A Zapatista woman weaves a rug in this mural in Oventic.
"Women’s Office for Dignity" in Oventic, Mexico, a Zapatista village in Chiapas.
"Somos raíz" -- We are the roots. Corn, which originated in Mexico, is a sacred crop to the Mayan peoples.
Via Reckoning Press.
Elsie Andrewes. Fiji born artist and illustrator based in Whangārei, Aotearoa/New Zealand. Works span across traditional and digital media, covering portraiture, botanical illustrations and surrealist concepts with inspiration stemming from my heritage.
Most pieces are completed with the Pacific people in mind and for the Pacific people, utilising vibrant colours and traditional design. I’ve been commissioned by the World Bank, Talanoa, Huia Publishers, and Witness Performance. Have also exhibited at Enjoy Contemporary Gallery in Wellington. You’ll find me in a cafe somewhere drinking a flat white or at beach. Vinaka
I’ve been wanting to do some scenes from a library economy for a while now, glad to finally get the chance.
I've mentioned elsewhere that these postcards are a bit earlier in the solarpunk timeline than a lot of other works I know of in the genre. I like seeing the work in progress, the intermediate steps. Most solarpunk stuff I've read has climate disasters, wars, plagues, etc in its backstory. I set my stuff a bit closer to those events because I'm interested in what the earlier days of rebuilding look like.
So I think this photobash is set somewhere in the transition towards a library economy. If you want to see what one of those looks like in full swing, the sort of lived experience, I'd very much recommend AE Marling's Murder in the Tool Library and it's sequel.
I love the idea of a society with a cultural focus on reuse rather than extraction and production and disposal. A society where the massive logistics arms of government and industry are turned to salvaging, organizing, and repurposing, rather than extracting materials and packing landfills with waste. A society where the wealth of usable product we currently throw away is treated like a natural resource to be found and traded between people in the thousand year cleanup.
This being the earlier days, I thought about how all this stuff gets moved gently into that system, and how society transitions in that direction without ripping ownership of things away from individuals.
The easiest way I could come up with would be to start with a new refuse stream and the infrastructure to handle it. Our society throws away an incredible amount of intact, usable, or fixable stuff. A future society with the organization to catch and sort it, perhaps enabled and supported by a culture that's already been through hard times and has relearned the value of thrift, could stock many common items that way.
Worldbuilding-wise, maybe it's a matter of necessity - maybe supply chains have long been broken, and cheaply exploited labor and imported resources are already a thing of the past. Maybe this represents the organization and formalization of ad-hoc systems like Buy Nothing and the simple act of passing hand-me-downs between relatives. Maybe they’re just trying to do better.
I imagine they’d start by building community stockpiles that probably look like the swap shop at the average dump. But a society needs more organization and reliability that that. So they’d repurpose old warehouses for specialized storage and as workshops so they could sort the incoming stream of appliances, furniture, computers, tools, fish tanks, sports equipment, etc, triage it, assess damage, and make repairs, prioritizing getting the undamaged stuff quickly back into use.
They’d need dedicated libraries and knowledgeable librarians to house and loan each category of items, and I hope they’d partner with local organizations who are already specialized in the right areas. Maybe a makerspace can manage a tool library, perhaps some shops can transition towards loaning out items they receive for free.
At this point in the timeline they probably only loan some items, others are just given away or sold for very cheap, on the condition that, eventually, they get returned to the library rather than destroyed. Perhaps this is how they keep items in circulation that they don’t yet have the means to formally store and curate.
I’ll caveat all this by admitting I’m weak on the economic theory and the logistics – if you want to know more about how library economies could work, better minds than me have put a lot of thought into it. Personally I don’t think loans etc would cover all of society’s needs, and I don’t think I’d want them to. People will still own the things that matter to them. But I think it could be a wonderful way to replace the cheapest (and often most harmful) options in any given market. The kind of thing you buy with the intent to only keep it for a short while anyways.
