological innovation. So there is techno, logy involved. Talking about aesthetics is probably very nature-oriented. A lot of kind of upcycling. Recycling. The aesthetic is very inspired by Art Nouveau and some Asian and African styles and art, and I want to read a quote from Andrew Sage of Andrewism, his definition of solar punk.

Solar punk is a shining vision of a positive future grounded in our existing world that emphasizes the need for sustainability, self-governance, and social justice. It’s a movement that’s dedicated to human-centric and ecocentric ends. It’s a futurism that focuses on what we should hope for rather than what we should avoid.

And, yeah, so all in all, I think it’s something that very much aligns with my values, and I also believe in mindfulness.

Jackie: Yeah. It’s almost like what a mindful world would look like if all the people building a civilization were practicing mindfulness. I feel like Solar Punk would be the best option. What would that vision be?

Maria: Yes, agreed. Yeah, I mean, if we want to talk about how it integrates with mindfulness first before we talk a little bit about where it comes from.

Jackie: Yeah.

Maria: We can jump right into that because, I think, if you look at mindfulness, we’ve talked about this a lot, too: the connection to nature and the interdependence of all living beings.

Jackie: Right. Solar Park really incorporates that or embodies that as well, living in harmony with nature and promoting practices and technology that support that balance and sustainability. So I think that fits together really well.

Yeah, absolutely. And I feel like it’s like a natural progression. At least it was for me. As you know, the noise of everyday life is harmful, and you’re not good enough to buy this product, or the world is falling apart, and it’s this president’s fault, the last president’s fault, or whatever.

But we’re constantly being pulled in all these negative directions, and as you develop your mindfulness practice, you’re becoming more present. You start to quiet all that noise; I think you begin to turn toward a more compassionate and holistic path.

Because you can see the possibilities and the good things when you stop all that external noise, mindfulness practices bring you closer to your connection with the entire world as far as people of the earth and the environment. And when you go to work or whatever career you’ve chosen, now you’re primed with this more extensive connection versus that egocentric place where you are thinking: what do I need? What do I need? What do I need? And you shift more to how I can serve? Like, how’s the best way I can serve?

And I think the Solar Punk vision is for the greater good, right?

Everything is thought of in a bigger way versus the individualistic way that our society is built on right now.

Maria: That’s right. Yeah. And I think that you hit the nail on the head. We have this individualistic society that stands contrary to that, which is why we say punk, right?

Right, opposition to the current world.

And it focuses very much on community, right?

Jackie: Mm-Hmm

Maria: And also.

You know, the community’s resilience, collective action, collaboration, and solidarity, which is sorely lacking at the moment, feel like they are in the world, right? I still do these things, but it feels like that’s a big part of mindfulness, too.

And then, on the other hand, what you also mentioned about consumption? Like we’re constantly consuming and fast, whatever, right? Fast food, fast fashion, fast, whatever.

With mindfulness, you slow down, Be in the present, and take intentional action versus just living on autopilot, which I think Solar Park also encompasses.

We have the reduction of race, sustainable living, supporting local economies, and definitely prioritizing renewable energy sources. But also, I think, tapping into this hopeful and positive vision and creativity, right? And it’s tapping into creativity and collective creativity.

Where, you know, we are all one and are more mindful of the planet, how people live, and what’s healthy for them in terms of their mind, body, and so on. Right?

Jackie: mm-Hmm mm-Hmm. Right. And I mean, you’re leading to it. Solar Punk is solution-based. I have so many visions of the future in media, and popular culture is so dystopian. Solar punk is the other side, hopeful and optimistic, tapping into what is best for everyone.

How can we make everyone live their best life? And, like you said, in a sustainable way. It makes me think of this indigenous principle, which I looked up so that I could share it. The seventh-generation principle of the Iroquois philosophy is that decisions made today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.

So the decisions you’re making are not for your generation, even for the next generation, seven generations from now.

It should be, you know, positive. It could be another place where indigenous knowledge is already present, and we need to resurrect it and integrate it with this movement.

But it’s going down that same line of thinking.

Maria: Yeah, and I think Solar Punk also does tap into that. So, indigenous knowledge and looking at marginalized communities are also part of solar punk.

It’s exciting. When you said seven generations, it was a pretty common thing. They have that in different cultures. I’ve heard of that before. Another exciting thing that reminded me of was when we were talking about generational trauma. To get rid of it, it would take seven generations.

