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Callenbach, Ernest

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1929-2012) US environmentalist, film critic and author whose own Banyan Tree Books published his first novel, Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston (1974 American Review #19 as "First Days in Ecotopia"; exp 1975), after it had been refused by several professional houses; it was reported in the mid-1980s to have sold more than 300,000 copies, which should come as no surprise given the reasoned seductiveness of the Utopia premised in its pages. As of 1999, Washington, Oregon and Northern California have been in secession from the rest of the USA for almost two decades. The reporter William Weston is allowed within the borders to make contact with (and if possible to subvert) the Ecotopians. He finds irresistible the balance of life there, the manner in which the new state has tamed – while continuing to take judicious advantage of – the juggernaut of Technology, and the refusal of its citizens to cost the world more than they give the world; and he, too, becomes an Ecotopian. Ecotopia Emerging (1981) is both a prequel and a kind of sequel to the previous book – a prequel in its long and persuasively detailed presentation of the Ecotopian route to secession, and the enormous power engendered by the (sf-like) discovery of a cheap solar-energy catalyst; but a "sequel" by virtue of treating the earlier book as being itself the inspiration for the emergence, in our world, of a "real" Ecotopia. The increasing influence of the concept of sustainability, and the increasing number of attempts to apply this ultimately pragmatic structure of approach to human life on the planet, are signs that the Ecotopia sequence has been articulating more than a pipedream.

Nonfiction texts in which Callenbach elaborated on some of the procedures and theories of the fiction include The Ecotopian Encyclopedia for the 80s: A Survival Guide for the Age of Inflation (1980), A Citizen Legislature (1985) with Michael Phillips, and Ecology: A Pocket Guide (1998; rev vt Ecology: A Pocket Guide: Revised and Expanded 2008). [JC]

Ernest William Callenbach Jr

born Williamsport, Pennsylvania: 3 April 1929

died Berkeley, California: 16 April 2012






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