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The rhetoric of ecotopia

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Title:
The rhetoric of ecotopia a narrative analysis of the ecology movement
Alternate title:
Narrative analysis of the ecology movement
Creator:
Leonard, Arne Robert
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English
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vi, 148 leaves : ; 29 cm

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Ecotopia (Callenbach, Ernest) ( fast )
Utopias in literature ( lcsh )
Utopias in literature ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Humanities.
General Note:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Arne Robert Leonard.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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29150188 ( OCLC )
ocm29150188
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LD1190.L58 1993m .L46 ( lcc )

Full Text
THE RHETORIC OF ECOTOPIA:
A NARRATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE ECOLOGY MOVEMENT
by
Arne Robert Leonard
B.A., Grinnell College, 1985
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities
1993
if V
.f


This thesis for the Master of Humanities
degree by
Arne Robert Leonard
has been approved for the
Humanities Program
by
5/3/q3
Date


Leonard, Arne Robert (M.H., Humanities)
The Rhetoric of Ecotopia: A Narrative Analysis of
the Ecology Movement
Thesis directed by Professor Michael S. Cummings
ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study is to identify and characterize
the relationships between Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia and
the ecology movement. After a brief biography of Ernest
Callenbach, a review of the utopian literature that
influenced him, and a careful analysis of both the structure
and the content of the Ecotopian narrative, this study
reaches its focal point of tracing the effects of the
Ecotopian narrative upon a specific audience, i.e., the
social movement that draws its inspiration from Ernest
Callenbach's writings. Working from the hypothesis that the
Ecotopian narrative performs a persuasive function among
participants in the ecology movement, this study intends to
lay the foundation for the broader purpose of showing that a
utopian narrative can play a practical, persuasive role in
the life of a social movement.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
Signed_
iii


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
In addition to thanking his committee members for their
valuable advice, the author of this study acknowledges his
indebtedness to Karen Branson, Ernest Callenbach, Berit
Leonard, Brad Leonard, Alma Rodriguez, Paul Tang, the staff
of the Rocky Mountain office of the Sierra Club Legal
Defense Fund, and the staff of the Multnomah County Library
in Portland, Oregon. This study also was made possible by a
tuition award from the Humanities program of the University
of Colorado at Denver.
iv


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION ............................... 1
2. DEFINITION OF TERMS ........................ 9
Persuasion ................................. 9
Narrative....................................15
Social Movement ............................ 23
Participation ..... ........................ 31
3. METHODOLOGY .................................33
Speech Criticism ........................... 33
Myth Criticism...............................38
Narrative Criticism ........................ 49
Social Movement Studies .................... 57
4. THE WRITER OF ECOTOPIA.......................63
Biography of Ernest Callenbach ........... 63
Review of Utopian Literature
Preceding Ecotopia ......................... 72
Thomas More's Utopia .................... 72
Aldous Huxley's Island .................. 77
Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward .... 79
5. THE TEXT OF ECOTOPIA.........................81
Structure of the Ecotopian Narrative .... 81
Values in the Ecotopian Narrative .......... 90
Contradictions in the Ecotopian Narrative 96
v


CHAPTER
6. THE READERS OF ECOTOPIA.....................104
Bioregionalism...............................110
Sustainable Communities .................... 116
Green Politics...............................122
7. CONCLUSIONS..................................130
BIBLIOGRAPHY ..................................... 142
vi


CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
Both Marxists and Machiavellians often use the word
utopian as a euphemism for "unscientific," "unrealistic,"
or "irrational." This euphemistic usage suggests that
seekers of utopia must resign themselves to reading
stories about an ideal world with no hope of seeing
such a world come to life. Yet, as we approach the end
of the twentieth century in a state of ecological crisis,
there is at least one utopian alterworld that shows signs
of coming to life. That alterworld is depicted in Ernest
Callenbach's popular utopian narrative Ecotopia and
brought to life by an increasingly powerful social
movement, which we shall call the ecology movement. The
purpose of this study is to identify and characterize the
relationships between the Ecotopian narrative and the
ecology movement.
Working from the hypothesis that such relationships
involve persuasion, i.e., that the Ecotopian narrative is
persuasive among participants in the ecology movement,
this study intends to lay the foundation for the broader
purpose of showing that a utopian narrative can play a
practical role in the life of a social movement. To show
that a utopian narrative can play such a role, even in a


