"None of the happy conditions in Ecotopia are beyond our technical or resource reach of our society" Ralph Nader, 1975
Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach was first published in 1975... before the internet, recycling bins, before we knew California was the 4th or 5th or 6th largest economy ... while many of today's activists in northern California and Washington and Orgegon were still preteen. When I first read Ecotopia, I lived in Kansas City, Missouri. I am not sure where or how I found the book but it captured my imagination and I am sure perturbed me into a new quest for meaningful community. Now here I am living in Northern California, Mendocino County, the heart of Ecotopia.
I recently purchased a used, heavily yellow-marked copy and am winding my way through Ecotopia again. I am awe struck, really with how many Ecotopian-suggestions are happening here. Simple things like total recycling, organic farms, permaculture, entire schools and departments in universities devoted to whole systems and sustainability. There is complex stuff too like teaching new ways of thinking and being community. There is even an Institute of Imaginal Studies in Petaluma. Of course many things from the book are not happening and some probably don't need to be happening. Some of his ideas seem quaint or not practical to me now. Northern California is no utopia, yet from here - 30 years after being published - I am impressed with what has happened and what is in the process of becoming.
Maria Rilke, poet, said, and I paraphrase: Unless one has 1000 year perspective, standing in the middle, one is doomed to repeat the past." Indeed. Sometimes we get so lost in the moment that we fail to understand how far we have come. We continue to fight the windmills of our short memories rather than acknowledging and celebrating the unfolding of all the work we have accomplished. When things reach a tipping point, they need a different kind of energy, a form of stewardship that ceases to be angry and violent, and instead becomes playful, engaging and attracting.
This blog is my attempt to celebrate the work that has been accomplished and to recognize it. By giving it recognition, it can continue to unfold and integrate into complimentary projects and visions. It gives us freedom to pick up other things that need our imagination and willfulness. Perhaps there will never be a formal Ecotopia country, but rather, Callenbach's vision and imagination has given birth to a new way of being that will continue to unfold and permeate throughout all life. I think Callenbach created the scaffolding that seeds abundant imaginations and the will to bring a world into reality in the most remarkable and surprising ways.