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I'm an optimist at heart. I see half-full glasses everywhere I look, and get frustrated when others complain that they're half-empty, or aren't willing to join me in filling them. Especially when "filling the glasses" amounts to watering the garden to grow a greener world around us.

Ecotopia CoverSo when, at a tender age, I read Ernest Callenbach's "Ecotopia," (and later Ecotopia Emerging) I fell in love with his idiosyncratic yet melodramatic utopian vision of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest as an autonomous green state, featuring universal health care and recycling, a 20-hour workweek, solar energy, organic local food. Ernest Callenbach

I've ended up working in that region and around the country to bring that vision to life, to build communities where many elements of his dream are in our everyday reality, creating places that research shows start green and get greener. I even got to meet the author a couple times, most recently last year.

Thus it was with great sadness that I learned today of his passing April 16, at 83, 10 months after a cancer diagnosis. Join me over the fold for a reminiscence, and please share how he and his writings have influenced your life and work.

Bob Egelko penned a beautiful obituary for Ernest "Chick" Callenbach (his family raised chickens) in today's SF Chronicle. One in the LA Times has some more depth on his connections to the world of film, as you'd expect, but also acknowledgement of his inlfuence on Ralph Nader among others.

You can experience some of what Chick had to share on his website. I particular appreciate his "Earth's 10 Commandments" (available as a beautiful poster with art by David Goines): Earth by flickr user backgroundnow

Thou shalt love and honor the Earth for it blesses thy life and governs thy survival.
Thou shalt keep each day sacred to the Earth and celebrate the turning of its seasons.
Thou shalt not hold thyself above other living things nor drive them to extinction.
Thou shalt give thanks for thy food to the creatures and plants that nourish thee.
Thou shalt limit thy offspring for multitudes of people are a burden unto the Earth.
Thou shalt not kill nor waste Earth's riches upon weapons of war.
Thou shalt not pursue profit at the Earth's expense but strive to restore its damaged majesty.
Thou shalt not hide from thyself or others the consequences of thy actions upon the Earth.
Thou shalt not steal from future generations by impoverishing or poisoning the Earth.
Thou shalt consume material goods in moderation so all may share Earth's bounty
Of course, you can help flesh out his Wikipedia article.

When I brought home Callenbach's "Leaving Cheaply with Style: Live Better and Spend Less" my former wife nearly cried -- we had very different ideas about what success looked like, and for me an important element was finding ways to innovative, improvise, make do with less, recycle and re-use... while she felt like we needed some more tangible results of our success.

I'm just retired from the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) board, so I'm working to get them to upload Chick's article from the Fall, 2006 issue of Communities magazine, on real-world communities in Japan living an Ecotopian-influenced life; I'll update if and when that goes live on the web.

I particularly enjoyed the Ecotopia novels' embrace of appropriate technology, rather than rejecting all electronics -- for instance, universal videoconferencing and live TV broadcast of government proceedings. Not to mention electric mag-lev trains and high-tech detectors.

Budding authors, there is hope: Ecotopia was rejected by around two dozen publishers (saying "green is dead" in 1973) before friends helped him self-publish and it went on to sell nearly a million copies.

You can see pieces of Callenbach's influence on DK authors including Eco-Solartopia author harveywasserman, who interviewed him, transcribed in a diary here. Dauphin had a more-technical-yet-visionary diary in 2010, Slouching Towards Ecotopia.

Originally posted to raines on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 11:49 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, SFKossacks, and Street Prophets .

Poll

Ecotopia/Ecotopia Emerging represents for me:

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