As I write this I’m looking out the window to see the world outside quickly shading into darkness and the amber glow of street lamps, It’s only 4pm. The trees, a blaze of golden hues only a week ago, are quickly becoming barren and skeletal. The cold is slowly usurping the air in my flat, and after donning three layers I’m still fighting the temptation to put the heating on for a bit longer.
Winter is here.
When ever the dark time of year rolls around my thoughts always turn to What a solarpunk world would be like in the winter. So much of our art and visualisation centres on the power of sunlight. All the cityscapes and concept art shows a full bright world, bathed in sunlight. The foliage is always rich, green and in full bloom. But these snapshots of a world in wonderful weather only tell half the story. Those of us living closer to the polls than to the equator know how different our needs become in winter.
Sunlight become a scarce resource, right when energy intensive needs like heating and greater use of artificial lighting peaks. My electric kettle really earns its keep when the cold weather sets in and use hot drinks as a way to rely less on the heating system for my badly insulated flat.
Of course in the ideal world heating would be made much easier with proper insulation standards, building built to passivehause spec retain heat in winter just as well as they remain cool in the summer. But even so renewable energy resources that wont be affected by the dwindling sunlight of the winter months. Water flow is a great resource, from both currents and tidal can produce energy consistently in the wetter months. Wind power is always good in the right location, as well as using the depth of the earth as a heat storage system. There is also a really good water heating system that uses the natural heat of the composting process.
Another way to Think about energy conservation is what is required of us. If we restructure out environment around agrihoods and not driven by work productivity, then the winter could be a natural time of rest. Less commuting to work could mean better use of the precious sunlight hours. we can use the long evenings to be more sociable in communal spaces while the bad weather passes. This communal enjoyment and support, as well as more free time to be in what little sunlight there is, could help ease the effects of S.A.D in those who suffer it this time of year.
You wake up in the morning, The light is weak, but enough to wake you. The sunrise time had been rapidly growing late, but after the busy period over autumn harvest the extra lie-in is welcome. After lazily coming round you briefly get up to make a mug of tea. As you wait for the tea to infuse you stare out the kitchen window. Everything is coated in a fine, glittering layer of frost. Definitely time to put the winter grip tires on your cargo bike, you think to yourself, but that’s a task for later. For now you just return to the warmth of you bed, propped up to do a bit of morning reading on your tablet while you enjoy draining your mug. With the winter crops being much smaller everyone’s on much shorter work week, and you are at the start of your days off. Maybe with the extra free time it would be a good time to start on your new book, or get back to painting. You make a note to pick up a new notebook and art supplies when you go to the communal bike shop to swap the tires over.
A ping on your tablet lets you know there’s a new vote request from the apartment complex’s group chat. Your neighbour wants to start holding regular board-game evenings in the communal room. You think it might be nice, although you remember the arguments that resulted from that time he tried to run a Dungeons and Dragons game and fell out with half the complex for a week. Hopefully it will be different with games where he’s not the one deciding the rules. You add your vote to the ‘yes’ column before turning the device off. Time for a hot shower, curtsy of the buildings combination of composting pits and connection to the the neighbourhood’s Geothermal infrastructure, before you get wrapped up in warm layers to go out and really get your day started.
I would love to hear more idea for how solarpunk societies function in the cold and dark seasons, Solarpunk in wintertime is a subject I’m really interested in.Follow me on these sites