3.2.1 Is ECOTOPIA an Ecological Utopia or a Dystopia?
Many readers have the impression that Ecotopia is a story of ecological utopia. For instance, the Amazon Readers Evaluation: ECOTOPIA introduces 49 readers’ book reviews of Ecotopia (Amazon Book Review) (Table 3.1). The readers’ evaluation is divided into two group: readers who assess the book with five stars, the highest evaluation, view the novel as based on Callenbach’s scientific research. On the other hand, five of seven readers who rated the book “one star” regard the story as being a “utopia” and denounce the novel as “nonsense.”
Hiroshi Shioda in his review “Ecotopia: its contradiction and violence—in reading Callenbach’s dystopia” maintains that the word “ecotopia” means an ecological utopia and states that in Callenbach’s ecological civilization, the life of human beings somehow becomes inhuman and miserable. And he sees the country as a “dystopia” that brainwashes its people to force an environmentally coexistent lifestyle upon them (Shioda 2008).
His criticism resembles the early concerns of William Weston, the main character of the novel. Weston shows strong suspicion of and antagonism toward the environmentally friendly co-existing society in Ecotopia. Similar to Weston, people who are accustomed to life in the industrial society tend to see eco-centered practices as inconvenient and unpleasant and requiring much physical labor.
Scott Slovic, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno (USA) and a growing leader of a literature-and-the-environmental-movement, edited Ecotopia and the Environmental Justice Reader and views Ecotopia as “the ideal topos of ecology” for which people long (Slovic 2008). Slovic lists Callenbach’s Ecotopia, which is reviewed by Shioda, as one of 22 ecotopia titles in the book.
Table 3.1 Amazon Readers Evaluation: ECOTOPIA. www. amazon. com/Ecotopia-Ernest- Callenbach/product-Reviews/0553348477(2011.07.19)
Takaaki Okuda, a researcher of the Ecotopia Science Institute, University of Nagoya, points out that the most difficult thing is peoples’ longing for a much more inconvenient Ecotopian society rather than benefiting from the present condition of free society (Okuda 2009). Okuda sees Ecotopia as a restrictive society.