Juandering Out Loud: What to do at the End of the World

A portrait of the author, Dallas senior Juan G Rodriguez, displays him wearing his cowboy hat. Rodriguez wears the hat to block out the sun while working outdoors, something he’s used to doing and what he imagines himself doing in a Solarpunk future (Illustration by Naima Davenport).

I’ve grown more social these past few years of college. I’ve come out of my shell and grasped the simple truth that this part of my life won’t last forever. What comes after this semester terrifies me – everything’s only worsened by the looming election. 

Nov.’s going to be a unique sort of hell without anyone nearby to air my frustrations out with; I’m desperately searching for some relief. My neck nearly snaps as I turn to face any potential reality where I’m not left to face my nightmares alone. 

My eyes eventually find rest in the future Solarpunk offers. For the first time in months, I find myself able to dream.

When I first encountered Solarpunk, I didn’t give it much thought past the pretty visuals. I was in a dark place in my life when I found it, the lead-up to the 2020 election. I didn’t have the energy to imagine a better world when all my attention was focused on enduring whatever the political system threw at me. 

At present, I’ve got a better grasp on the term.

As a literary movement, Solarpunk is fundamentally defined by hope and optimism. Instead of envisioning a dystopian future a-la-Cyberpunk, where capitalism and corporations run the working class ragged, Solarpunk imagines a utopian future where humanity and nature both flourish as a result of the mutualistic relationship that’s been established. 

It’s difficult to imagine a utopia when all you know is dystopia, though.

When you belong to the working class, dreaming is a luxury you can’t often afford. It’s difficult to save up for it, even if you put away your pennies in a rainy day fund; caught between two late-night shifts that run longer than eight hours, there’s barely enough time left for sleeping. If you try to live your life, spend time with friends and family, you’re only gonna manage a handful of hours if schedules happen to align.

Your time is simply not your own; it belongs to your employer if you want to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head. It’s a hostage situation, the threat of suffering perpetually pressed to our heads no matter what we do. 

We deserve better than this; our life was not meant to be spent toiling away for a job that doesn’t pay a livable wage in this economy. 

Actually, why even include the modifier? Our life was not meant to be spent toiling away, period. We shouldn’t have to pay for the luxury of living on the planet we were born on.

That’s the first thing I realized when I finally reencountered Solarpunk these past few months of 2024. It quickly became clear to me that the future I’d been thinking about for so long had a name. 

Since I got to college, I finally found myself able to save up for a dream. All I’ve thought about since was how I just want to live my life, do something meaningful and spend my days with people I know and appreciate. 

I don’t just intend to exist on this planet; I intend to enjoy my time on it. My days are numbered, and I intend to make the most of each of them. 

Solarpunk isn’t just a dream anymore; it’s the only future that matters to me.

This future is even brighter when I remember the “Solar” prefix, the bit of Solarpunk that emphasizes the natural world. Humanity can only flourish if we learn to value our relationship with the natural world in the same way that we learn to appreciate our relationships with one another – to embrace the idea that humanity and nature interact frequently and are capable of coexisting. 

I’ll admit that I’m not as knowledgeable when it comes to matters of sustainability; I’m limited to what I know. 

What I know is that humans are not the rightful masters of nature; in the same breath, I know that humanity is not a virus. Instead, we are one of the many species that reside on this planet, fulfilling an ecological niche that is vital to the well-being of our home world.

If I’m going to maintain a healthy relationship with my surroundings, then I need to be conscious of my place on this great web of connections. My actions directly impact the well-being and survival of those around me; to pretend like I exist above this web means I create distance between myself and those who perceive themselves in relation to everyone else. 

To pretend I exist above the natural world makes it easier to indulge my worst vices: to act upon this world without hesitation and without concern, and to ignore the simple reality that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

After all, when you exist atop the mountain, the way so many capitalists do, it’s easy to ignore what goes on down in the valley. The air’s so thin up there, you can barely think clearly. 

So I do what I can to combat the worst bits of humanity; the worst bits I find within myself. 

I consult my friends and those who can fill the gaps in my understanding, because I don’t know everything and I don’t have any intention of pretending that I do. I’d be a fool to think I alone could shoulder the weight of this new world on my shoulders; atlas, I am not. 

I rely on them to hold this new world up when I falter. I depend on their strength when mine isn’t enough. 

Amidst the remains of the old world – the one ravaged by our current political order – we raise up a vision of what these ruins could become:

A paradise born of the ruins, one that those who come after us will be able to call their own some day. 

A thriving community, my friends within walking distance. A vibrant garden that we all rely on, where we depend on each other to fill in the gaps of our understanding. A world where we all contribute to the community’s health and the community contributes to our well-being.

From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.

As difficult as the days ahead will be, they will not be the end of us; they will be the end of this corrupt order we live under. 

As a species, we will live to see the night of capitalism give way to a new day. We will live to start anew from the ashes. At the end of the world, we will have no other choice but to live out our days, to find purpose in the absence of the systems that defined a significant portion of our lives. 

We will find that purpose in time, so long as we have the space to come to that realization – so long as no force conspires to reenact the previous failed order.

At the end of the world, that’s the only way we all make it out alive. 

About Juan G. Rodriguez 45 Articles
Juan G. Rodriguez is a senior sharing his time between Dallas and East Texas. He is majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. As an individual with two pencil leads in his left knee, writing seems to be the only career that Juan is capable of. Contact Juan via jgr13@albion.edu.

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