Solarpunk, Cybertruck | 2335

The Cybertruck of 2035 will be a mundane part of everyday life. Most of the stuff around us today – is going to still be around in a Solarpunk future. To foreshorten the Gibson quote: “The future is already here”.

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Solarpunk, Cybertruck

I was exploring Solarpunk, futures, design fiction and narratives with students recently. During the call, the (seemingly inescapable) subject of Elon Musk came up. And we ended up talking about the upcoming November 30 launch of the Tesla Cybertruck.

The Cybertruck

I canvassed the group’s opinions on the vehicle and the discussion was pretty interesting. Some of them thought that its design – looking like it’s straight out of a PlayStation 1 game – was cool, and a bold design.

Almost all of them agreed that the unveiling of the product – where Tesla’s lead designer threw a metal ball at the truck’s so-called unbreakable “Armor Glass” windows, shattering both of them – was a PR disaster.

The subsequent derision the company received in the media and online, combined with the truck’s design gave the whole event, to quote a student ‘a whiff of Musk’.

In order to not get too bogged down in schadenfreude and the current court of public opinion around Musk with Twitter etc. We Googled the truck’s features and looked into the vehicle’s specs.

Tesla claims a 500 mile range – nearly 150 miles further than current Tesla models. Like most EV’s it has 120- and 220-volt charging outlets, as well as an onboard air compressor, and bulletproof cold-rolled-steel body panels. The single-motor, rear-wheel-drive base model is said to tow up to three and a half thousand kilograms, a figure upgraded to a whopping six thousand three hundred kilograms on the triple-motor, four-wheel-drive model. It also has a so-called BioDefence mode that makes use of a user serviceable (HEPA) or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter. Capable of capturing 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 micrometres in diameter. And a secondary filtration system that claims it will remove odours, gases, bacteria, viruses, pollen, and mould spores.

OK, we all said. That sounds like a lot of unnecessary features. In fact the whole thing, from its announcement in 2019, through the years of delays and its launch next month all seems a bit unnecessary. 

But then I asked the question. “What is the average age of a car on the road in America in 2023?”. The answer is 12 and a half years old.

By the way, if you haven’t already guessed: Tutorials with me are basically like a long, group episode of Come Internet With Me

Having spent the main bulk of our time talking about Solarpunk and the near future as a domain and container for narrative exploration. I asked another question:

What does the near future of 2035 look like?

What does the near future of 2035 look like? What’s the climate supposed to be like? can you imagine a Tesla Cybertruck existing there?

2035 is a place where the UK has apparently reduced emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels. The current Biden administration has claimed the ambition of a carbon pollution-free power sector by then too. In order to hit the 1.5 degree target, we – the world – will need to have slashed carbon emissions and fossil fuel use by nearly two-thirds from where we are right now in 2023.

Europe’s record breaking 2022 heat wave last year will be an ‘average’ summer. It might also include full coral reef extinction, absent arctic sea ice and rising sea levels. Just this week as I make this show, Hurricane Otis went from a tropical storm to Category 5 hurricane in less than 12 hours. And only 3 months ago New York’s orange skies after Canadian wildfire smoke blanketed North America. 

Let’s just take a moment to remind ourselves. The distance between the future of 2035 and where we are today, is the average age of a car on the road in America. The Cybertruck of 2035 isn’t a gleaming symbol of the now, but a mundane part of everyday life. Most of the stuff around us today – is going to still be around in a Solarpunk future. To foreshorten the Gibson quote: “The future is already here”.

When I talk about using Solarpunk as a lens to explore climate futures, one of the things I say it does is look “laterally at what’s already in the world, projecting it forward.” 

The beat up, patched up Cybertruck of 2035, a decade post-launch, with its struggling HEPA filters, aftermarket roof replacement solar panels and tires that have seen better days. Is a different product and object than the one that’s getting released next month. 

I’m interested in futures that aren’t brand-spanking-new but lived-in.

Second Hand Futures

It’s been 45 years since Starwars showed us a boilerplate future. One where things are re-used, adapted, and bear the mark of time. The Cybertruck of 2035 isn’t a gleaming symbol of the ‘now’ but a mundane part of everyday life. If you plant an acorn the same day as you buy a Cybertruck next month, it will only have grown 1/3 of the way towards its full height by 2035.

I had previously, in the session, railed against eco-brutalist future visions of skyscrapers with lush green rooftops with their sides covered in trees. The Solarpunk asks welfare questions about arborists and tree surgeons abseiling down with electric chainsaws – pruning and keeping people at ground level safe.

I think stressing that all futures aren’t brand-spanking-new but lived-in is an important starting point. I call lived in futures: ‘second hand futures’. Not because everything is old, broken and patched up. But because as I’ve said before “We’ve got 10 years to save the world, but it’s going to take 100 years to do it”. Planting a tree today is a long term decision. 

The second hand future is about imagining what happens next. After we pass the world in our hands today into tomorrow’s.


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One response to “Solarpunk, Cybertruck | 2335”

  1. Gid avatar

    The line of we have 10 years to save the planet but it’s going to take 100 year to do it is very striking. I appreciate the call of this article. We often off put the problems of tomorrow without seeing our part we can play today.

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