Is Ecotopia a Story of the Pacific Northwest?

According to Callenbach, Ecotopia has been criticized for the setting of the novel, a narrow strip of coastal region of the Pacific Northwest in North America. The critics point out that the emergence of this ecologically oriented country was facilitated by the region’s situation in one of the best parts of the United States: land rich in nature, clean water, fertile soil, and tree-covered mountains (Callenbach interviewed 2003).

This region is often called Ecotopia because of the title of Callenbach’s novel. For example in his nonfiction book Nine Nations of North America, Joel Garreau, a Canadian journalist calls the region Ecotopia after the novel Ecotopia as Ecological Utopia and introduces cultural and geographic aspects characteristic of the region (Garreau 1981).

Scott Timberg, a journalist, also introduces ECOTOPIA in the New York Times as “the novel that predicted Portland” in a feature article about Callenbach (Timberg 2008), stating that the cities in the novel remind him of Portland.

Callenbach counters this argument: “Ecotopia is not a story of people who enjoy living in good environments” (Callenbach interviewed 2003). He believes that stable state is achieved when people live by a lifestyle suitable to the bioregion, where “characteristic plants, animals, birds, insects, fish, and other inhabitants live, adapted to the region’s climate, landforms, and soils” (Callenbach 2008). In his nonfiction book, Bring Back the Buffalo, he shows the Great Plains could be a sustainable region if people practice a sustainable lifestyle within its bioregion. The region is so dry to allow a smaller population to live that Garreau calls it the Empty Quarter (Garreau 1981). The lifestyle in the Great Plains, where people and buffalo coexist, is obviously different from the one in the Pacific Northwest (Callenbach 2000).