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Thursday, January 09, 2003

I just finished reading the book Ecotopia, by Ernest Callenbach. Written in the 1970's, it describes the nation of Ecotopia, composed of Washington, Oregon, and northern California, twenty years after its secession from the United States in 1980. Ecotopia, as the name implies, has devoted itself to sustainable stable-state systems. Private cars have been eliminated, sustainable energy sources are used exclusively, and all sorts of novel living and social arrangements are to be found. The economy is sort of a combination of socialism, with a guaranteed subsistence income for all, and Adam Smith-style capitalism: lots of small producers in free and fluid competition. Lots of very interesting and appealing ideas, most from what would be considered left-wing thinking, but some more traditionally right-wing ideas are here too, like a school voucher system. The book is presented as a series of articles written by a visiting New York reporter, interspersed with his diary entries during his visit.

I previously read Callenbach's Ecotopia Emerging which describes the political, social and scientific developments which led to Ecotopia's secession. It is written in a more standard novel format, following the actions of a few key characters as the Pacific Northwest moves toward secession.

I wouldn't rate either book as a great novel, but they are excellent Utopian books with lots of intriguing ideas. Easy and entertaining to read.