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A novel both timely and prophetic Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia is a hopeful antidote to the environmental concerns of today set in an ecologically sound future society Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as the “newest name after Wells Verne Huxley and Orwell” Callenbach offers a visionary blueprint for the survival of our planet and our future Ecotopia was founded when northern California Oregon and Washington seceded from the Union to create a “stable state” ecosystem the perfect balance between human beings and the environment Now twenty years later this isolated mysterious nation is welcoming its first officially sanctioned American visitor New York Times Post reporter Will WestonSkeptical yet curious about this green new world Weston is determined to report his findings objectively But from the start he’s alternately impressed and unsettled by the laws governing Ecotopia’s earth friendly agenda energy efficient “mini cities” to eliminate urban sprawl zero tolerance pollution control tree worship ritual war games and a woman dominated government that has instituted such peaceful revolutions as the twenty hour workweek and employee ownership of farms and businesses His old beliefs challenged his cynicism replaced by hope Weston meets a sexually forthright Ecotopian woman and undertakes a relationship whose intensity will lead him to a critical choice between two worlds


10 thoughts on “Ecotopia The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston

  1. says:

    I'm a die hard lefty and I still think this is a terrible book It's poorly written biased and short sighted propaganda I read as much of it as I could before I just had to throw it down in disgust and this was at a time when I was young enough believe I had to finish every book that I read For decades this was the only book I couldn't finish It's really not even worth my time to review thoroughly so I'll give you just one example of how stupid and ill conceived it is The people are environmentalists and yet they refuse to paint or upkeep their houses because it's natural to just let the wood fall back to its natural state Hunh?? Since when is it environmental to waste wood by letting it rot away? Oh yes let's cut down even trees than we already are I also was upset with the weird violent arena thing they had going on I didnt get far enough to find out what that was about but it disturbed me About a decade ago I told a friend who loved it how much I hated the book Years later he came up to me and told me that he had re read it as a full adult and he now agreed with me the book is junkDon't waste your time read something about real change and real activism


  2. says:

    ECO from the Greek oikos household or homeTOPIA from the Greek topos placeEcotopia is one of the books that I'm happy to say is going to be in my brain forever Published originally in the seventies as a series of articles and diary notes from a journalist travelling the titular country of Ecotopia Ernest Callenbach has managed to capture a movement and a feeling years ahead of his time My overwhelming impression of this book is one of optimism and hope; belief in the better nature of humankind even if we need things reduced to the personal scale to achieve itI could uote the whole thing my list of highlights is both impressive and daunting but I really feel I'm better serving other potential readers by simply urging them to read it and discover those moments of brilliance for themselves Yes there are some naive or old fashioned sections but the majority of this book would be considered too progressive for some even today Native Americans are given short shrift; they clearly exist but are not mentioned as a part of the world of the novel I can see the complications this would have brought to what is otherwise a comprehensive look at an alternative society but I can't argue in favour of just ignoring an entire people simply because they're hard to include But again it was the seventies and that's one of the few areas that shows its age so badlyAnd what Ernest Callenbach does well he does really well Gender euality government subsidised minimum standards of living the movement towards a reduction in standard working hours many different ecological movements they're all mentioned here as well as so many progressive and eualitarian ideals Maybe it only works because it's fictionalised but I'd like to think we're at least moving in that direction as a whole slow though our progress might be This book gives me hope that there are people out there who would like to see the same


  3. says:

    This is one of the most important books ever written no joke Callenbach writing in the early mid 1970s imagines that Washington Oregon and Northern California have seceded from the Union to form Ecotopia a new nation based on stable state today we call it sustainable practices in manufacturing agriculture construction transportation the whole gamut Some of Callenbach's ideas are dated and feel like they should have been and were left behind in the 70s This is a novel but its structure is a gimmick really The protagonist is Will Weston a reporter for the New York Times Post who is the first American to travel to Ecotopia nineteen years after secession Half the chapters are his formal reports for the newspaper the other half in italics are his personal journals The formal reports lay out how the society runs this is the important stuff in the novel The journals cover Weston's inner conflict he is very skeptical of the whole thing but the lumberjack girl with the animal sexuality well she breaks that down a bit These chapters sometimes devolve into puerile hippie sex fantasy This isn't just an ecological utopia but the Full Berkeley free love ganjaburning on the high speed mag lev train from Tahoe to SF suck it Bobby Jindal even a 11 nurse patient ratio in hospitals complete with happy ending Much of what's here we take for granted today at least in San Francisco sorted recycling bins check biodegradable plastics check round the bay electric rail link check female political leadership Boxer check Feinstein check Pelosi check legal marijuana and a Market Street closed to cars and replanted with trees coming soonWhat's so incredible is that I last taught this book maybe in 2002 and much much of reality has aligned with Callenbach's vision since Ecotopia is for environmentalists what Star Trek has been to physicists and astronomers and astronauts since just a few years earlier the map that points the way to the next frontier Read it and read Obama's recent joint address to Congress Start at it begins with energy on page 3 of the NYT transcript linked below five stars for the vision three for the fiction


