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Ecotopia ~ Ernest Callenbach, A Relook at an Inspiring Book

Today promises a +60’F reward of sunshine, and since that is to be followed by 10 days of rain and 45’F I believe just about everyone has departed inside to soak up what is going on outside.  I have seen kayaks on top of cars pass by and bikers, runners and walkers out doing their thing.   The citizens on the west side of the mountains know how to celebrate a beautiful day.   I think it offers mildew relief to our joints also!

In 1975, at the end of my first day on my first professional job, I went directly to the bookstore and purchased Ecotopia. It was required reading on this particular college campus.   This futuristic novel was exciting the very souls of the faculty and students on campus.  I wanted in on the action.

Ecotopia (Wikipedia article) is the story of a top journalist from New York being allowed to visit the country of Ecotopia –  20 years after this new country has seceded from the United States.  Ecotopia encompasses Northern California, Oregon, and Washington to the Canadian Border; bounded on the east by the Rocky Mountains.  The reporter is given 6 weeks to explore the country and send weekly reports back to his paper and  dispatches to the current President of the good ol’ USA.

Callenbach uses the reporter’s questions and observations to journey us through a very progressive society, based on excellent communication models and technology, which respects the human spirit and reflects the environment and the awareness of  connections.  We would use the term Sustainability today to describe this connection.

Callenbach upped the awareness of the environment and promoted a society which was trust worthy.

Although he was the editor working in the publishing sector of University of California at Berkeley, Callenbach did public appearances on the mixing of environmental issues and technology.  His degrees are in communication.

1981 Ecotopia Emerging  was published and it explained how the new country came to secede.

2008 Ecotopia was republished to a new audience; it is available on KINDLE.   It is 181 pages paperback and getting rave reviews the second time around.

My personal opinion is that Portland, Oregon has made the most strides in achieving a sustainable environment and taking Callenbach’s work to heart; such as evidenced by their commitment to light rail.

I have found Ecotopia referred on at least 5 architectural blogs that I read and  on more green blogs . I chose this book for my book group this month.   Although a number of members cannot attend, everyone is enjoying the book.

This book was written when electric typewriters were the big thing!   No computers!

Germany and the UK are way ahead of the USA on Net- Zero Housing and Denmark does co-housing and study groups with a flourish.

Callenbach’s predictions of how  citizens cannot sustain health nor can the USA sustain its practice of industrial designer foods  is truly evident when reading this book 30 years later.

The citizens had to truly believe in what they were attempting, because it changed how schools functioned, salaries and incomes changed and how much health improved.

We can also be proud that a significant number of people around the world have kept the passion for sustainable, healthy, happy communities alive and have worked to promote the outcomes which will achieve those goals.

I am reminded that Korten in his book Agenda for a New Economy describes how such economically healthy communities could emerge from our current financial crisis.

Hope I have inspired you to take a look and discover this amazing gem of a story.  It truly gets the creative juices flowing.

Do you like to read science fiction? Or futuristic novels?  Have you ever been inspired to go back and read something again?   How do you envision an Ecotopian society?  Do you see any of these ideas emerging?


Congratulations to the winner of the The Kind Diet cookbook: Talon!

Happy Reading

Some Related reading you might enjoy:
Keep the Ideas Coming
Agenda for a New Economy
Dear Michael Pollan

14 Responses to “Ecotopia ~ Ernest Callenbach, A Relook at an Inspiring Book”

  1. Talon Says:

    I remember my brother mentioning this book years and years ago and I’ve never read it. I’ll make a point of it now.

    I won “The Kind Diet” cookbook? That’s wonderful!! Thank you soooo much, Patricia! My daughter (who’s been a strict vegetarian for a couple of years now) will be thrilled, too.
    .-= Talon´s last blog ..The Sound of Color =-.

  2. J.D. Meier Says:

    Ecoptopia sounds like an interesting read. I’m always a fan of alternative looks and fresh perspectives.

    I like how things we’ve seen on TV show up in real life … things in Start Trek for example, that folks imagined as way out. I’m glad the show phone from Get Smart never caught on.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Less is More, Slower is Better =-.

  3. Patricia Says:

    Talon,
    This book is worth the effort and rather fun reading. And yes! you did win the Kind Diet book – I think you will enjoy that too.

    JD,
    I think you would really enjoy this book right down to you socks…speaking of shoe phones!

    In 1975 we did not have HIV or Aids….or so many chemicals in our water and bodies…but if Ecotopia truly had happened we might not have these problems now?
    And computers would have made it all even more possible.

