Tonight’s is the 100th installment of Ecotopia. For almost two years, we’ve delighted in exploring ecosystems—environmental, social, and technological. We want to thank KZFR, our listeners, and our financial supporters for making this radio program possible. To celebrate our 100th, we have a special guest interview with Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia, the book from which our show takes its title. (We want to once again thank Jim Reis and Connie Fisher for introducing us to the book and the phrase, Ecotopia.)

Listen to the program

About Ecotopia

The book was published and 1975 and became an instant classic in the science fiction and utopian genres. It is set in the future and is based on the premise that Northern California, Oregon, and Washington have seceded from the United States in order to form a more perfect union.

The Ecotopians have tackled a wide range of social, environmental, and economic problems, from food and sewage to energy and pollution to recycling to transportation to education to equality of sex and race.

The novel is told from the point of view of William Weston, a newspaper writer, who is the first American permitted into Ecotopia in over twenty years, and the book consists of his journal entries and his dispatches back to his newspaper in the U.S.

Initially skeptical, Weston becomes more and more convinced of the validity and vitality of Ecotopian thinking, and at the end of the novel, he faces a difficult decision, whether to return to the United States or to remain in Ecotopia. (You’ll have to read the book for yourselves to find out the answer!)

Our  Questions for Ernest Callenbach

Part I:  Ecotopia the Novel

 –Ecotopia has been a best selling novel since it first appeared in 1975. Please tell us about how you came to conceive and write the book. What were the social, environmental, or political conditions that inspired or motivated you? Who were the major thinkers and writers who influenced you?

–Why did you choose the genre of the utopian novel rather, than, say a collection of essays? What did the novel allow you to do that might not have been possible in essay or editorial form?

–Perhaps you could illustrate Ecotopian thinking for our listeners with one or several examples from the book, e.g.

“Food, Sewage, and Stable States”
“Their Plastic and Ours”
“Work and Play Among the Ecotopians”
“Ecotopian Television”

–As readers, we were puzzled by your chapter on Ritual War Games in Ecotopia, where young men participate in primitive warfare with spears that actually results in injury or death. Do you personally believe that humankind has this dark and savage side that needs to be vented?

–Ecotopia touches on just about every aspect of human life. How did this comprehensive social vision form in your mind? Did it come all at once, in bits and pieces, perhaps even as you wrote?

 II. Ecotopia and the World Today

–What progress (if any) has the world made toward your Ecotopian vision since 1975? What problems have deepened or worsened during that time?

–In the novel, change comes about all at once through secession from the Union. The Ecotopians wipe the slate clean and start over. Do you think a slower or partial transition might be possible or desirable?

–You have written about an intentional living community in Japan that is based on Ecotopian principles, and there are a number of small, sustainable communities around the world and here in California. Please tell us about Ecotopian communities you have visited. What kinds of problems do they encounter and solve?

–Can Ecotopian ideas be implemented in larger communities? Is there hope for some of the cities included in the original borders of Ecotopia such as San Francisco or Portland or Seattle or Berkeley or Chico?

–Could there be a global Ecotopia? The United Nations and the European Union have provided models for progressive social, political, and environmental policies on a large scale. What is your assessment of their efforts?

–A question regularly ask on this program: If wholesale change is to take place, will/can it come about through:

governmental regulation and mandates?
common sense and good will of people?
desperation at the edge of the cliff?
all or none of the above?

–What can our listeners do to help nudge the planet in Ecotopian directions? Can you recommend other books, organizations, or resources to guide them?

Playlist for Ecotopia #100

1. Clear Blue Skies (LP Version)        3:07        Crosby, Still, Nash & Young        
American Dream       
2. Utopia        4:58        Alanis Morissette        Under Rug Swept       
3. Weave Me the Sunshine        4:28        Peter, Paul And Mary        The Very Best of 
Peter, Paul and Mary       
4. Supernova        4:42        Liquid Blue        Supernova       
5. Big Yellow Taxi (LP Version)        2:15        Joni Mitchell        Ladies Of The Canyon