limited sense applicable only to Ecotooia. would be
significant because it would undermine the conventional
wisdom found in the writings of many prominent political
theorists, who still use the term utopian in a pejorative
sense.
In his essay on "What Makes a Political Theory
Utopian?" for example, the distinguished philosopher
Thomas Nagel adds to the list of pejorative uses by
telling us that the word utopian means "unpersuasive."
According to Nagel, "an ideal, however attractive it may
be to contemplate, is utopian if real individuals cannot
be motivated to live by it" (904). Nagel's conception of
utopia arises from a distinction between the "ideal" and
the "persuasive" functions of political theory a
distinction he uses to emphasize the point that utopias
fail to perform a persuasive function. If we agree with
Nagel and the conventional wisdom, we are tempted to
conclude that utopian thinking cannot make a political
theory persuasive or practical.
This study works from a set of premises that are
contrary to the assumptions that underlie Nagel's use of
the word utopian. Instead of trying to purge utopian
elements from a political theory in order to make it more
practical, we shall ask the question: What if we regard
utopian thinking as a means of persuading people to act
2


in accordance with a political ideal, rather than just a
means of contemplating such an ideal?
Identifying the persuasiveness of utopian thinking
requires that we focus on the narrative dimension of
political theory. Such a focus goes against the
conventional view which rhetorical critic Walter Fisher
calls "the rational world paradigm" (59). As it relates
to this study, the key features of the rational-world
paradigm are: (1) the essence of a theory is an argument
or a set of arguments; (2) argumentation is a "discourse
that features clear-cut inferential or implicative
structures" (Fisher 59); and (3) arguments are the
primary means of persuasion that theories employ. In
place of such an argument-centered view, this study
substitutes what Fisher calls a "narrative paradigm,"
with the following key features: (1) while they may put
on the appearance of a sound argument, most theories are
best characterized as narratives; (2) there is a logic to
narration by which elements such as character, plot and
setting are selected to address the rhetorical needs of
an intended audience; (3) narratives can make a
significant contribution to the persuasive appeal of a
theory. Operating in accordance with these features of
the narrative paradigm, we can begin to see utopias as
narrative elements of political theory.
3


Of course, the mere assertion that utopian
narratives hold an important place in political theory
does not guarantee that such narratives are practical or
persuasive. To get beyond mere theorizing, we must move
from the contemplative realm of philosophy to the more
action-oriented realm of ideology. We must examine the
role that a utopian narrative can play in creating
"social reality," and in persuading people to act in
accordance with this socially-constructed reality. As
Karl Mannheim stressed in Ideology and Utopia, we must
recognize "the power of 'utopian' thought, which (like
ideology) produces a distorted image of social reality,
but which (unlike ideology) has the dynamism to transform
that reality into its image of it" (qtd. in Berger and
Luckmann 10).
Much of the dynamism that utopian images conjure is
related to another phenomenon that sociologists label
"the social movement." When social movements are opposed
to a dominant ideology that has come to define what is
real in a society, such movements are apt to construct
utopian narratives which aim to demystify the dominant
ideology and alter the social reality that such an
ideology constructs. Operating in the alternative
reality defined by a utopian narrative, members of a
social movement see their actions as valuable and
4


purposeful, rather than subversive or merely irrelevant,
as the dominant ideology might suggest. Thus, as our
brief sketch of the sociology of knowledge suggests, the
persuasive function of utopian narratives becomes more
apparent when such narratives are placed in the context
of social movements.
There are two main reasons for choosing Ernest
Callenbach's Ecotopia as the utopian narrative that we
shall examine in this study. First, the Ecotopian
narrative is one that attempts to answer not only the
question of what kind of place utopia is, but also the
more rhetorically important question of how we get there.
It is through his focus on the latter question that
Callenbach's Ecotopian writings can be characterized as
active rather than contemplative. The second reason for
focusing on Ecotopia is found in the distinctive
ecological and bioregional values that this narrative
contains. Without such distinctive values as
sustainability and biodiversity, it would be more
difficult to identify the links between the ecology
movement and the Ecotopian narrative. Less distinctive
values such as "community" or "equality," for example,
are not distinctive enough to lead us to a specific
audience, since so many utopian visions and social
movements even those that allow individuals to hold
5


