An intriguing epistolary novel, the combination of official articles and private diary entries give the reader the dual perspectives of the narrator's experience in the environmentally-friendly state Stemming in method from "Erewhon" by Samuel Butler, the book, describing a 70's version of an ecologically sound future, moves right along and is competently written. I'm not sure that society will eventually resemble Callenbach's ideas, but it has been a very influential book. Ecotopia : A Novel. Ernest Callenbach. Now, twenty years later, this isolated, mysterious nation is welcoming its first officially sanctioned American visitor: New York Times-Post reporter Will Weston.
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Ecotopia is ostensibly about a secessionist Northwest — northern California, Oregon, and Washington — founded on ecological principles.
In this independent land, cars are abolished, everybody recycles, and sewage is turned to fertilizer. That sounds good, as far as it goes; however, the vision is weighed down by so much extraneous cultural baggage — Marxism, paganism, free love, ritual warfare, communal living, abortion on demand, legalized drugs, gamelan orchestras — that readers coming to Ecotopia for the first time will find both more and less than they bargained for.
I say the novel is ostensibly about the Northwest because, in fact, all the action takes place in California, and most of it in the Bay Area.
The story is narrated by William Weston, a New York journalist, by way of his notebooks and dispatches — the first filed by an American reporter from inside the breakaway republic in 20 years. Few novels can survive that kind of thing; yet, somehow, Ecotopia has thrived, having now sold nearly a million copies in nine languages.
Were it otherwise, there would be no sense in reissuing the book — nor, indeed, in reviewing it — except perhaps as a cultural artifact. But even today, the novel is assigned reading for college courses in political science and environmental studies.
And it may even be true that some pillars of the modern environmental movement were built upon Ecotopian ideals. As a writer, Abbey was in another league, but his sensibilities were also a world apart. While they aimed to merely throw a wrench in the works of industrial civilization, Callenbach conjured a model society — a City on a Hill, so to speak — where humans could live in balance with nature.
Therein lies both its appeal and its fatal weakness, for while Callenbach dared, at least, to envision human history as something other than a forced march to oblivion, his characters, stuck as they are within the utopian framework, seem like little more than the self-satisfied minions of the newly dawned Aquarius. They do.
Callenbach takes pains, in fact, to show us that the good people of Ecotopia are unrestrained in their emotions. One illustration of this involves a plate of cold eggs in a restaurant. When the indignant recipient of the tepid huevos raises a stink, the resulting row brings the place to a grinding halt as the aggrieved customer and the offended cook square off in front of the other diners.
His lucky narrator enjoys wild romps in forest shrines, anonymous threesomes in tents, even sex with the lovely and obliging nurse who tends to him in the hospital. Native Americans are at once prominent and scarce in Ecotopia; that is, they exist only as part of the idealized, pre-Columbian past, as noble savages. The evil of warfare has been ritualized as a way of dissipating its awful power and relegating it to the safe, if frightening, confines of ceremony.
The scene, as Callenbach paints it, is unbridled neo-primitivism, complete with all the props: chanting, obsidian spears, cauldrons filled with potions, face paint. The charade ends when Weston is ritually speared in the side — the wound that lands him in the sexual-healing ward.
His benevolent captors spirit him away to a hot springs in the foothills. Aside from the occasional whiff of authoritarianism, there are no politics to speak of here. How could there be? The Ecotopian worldview is of such a cultish consistency, after all, that politics are superfluous.
Moreover, in this Rousseauian world, people are all basically good. Evil is in exile, banished to the old world beyond the borders. With no need of politics, neither are there politicians. Allwen, the president, is really more of a high priestess, the therapist-in-chief. If Callenbach is embarrassed by any of this 30 years on, he gives no indication in the new afterword. Parents should be proud of their offspring.
The Novel That Predicted Portland
Ecotopia is ostensibly about a secessionist Northwest — northern California, Oregon, and Washington — founded on ecological principles. In this independent land, cars are abolished, everybody recycles, and sewage is turned to fertilizer. That sounds good, as far as it goes; however, the vision is weighed down by so much extraneous cultural baggage — Marxism, paganism, free love, ritual warfare, communal living, abortion on demand, legalized drugs, gamelan orchestras — that readers coming to Ecotopia for the first time will find both more and less than they bargained for. I say the novel is ostensibly about the Northwest because, in fact, all the action takes place in California, and most of it in the Bay Area.
Eerie Truths and Hard Lessons From a 1970s 'Ecotopia'
White bicycles sit in public places, to be borrowed at will. A creek runs down Market Street in San Francisco. Callenbach, who lives in Berkeley, Calif. Callenbach, a balding and eerily fit man of 79, sitting in his backyard, which he was converting into a preserve for native plants. When he began working on his novel, Mr.
Revisiting the 1970s eco-cult classic that gripped a nation
Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world. He quickly notes the downshifted economy; all corporate capital that was remotely portable fled the new country at secession, but Ecotopians are content with a slower, humbler pace, including a hour work week that halved incomes but doubled the number of jobs. He notes the friendly, laid-back culture. But his first big shock is the Ecotopian city. Market Street, once a mighty boulevard striking through the city down to the waterfront, has become a mall planted with thousands of trees. The remaining space, which is huge, is occupied by bicycle lanes, fountains, sculptures, kiosks, and … little gardens surrounded by benches.
Ernest Callenbach, Author of ‘Ecotopia,’ Dies at 83
The society described in the book is one of the first ecological utopias and was influential on the counterculture and the green movement in the s and thereafter. The author himself claimed that the society he depicted in the book is not a true utopia in the sense of a perfect society , but, while guided by societal intentions and values, was im perfect and in-process. But without these alternate visions, we get stuck on dead center. Callenbach wove his story using the fiber of technologies, lifestyles , folkways , and attitudes that were common in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.