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Ecotopia Paperback – March 1, 1990

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Editorial Reviews


"A classic of earth consciousness." —Denis Hayes, original coordinator of Earth Day

"Essential reading for all who care about the earth's future."—Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics and The Turning Point

"None of the happy conditions in Ecotopia are beyond the technical or resource reach of our society."—Ralph Nader

From the Publisher

"Callenbach gives us a vivid, comprehensive, positive vision of an ecologically sustainable world. essential reading for all who care about the earth's future."--Fritjof Capra, author of the Tao Of Physics and the Tuming Point.

"A classic of earth consciousness."--Denis Hayes, Earth Day.

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, 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 Ecotopia's 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, Weston's conflict of values intensifies-and leads to a startling climax.

"None of the happy conditions in Ecotopisa are beyond the technical or resource reach of our society."--Ralph Nader


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reissue edition (March 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553348477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553348477
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 122 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of those books that only a mother could love. This is one of my favorite books, but all the critical reviews are correct: the writing style flips back & forth between pretentious & wooden, the characters either shallow or dopey (usually both). This book is no "A Tale of Two Cities." In fact, for this kind of story, Thomas Moore's "Utopia," Bellemy's "Looking Backward"--and probably everything written by Jules Verne are better stories....Way better (especially Moore, the grand-daddy of the genre).
I still love this book, because of all that. When written during the 1970s, it was so "out there" for its time--that reading it now is terribly dated. It's almost like watching 1950s movies about space flight....But this book (in its own weird way) was an important book that helped inspire the environmental movement. No, it's not Rachal Carsons's "Silent Spring," but it reads a heck of a lot better than "Unsafe at any Speed."
If you're in your forties (or older), and want a drift back to the "future" of 1970, or you're younger & want to know why your parents are so weird--Read this book. Or if you are an environmentalist, and want to know where your roots lie--this is a good book to read.
But if you don't have any special interest, and are just looking for a ripping good yarn to pass a rainy saturday afternoon....It's not this book, babe.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book in the early 90's while living in Corvalis, Oregon. At that time you could see and experience bits and peices of "Ecotopia" at Nearly Normal's restaurant, The Beanery, and New Morning Bakery. Callenbach takes communal eco-feminist ideas and extends them to imagine a new society based on them. I do not think I would like to live in Ecotopia. Parts of it appeal to me, parts of it don't. But it was well worth the visit. Ten years later I still think about this book, and recommend it. If you are an ideological literalist, don't go there. You won't like it. If you want to explore the consequences of ideas and values, you will find Ecotopia a useful place to think about the world as it is and the world as it could be.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By John Me Wallace on November 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
This novel is a mixed bag, and it's stayed with me for some time since I first read it. On the plus side, I found the book an easy, wonderfully quick read, and a pretty good exercise of world-building. I also found much to like in Ecotopia's vision, such as its environmental policies and progressive educational system, etc.

BUT...there is something decidedly specious about the ideals represented in the book, and in truth it was sometimes hard to tell if Callenbach was being sincere or satirical. Valid objections about the Ecotopian timeline aside, as well as its obvious hippy vintage, Ecotopia's almost enforced diversity--albeit in a non-bourgeois lifestyle--passive-aggression, and occasional totalitarian structure make even a tree-hugging, bleeding-heart liberal like me raise an eyebrow. Ecotopia sounds like a place that's better than Hell, but still ten floors below Heaven.

Recommended, but with a grain of salt; definitely not a play-book for the perfect society.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Art Kleiner on August 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book has a fascinating history. Originally written as a news essay about the places to dispose sewage, it became one of the few viable utopian novels written since 1984 and Brave New World -- genuinely utopian, rather than anti-utopian. Of course, it's really about moving to Northern California in the 1970s, or Northern California as the Northern Californians hoped it would become. The internal combustion engine is outlawed, and babbling brooks flow down San Francisco's Market Street. Ecotopia's most engaging quality is the portrait that Callenbach provides of the golden young people of the counterculture, living the informal, thumb-your-nose- at-authority-but- build-a-world-together spirit that American culture had beaten down. (The spirit is mostly gone, but the novel remains.) Interestingly, Callenbach was a former Organizational Development consultant, and the corporations described in Ecotopia -- collaborative enterprises owned by the participants -- are not that different from the dot-coms of today.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Paul Camp on November 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
When I first began reading _Ecotopia_ (1975) several years ago, I remember thinking that the basic premise-- that Washington, Oregon, and Northern California could successfully secede from the United States-- was far fetched. But Callenbach has written a "prequel," _Ecotopia Emerging_ (1981), which dramatizes how the revolution occurred. You may or may not find the details of that revolution plausible. But the point is this: Callenbach's utopia does not exist in a vacuum. It has a historical background. You feel that under the right circumstances, it _could_ become a reality. It feels solid.

Let us dispense with a few weaknesses to the novel. First, it uses the Visitor to Utopia plot, which is as old as Thomas More and which is by this time fairly predictable. I hope that readers will not rise up in wrath when I reveal that the hard-headed reporter who enters Ecotopia eventually becomes converted to the Ecotopian way of life. Second, Callenbach is frequently guilty of loading the dice in favor of his society. (The Ecotopians are healthier than most Americans, crime is almost nonexistent, and the sex in Ecotopia is just so doggoned much _better_.) A third problem is that much of what goes on in Ecotopia depends on its being isolated from the rest of the world. For example, hunting, woodcraft, and carpentry are taught as major parts of the school curriculum. This makes a certain amount of sense if your purpose is to give children an education in practical skills that they will need in their own society. But shouldn't education cover content areas that go beyond the boundaries of your own country?

On the other hand, there are some definite strengths to the novel. The narrator, a journalist named William Weston, is intelligent, observant, and engaging.
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