private property are considered "communistic" relative
to the individualism of America's dominant ideology. The
Ecotopian narrative, on the other hand, clearly
identifies an intended audience those inhabitants of
the Pacific Northwest who hope to achieve the "stable-
state life systems" which are the "fundamental ecological
and political goal" of Ecotopians (Callenbach 1977a, 23).
As the broad, theoretical issues which give this
study its significance are narrowed to the context of
specific relationships between the Ecotopian narrative
and the ecology movement, we can begin to characterize
these relationships in terms of the question: "How does
the Ecotopian narrative persuade people to participate in
the ecology movement?" With this question formulated, we
can proceed to the important task of defining the key
terms that the question embodies, i.e., narrative.
movement. persuasion, and participation. Just what
exactly is a narrative, and how is it different from an
argument, a speech, a myth, a dream, etc.? What exactly
is a social movement? What does it mean to participate
in such a movement? What features distinguish the
movement that is persuaded by the Ecotopian narrative?
These questions are answered in Chapter 2, which
flows into a discussion of methodology in Chapter 3.
Chapters 4, 5 and 6 form the body of this study, in which
6


the relationships between the Ecotopian narrative and the
ecology movement are organized according to three
traditional topics of criticism: writer, text and
reader. After a brief biography of Ernest Callenbach, a
review of the utopian literature that influenced him, and
a careful analysis of both the structure and the content
of Ecotopia. this study reaches its focal point of
tracing the effects of the Ecotopian narrative upon a
specific audience, i.e., the social movement that draws
inspiration from Callenbach's writings.
While studies of writer and text are important for
understanding the narrative and the culture that nurtures
it, the task of looking for effects on a specific
audience is essential if we are to show that Ecotopia is
persuasive. Accomplishing this task requires that we
skim quickly past the responses of readers who merely
contemplate the Ecotopian narrative as an attractive
ideal, in order to save room for a more detailed
investigation of the responses of readers who have made
Ecotopia into a very specific plan of action, if not a
way of life.
We conclude by returning to the controversies of
political theory sketched at the beginning of this
introductory chapter in order to assess the role that our
study of Ecotopia and the ecology movement may play in
7


refuting the hidden assumptions that underlie some
pejorative uses of the term utopian. If we succeed in
showing that the Ecotopian narrative has come to life as
a social movement, then we will have provided an example
to counter the accusation that utopian narratives are
unpersuasive.
There is another common criticism of utopias that
this study will not aim to refute, i.e., the notion that
utopias are sometimes persuasive enough to create
societies in which the human spirit is stifled by an
oppressive zeal for uniformity. We do not deny that,
like other forms of rhetoric, utopian narratives can be
used for unethical purposes. This fact is presented
vividly in the genre of dystopian fiction exemplified by
Orwell's 1984. Zamiatin's We, or Margaret Atwood's
Handmaid's Tale. Nonetheless, while an understanding of
the persuasive functions of utopian rhetoric may be used
unethically, such an understanding also is necessary if
we are to expose and combat unethical causes when they
are disguised beneath an alluring, utopian appeal. To
deny or ignore the persuasive function of utopias will
only preclude us from discovering the dystopias we wish
to avoid until after it is too late.
8


CHAPTER 2
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Before we can begin to identify or characterize the
relationships between the Ecotopian narrative and the
ecology movement, we must define the terms we wish to
relate, as well as the words we shall use to characterize
these relations. The terms we wish to relate are
narrative and social movement; the words we shall use to
characterize the relations between these elements are
persuasion and participation. After defining each of
these terms in a general sense, we list the connotations
which are specific to this study. Thus, for example, our
definition of narrative sets the stage for defining
utopian narrative, which in turn provides the context for
defining one of the objects of our study, i.e., the
Ecotopian narrative. Each of the key terms used in this
study must be understood in the specific sense identified
in this chapter.
Persuasion
There are many ways of making people think, feel and
act in accordance with our plans. Only some of these
ways involve persuasion. To distinguish persuasion from
9


