17 August 2010

72. Ecotopia

Ecotopia - Ernest Callenbach

This novel is about the creation of a better place. Northern California, Oregon and Washington secede from the United States, close the borders, and create an environmental utopia.

Twenty years later the first American is allowed to enter Ecotopia and report how it is going. The man who enters is a reporter and is sent there on a six week assignment. The culture and the whole way of life in Ecotopia is very different than in America.

The book is written as a series of reports sent back to his company and a series of diary entries about his person life while living in Ecotopia. At first there is a definate bias towards how weird the reporter sees the people and the differences between the two countries. As the book progresses this bias shifts.

Ecotopia is a very envoronmentally friendly place, but it is also steeped in the culture that was California, and probably the west coast, of the 1970s. Think the Berkeley mindset. Very liberal ideas and ways of thinking. Add in a strong environmentalist theme. I thought I knew where the author was going with this book long before that was confirmed.

I think some of the ideas were really good, though not scientifically plausable. Biodegradable plastic? Extruded plastic biodegradable homes? Harvesting the methane from your own cesspool to cool your refridgerator (you better poop a lot)? Almost all cars have been eliminated and people use publicly provided bicycles and magnetic trains. The nuclear family has been done away with and a communal/tribal existance is in effect. There are no guns or war and men release their agression in some sport-like war game. The people are all encouraged to show emotion and crowds gather to watch and essentially cheer for the participants of heated exchanges, all to help each other deal with percieved problems. There is only a 20 hour work week because production of anything at all is not very important.

I am sure you get the idea. I don't need to explain all the peace-love-dove that is obviously the influence for so much of this book.

What kept bothering me while reading it was the same thing over and over. When Ecotopia seceded from the United States, where were the problems? Where is the dissent? It never happened. The author wants us to believe that everything was so wonderful that all the residents of esentially a three state area were just happy as pigs in shit to change their entire way of life. I find that to be totally absurd.

The story was pretty cool. I guess as far as the utopia/dystopia novels go, this world wasn't all that bad. I have no idea how we would ever get there, but to just wake up one day and the world was like that? Well, why not?

It was entertaining, though I doubt that is why the book was written. I am sure it was an environmental political statement through fiction. Whatever. It was still pretty decent to just read it and know that the activism part of the writing wasn't feasable and therefore to be discounted. At least for the present day. Maybe some day. Who knows.


  1. Nice review! I'll grab this one used when I come across it.

  2. I will mail it to you.

    Also, I forgot there was a dissenting opinion. At one point the narrator was contacted by an underground group who were still loyal to the United States. These folks wanted him to put them in contact with the US President to start some kind of revolution and invasion. The narrator quickly discounted them as crazy.