So it’s kind of like this. There’s something about that number that I think is very important.

Jackie: It’s like the size of our ripple or something like,

Maria: Yeah.

The ripple effect, right? Exactly.

Jackie: Yeah.

Maria: Mm-Hmm. Agreed. Yeah.

Jackie: that’s cool.

Maria: Yeah, for sure. And I also feel that when you dive into mindfulness, you get to this point, and I think we’ve talked about this before in some of the other episodes that you inevitably get to this point. I feel it’s almost like they go hand in hand,

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: you know?

Um, and I think this is part of the origin of how solar punk developed if you want to talk a bit more about how it came to be.

Jackie: Yeah.

Maria: back in the early two thousand,

You know, at the time, and still is, everything is just saturated with dystopian literature and media.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: the outlook on how things were and are. And the solar punk thought, I think, is kind of a reaction to that, right? It’s like a reaction to the dystopian futurism.

Something like steampunk or cyberpunk where you have kind of like a low life, high tech or – steampunk, not, but the cyberpunk you have like a, you know, very dystopian, corporate, everything, right? The corporations have taken over everything. They have massive power. And I think people have that hopelessness because it feels like that’s the direction we’re going in. After all, we already see these things in our current lives.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: I think that’s kind of where this solar punk originated as this reaction to that. Was it rejected that vision? We should reject the vision and instead envision a more optimistic and proactive future. And then, from what I’ve read, kind of where this whole name came from, and everything was, so in 2008, there was a blog post on a site called Republic of the Bees, named from Steampunk to Solar Punk.

That conceptualizes solar punk as more of a literary genre inspired by steampunk. Right. And then, in 2014, there was a Tumblr Post about the aesthetic and how things look. And that got super popular, and it went viral. And with that, it was like the start of its becoming increasingly popular.

So there was a quote. Describes this essentially as a world in which children grow up being taught about building electronic tech, food gardening, and other skills. People have come back to appreciate artisans and craftspeople, from stone masons and smithies to dressmakers, jewelers, and everyone in between.

So that was the start. There and, a little bit later, the term solar punk was coined by, or cemented; I would almost say, because obviously in posts before it was mentioned, but I think an article by Adam Flynn cemented it. The article was called Solar Punk Notes Towards a Manifesto. Which goes through bringing in what solar punk could be

It ended with the sentence; solar punk is a future with a human face and dirt behind its ears. I love that. I love that sentence so much because I don’t know the humanity in it, and the connection to the earth is beautiful.

I loved it.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: yeah, it gained more and more traction as a cultural movement. Lots and lots of media were inspired by it. There are lots of books, which we can talk about a little bit later. Movies. I think one of the bigger ones that came to my mind as well was, you know, like Studio Ghibli movies.

And the aesthetics in them. And, if you think of Princess Mononoke, there are many solar-punk influences in that movie. And yeah, from what I’ve gathered, that’s kind of how it became a thing.

Jackie: Yeah, I mean, as we’re talking about the last episode, we have to see something or be able to imagine something before it can become a reality. And so the fact that we’re seeing this trend through all this pop culture and all this media, it’s a way to influence a whole generation of people.

It’s a tangible way for people to see how these ideas can be implemented and how we can live in a society that respects nature and thinks seven generations ahead.

So yeah, I think it’s so hopeful that people are building worlds around these and distributing them to the culture.

Maria: Yes.

Jackie: just adding more hope.

Maria: yeah, for sure. And I can only agree that we’ve seen this with any sci-fi.

Jackie: Hmm.

Maria: literature or, you know, media from before that

Jackie: Yeah.

Maria: anything that we currently have technology-wise, for example, is something that has been thought up in sci-fi before,

and right.

It’s almost like you have a sci-fi author who thinks of possibilities and is creative.

So the art is spinning the visions of what could be

Jackie: mm-Hmm

Maria: or what we should aim to do, right?

Jackie: mm-Hmm.

Maria: And then, at some point later, this manifests in engineering and wherever, probably the people who consume that media, right? So.

Jackie: right.

So you have to get used to the idea. You have to embody it yourself, and then you can figure out how to add your unique spin on it and push the idea forward because the artists who imagine these ideas out of nothing will be different people than those who engineer them and put them together.