other inodes of communication and influence, it is useful
to place persuasive appeals on a continuum between
informative and coercive modes of communicating. In its
most basic sense, informative communication is just the
sharing of a message between a sender and a receiver. As
such, the purpose of informative communication is "to
promote mutual understanding" between sender and receiver
(Jowett and O'Donnell 22). The instruction provided by a
teacher to a student is often cited as a paradigmatic
example of informative communication. However, insofar
as such instruction takes place in an institution that
seeks to further its own objectives by shaping students'
responses to the teachings they receive, education easily
becomes a form of persuasion or even propaganda
rather than a simple sharing of ideas. Indeed, a purely
unbiased transmittal of information is not humanly
possible, since we must first select which information we
are going to transmit, and this selection carries with it
an orientation or bias. Therefore, the purely
informative end of our continuum exists only as a
theoretical construct.
The opposite end of the continuum, at which
communication is entirely coercive, would be exemplified
by the propaganda of a totalitarian dictator who gives an
audience no choice but to act in accordance with his or
10


her message. While the propaganda campaigns of
authoritarian rulers may come close to this end of the
continuum during extreme situations such as war, no such
ruler has completely succeeded in determining the choices
of his or her audience. The writings of Jean Paul Sartre
and many other rebellious philosophers show that people
can still make choices while in extreme situations such
as the Nazi occupation. Therefore, the coercive end of
the continuum at which an audience is completely without
freedom also exists only as a theoretical construct.
In the middle of the continuum lie the real world
situations where persuasion occurs. Persuasive
communication involves a sender who attempts to shape,
reinforce or change the way a receiver responds to a
message (Jowett and O'Donnell 22). Some persuasive
appeals particularly in the realm of politics are
regarded as propaganda. To the extent that propaganda is
a pejorative term, distinguishing propaganda from
"legitimate" persuasion depends enormously on the
perspective of the people who are making the distinction.
The proselytizing of one's opponents is called
"propaganda," while one's own efforts to persuade are
called "education." For example, some American
communication scholars like to contrast the propaganda of
foreign, state-owned media with the legitimate, rational
11


argumentation that occurs in an open and democratic
society such as the United States.
This study attempts to avoid such a flag-waving
approach to the definition of propaganda which is
itself entirely propagandistic by using the term
propaganda in a broad sense that may include any
persuasive appeal that can be characterized as political,
ideological or utopian. Whether they are foreign
dictators, utopian social movements, or merely American
communication scholars, propagandists aim to shape the
responses of their audience. When the means are
available and ethical constraints are lacking,
propagandists may go further to the coercive end of the
continuum by "controlling the flow of information,"
"managing public opinion," and "manipulating behavior
patterns" in a manner that promotes objectives which are
not in the best interest of their audience (Jowett and
O'Donnell 22).
Propaganda becomes more coercive when there is an
imbalance of power between the source of the propaganda
and its receiver. We shall call this imbalance
"domination." One sign of domination is a receiver's
inability to access or interact directly with the source.
Another sign of domination is the receiver's inability to
disregard or escape from the coercive propagandist's
12


message. The source of coercive propaganda gives his or
her captive audience little choice but to receive such
propaganda, just as a rapist gives his or her victim
little choice but to be raped. To the extent that
propagandistic messages are underwritten by the threat of
legal or military action, the choice of whether or not to
respond as the propagandist intends is also quite
limited.
Until they become thoroughly institutionalized,
utopian social movements usually lack the power to
control the mass media, legal systems or the military.
However, this lack does not mean that a utopian social
movement cannot be persuasive. The difference between
coercive and non-coercive propaganda is not necessarily
that one is more effective than the other. Rather, the
difference lies in the fact that receivers of non-
coercive propaganda have more choice about whether or not
they wish to receive it. In addition, non-coercive
appeals usually are made by propagandists who express
good will toward their audiences by honoring ethical
constraints such as honesty and openness. To provoke a
desired response from an audience without torturing or
otherwise coercing them sometimes requires a great deal
of creativity. Such creativity is what gives Utopians
their power to transform social reality.
13


