Solarpunk Portland
Premises and Parameters

Premises and Parameters

When we’re Solarpunking Portland, what does it mean to Solarpunk something? And, for that matter, what do we mean by Portland?

By Portland, we’re referring to all of the people who live here or do business here, or will do so or want to do so, and all of the infrastructure needed to appropriately support them. This creates a number of issues; not only do we not know who will be living here in twenty years, many of the people who might be doing so don’t even know themselves. So we need to create a generalized abstraction of what “appropriate support” for archetypal humans means, along with the political infrastructure necessary for them to tell us what *they* think is appropriate as they arrive or as they think of it.

How large that future population is will also be affected by how nice it becomes to live here. So we have a self-referential loop; the better we make our city the more people will want to come share it with us. As an initial estimate, I’m assuming we’re trying to support a city of five million people. I’m taking it as given that we desire to be a welcoming people, and encourage and accept new immigrants.

I’m going to set aside the issue of how we define “person”; my own take on it is that we want to expand the definition as far as we can push it, but that the probability of an orca swimming up the river and demanding citizenship is for at least the next couple of decades negligible.

1.) As a society, we are a living entity. We-as-humans are the cells of the social organism, and almost by definition the organism is more than just the sum of its cells.
2.) The organism, to succeed as an organism, does require to have great regard and concern for the wellbeing of those cells; look at the lengths you’ll go to to avoid getting a paper cut on your finger, for example. Sacrificing a few cells can still be beneficial, example: exercise. Supporting the cells in a comfortable fashion so that they can function to the best of their abilities is still the default state and the most immediate priority.
3.) We as cultures have not been doing this.
4.) As we are now consciously reforming as a metaculture, we need to either support our human cells directly, or successfully incent our component cultures to do so.
5.) Most of our organ-cultures have developed bad cases of blame-games as a tactic for avoiding uncomfortable responsibility. We need to both rigorously adhere to our own concepts of responsibility and accountability, and demonstrate clearly that we are so doing, to avoid the spread of this disorder to the organism as a whole.
6.)As an organism, we have a sense of self-preservation, and desire to remain alive.
7.)As an organism, we are a complex system. Failure of any vital component or broad-based systemic failure that does not destroy any single component can kill us. There is not and cannot be a single overriding priority; metaphorically as well as literally speaking we have to breathe and drink and eat and sleep in order to remain healthy.
8.) An organism benefits by allowing its cells to specialize, and actively supports them in so doing.
9.) No matter how specialized the cell, it still needs to maintain primary responsibility for its own self-maintenance; it is the part of the body in closest proximity to and thus in the best position to observe its own needs and determine if they are being met.
10.) Megalomania is a thing. Human cells are very prone to the delusion that they *are* the whole organism, and that what’s good for them is good for the world. This is physically analogous to cancer; a billionaire is analogous to a tumor.
11.) As an organism, our metaculture is closer in design to an octopus than a human, in that the nervous system is distributed and flexible. The metaphor is not, however, bound to a single creature’s structure. These are analogies, not blueprints; we’re designing ourself.
12.) No one nerve cell rules the brain; we are a distributed processing system. We require the input of all relevant neurons to arrive at valid conclusions, and we will need to create and maintain sophisticated methods of determining which is relevant and making sure the input is given appropriate weight.

Responsibility is, literally, the ability to respond. If there’s a need to be met, and you have the capacity to address it, you should be already doing so. Taking the hint and getting busy now is a reasonable second-best. Opening discussion right away as to how best to apply those efforts is an okay third-tier response.

Accountability is a reporting relationship. Again with the literal meanings, it means you have to account for your actions or lack thereof. This implies an object to the sentence; you have to account to somebody. Accounting to thin air is ineffective. Maybe the thing you’re accounting for is also something you’re responsible for, maybe it isn’t. If you’ve found a need and can’t respond to it, that needs to get reported also.

As a first pass, I’ve come up with the following list of human needs we’re trying to meet. I’ll go into more detail after the summary list:

  1. Homeostatic Environment (no Venusization)
  2. Safety from toxins such as industrial pollution
  3. Breathable Air
  4. Potable Water
  5. Nutritious and Nontoxic Food
  6. Sleep
  7. Shelter
  8. Excretion
  9. Physical Safety
  10. Health Care
  11. Transportation
  12. Education
  13. Communication
  14. Remuneration
  15. Occupation
  16. Representation
  17. Inspiration
  18. Participation
  19. Localized self-supporting economic system
  20. Community defense against organized actors

I’m sure there are more, and if you have suggestions, please send me an email. Going into more detail:


The ongoing climate catastrophe is the major threat to our local environment, and there’s not a great deal we can do about the overall situation. We should still track what we *can* do, and make sure we do it with enthusiasm and vigor.


Natural environments contain few things toxic to the organisms that evolved there. Human cultures have introduced the concept of pollution, where artificial compounds hostile to life are introduced to the environment. We require people and social organisms within our city to refrain from doing so, and to clean up any such messes they have already made, or alternatively pay for the city to do so for them.


We have limited control over the quality of our air; if there’s a forest fire in Washington, we get the smoke. But “limited” doesn’t mean “none”, we need to exercise what control we do have to keep our air safe and pleasant to breathe. If something happens beyond our control to compromise this, we need to take action to make sure our constituent humans can continue to breathe.


Water is actually two issues, the needs of our people to drink and bathe and such, and our need to maintain a livable environment. Right now we’re looking at human needs. Both of these aspects are human needs, and we need to resolve them as related issues.


People need to eat. Seems obvious. Food supply chains and agricultural pollution issues are less obvious.