The death of the author of Ecotopia was reported yesterday. Ernest Callenbach’s 1975 novel looked forward to 1999 and a secessionist state in the Pacific Northwest devoted to environmental integrity and lighter living, a new nation that
poses a nagging challenge to the underlying national philosophy of America: ever-continuing progress, the fruits of industrialization for all, a rising Gross National Product. [Ecotopia is] a society in which recycling is a way of life, gas-powered cars are replaced by electric cars (although most people walk or commute on high-speed magnetic-levitation trains) and bicycles are placed in public spaces to be borrowed at will. In Ecotopia, solar energy is commonplace, organic food is locally grown and, instead of petrochemical fertilizers, processed sewage is used to cultivate crops.
It’ll be the obvious next stop on our journey forward from Earth Day and The Greening of America towards the real 1999 and beyond, in Environmental Ethics in the Fall. We’ll be asking ourselves the “Big Chill” question: where did our hope go? More importantly: how do we get it back?
On a visit to La Jolla High School in San Diego in 1989, students told him that they wanted to live in a society like the one he had imagined. They could, he replied, if they and others of their generation were committed to it. “If you don’t save us, nobody will,” he said.
I wonder if grading still exists in Ecotopia. There’s no sign of help coming on that front here, either.