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Solarpunk Movement Seeds Climate Hope in the Valley

A global movement that is reimagining how humans and nature connect counts some of its leaders right here in the valley.

by Kat Merry
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Set above highly urbanized and tech-forward New York City, the Hudson Valley offers nature reserves and varying topography that help make it a perfect experimental ground for a global environmental movement to take root. Solarpunk is the newest movement capturing the attention of locals, inspiring a refreshingly optimistic feeling when it comes to building a sustainable future: hope

So what is Solarpunk, exactly? Adherents describe it as the imagining of a future where humans will not only move past harming the planet, but even thrive in harmony with nature. Here in the Hudson Valley, the focus of Solarpunk lies heavily in art, conservation, and creative writing. But the international movement is multifaceted. As Brianna Castagnozzi, a Poughkeepsie resident who helps edit Solarpunk Magazine, puts it: “The thing about Solarpunk is it’s not just one thing.” 

A neo-futuristic city showcases an organic architectural design.
(Illustration: 3000ad / iStock)

Pasha Radetski, a multidisciplinary artist and winner of Ecosystems X: Future Artists, stumbled into Solarpunk through his world travels and brought the movement back to the Hudson Valley. He believes that art and education drive the message and movement of Solarpunk. “It’s all about giving people hope and working to manifest that vision for our future,” he says. 

Radetski’s first Solarpunk exposure was over a decade ago when he was studying international river sites. “I was working on field artwork projects at the time. I visited the Atlantic rainforest, which has some of the most biodiversity in the world. They were upcycling timber there and creating what was described to me as a natural energy portal in the landscape.” 

A building imaginatively covered with a vertical garden facade in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Engin Korkmaz / iStock)

Radetski says the communities along the river had a very intentional approach when it came to the give-and-take of natural resources. “It was a reciprocal relationship between the river and the people. They plant trees along the river edge, the roots anchor the soil, and in turn preserve the river banks.” This attention to preservation of the riverbanks allows communities to thrive without resource depletion. “It was so simple,” Radetski says, “and so Solarpunk!”

He was determined to educate others and ideally apply what he had learned to the communities along the Hudson River through a new project he calls River Movements. “It is an attempt to build a focused grassroots movement by creating ongoing art programs and hands-on workshops that will engage the youth from the local communities to learn the principles of reforestation along the Hudson.”

The hope is to reframe the river as more than just a body of water and instead as a natural resource and ally for a utopian future. “Only when Solarpunk becomes part of a culture can people begin to make steps towards a sustainable future,” he says.

Another neo-futuristic city with wildly inventive structures liberated from architectural geometry. (Illustration: Bugak / iStock)

Castagnozzi, for her part, was introduced to the Solarpunk movement more locally when she began her graduate work at SUNY New Paltz in 2016. As an English major, her professors taught writing through the lens of science, conservation, and art. She became interested in environmental systems throughout the Hudson Valley, at the local and federal level. “The environment at SUNY New Paltz … really cultivates Solarpunk,” she says.

A rich roster of organizations have helped conserve land and establish new trails in the Hudson Valley. Infrastructure projects here, Castagnozzi says, align with a reimagined future of the Hudson Valley — one that is oh-so-Solarpunk.

Seeing local conservation efforts like this inspired Castagnozzi’s writing career and even led her to work in falconry. Then she saw the job posting for Solarpunk Magazine. The magazine provides a utopian artistic hub for envisioning a sustainable future through creative writing. But Castagnozzi says, “People forget this movement is ever-changing. Our magazine is art and fiction-focused, but other people practice Solarpunk with a scientific approach to envisioning a future where nature and technology coexist.”

From left: Castagnozzi, an avid falconer, with a raptor in the Hudson Valley; a Solarpunk illustration of technology meeting flora; a recent Solarpunk Magazine cover. (Photos: Courtesy Brianna Castagnozzi)

Though Solarpunk Magazine doesn’t provide a practical roadmap to a utopian future for their readers, Castagnozzi says her co-editors are exploring ways to possibly move in that direction down the road. “We have editors in all different time zones, some with a STEM background,” she says. “And it’s cool to see how perceptions of Solarpunk differ across the country, through science and art.” 

She sums up the novelty of Solarpunk, particularly its local growth, this way: “I’ve noticed a bigger push to combat climate change in the Hudson Valley, and Solarpunk is seeding it with ideas of what a better future can look like. It gives people hope.”  

Kat Merry holds a master’s degree in science and spends weekends exploring new hiking trails in the Hudson Valley with her husband and dog. Based in Beacon, she writes for local news publications such as the Highlands Current and MainStreetBeacon.com.

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Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

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Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

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We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
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  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
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