Joey Ayoub offers a hopeful look at Solarpunk, a genre that emerged in response to Cyberpunk, and a movement focused on positive futurism and community-building that’s utopian yet pragmatic. “Solarpunk is a recognition that the modern world is oversaturated with despair and helplessness,” writes Ayoub, “and in that context hope can be a radical act.” Doomscrolling and denying the planet’s big problems are easy to do, but Ayoub’s inspiring essay shows people that there can be other paths for us — and the Earth — if we can tackle them together.

After successfully entering the building and kicking the guard out, they let in 200-odd homeless people to find shelter from the cold. When the police inevitably arrive, the activists trap them between two of the gates and use the building’s heating control to increase the temperature to 115 F (46 C). This forces the cops to remove their armor or risk heatstroke. At that moment, ten activists who were waiting in a different, cooler room, allow the cops to enter in small numbers at a time, disarm them, destroy and throw their weapons away, then let them go out in nothing but T-shirts and underwear. The irony of the situation is hard to miss: In the Boston winter cold, the cops cannot survive without going back to their homes, a right denied to the homeless. Only through direct confrontation was that made apparent.

The Solarpunk element of the story is the idea that climate-related challenges are going to increase, yet by thinking and organizing together we are able to arrive at concrete solutions to specific problems. Unlike the more common climate-related apocalyptic stories we’re all familiar with, agency is given back to humans who, when sufficiently organized, are able to change their living conditions. 

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.