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Ecotopian Society: The Thematic Analysis of Ecotopia

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The book Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach belongs to the outstanding novels written in the 20th century that represent the genre of utopian literature. The author masterfully combines utopia with the problem of ecology, which makes it the central topic of the book. The blend of the two concepts seems unusual as it contains both fictitious and realistic components. On the one hand, the gist of utopia predetermines creating a perfect society suitable for many people regardless of their status, religion or other worldviews. On the other hand, the environmental issues addressed in the book provide a rather practical approach to the solutions of many current problems. Therefore, the question is whether the ecotopian model of the ideal society is possible. Each person has his/her understanding of how to live and what social processes can be promoting or devastating. Improving women’s rights, eradicating racial discrimination, and promoting eco-friendly technologies constitute the main themes of Ecotopia as an alternative attempt to generate realistic understanding of the input that imperfect people can make in order to improve the world and ensure a better living on the whole planet.

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The permission of using weapons by women promotes their freedom. The psychological advantage of ladies in having good relationship with men reflects undeniable conviction of their equality: “I know guys who say they’ve gone over to get girls. They’re friendly all right so long as you aren’t up to anything…The girls all have guns” (Callenbach 5). When contrasting it to the modern image of women in the USA, the author’s perspective regarding understanding of women’s role was rather realistic. American women became more protected legally as compared to the Ecotopian ones. At the same time, the behavior of the latter is rather considerate and restrained: “Letter from Francine yesterday morning – smuggled or prearranged emergency drop in Canada. Was somehow a shock to get it – hadn’t really expected to hear from her unless something went terribly wrong…Maybe she misses me, but she would never admit it on paper” (Callenbach 88).

The negative aspect of women’s rights demonstrates the weakness of family institution in the book. The sexual closeness between a man and a woman looks rather distorted: “They seem to regard sex as they would regard eating or maybe walking – a pleasant biological function, but without any heavy emotional expectations. Very relaxing” (Callenbach 89). Polygamy in sex seems frustrating to the main character: “I guess it’s a result of my puritan heritage that I’ve never been with two women at once” (Callenbach 89). The women’s striving to “preserve anonymity” explains the neglect of love as a feeling, which makes the society rather individualistic. Such psychology of the Ecotopian heroines is rather similar to the mentality of the American women. The rebellious model of the Ecotopian society is imperfect and one-sided in the light of family relations.

Callenbach offers a realistic conception of racial issues in his book. The penetrating differences between the perceptions of African Americans, unsetting patterns of their behavior, and historical understanding of them as slaves imprinted into the American society as a gap impossible to overcome. Although such a perspective resembles apartheid, it could be a suggestion to eradicate aggression and promote social development of racial minorities. Mentality and the percentage of inhabitants of the northern states of Oregon and Washington can be obvious reasons of the annexing. If to combine such a way of thinking with the reduction of taxes and well-thought food supply, the idea becomes clear: “This curious system evidently leads to continual conflict and jealousy over the disposition of tax revenues. Instead of relying on a powerful central tax collection agencies that attach incomes directly, the central government must continually placate and cajole local governments to ensure a continued flow of funds” (Callenbach 9).

The way of eradicating suppression between the representatives of different races sounds xenophobic in the economic context. The introduction of high tariffs on the Asian production, which is abundant on the American market, seems very uncommon for a common American. It anticipates monopolistic production peculiar for socialism: “Sky-high and draconian tariffs are used to keep out the sweat-shop products from Asia – the consequence being that many Ecotopians wear home-made garments” (Callenbach 93). Such reforms restrict the Ecotopian society and stress on the necessity of their social identification without international infringement.

The controversial standards of the Ecotopian society make the country unique. In spite of permissions of the liberal use of cannabis, non-monogamous relationships, and numerous cases of violence, the mainstream of the Ecotopian population preserves the essential values. Ecotopians are able to follow their firm beliefs, and the strength of their persuasion is invincible. The author convinces readers that the values of Ecotopy are eternal. Among the positive perspective of the Ecotopians mentioned by Callenbach are promoting women’s rights, voluntary separatism of African Americans in San Francisco East Bay area, educating profound knowledge as well as promoting creativity and fitness. The author claims that such issues are worth preserving, because they comprise the principal motivation for both personal and social development.

The ecological issue in the novel is an advantageous side of the author’s reality. For example, free eco-friendly transport, healthy lifestyle, specific and nagging attitude to products with “a lifetime “guarantee” on a minimal level of food, housing and medical care” sound hilarious when a person complains about badly fried eggs (Callenbach 94). This is what the author calls “cooperative criticism”: “Look at those eggs! They’ve completely dried out!- “I did!”- You must have left them lie on the plate” (Callenbach 45). This part of the society comprises the principal aspect of development approved in practice. The price differences for the genetically modified products and those grown on natural fertilizers are the undeniable fact demanding the Americans to think when they deal with the problem of obesity, cancer or genetic illnesses.

The usage of eco-friendly technologies, wind power turbines, and solar batteries has become the leading trend of the highly-developed European countries like Germany or Switzerland. The countries with hotter climate and abundant sunlight have successfully been using solar batteries in order to save energy and not to deplete the natural sources for more than ten years. Iceland introduces legal restrictions on fishing in the seas, due to which it positions itself as a powerful country with abundant resources. The other northern countries like Norway have also managed to preserve a similar policy. For this reason, Callenbach’s Ecotopia looks promising, because it makes people think how to protect nature. Though deploying the efforts on limiting some needs and weakening family values can be an insufficient sacrifice, similar interests of the general good for the society can become a supportive argument for such a civilization.

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In conclusion, the ecological perspective of social development denotes the principle idea of Callenbach’s writing. Most of his predictions have become real, and the author’s vision of modernity remains topical for both 1999 and the present years. Still, the applicability of his theory is possible to some extent. Exposing the American people to stressful situations that demand to defend rights of the weaker ones can promote insufficiencies, because it refers to the total rebuilt of the customary legislation system and social norms. Overall, it is worth thinking whether drastic changes can save the world.

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