  4. says:

    “Ecotopians have the feeling of never being alone” This classic read as if it had been written yesterday That is beautifulThat is sadBecause I could have been living in Ecotopia instead of reading it Sexual euality sustainability 3D printing FaceTime community guilt avoidance warfare recycling solar power environmental harmony social justice and my personal favorite the revision of the Protestant work ethicAll the important issues being discussed today were addressed here in the 70s Ernest Callenbach wrote a blue print to a better worldEveryone needs to pick up a copy


  5. says:

    Terrible just terrible Demeaning to men and women alike very dated with racist and sexist overtones seemed written by a pre pubescent idiot with zero understanding of basic human emotions and motivations – with very little political and economic acumen to boot This fool euates superficial sex to deep feelings likens it to true love and thinks a strong powerful woman would 'tolerate' being raped and is glib about it disgustingAlmost everything here is a stereotype of some kind 70s style coated with a thin gloss of what passes as innovative and progressive thought Save yourself some time and scratch your ass for a few hours instead of reading this ‘novel’


  6. says:

    fun because it takes place mostly in the San Fransico bay area this is an increadible vision of the future for people who have ever had a dream of living sustainably California Oregon and Washington seccede from the USA and become their own country after 20 years of no contact and a small defensive battle for independence hard to hear for pacificts that this is probably what would happen a reporter from the East part of the remaining USA visits Ecotopia the name of the new nation to report the new countries lifestlyle and to make reparations for relations The philosophies are wildly ecentric and idealistic but often very inspiring and uplifting


  7. says:

    I went into Ecotopia not expecting much in the way of serious character studies or deeds of derring do What I expected was a typical utopiandystopian novel where the author focuses on describing the virtues or faults of their imagined society at the relative expense of all else; and I wasn’t disappointedI was pleasantly surprised however at how well the novel readIt’s constructed as a series of articles and diary entries written by William Weston the first American officially allowed to enter Ecotopia the nation created 20 years previously by the secession of Washington Oregon and northern California The articles describe Ecotopian society which is based around the ideal of a sustainable modern society radically different from the growth oriented extractive society we’re currently saddled with The diary chronicles William’s immersion in Ecotopian life and culminates in a near religious epiphany where he realizes he can’t return to the United StatesStrictly speaking Ecotopia is neither a utopia nor a dystopia It’s uite clear which society Callenbach prefers but there are numerous instances where the narrative points out the problems that persist in this new society and the struggle to achieve a constantly shifting balance And there are some aspects that may be problematic to the readerSegregation of racescultures side effect in the book of the drive toward decentralization and regionalismRitual warfare though compare Ursula K Le Guin's Always Coming Home or the Wild Continents of Olaf Stapledon's Last and First MenStar MakerMoving too far toward communalism? for which I’m personally ill suited but which seems preferable to the ultra atomization of modern cultureContinued flirtation with nuclear powerCallenbach’s effort doesn’t attempt to explain Ecotopia’s economy or schools or social relationships in great detail but it does compel readers whatever bias they bring to the book to think about the costs that our consumption driven growth oriented violent culture extracts from both people and planet I will admit that the author is preaching to the choir in my case given the choice I would happily emigrateNot “highly” recommended perhaps but definitely recommended if your interested in the utopiadystopia genre or environmental concerns


  8. says:

    It would be very easy to make fun of this book but I shall do my best to refrain from that It would be like the proverbial shooting of fish in a barrel Also I'm sure that this book means a lot to many well meaning people So bear with meI suppose the book for me might be summed up in 3 words oh come on From the opening scenes where our story teller rides in a green eco friendly wooden train car as everyone passes around legal marijuana and we see the people of Ecotopia wearing loose bright colored clothing and of course sandals in winter to the close where the same story teller the reporter is suddenly repulsed by his own reflection as an ugly American and realizes he's become an Ecotopian himself This 1970s read is a hippie Utopian vision I'm sorry but it's so full of nonsense well meaning and ideological nonsense but nonsense nonetheless as to be unintentionally humorous at times The writer's use of language speaks to the era the common use of the great F word to be daring for example There are other words for the act of physical intimacy but I think he thought he was going for shocking and anti establishmentThis was written at arguably the beginning of the modern eco movement and shows it's colors throughout Unfortunately aside from the political agenda with the subtlety of assault and battery the story such as it is isn't that interesting or told all that well You get a litany of how it would work if we'd all just get with program inside a coating of predictable proseI know that a lot of people believe in this radical view of ecology that is still out there and making it's way steadily into law Oddly if you'll take a look at the attempt at a story here you'll see that even here told by someone who believes itit's ridiculous I apologize if you hold this book andor the ideology behind it but it is fatally flawed A boy is not a rat a dog or a fish That very approach is self defeating as humans must take the responsibility for the ecology that is set up in this book as a sort of object of worship This approach just as much as unrestrained strip mining and clear cutting lacks balance and in the end is believe it or not a failing set of ideasSo poor story only fair story telling wrapped around a creamy center of political claptrap 1 star