Take furniture for example - in this setting, if you want something super fancy or new, you probably still go to a small workshop with skilled craftspeople and order to spec or from their catalogue. But if you're a college kid just starting out, instead of going to walmart or amazon and buying something made cheap by massive corporations exploiting their workers and sometimes utilizing slavery overseas, you go to a library and borrow something. This might look a lot like how libraries operate now, or it might look more like Habitat for Humanity's Restore or a municipal recycling center's swap shop where you buy or take the thing with no obligation to return it. Maybe you’d order it from an eBay-like catalogue website and they’d shuffle it to the library closest to you (regardless of its specialty) so you can pick it up.
The process of collections probably varies by location - in some areas they do pickup and delivery, in others maybe they use libraries as collection points. It probably varies by item too.
Either way, here's a scene of a little piece of that process. A team of volunteers taking an electric truck on a route through the city, collecting and/or delivering heavy items.
My goals for the truck were kind of a mix of art goals and worldbuilding goals. Whenever I include a vehicle in a scene, I try to convey visually that this isn't a car-centric future, with everyone just driving around in personal vehicles like they do today. (Electric vehicles are tricky because they look fairly normal and modern.) I wanted it to be clear that this thing fits a specific use case. The homemade back was kind of a mix of wanting to be able to show the contents, and wanting to imply that this truck wasn't fabricated new for the city. Maybe it's like the stuff it's hauling, secondhand but still good enough for the job. Maybe it's been pulled from a junkyard and repaired, missing pieces replaced with scrap materials.
The overhead pantograph rig is borrowed from a bus - I love streetcars and similar simple electric vehicles, but I thought this truck would require more freedom on its route, so I found (I think) a rig that allows for quickly connecting and disconnecting. In real life the buses use gas or diesel when their electricity is disconnected, but I think the truck could just be using a battery that's too small or old or simple to pack enough energy for its full route. That hopefully wouldn't matter since it only needs it for short trips: switching between overhead wires, traversing streets without them, and getting out of the way of streetcars.
As for the plants in the scene (for someone who hates landscaping, I seem to do it fairly often, digitally) in the foreground we've got raspberry bushes (hopefully thornless) on either side and wildflowers for bees in the center, and a blueberry bush, pear tree, and apple tree across the street. I think it's possible for all this to be in season at once around August.
A Black Lives Matter mural in Oventic, Mexico, several thousand miles from where the Black Lives Matter fight originated. “Black Lives Matter. Everything for everyone. The fight continues.”
This will likely be my last winter solarpunk scene for a bit – I want to focus on library economies next. This one is based on two different ideas recommended for the village scene, which I decided to combine in their own photobash.
The first was to reconsider icehouses, not necessarily for storing ice for directly cooling food, but as part of a much larger temperature regulation system and meltwater reservoir.
They suggested creating buildings with flat roofs with hatches on top and earthen ramps up the sides, where snow could be hauled in from roads and walkways, pushed up the ramps, and down into the open hatches. They also suggested harvesting ice from a designated pond, which is why I added a pond to the small waterway in the village in my last photobash.
The cool idea (I thought) was that in the summer, the snow and ice can be used as centralized air or water chillers, part of systems for nearby apartment buildings, or, if the buildings are adjacent to barns (as in the village scene) then during deadly heat events the cooling effect could be used to protect the animals. The meltwater could also serve as an additional emergency water source for drought conditions if clean enough, and could even be misted around wilderness water sources to keep wild animals alive during heat disasters.
Otherwise, the meltwater would circulate into coolant loops then get discharged into algae farms or water treatment (because of road/path/roof/track matter scrapings.)
In my design, I decided to have these snow vaults dug as concrete pits in the ground, to make loading them easier. Roller doors and insulation, along with railings and gates, would hopefully make them fairly safe, while the roof would protect them from the sun and rainwater seeping in. This thing might make for snow removal easier in especially snowy years, as they’d have someplace nearby to put a lot of it. Hopefully when they’re filling the vault, an assistant is out keeping watch for pedestrians who might for some reason wander into the pit.
