Ernest Callenbach, a film scholar and environmentalist who wrote the cult favorite Ecotopia, a 1975 underground classic that inspired generations of environmentalists and readers yearning for an ecologically sustainable society, died at his home in Berkeley, California on April 16th. His work predicted with uncanny accuracy a world where recycling is commonplace, food is locally grown and energy comes from the sun.
The cause was cancer, said his wife, Christine Leefeldt.
Ecotopia described a utopian future in which an ecologically sustainaible society was set into the former states of Washington, Oregon and northern California. It was a hopeful vision of what industrial society must become if it was to survive, and became an inspirational story for many throughout the 1980′s and 1990′s.
Callenbach gave a vivid, comprehensive, positive look towards an Earth’s future where those care about sustainability were able to have a say. White bicycles sit in public places, to be borrowed at will. A creek runs down Market Street in San Francisco. Strange receptacles called “recycle bins” sit on trains, along with “hanging ferns and small plants” and a female president rules the country, from Northern California up through Oregon and Washington.
Highly imaginative and at the same time down to earth, the book sold nearly a million copies in more than nine languages, it was the the first book to be set into a politically and socially independent Pacific Northwest, writing at the period in the early 1970′s when geographic and environmental explorations into bio-regionalism were just beginning to be identified by organizations such as the Planet Drum Foundation and sociologist David McCloskey, who would later go on to define the Cascadia bioregion.
Today, the book is increasingly assigned in college courses on the environment, sociology and urban planning.
Callenbach is survived by his two children, five grandchildren and two brothers, and will be greatly missed.