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The Vault: DVD Review: "Ecotopia"

Imagine a world powered by clean energy, people worry much less about formality, they instead focus on being creative, healthy, energetic and building communities rather than living up to western standards of “success.”

In Ernest Callenbach’s 1975 seminal novel Ecotopia, Northern California, Washington and Oregon secede from the union and form their own country, calling it “Ecotopia.” Here, the air is clean, animals are not on endangered species lists, water is drinkable, forests are not clear-cut, mother nature is not ravaged and left for dead by society. People do not need huge quantities of dirty fuels like coal and petroleum to live their lives.

William Weston, a journalist from the United States visits this new country approximately 20-years after it’s succession, with a well tempered ambivalence without any real sympathy to preconceived notions of their ideals.

Meeting with Vera Allwen, president and spokeswoman of Ecotopia, so called “victim-less crimes” like prostitution and drug possession are off the books, There is no war, and virtually no racial and class divides, so prevalent in the society that Ecotopia emerged from and eschewed.

Ralph Nader’s powerful endorsement of the work is seen on the cover, “none of the happy conditions in Ecotopia are beyond the technological reach of our society,” meaning that such a society that is not  of bike riding, hemp wearing, luddite vegans living in yurts without electricity and running water neccesarily is possible.

Instead, the world of Ecotopia is as technologically advanced as any other part of the world, people travel in high speed electric trains powered by renewable energy and they have a healthy respect for nature and their place in the world.

The people of Ecotopia acknowledge that technology has a place in society, so long as its use is not detrimental to a harmonious co-existence of people and the natural world.

While the people of Ecotopia are overall peaceful as mentioned earlier, once a year young men who feel they have no better outlet to vent feelings of aggression organize battles with other men also wanting to vent their aggression. Dressing in loin cloths and wielding spears, many fight in these Spartan battles, and sometimes people die.

Weston is initially horrified by this, but comes to accept it. Compared to how warfare is conducted by modern civilization and that of his own world, these small scale battles pale in comparison.

Some years after writing Ecotopia, Callenbach wrote a prequel Ecotopia Emerging, published in 1981.

Here the country that will be Ecotopia comes into being. The interesting characters such as Vera Allwen and  the founders of Ecotopia take advantage of an America focusing on wars overseas to form their own country.