Book Review – Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach

An intriguing premise ably realized. Ecotopia explores what would happen if the American Northwest seceded from the United States to form a liberal, environmentally conscious country. Many of the specific ideas proposed are quite innovative, and the society as a whole is thought out well enough that this country seems to be not only an ideal, but a real possibility.

The technique of portraying the new community through the eyes of an American reporter is a good choice, as it allows the author to switch between fact-heavy, topically focused news articles, and the reporter’s diary, which relates day-to-day activities and personal experiences.

One criticism of the book that many readers will likely advance is that the portrayal United States in contrast to Ecotopia feels rather one-sided, even in passages where the main character seems to criticize the latter. It seems like the author is setting up a straw man, and then tearing him down. That being said, this technique is meant to put forth his viewpoint, and it works effectively. Despite the lack of a more balanced back-and-forth of perspectives, I was stirred by some of the ideas, to the point of developing a sort of bittersweet hope that a world like this may some time in our future come to exist.

A must-read for those interested in the current ‘go green’ movement, a notable example of utopian literature, and an interesting study from a unique voice on the subject.

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