What happens if the Greens win?

I mean not just win elections, but win comprehensively, so much so that there’s no need for a Green party anymore. What does society look like in this scenario? To answer that question we need to look at Green’s imagined futures. There are many such and include anarcho-primitivism and (rarely) ecofascism, but the most attractive is arguably Solarpunk. So let’s look at that.


Solarpunk is a literary and artistic movement, not a political movement. It embodies and illustrates the imagined Green future in the same way that Cyberpunk embodied and illustrated the imagined neoliberal technofetishist future. And just as Cyberpunk had the tagline of “high tech meets low life”, Solarpunk can also be tagged as “green tech meets low growth”, at least for this article.

It hasn’t really taken off, with genres such as cli-fi, pastoral science fiction etc being fairly niche, but there’s a body of work accumulating to provide the worldbuilding and a manifesto has been published. It’s beginning to grow and take shape, although it’s still impressionistic and defining it in concrete (hah!) is difficult, as no two people can agree on the exact terms. But they all revolve around high efficiency, high localism, far less transport, high recycling and use of vernacular materials. At one extreme it is the old hippy on the hill building a hobbit hole out of recycled tyres. At the other…well, that’s something different.


  • See “SolarPunk Cities: Our Last Hope?”, by DamiLee, details here.

In its intermediary form we have Solarpunk cities. Highly efficient buildings, extensive use of solar, wind, alternative tech and electrification, personal transport deprecated in favour of mass transit. Nothing we can’t create with today’s technology. But this is limited. Cities have boundaries and work on hub-and-spoke models, moving assets in, moving them out, and requiring capital (hence capitalism) to change and grow, ending in resource exploitation, division, segregation, conflict…and in the end nothing really changes. How does it overcome these limits?


  • See also: “James Burke on The End of Scarcity“, by James Burke, details here.

PB contributor @Leon occasionally mentions AI in his habitually subtle manner. But alongside it and enabled by it is the theorized end of scarcity. 3D printing at small scales enable everything, from the food you eat to the roof over your head, to be produced at low cost and with only minimal transport. And that’s not all it enables.

In a post-scarcity Solarpunk everything becomes smaller scale, extremely localized, with nearly everything produced locally: power, goods, cloth. Cities dissolve, replaced by towns, in turn replaced by large villages. 15-minute cities taken to the max. Britain from space ceases to be a web of dots connected by spokes, but glows more evenly and less intently (light spillage bad), homeostatic. From the air it seems like overlapping circles lay evenly across the entire landscape. In this scenario transport is mostly unnecessary and extremely rare and socially deprecated, with only rare elements transported slowly by boat. Ports and airports fade away.


  • See also “Why We Need More Than Solarpunk”, by “Our Changing Climate “, details here.

In such an imagined future society changes because it has to: central government and even the nation state becomes unnecessary. Sociocracies replace them, with crime and punishment being defined locally. There are shared communal living situations, more dormitories than individual homes, where families raise their kids together, share in community meals, and play together after the meal. It’s an idyllic vision, romantic and cozy. In fact it’s an utopia. And…well that’s where the problem starts.


  • See also “Black Mass” by John Gray, details here, here, and here.

At this point @Andy_JS’s ears prick up, because he knows what happens next. Utopias have two distinct features. They are very attractive and they don’t work. Let’s deal with the second point first

Utopias depend on people agreeing to it, but the one thing you can guarantee is that people won’t agree, and anything they do agree on exists only briefly until somebody changes their mind, usually five seconds later. So the question becomes, how do you keep a Solarpunk utopia in place? How do you make that which cannot work, work? Totalitarian or authoritarian societies have a tried and tested solution to this: by coercion via by open or secret police. And you can see what’s coming next.

Never forget that utopias are very attractive. This attractiveness enabled twentieth-century autocracies to use them as a moral justification for coercion and atrocities. They used utopian dreams of a better future to hold their society together and rationalize their nightmarish present. Solarpunk sidesteps authoritarianism by embracing progressive politics in sociocracies, accepting difference and handling disagreement via discussion, with extreme localism preventing them going the same way as the soviets. While this is the theory, I think history and John Gray would have doubts. But it does explain why Green parties adopt progressive policies.


And now to the first point: beauty. Solarpunk is not just a literary movement, it’s an artistic movement as well. It produces visualisations of the desired global future, varying from concrete skyscrapers dressed in bushes (decried as greenwashing by the deeper Greens) to idealized farms and villages (see the “Chobani Dear Alice” for an infamous example). In short, Solarpunk is beautiful, and beauty is attractive.


The only two parties offering a Utopia in the British political space are Reform and the various Greens. But only the Greens are offering an attractive future of a better world. Wilson once said that “the Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing”, and it’s not a crusade these days is it? The Conservative Party has collapsed into the sum of all fears. The Scottish Nationalists have their own problems and the LDs have retreated into a nice place for postgraduates to chat. For this reason, I think the Greens are the only people on the pitch of optimistic imagined futures, and that underpins their support. Consequently I think the Greens will win at least one MP in the next GE


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