And that’s why we need the creative collaboration you mentioned earlier.

Maria: Right. Yeah. And I think that’s why we also need this kind of movement because,

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: you know, if all the media just depicts dystopia, then what else than dystopia can come to be, right?

Jackie: Right, right. It’s going to become self-fulfilling.

But it can all start with things like focusing our minds and behaviors, becoming more present, and regaining the autonomy of our minds through mindfulness. I think with a mindfulness movement, we can make real strides towards making this real.

I’m just thinking now, if you think back to when mindfulness practices came to the United States, you know, in the fifties and it’s spurred like the sixties, movements into mindfulness and things like meditation and yoga and retreats to India.

Mindfulness teachers from the East could also travel to the United States and share the practices. Out of that came a lot of solar punk ideas. People are trying to change society in a lot of the same ways that the solar punk movement is talking about things like communal living, or we had Michael Reynolds who built earth ships and built these homes that incorporated nature and were self-sustaining and off the grid and everything. And I think it spurred a lot of manifestation of this world. And so I guess we may have an opportunity to do that again with new technology, with where we are in the world right now.

Maria: Mm-Hmm. Yeah, I think, yeah, there’s a lot of relation. Solar punk has one of its pillars, technology, but otherwise, it’s very much rooted in what you’ve been talking about. For sure

Yeah. And I think it is so important that we see these things, right, that people are aware of these things, and be it through mainstream media. If you put an idea into people’s heads, it can become a seed for something new. Now, having solar punk in popular media or becoming more and more mainstream, of course, you’re going to get into the situation where capitalism again will try to get onto it or into it.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm. Yep. People find ways to make money.

Maria: It happened, right? There’s been the shallow end of solar punk around as well. We’ve seen it being commodified, or the aesthetics used and decoupled from the whole movement.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm. Yeah, I checked YouTube for some videos in preparation for this, and the first video, the first solar punk video, had a solar punk aesthetic and was a commercial for yogurt.

Maria: Yes,

Yes, I’ve seen that one. And yes, I’ve

I have seen it like. Punk.

No, they’ve used the whole soda punk aesthetic to make a commercial for yogurt.

Jackie: Which, all right. The irony, but okay.

Maria: Yes, and this has precisely been happening as well. So, people and corporations have adopted the aesthetics of solar punk for clout or greenwashing, especially greenwashing. Right.

You know, if you have people like slap some greenery and flowers on a concrete skyscraper and call it a solar punk green skyscraper

Jackie: Because it has a green roof.

Maria: yes, but it’s still concrete and does nothing for the ecosystem.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: Or things like you have certain nature motives and DYI aesthetic on fast fashion,

Jackie: Yeah.

Without addressing any environmental concerns in the production process or ethical labor.Humanitarian.


Maria: either, right. They’re made in some sweatshop with horrible chemicals.

And then it says, like, a green future or something. I don’t understand. But, you know, I’m just making this up. I don’t have a concrete example, but we’ve all seen it. We’ve all seen it.

Jackie: mm-Hmm.

Maria: Same with tech, right? I mean, we have tech relying on the aesthetics and the background of solar punk, but again, manufacturing process and ethical concerns are not looked at, and

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: contributing to more electronic waste. Think about all the products that have solar panels and all this stuff, right? They’re not taking a holistic approach at all.

Jackie: Right, Right, It’s a gimmick instead.

Maria: Mm-Hmm mm-Hmm. Yeah. So, they appropriate the aesthetics without embracing any principles or values of solar punk.

Jackie: mm-Hmm. Yeah.

Maria: yeah.

And, of course, that dilutes the message, right?

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: and makes it superficial.

Jackie: And I think it turns many people off to it because they see through that, and that’s BS. Many people can look at that and lose faith in environmental or progressive movements because they’re often corrupted in those ways. And again, it cannot be easy to picture how our current systems work since everything you described is very accepted and expected.

Things like fast fashion or something. It will still be in our malls, and we’ll still be exposed to and sell it.

Maria: Right.

Jackie: yeah.

Maria: Yeah, and I think that’s one of the significant objections that people might feel against solar punk, that it’s just this idealistic utopian, you know, lush green landscapes and vibrant communities. And then you look out into your streets, and it doesn’t look like that.

