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:: Ecotopia

The Pacific Northwest secedes and forms a new country, Ecotopia, based on a steady-state (i.e., sustainable) model rather than the perpetual-growth model that is capitalism. A journalist from the U.S. on an official visit writes columns on various aspects of Ecotopian society: education, health care, working habits, sex, etc. The book's 1970s roots show through in places, particularly in race and gender attitudes, but taken all in all it's an interesting piece of work.

The book alternates between the narrator's personal journal kept during the trip and the columns he files with his newspaper back in the U.S., so you get both facts and personal experiences/interpretation. The Ecotopian solutions to problems like pollution, unemployment, welfare etc. are presented somewhat simplistically, but the author's intent was simply to suggest plausible alternative modes of thinking about success, progress, happiness, love, work, and so on, not to lay out a detailed blueprint of how to execute it. By and large I think he succeeds, if not with the elegance of his predecessor Sir Thomas More. (Speaking of which, did you know that the full title of More's Utopia is "A Truly Golden Little Book, No Less Beneficial Than Entertaining, of the Best State of a Republic, and of the New Island Utopia" ? Quite a mouthful.)

I'm not sure how workable some of the ideas are (people quit work at the drop of a hat to have a beer-and-pot party, for example, yet somehow they're productive enough they only need to work 20 hours a a week) but they're all thought-provoking. Whether the hippy-dippy laid-back attitudes that he describes would be capable of producing the new technology that Ecotopia relies on is debatable, but it's refreshing to be shown another worldview to contrast with our mass-produced, mass-marketed, over-commercialized worship of more/bigger/faster, particularly after the last decade of Double Plus Ungood events (9/11, two wars, economic collapse, etc.). Bottom line: definitely a book with an agenda, not great literature, but an interesting read that should stimulate your little gray cells.

In other news, I've started on Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, and holy #@&*^ is it good. So well-written that you almost immediately forget you're reading and feel rather that you're living it, seeing events with your own eyes. It's rare writing that goes straight into you like that without, apparently, passing through the eyes or requiring translation by the brain. I'm in awe of his skill.


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Aug. 6th, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
Speaking of the Pacific Northwest, I'm going to be working at NorWesCon again next year. Will you be there? We might need more panelists!
Aug. 6th, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
Would love to, will have to see what the work schedule looks like. Keep me posted!
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