As Raymond Ross notes, non-coercive persuasion
involves a particular quality of "interaction and
coordination between source, message and receiver" (4).
Defining this quality of interaction and coordination has
become quite an elaborate task among modern communication
theorists. However, at the risk of inserting a bias
toward Western culture into our definition, we can turn
to the Rhetoric of Aristotle for a basic definition of
persuasion. Aristotle calls rhetoric "the power of
discovering in the particular case what are the available
means of persuasion" (7). Some of the means of
persuasion are "artistic," i.e., arising "through our own
efforts," while others are "inartistic," meaning they
"are not supplied by our own efforts, but existed
beforehand" (Aristotle 8). Since we regard utopian
thinking as a creative enterprise, this study is
concerned primarily with artistic means of persuasion.
Aristotle discusses three major ways to persuade
people artistically: ethos. pathos and logos. Ethos
refers to an appeal to the speaker's character, while
pathos is linked to emotional appeals. Although
Aristotle recognizes the persuasiveness of ethical and
emotional appeals, some scholars in the field of
argumentation have singled out logos, or the appeal to
reason, as paramount to rational decision-making. A
14


common corollary to this logocentric bias is the claim
that much human discourse is illogical, and must
therefore be excluded from the realm of rationality.
Literature in general, and utopian narratives in
particular, are often excluded in this manner.
Some argumentation scholars who hold a logocentric
bias attempt to reinforce their views by means of a
distinction between conviction and persuasion:
"Conviction was thought to issue from logical processes
while persuasion resulted from appeals to the passions"
(Cox and Willard xv). While recognizing the importance
of what Aristotle called logos, this study does not
employ a distinction between conviction and persuasion.
As we use the term, persuasion is meant to include
appeals which are logical and rational. Furthermore, for
the purposes of this study, an appeal does not have to be
structured as an argument or an abstraction in order to
be rational.
Narrative
When we think of a message that is meant to persuade
by means of an appeal to reason, we usually think of an
argument, i.e., a system of sentences including premises
and a conclusion. However, even for Aristotle,
narrative, or the statement of the case, is an essential
15


component of a rational appeal, since we cannot "prove a
case without first stating it; one who proves must have
something to prove..." (220). If we are to avoid
excluding utopian narratives from our study, we must
define "stating a case" to include the telling of myths,
works of literature and other kinds of stories which are
usually placed under the category of fiction.
In place of a criterion which aims to determine the
truth or falsehood of a narrative as if "truth" were a
pre-existing reality against which a narrative could be
measured we must substitute a definition of narrative
which allows us to understand how a story may create a
reality of its own. An obvious starting point for this
task is to look at the structure of the narrative itself,
rather than looking for correspondence with an external,
pre-existing world.
Literary theorists often contrast narrative, or
narration, with description. Description gives us a
verbal picture of space, while narration concerns the way
that language mediates our perceptions of time. For
example, a writer describes a spatial setting and then
narrates a temporal sequence of events that occur in that
setting. While utopia is certainly a place that needs to
be described, and a utopian writer may seek to transform
his or her readers' perceptions of space by means of such
16


a description, this process of transformation itself
occurs over time, and therefore calls for narration.
Narrative is the means by which such transformative
processes are organized as distinct and memorable
experiences.
Historian David Carr goes so far as to claim that
"people experience time through narratives," and that
communities and movements are organized through the
telling and retelling of these narratives (qtd. in
Stewart, Smith and Denton 193). Insofar as we choose our
future course of action based on the way we have
structured our past, "we cast ourselves in an unfolding
story and act it out" (Stewart, Smith and Denton 193).
An important consequence of this definition of narrative
as "one of the basic categorical forms through which we
apprehend realities in time" is that "we no longer have
to be defensive about the role of culture and the
importance of its study and analysis" (Jameson 1988a,
140). The art of storytelling may be just as important
as the science of physics in determining what is real.
Readers cast themselves in a story by recognizing
themselves in the story's characters especially the
narrator and by placing themselves in the setting that
the story depicts. Readers who place themselves in a
utopian setting may form bonds with other readers who
17


place themselves in the story, and by retelling and
elaborating upon the narrative such readers come to share
what Ernest Bormann calls a "rhetorical vision." As "the
composite dramas which catch up large groups of people in
a symbolic reality," rhetorical visions are the glue
which holds together both the people who share them and
the pieces of the worldview that they share (Bormann
398) .
Historians often distinguish three levels of
storytelling: annals, chronicles and narratives (Sillars
155-157). An annal, or simple chronology, is a mere list
of significant events ordered by date. Such a list does
little more than represent the writer's memory. A
chronicle, such as a diary, usually has a central subject
who interprets events in addition to listing them. The
organization of the chronicle around a subject makes it
more coherent than an annal. The subject in a chronicle
also may begin to develop as a character in the story he
or she tells. A narrative has all the features of an
annal and a chronicle plus an additional characteristic
which Hayden White calls "narrative closure" (5).
Closure is achieved when a story has an ending that
completes the development of the central character and
brings the story to a conclusion. This notion of
"narrative closure" harkens back to the familiar
18