People feel like, oh, you have this naive vision that is completely divorced from the realities, right? The realities of power dynamics, resource constraints, and all the injustices in the world are some of the objections, I would say.

Solo punk is definitely being accused of not being realistic. And I think some concerns are valid. I mean, the thing is, it’s not a snap of your fingers, and tomorrow, we live in a solar punk utopia.


Jackie: Things like experimental cities and trying different things and attempting to make a pathway for us to experiment with these things.

I mean, it can be so challenging to try something that’s never been done. I mean, I’m speaking from personal experience of trying to live in a tiny house, for instance. And there are stigmas and laws and preferences of people that don’t wanna see change, or they don’t want to risk what we have to try something radically different, which I’ll argue solar punk is pretty fundamentally different. But a lot of people just aren’t comfortable taking that risk. And I say that many people can’t take risks as a privileged person. But I think we are a privileged country, and maybe we should be leading the path to living more responsibly and sustainably.

We do have resources.

We do not have the resources to snap our fingers and change everything tomorrow, but we do have the resources to move in a different direction.

Maria: Yeah. And I think that’s probably also where this objection stems from, right? So this worry that we are just romanticizing something that is not rooted in reality. It’s like seeing the path there is too hard. And that’s a thing; humans have always struggled with long-term stuff we are not good at.

We’re not good at anything long-term. We are not. And I think that comes into play there, too, where people cannot see how we can even get there. So they’re saying it’s unrealistic. Right.

Jackie: But we have seven generations.

Maria: Right. Exactly. Obviously, yes. Having that counterbalance right to the narratives of doom and despair is essential.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm, for sure. Yeah.

Maria: As we talked about before.

So maybe it feels overly idealistic, but we need to have that vision to manifest it in the future, as we said before.

I also think that people don’t necessarily grasp it, maybe because of the commercialization of solar punk, but they learn it’s a whole thing. It acknowledges the challenges and complexities, and it focuses on solutions rather than succumbing to cynicism. Right.

And that goes into this. Maybe it’s more escapism than activism, as it feels like a naive vision that is too hopeful; this makes no sense. You have to look at the current power struggles and structures, and you’re not challenging them enough with this vision of a hopeful future.

But I think it does because it envisions how we can work together to create a better world. Right? It inspires real-world actions, community engagement, grassroots organizations, and collective efforts. And I think that is the foundation for getting anywhere. You need hope and inspiration; otherwise, why do I care if everything’s falling apart? Right. Why do I even need to do anything? Because the world’s going to burn anyway, right?

Jackie: And that’s the power of art.

Maria: right.

Yeah. Yeah. But I think that’s this whole kind of criticism of also maybe kind of like a lack of radicalism. Like not being radical enough, you’re not gonna do any changes with this flower power hippie stuff, I guess. But I think it does challenge the current culture. And it gives us alternatives outside of current economic systems. I mean, it’s very post-capitalist.

Jackie: Right. Which is hard to imagine.

Maria: Yeah, promoting decentralization and community empowerment has a tremendous impact on the mindset.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm. It is hard to imagine a place where we’re beyond capitalism, given how it is interwoven into our structures and how everything works. But I think it’s something that can begin to grow in parallel, as a separate choice, that if we can permeate it into the generations and continue to keep these ideas alive, people will find ways in society, in their daily lives, to start to sprinkle it in and find inspiration from these positive, hopeful stories versus, what you might be seeing, in those dystopian or capitalistic messages.

Maria: Mm-Hmm. Yeah, and I think people forget that these systems, like capitalism, are something people have thought up.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: They’re constructs; they’re not nature; they’re something that we came up with, which means that we can also change our minds.

You know, if you think about feudalism, right?

Like at the time, nobody would’ve even thought about kings and whatnot. It’s impossible to have something different than this; this is natural and normal, but now we don’t. How many kingdoms do we still have with kings and queens and whatever is still of actual power?

Jackie: right,

Maria: So, you know, just like thinking up what a democracy is, what a republic is. Like that’s not something that we always had. Cavemen didn’t have that. The early societies were different. I mean, things were


Jackie: Yeah, different civilizations have run successfully or prolifically without the systems that we have right now.

Maria: Yeah. I mean, even the invention of money. Money is an invention. It’s not something you can grow on a tree. It doesn’t exist in nature.

Jackie: Right.

