What Would a Solarpunk Government Look Like?

by Christina De La Rocha

Solarpunk has a lot of dreams for a future we’d like to live in. Cultural and racial diversity; dignity, prosperity and a high quality of life for all; and urban greenery, artisanal everything, and solar panels galore. But what about the government? 

I’m still a relative newbie to both solarpunk and Twitter, but I’m seasoned enough with both to know there is a fraction whose immediate reaction is a loud and boisterous Smash the state! I’m also no seasoned anarchist, but it seems to me that these solarpunks aren’t calling for the might-is-right of anarchy, but, rather some sort of social organization as devoid as possible of hierarchy, where it is not possible for persons or groups of persons to obtain power over others by owning wealth, being famous, controlling resources (or, famously, those means of production), or any other means.

Isn’t there room in solarpunk for imagining, not a nanny state, but a state whose honest purpose is to support people to live the best, most meaningful lives as possible? 

Put that way, it both does and doesn’t sound radical. Also, for all the spluttering that you might hear about how hard it would be to trust people to behave themselves or how hard it would be to scale something like that up to a state, national, or even international level, there are plenty of examples of how even our current quasi-democratic attempts at government have failed huge swaths of their citizens in key ways and/or are tottering towards collapse. Take Beruit’s Security Forces attacking Lebanese citizens for protesting the incompetence and corruption of the government in the wake of the devastating and entirely avoidable explosion that leveled great chunks of the city in 2020, for instance. Or look at the zero-tolerance drugs laws and three-strikes laws that, over the last 30 years, even (neo)liberal Democrats have enacted in the USA, whose main purpose and outcome has been to put ethnic minorities and the poor into prison in great number, ruining their lives, and shattering their families and communities. Meanwhile, thanks to politicians changing tax and labor laws to favor the super-rich, wealth keeps distilling up to the top handful of men in the world, and jobs continue to pay less for more work and come with even fewer vital “benefits”.

However, there are a lot of people out there for whom the solarpunk idea of dreaming up and then creating a future that wouldn’t suck to live in resonates, but who are not interested in anarchism. What they want is a government that functions. After all, the government hasn’t failed at or been evil about everything. Isn’t there room in solarpunk for imagining, not a nanny state, but a state whose honest purpose is to support people to live the best, most meaningful lives as possible? 

In grandiose terms, this would mean a government that honestly works at (and makes stellar progress toward) eliminating hunger, homelessness, and poverty—for indeed, in this day and age, these are things that we as a people/government allow to exist. It also means a government that opens up access to education to everyone interested and both builds up and maintains for its citizens physical and social infrastructure—from the electricity grid and clean water to great healthcare and childcare—in tip-top and broadly available shape.

In addition, for me, at least, a solarpunk government (or a solarpunk anarchist collective) also maintains critical standards. Because, although defined standards can also be used as weapons against people, there’s a lot of critical stuff you can’t accomplish without them. Buyers and sellers are protected by strongly upheld definitions of weights and measures. Everyone is protected by standards that honestly define unsafe levels of harmful pollutants in the waters we drink, bathe, and swim in. Solar panels need to work efficiently, not fuel fires, and not electrocute anyone, which requires that some designs and operating procedures are permissible, while others should be outlawed. Who better to handle such things than government agencies or some set of specific committees, provided they are sufficiently funded and run with the intention of doing a good job for the citizens of their country? At the same time, there will always need to be safeguards to prevent standards and bureaucracy from being wielded as weapons against anyone or used as a means of power over people.

I suppose I have actually skirted around the issue of what a solarpunk government would actually look like. I’ve mostly just run through a couple of things that I think a solarpunk government (or anarchist collective) would and wouldn’t do. I hope this has been enough to get you thinking and writing stories with solarpunk governments to set loose into the world and capture people’s imaginations. 

Christina De La Rocha (she/her), nonfiction co-editor for Solarpunk Magazine, was formerly a professor of biogeochemistry and marine sciences, loves reading and writing science fiction that explores what people do with the spaces opened up by science and technology and non-fiction related to how stuff works, from the origin of the Universe and then, later, life, to the complexities of the climate system, to whether or not fueling the electricity grid through fusion is an impossible long shot.  Her (non-academic) writing has appeared in AnalogToasted Cheese, and Unsustainable Magazine and in the book Silica Stories. You can find her on Twitter at @xtinadlr.

Published by Solarpunk Magazine

Creating a new and better world through speculative literature.

2 thoughts on “What Would a Solarpunk Government Look Like?

  1. I prefer my take on a future, out on the asteroids on a multitude of commerce driven cultures.
    I like it so much, I’ve written two (soon to be three) SciFi books addressing the issues.

  2. I’ve been involved with Solarpunk since September of 2014, with politics since September of 2011, and with accounting and systems of accountability since collage back in the dinosaur days. The best concept for governance I’ve come up with so far is two interlinked programs called Positive Proxy and Citizenry Building.

    We *need* representative government, because the job of ‘citizen’ is far too large and complex for any one person to even inventory, much less fulfill. But we’ve abundantly proven that systems of electing representatives are far too easy to corrupt. So Positive Proxy says “Fine, don’t elect them. Appoint them, instead.” Cast your own vote on those issues you both care about and have enough training to have an informed opinion on, and then write a proxy for your vote to someone else you trust to cast it for you on everything else. They won’t know all the issues either, so after they’re done casting your vote on everything *they* care about and are competent at, they proxy it again on to someone else, and so on until either your vote has been cast on all outstanding issues or someone fails to proxy it further onward.

    Two things provide accountability to the system. Firstly, you can revoke your proxy at any time, for any reason or none, and either take back your vote to cast yourself or write a new proxy to a new proxy-holder who holds more of your trust. Secondly, you can go back through the record at any time, find out how your vote has been used, and change it if you don’t agree with it, even if you had personally cast it yourself, earlier.

    And two other mechanisms help make the system work. The first of these is fully open-sourced legislation. This isn’t a new idea, the entire Deutsches Reichsgerift (German Federal legal code) is in a github depository, where anyone in the world (who can write auf Deutsch) can check out a chunk, modify it to suit their desires, and submit it for consideration. The second is a form of “automatic sunset provision” – rather than having fixed scheduled elections, voters attach their vote to whatever bills they approve of whenever they wish. When a bill has the support of over 2/3 of the electorate, it becomes law. If enough voters withdraw their approval, move out of the district, or die, such that the law has support of less than 1/3 of the electorate, it is withdrawn unless and until it can once again cross the 2/3 threshold. The difficulty in getting a full third of the electorate to agree on anything provides the stability a legal system needs.

    A Citizenry Building program is necessary because the first thing a Positive Proxy program does is unavoidably point out to each citizen exactly how huge and difficult the job of ‘citizen’ actually is, which would be extremely discouraging without additional support. Since we believe in the original concept of citizen sovereignty (i.e., the buck stops with the citizen, not the “I control everything and nothing controls me!” right-wing ridiculousity), we can’t tell the citizen what their job is or how to do it. But we *can* ask them what *they* think their job is, and then try to find them whatever they need to do the best possible job of it – assistance, training, resource, education, whatever they ask for we do our best to provide for them.

    This is already over 500 words, and I can go on about this kind of stuff forever, so I’m going to shut up now and let someone else have a turn. If you want me to further abuse your soapbox, tho’, just holler.



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