9. Ecotopia

by Ernest Callenbach

Brother Dan sent this one to me in the mail.  It seems so subversive getting a book in the mail.

I enjoyed this one.  Folks living in a big chunk of northern California, Oregon and Washington secede from the United States and create their own eco-friendly state that is closed off from their former nation.  Twenty years later a news reporter, the first one in all that time, is given access to Ecotopia for the purpose of informing Americans about Ecotopia and as a sort of ambassador from the United States sent to establish a new friendship.

The novel is structured by the reporter's published new pieces interspersed with his personal diary entries.  In many ways this is the quintessential liberal sci fi novel of the 1970s.  Ecotopia is a blueprint of a well balanced society where humans live in near-perfect balance with nature, women are liberated, and... well, you get the idea.  I enjoyed reading the novel.  However, it's got a few problems:

1.  In order to create this highly descriptive blueprint the author sacrifices plot.
2.  As my brother says in his review, there is no voice of dissent in Ecotopia.  It's as if everyone in northern Cali, ORegon and Washington were 100% behind the secession and creation of this extremely controlling ecostate.  It underestimates, or ignores, the libertarian presence in those states. And the polluters.
3. During the ensuing 20 years why would the United States not invade and reconquer the seceded states?  There is mention that Ecotopia has planted hidden nuclear devices in key U.S. cities to be detonated in the event of such an offensive, but it is only mentioned in passing.  Also, wouldn't the use of such nukes be against Ecotopian philosophy?

These issues are not easy to put aside while reading because it is so necessary to resolve them in order to believe in such a possibility.  And believe me, I do wish for much of what is accomplished in Ecotopia.  However, I know such things will not exist in our lifetime without extremely violent force.