Aristotelian doctrine that a story must have a beginning,
a middle and an end.
Rhetorical critics such as Walter Fisher adopt a
broader definition of narrative which includes all
"symbolic actions words and/or deeds that have
sequence and meaning for those who live, create or
interpret them" (58). Indeed, Fisher wants to define
human nature in terms of storytelling. Thus, for Fisher,
all humans, not just historians or writers, use
narratives. The purpose of narrating is not just to
organize works of history or literature, but to organize
and in a sense "create the way we experience events in
our daily lives.
Another key element of both White's and Fisher's
definition is that narratives are receptacles in which
human values are conveyed and enacted. Storytelling
makes life a "moral drama" rather than just a collection
of facts. The role of storytelling in the process of
empowering human values is an important one, and one to
which we shall return in later chapters of this study.
For the purpose of defining utopian narratives as
rhetorical artifacts, however, we may use a more limited
definition of narrative.
A utopian narrative is one that tells the story of a
character who visits a new and unfamiliar place and is
19


morally transformed by his or her visit. Thomas More's
Utopia. for example, tells the story of a character named
Raphael Hythloday who has travelled to the island of
Utopia and thereby adopted a set of values that are at
odds with those of his fellow Europeans.
In the terminology of Kenneth Burke's "dramatistic
pentad," utopian narratives focus on the relation between
an agent (or character) and a scene (or setting) (7-9).
This relation is a causal one, in which a particular
setting induces a character to adopt certain values. The
rhetorical task of the utopian writer is to get his or
her readers to recognize themselves in the central
character of the narrative to such an extent that they
too will adopt the values induced by the utopian setting.
Thomas More invented the word utopia by combining
two prefixes to the root word topos. meaning place. The
first of these prefixes eu-. means good. The second, ou-
means no or not. Thus, utopia is both a good-place and a
no-place. One may speculate that More used the word
utopia to contrast his good noplace with a bad someplace,
namely Tudor England.
A modern spin-off from the utopian genre founded by
Thomas More is the dystopia, or bad place, as exemplified
in narratives such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and
George Orwell's 1984. Dystopian narratives employ the
20


same type of scene/agent ratio as their utopian
counterparts, except the dystopian setting induces
characters to practice vices instead of virtues. Of
course, the rhetorical task of the dystopian writer is
not to induce his or her readers to adopt the vices to
which the characters succumb in the narrative, but rather
to warn the readers of unwanted consequences that may
result from their acceptance of an alluring but
ultimately dystopian setting;
Another essential feature of both utopian and
dystopian narratives is the use of topical allusions
(Jameson 1988b, 82). These allusions are essential to
the persuasive function of the narrative, as they link
the narrative to both the historical circumstances in
which it was created and the society in which it is being
read. In More's Utopia, for example, the fifty-four
states into which the island of Utopia is divided allude
to the fifty-three counties (plus the City of London)
into which Tudor England was divided; the River Andrus
(or Nowater) alludes to the River Thames and the trench
which separates Utopia from its neighbors alludes to the
English Channel (qtd. in Jameson 1988b, 97). Unlike a
work of fantasy which may take place in a setting that is
entirely detached from the environment in which it was
produced and disseminated, persuasive utopian narratives
21


must allude to the environment in which they are read to
carry out their rhetorical function.
Ecotopia. the title of Ernest Callenbach's popular
utopian novel, literally means "home-place." Ecotopia
also can be interpreted to mean "ecological utopia." It
is in this sense that we can regard Ecotopia as a utopian
narrative of the ecology movement. Ecotopia meets all
the criteria for a utopian narrative that we have
identified above. It has a narrator who undergoes a
moral transformation as a result of his journey to
Ecotopia, and this moral transformation allows Ecotopia
to achieve narrative closure. Topical allusions in the
Ecotopian narrative are very evident; there is no
question that the story contains policy claims directed
at changing the status quo in the northwestern region of
the United States. As we shall explore in later
chapters, readers of Ecotopia have retold and elaborated
upon the story to such an extent that the environmental
group Friends of the Earth proclaimed; "Ecotopia is far
more than a literary phenomenon. It is a social
movement" (qtd. in Callenbach 1981a, back cover). It is
through the emergence of this social movement that we can
speak of an Ecotopian narrative that goes beyond what is
published in Ernest Callenbach's novels. Indeed, the
term Ecotopian narrative could be generalized to include
22


