Utopian Society Thinkers Ernest Callenbach Part 1

About the famous utopian thinker Ernest Callenbach and history of his planned utopia Ecotopia.



Callenbach has had difficulty reconciling his natural optimism with his politics; he fought for civil rights, demonstrated against the Vietnam War, and was horrified by Watergate. "The negative karma got me down," he said. So he began to invent a world in which he would feel more at home. His ideas were extended when, in researching an article about--of all things--sewage, he discovered the "sewer socialists" of Milwaukee, who in 1919 were making and selling dried sludge (Milorganite). Callenbach compared them to today's so-called experts, who are polluting waterways with the same raw materials and saying nothing can be done about it. As Callenbach looked into the matter further, he realized that, no matter how feasible it would be to make fertilizer from waste on a large scale, it would be close to impossible to change the system to do so. His book Ecotopia (its Greek roots, oikos and topos, add up to "home place") describes a society where such important changes have taken place.

Callenbach, who edits Film Quarterly, is also the author of Living Poor with Style. He has taught at the University of California at Berkeley and at San Francisco State University.

His Ecotopia movement is growing. The Ecotopia Institute puts together lists of possible ecological projects for bright graduate students to tackle and presents "Crimes against Nature" awards to industry, government, and individuals. Also available: an Ecotopian coloring book; Ecotopia bumper stickers; and Seriatim, a journal of Ecotopia.

His Utopia: ECOTOPIA

In 1980, northern California, Oregon, and Washington secede from the U.S., led by a female-dominated political organization. The new country, Ecotopia, is isolated from the rest of the world until 1999, when William Weston (who narrates the book) is sent as an official visitor in his capacity as Times-Post international affairs reporter to investigate what has been happening there.

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