Ecotopia

Ecotopia

The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston

Book - 1990
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Ecotopia was founded when northern California, Oregon, and Washington seceded from the Union to create a ʺstable-stateʺ ecosystem: the perfect balance between human beings and the environment. Now, twenty years later, the isolated, mysterious Ecotopia welcomes its first officially sanctioned American visitor: New York Times-Post reporter Will Weston. Like a modern Gulliver, the skeptical Weston is by turns impressed, horrified, and overwhelmed by Ecotopiaʼs strange practices: employee ownership of farms and businesses, the twenty-hour work week, the fanatical elimination of pollution, mini-cities that defeat overcrowding, devotion to trees bordering on worship, a woman-dominated government, and bloody, ritual war games. Bombarded by innovative, unsettling ideas, set afire by a relationship with a sexually forthright Ecotopian woman, Westonʼs conflict of values intensifies-and leads to a startling climax.
Publisher: New York : Bantam Books, 1990.
Edition: Bantam trade ed.
ISBN: 9780553348477
0553348477
Branch Call Number: FICTION Callenba Ernest
Characteristics: 181 p. ;,21 cm.

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ELIEZER T MARGOLIS
Feb 19, 2017

For anyone interested in utopias Ecotopia is an important recent addition to such classics as Aldous Huxley's Island, B.F. Skinner's Walden Two, Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, and Ursula LeGuin's Dispossessed, to name the first few that come to mind. With that said, however, prospective readers should be aware of several things. Ecotopia is not in any commonly appreciated literary sense a "good read." First, the novel has a mawkish and less than useless plot. And, understandably, as a utopian novel it has a lot of ground to cover in terms of the exposition of ideas. Second, though, there is a damning flaw in Callenbach's resorting to a narrative steeped in stereotypic male, horndog heterosexuality. Unfortunately, this can too often make the book seem boring and stupid. Still and all, a valuable addition to the genre with special cache for those of us who live in this region of the country.

FindingJane Sep 25, 2014

Bringing to mind such a work as “Herland”, “Ecotopia” isn’t quite such a benevolent paradise and it varies from Gilman’s works on a number of significant points. Here we deal with a state of men and women who have willingly seceded from the rest of America (as opposed to the involuntary seclusion of a bunch of women separated from the rest of the globe by a natural disaster). The people of Ecotopia have only been apart from the rest of the nation by a mere couple of decades.

The ways in which the fictional state of Ecotopia is radically better than that of the larger section of America is outlined in detail. Psychologically, mentally and physically, the citizens are vastly superior to their American brethren. Having only been separated from the rest of Americans by only a small fraction of time, they are, however, subject to vanity, pomposity, pride, superstition and a tendency towards violence.

The book largely convinces because its characters are not saints or an amorphous and undistinguishable mass of humanity. Rather, the people are very unique from each other. The problem arises when the author attempts to outlay some of the ways in which its sciences, politics and agricultural background differentiate themselves. The prose gets bogged down in technical prose that is difficult if not impossible for the layman reader to decipher, rendering parts of the book deadly dull.

William Weston gets appallingly weepy as he spends time with Ecotopians. This is seen as his spirit opening up; Ecotopians are supposedly more in touch with their emotions than other people. But it came off as being rather maudlin. He does manage to be fairly even handed in his outlaying of Ecotopian life so he’s not exactly repellant.

Whether the Ecotopian way of life is achievable for other states is left up in the air; the reader must decide if it’s a workable, achievable or appealing notion for major nations to be broken up into tribal-states. It was, however, rather a cop-out for the narrator to suffer an epiphany and make a radical decision that renders the book a tale from the beyond, so to speak.

It’s easy to see why this book became an “environmental classic”. It’s not entirely compelling reading matter.

j
jbetzzall
Jul 04, 2011

This visionary novel inspired my life-long quest to bring about the society it described. The idea of a society where everyone CARED about their environment was so inspiring--it just HAD to be possible and I could help bring it about. Of course the author made plenty of mistakes, most egregiously on gender roles and attitudes toward sex, but his biology-based vision still carries me thirty-plus years later. Today I would recommend it only as a period piece--now there are plenty of inspiring visions that reflect what we've learned since Ecotopia's publication--but it does exemplify the best social thinking of its time, just like More's Utopia and Bellamy's Looking Backward.

p
Peter_Ray
Aug 13, 2010

Very interesting book. The technological fictions were less far-fetched than the social and governmental ones, but still, the book offered an interesting look at an environmentally responsible socity.

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