I’m not an engineer, and I know my limits in designing new structures. But I also know that in a lot of systems, cold is a resource, something you always have to create heat to produce. So a big reservoir of free cold has to be useful somehow. I also like the idea of turning a wintertime hassle into a resource, both for temperature regulation and for water supplies.
I decided to combine the snow vault idea with a possible use for some existing Internal Combustion Engine vehicles – conversion to run on woodgas. I think in rural areas, like this village, society will continue to need some independent vehicles. I think in this setting, that doesn’t mean everyone is driving around in personal automobiles, but that some are maintained for specific tasks, by hobbyists, and by farmers, forest managers, and others whose work takes them impractically far from public transit. I think woodgas is a good fit here. It emphasizes reuse of existing machinery instead of new manufacturing. It doesn’t require high-tech electronics like electric vehicles. And it’s less practical for the kind of quick trip to the store or daily commute which has shaped our current society. A woodgas vehicle takes awhile (ten to twenty minutes to start up), can’t easily be stored indoors, and because the fire needs to burn down, doesn’t make much sense for short trips. But in a solarpunk society, most folks shouldn’t need a car for that stuff – they’d be walking or taking public transit. So conversions like this would be used for special trips – hauling produce to town, supplies out to forest management camps, research sites, and other remote locations. And perhaps for road trips by campers and other people who might borrow one for an adventure. The wood can be sustainably sourced, using scraps from sawmills, harvested invasive trees, brush, and even dedicated coppiced plantations of especially fast growing trees like paulownia elongata. One of the byproducts of gassification is biochar, which can be tremendously useful in compost, and holds carbon for a comparatively long time. I also think its important to note that while this can be done well, when these vehicles were previously used in massive numbers (during WWII) they led to deforestation. They make sense in small doses, and with some careful management of their inputs.
Sorry if any details are unclear in the art, I’ve been looking at a lot of Christmas cards lately, and wanted to aim for that aesthetic with this one.
This image and all the other postcards are CC-BY, use them how you like.
Facade of the central library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), painted by Juan O'Gorman (Photo: Unam / Publicity)
A mural showing a map of Oventic in the shape of a snail or caracol. Oventic is one of the five caracoles, or centers, of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Oventik more Oventik, always lots of Oventiks. I can no longer live outside of Oventik because for me what I want is to build. And if the bad government wants to destroy us, we’ll make everywhere more Oventik. I won’t go from here, always ready to fight.
I've posted a few times around the instance asking for input on this one. huge thanks to everyone for their suggestions! I've tried to include all of them, and have done some others as separate scenes. I have more planned.
I’ve been thinking a lot about rural solarpunk lately. Idyllic farming scenes aside, there aren’t many depictions in solarpunk art of places that look like the towns where I’m from. But the towns where I’m from aren’t very solarpunk, despite being beautiful and full of nature. With cars, people have spread out in these sprawling bedroom communities that are becoming ever more dense with neighborhoods. Gas and groceries are easily a 40-minute drive away (more if you’re looking for a big box store), and I feel like most people I knew growing up drove at least an hour each way for work. When you live there, you’re completely dependent on your vehicles and you sometimes have at least one spare per household.
I’ve also been thinking about how these places might change with some of the societal crumbles and contractions I feel like are impending. Cars rely on a lot of infrastructure all over the world, from their manufacturing, to their maintenance, and fuel is a massive and complex tangle of technologies and politics, dependent on a ton of infrastructure for acquisition, refining, and transportation, and again, maintenance of all those systems. How would rural areas change if cars became impractical (due to shortages etc) and how could things be rebuilt better? Or what would they look like if cars had never taken off the way they did?