  9. says:

    Fundamentally this book is an interesting thought experiment which when read over thirty years later really shows its age The concept of a nation state primarily focused on sustainability is intriguing and the framework of Will Weston’s newspaper articles interspersed with his personal diary was I think a good choice to showcase his internal conflict However and entirely unsurprisingly Callenbach’s handling of issues such as race gender and sexual expression feel awkward at best and offensive at worstBy far the biggest consistent problem I had with the book was the fact that the Ecotopians supposedly idolize Native Americans but it takes until page 151 of this 167 page book 90% of the way through for their continued existence to be even mentioned For most of the book I was concerned that they were going to just be this tragic lost noble savage stereotype and even the eventual passing reference didn’t really dispel that idea Much like the existence of African Americans in Ecotopia Native populations felt like the merest afterthought; and reading that in the age of intersectionality when modern progressive ecology is increasingly focused on restoration as a part of racial justice and the importance of stakeholder involvement well it didn’t ring true whatsoeverCallenbach was I think a bit closer to the mark on gender sexuality and family structure though he still described a discrete binary set of gender stereotypes He does use his characters to uestion the merits of the ‘nuclear family’ just parents and their children over larger living groups and repeatedly addresses the issue of repressed emotions in American masculinity He portrays Ecotopian women in a very second wave feminism sort of manner but emphasizes a lot that they’re still attractive in ‘feminine’ ways and that they are generally very sexually available and experienced Ecotopian society also is structured in a sort of ‘separate but eual’ gender paradigm where there are certain things that are exclusively done by one gender or another and no mention of anyone trying to cross these boundaries Though there is a mention of same sex couples being present and accepted I remain unsure if that acceptance would extend to the rest of the LGBT acronymOverall Callenbach’s social theorizing came out to something like a societal paleo diet presented as if by being closer to the primitive it is good for everyone without acknowledging the variation between individuals that means there can be no one size fits all solutionFrom a purely narrative standpoint I was than a little disappointed Fundamentally the plot is about Will Weston’s conversion to the Ecotopian viewpoint this really isn’t a spoiler; it’d be a spoiler if he didn’t end up staying but Callenbach keeps dropping references to events that could be significant and then going nowhere with them Ecotopia is up in arms about incoming pollution with talks about sending someone to investigate the source? Never mentioned again It felt so profoundly like a Chekov’s Gun that I kept waiting for it to come back but no follow through was not to beI would have liked to have seen a lot detail and a lot less sweeping assumptions about technological development This book was written before the devastating 1980 Mount Saint Helens eruption in Washington state but I kept finding myself wondering how that would have affected Ecotopia or what it would have looked like had it not been set in a resource rich area with a Mediterranean climate It’s a lot easier to speculate about a utopian eco state when your territory includes the Central Valley not to mention agriculture and ranching in Washington and Oregon or the rich marine resources off the coast of these states A stronger sociopolitical case would have been made by setting Ecotopia in a region with logistical difficulties or by engaging with the potential for those difficulties to a degree And I’m pretty sure this book wasn’t meant to be an argument so much as an aspiration but not addressing details leaves its premise and the commendable ideals underlying it far open to critiue than it needs to be


  10. says:

    The story as told by a reporter from the remaining United States visiting Ecotopia the seceded northwest bio region of Northern California Oregon and Washington after 20 years of isolationism His objective skepticism is uickly eroded by this green Utopian playground in which respect for living things is the society's primary valueA bit naive It is like Callenbach paved the way for our current silly belief in green capitalism The message We can do everything we do now in or less the same way but we can do it differently and sustainably and greenAnd yet the longer its been since I've read this the it works on me Things I thought were silly in my youth seem to make sense as time goes by I think about this book freuently And since books that present our almost certainly bleak future as having the possibility of positive chance are rare it is worth readingFor a very different though hardly as positive viewpoint about future direction check out Derrick Jensen Or better yet for a ecologically aware anarchist friendly and compassionate future vision against all the odds of militaristic industrial society read The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk