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Reviewed by:
  • The Solarpunk Conference by From Imagination to Action
  • Ariel Kroon and Kees Schuller
From Imagination to Action, The Solarpunk Conference, June 24, 2023, Virtual

The Solarpunk Conference was born out of the desire to see an accessible space dedicated to discussions of solarpunk. With solarpunk growing in popularity in both popular and academic circles, the need for such a space seemed obvious to the organizers. The organizers also felt the need to bridge academic and popular conversations in a way that was productive and opened further discussion, as the disconnect between the academic and popular spheres is often damaging to social movements. [End Page 634]

This was especially important for solarpunk because of its nature as being built from below. Solarpunk is crowdsourced, having evolved over the years from social media aesthetic to literature to social movement, with few canonical critical texts. Taking into consideration the distributed democratic nature at the heart of solarpunk, the conference aimed to be accessible to the widest array of people possible: in this regard, the conference was incredibly successful. As a remote conference, the event was already more financially and practically accessible than an in-person event. Tickets were available to those across the financial spectrum, with a large percentage of our tickets being pay-what-you-can, or free to those in need; live captioning was provided on the day of, volunteers were available throughout the day to address accessibility concerns, and the ability for attendees to request live translations or other accessibility options was also provided. Further, while still retaining academic integrity and value, the majority of the presentations were legible to the largely non-expert, non-academic audience.

The other key goal for the conference was to create a space for conversation and networking between otherwise disconnected members of the solarpunk community. To this end, alongside the Zoom webinars used for presentations, a Discord server was created for attendees that saw consistent engagement, networking, and project sharing, further allowing presenters to engage with attendees after their talks, enabling extended Q+A sessions that otherwise would have not been possible within schedule constraints. This hybrid model between Zoom and Discord proved incredibly effective, allowing for a wide range of interactions, and encouraging the community building and idea sharing that were key to this conference.

Throughout the conference, themes of climate grief and the disaffection and despair of late-stage neoliberal capitalism returned to the fore, with speakers positioning solarpunk as a way to combat these negative affects. Mirroring these themes, most speakers emphasized the necessity of direct (solarpunk) action to escape the dystopian long-present of contemporary corpo-capitalism. Perhaps because of these same themes appearing in the movement as a whole, solarpunk is often reduced to an aesthetic of green utopia, which is an unfair stereotype given that many strands of solarpunk thought could be labeled as anti-utopian or in the vein of critical utopian theory. Solarpunk’s explicit aim to imagine sociopolitical and economic realities beyond late-stage capitalist neoliberalism requires it to divest from what Lauren Berlant calls “stupid optimism”—“the faith that adjustment to certain forms or practices [End Page 635] of living and thinking . . . will secure one’s happiness” (2011, 126). Solarpunk rejects classical utopian picturing of a future world that operates according to the logics of the present, which in turn have been shaped by the (often racist, sexist, and classist) logics of the past (cf. Williams 2018; Kroon 2021). It is also important to note that solarpunk does not adhere to a singular vision of the future but instead acknowledges the biodiversity of nonhuman nature and the diversity of the human experience, and so encourages multiple futures that serve the peoples and lands on which they rest.

The conference began with opening remarks by one of the organizers, Lindsay Jane, followed by a land acknowledgment by Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, traditional knowledge-keeper and Indigenous activist from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, Treaty Six. Chagnon-Greyeyes welcomed participants in nehiyaw (Cree), acknowledging her location in Mohkinstsis (Calgary, Alberta) and the Indigenous nations there, and reminding attendees to think about their connection to the land that they were on. She shared a teaching...

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