  4. vered | blogger for hire Says:

    “Do you like to read science fiction? Or futuristic novels?” Not really, except for 1984 which is classic so had to read it. Sounds interesting though!
    .-= vered | blogger for hire´s last blog ..International Women’s Day 2010 =-.

  5. Patricia Says:

    vered,
    I think Ecotopia was re-released because it is a classic…and the role of women is very impressive in this society so I thought it was a good way to celebration International Women’s Day…I think you would enjoy it…just think of it as 18 blog posts and most of the action takes place in SF!

  6. Jannie Funster Says:

    Never heard of it! But being re-issued sounds like a classic.

    The environmental protection and waste management in our part of Nova Scotia, and many parts of Canada too is to be heralded in wiht trumpets a blaring — phenomenal strides up there.

    I do like some futuristic reads, indeed when well done — I might check this one out today.

    Happy Women’s Day!
    xo
    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Why Subscribe To My Blog? =-.

  7. Tony Single Says:

    I’m making a note of this one. I’m up for a good read and if it’s as good as you and the rave reviews are saying then I want in on the literary action! :)

    I don’t tend to read much sci-fi, but certainly not because I don’t want to. I actually love the genre a great deal, but most anything I’ve read usually seems to be a little lacking when it comes to heart and characterisation. I’m a “feeling” kinda person, so I need something to move me as much as it stirs my intellect with exciting ideas if you know what I mean.

    I find that I gravitate more towards the fantasy genre for this reason, although there’s not an awful lot of that that I read either these days. One book that I read that moved me greatly was Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead. That was the first book of a series but the others were never as engaging. Taliesin is named after the main character, the father of the legendary Merlin that we all know and love. Fantastic and emotionally engaging read!
    .-= Tony Single´s last blog ..Coal Black Kitty =-.

  8. Patricia Says:

    Jannie,
    This is a classic and I am so happy to know about Nova Scotia’s work. A great read and it is a futuristic vision from 1975 ….where we could have been by now if we had taken ecology seriously back then?

    Tony,
    I think you would really enjoy this book and the prequel to be read after called Ecotopia Emerging.

    I too am a feeling kind of gal…and I would go so far as to recommend Sharon Shinn series called Archeangel…4 or 5 books based on music and relationships – I could not put them down, they are fairly new and fabulous reads.

    I do truly enjoy Ecotopia
    Happy International Women’s day…

  9. Davina Says:

    Hi Patricia.
    I’ve never been a huge fan of science fiction; though I enjoyed watching the original Star Trek. After it was replaced with the newer series, I lost interest. No Captain Kirk… no Davina :-)

    That’s an interesting question about whether we are compelled to re-read a book. I don’t think I have and that’s funny really, because what’s the point of reading them and then leaving them on the shelf to collect dust? Hmm. Sometimes I’ll go back to read a specific section if I’m researching something, but that’s about it.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..Book Review: WordPress Defender =-.

  10. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. that sounds like a really interesting book and I’ve made a note to buy it at some stage .. it’s the kind of thing that will have some really thought provoking moments in it .. and I’d be interested to see what they are. Excellent review – thank you .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Fussbudget .. a bore, or a boar … =-.

  11. Patricia Says:

    Davina,
    I have a whole shelf of books I read and re-read and I am always finding new layers too. I will say most books I do not re-read. If I like them I share them with others, if I did not like them I put them in my give away box.
    This book is infinitely interesting – because it is about all sorts of changes that would have been made in 1955 and were being revealed in 1975….and now at 2010 It is amazing that many of the same old arguments are still being pursued and the earth is suffering for it.

  12. Patricia Says:

    HIlary,
    My book group really enjoyed reading the book and it spurred on quite a bit of conversation and discussion. Interesting too the younger women in the group did not read the book – too old they said…
    the 76 year old and the 50 year olds loved it….and it truly sparked a concern and a desire to make changes.

    Thank you for your kind words.

  13. Evelyn Lim Says:

    I am going to echo what J.D. has to say: Ecoptopia sounds like an interesting read. I haven’t read it but like books to broaden my views and perspective on life. Thanks for the recommendation. I am going to see if I can borrow it from the local library!

  14. Patricia Says:

    Evelyn Lim,
    It is a very interesting read and fun to look back at what was forward thinking. I hope your library has a copy, I think you will enjoy it Thank you for dropping on by
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..Ecotopia ~ Ernest Callenbach, A Relook at an Inspiring Book =-.