In my grandparents’ time, the region where I grew up was lots of small villages, usually bunched up around water and local industry, with farms and forests out beyond that.
So I decided to build this scene around a similar place. A small dense village, served by multiple kinds of public transit, and surrounded by multiple examples of agroforestry, and rewilded forests beyond that.
I realized pretty quickly that this is a bit bigger in scope than most of the things I’ve depicted before. In most of my scenes, I feel like you can usually assume everything else society needs is just out of frame, but with this photobash, aside from anything inside the buildings and under the canopy, you can see the whole place. So I had to try and make sure I included everything they’d need. I’m just one guy whose okay at cutting up images, and I don’t know much about community planning, so I reached out a few times for ideas:
And I received quite a few! I’ve tried to include every suggestion (assuming it would fit at this zoomed-out level). I’ve really enjoyed this process – I feel like any future worth building is going to be pretty collaborative and consensus-driven, so it makes sense to build our depictions of it the same way.
So what’s in this scene:
- Apartment buildings: To get the density and walkability I've included a clump of four/five story brick apartment buildings (figuring brick can possibly be baked in solar kilns and transported by train) around an open common area near the train station. (I think it can probably be assumed that these are mixed use and the first floor of some are shops and third spaces).
- Multi-family homes
- Houses: further out on the edges of the village, and some along the farms
- Tiny homes: possibly some are used for visitors to the village, or just people who don’t need much space and want more privacy or a better location
- An abandoned McMansion left over from an earlier age, far enough out and in bad enough shape that its not currently in use. Perhaps it will eventually be restored for use, or, if the damage is bad enough or no one needs it, perhaps it will be disassembled for parts/materials.
- An open common area/farmer's market/sometimes sports field
- The top of the train station is an open park and set of community gardens Some rooftops are community gardens
- Pond and surrounding park, possibly stocked with fish for the meat eaters, possibly used for ice harvesting in the winter.
- The river below the village (I'm trying to make it clear the main river swings below the village and there's a bit of a riparian buffer around it)
- Public amphitheater – one of the only man-made structures on the flood plane.
- The billboard in the foreground is part of a project inside the setting, where they’ve replaced any advertizements on the remaining billboards with artwork, just as a sort of public outdoor art gallery.
- Under the tree canopy there’d be parks, playgrounds, and other third places.
- Public workshops/makerspaces
- Train/train station
- Ropeway to a nearby village not directly served by the train
- Agroforestry: in the foreground we mostly have alley cropping, in the back it looks more like strip cropping or wind breaks. There’s a riparian boundary around the river, and the forest in and around the village is a food forest where people can forage (in addition to sheltering parks, playgrounds, and other things). I’m not any kind of expert on agroforestry, sorry if my depictions have issues.
- A small paulownia elongata pollard plantation (tucked between the barn/recycling warehouse and the biogas generator and algae farm because the wrong type of this tree can be invasive) which are used for woodgas, and also for shelter for animals, possibly goats, who would also help prevent invasive shoots from spreading.
- Solar panel farm with crops planted underneath
- Algae farm (for nutrients or biodiesel?)
- Greenhouses/Walpinis set into the south-facing hillside
- Compost windrows with negative pressure airflow pulling CO2 into the greenhouses/algae farm.
- Grain bins for storage
- Workshops/factories: some have waterwheels (fed using a levada style stone channel split from the main river), others are set up on higher ground.
- Road leading down to town, with a work crew hauling back an old car for recycling. Perhaps there’s a bounty type system in place, and this will be loaded on a train to be melted down in a solar furnace further south.
- Solar farm and rooftop solar
- Windmills (though these may belong to the next village)
- Anaerobic Biogas Generation from sewage
- Gas generator converted to run on woodgas
Not visible from here:
Under the canopy/ -Food forests -Parks -Playgrounds
Inside the buildings: -Places of worship -Cafeterias -Other third places
Thanks again for all your help!
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Icon artwork by tk-sketches
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