Maria: you know you can’t just dismantle something in a week. Yeah.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: that’s just not how it works.

Jackie: It starts with the art and inspiration, and then we let it grow. We have to keep nurturing those ideas.

Maria: Right. Imagine how something can work differently so you can see that it doesn’t have to be like it is now.

It doesn’t have to go into this endless growth of capitalism, and it doesn’t.

And, coming back to mindfulness, I think that’s also inherently mindfulness. You become aware of things. I am considering identity. You’re building an identity ego, right?

Jackie: Right.

Maria: You’re clinging to that, and this is what you are. Mindfulness helps you deconstruct that and, look behind it, and even detach from that identity,

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: Again, the same goes for social systems. But this is not easy. It takes tremendous power even to think that we are not that. We’ve talked about it with Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, right? The death of your identity is like an actual death. It feels like a natural death.

Like you’re dying, like something dies. And through mindfulness, this can be something that you can do.

I hope that makes sense.

Jackie: Yeah, it does.

Maria: Yeah.

So, you know, as this is an introductory episode to Solar Punk, I think we definitely want to look into more of the aspects in future episodes, but I wanted to list some of the Influences or sources where one can get into more of the mindset of solar punk and also find out more about solar punk and related topics.

I’ve found a few things. First, I found a site called solarpunks.net, which is a hub for discussion articles and resources related to solar punk. Then there’s a YouTuber Andrewism, which is Andrew Sage. He has done multiple videos on solar punk, exploring all things related to solar punk, social economics, and climate justice. It’s a very good resource. I enjoy their channel.

There’s a book that might be interesting. I haven’t read it yet, but it might also have a good background. Solar Punk is an ecological and fantastical Story in a sustainable world. It’s a collection edited by Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro. I hope I pronounced that correctly.

Jackie: We will put it in the notes.

Maria: I will put it in the notes. Then, the Solar Punk notes towards a manifesto article I mentioned before by Adam Flynn. There is also a Spanish article called Un Manifiesto Solarpunk by a group called Solarpunk Community. It’s short, but it has all the principles of solar punk in there.

There are some good fiction books. Some of them are not young, but they explore solar punk, or at least solar punk, adjacent to futures and societies. So there is the Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson.

There’s a book called Walk Away by Cory Doctorow.

Another book is Parable of the Sower, which is actually the first part of a two-part series by Octavia E. Butler. It was written in the nineties, and I started listening to it.

Another book by Starhawk is called The Fifth Sacred Thing. Another book that we’ve both read and talked about before, and I think it relates very well to solar punk, and we need to speak about it in an episode, is Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman.

And then I have a few more sites that people can look up.

There’s the Human Restoration Project, which is an organization that examines pedagogy, specifically human-centered schools and progressive pedagogy. I think that fits very well as well.

There’s a YouTube channel called the Solar Punk Scene, which explores the solar punk aesthetic and lifestyle. It’s not superficial, so it really explores the different aspects as well.

And there’s an artist whose art I thought was really interesting. She envisions a matriarchal, positive, solar-punky future society. It’s somewhat abstract but exciting. Her name is Saya Woolfalk.

Yeah, so that’s some of the things I found, which I thought were interesting to look into to find out more about solar punk and things that were inspired by solar punk and envision this more positive human and

Ecocentric future.

Jackie: Yeah, thank you. We’ll include all those in the show notes so people can link to them right away.

Maria: Did you find anything?

Jackie: I found a few of the things you had on there, like the manifesto and the YouTube channel, but not that much stuff. There are a few books in there I think we should put on our list.

Maria: Mm-Hmm, for sure.

Jackie: Yeah. So, I think we talked about this a little bit earlier today. I feel that it can definitely be a little series for us to dive into more. You know, the different aspects of solar punk or what a solar punk future could look like. And what a mindful society could actually look like, you know, painting that picture.

Maria: Mm-Hmm. And steps that can be taken. Obviously, it is from a lens of mindfulness because that’s what our podcast is about. But

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: yeah, so I’m looking forward to that.

And with that, I want to thank everyone for watching and listening again.

Jackie: Mm-Hmm.

Maria: We appreciate you.

Jackie: Yeah, please feel invited to join in the conversation by reaching out to us on social media @BecomingMindfulPpodcast or by leaving a comment. And please subscribe while you’re there. So, thank you again for listening. And until next time, be well.

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