many stories of the ecology movement as they are told and
retold among its participants. For the purposes of this
study, however, Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia will be
regarded as the paradigmatic example of the Ecotopian
narrative.
Social Movement
Social change may be accompanied by any number of
collective phenomena. Only some of these changes come as
the result of social movements. In their book on
Persuasion and Social Movements. Charles J. Stewart,
Craig Allen Smith and Robert E. Denton propose a number
of useful criteria for sorting out social movements from
other collective phenomena such as "violent revolutions,
civil wars, trends, fads, manias and panics" (3). These
criteria are summarized as follows:
(1) A social movement has at least minimal
organization [by which participants make
decisions, and from which leaders or
spokespeople arise].
(2) A social movement is not part of an established
order that governs and changes social,
political, religious, or economic norms and
values.
(3) [A social movement must be] large enough
in geographic area, time, events, and
participants to conceivably carry out [its]
program.
(4) A social movement proposes or opposes a program
for change in societal norms, values, or both.
23


(5) The rhetoric of a social movement is moral
in tone. [Members of the movement] see
themselves as having the power to distinguish
right from wrong, good from evil....
(6) A social movement is countered by an
established order [and is enough of a threat to
this order to encounter opposition].
(7) The typical ... social movement enjoys few
means of reward or punishment necessary either
to coerce people to join or to remain loyal to
a cause or to coerce the established order to
capitulate to all or some of its demands.
[Hence, non-coercive persuasion] is the primary
agency available to social movements for
satisfying major requirements or functions
(Stewart, Smith and Denton 5-16, numbering
added).
The last criterion on this list is most important for the
purposes of this study. To understand how and why social
movements employ utopian narratives, it is important to
understand the relations of power that exist between the
movement and the established order. It is because of
these relations of power that social movements generally
do not have recourse to the more coercive types of
propaganda.
This is not to say that some social movement leaders
would not resort to coercion if they could. Indeed,
after successfully toppling an established institution,
many movements have set up coercive institutions of their
own. Nonetheless, at least in the early stages of a
social movement, it is not a naive desire to be
idealistic that draws the movement toward utopian
24


storytelling, but rather a realistic assessment of the
limited means available to it.
The social movement linked to the Ecotopian
narrative, which we shall call the ecology movement, must
be distinguished from the broader, more loosely defined
phenomenon known as "environmentalism." Although it has
been used by advertisers to mean almost anything, we
shall not regard environmentalism as a social movement.
Instead, we shall define environmentalism as an
institutional response to a social movement. As British
Ecology Party member Andrew Dobson observes, the
principal difference between the ecology movement and
environmentalism is that the ecology movement:
argues that care for the environment ...
presupposes radical changes in our relationship
with it, and thus in our mode of social and
political life. Environmentalism, on the other
hand, would argue for a 'managerial1 approach
to environmental problems, secure in the belief
that they can be solved without fundamental
changes in present values or patterns of
production and consumption (13).
Typical environmentalists, according to this view, would
be the industries that design and sell pollution control
devices to coal-burning power plants. Participants in
the ecology movement, on the other hand, claim the way to
lower pollution levels is by reducing production and
consumption of fossil fuels rather than simply cleaning
up the smoke.
25


The ecology movement also must be distinguished from
the scientific disciplines of ecology. As a branch of
biology, ecology is the study of relationships between
living organisms and their environment. As a branch of
sociology, ecology is concerned with the social
structures that result from the way human populations are
grouped in relation to their material resources
(Webster's New World Dictionary 458-59). At the
borderline between science and politics lies Murray
Bookchin's discipline of "social ecology." Bookchin
explicitly distinguishes his social ecology from
environmentalism:
Where social ecology, in my view, seeks to
eliminate the concept of the domination of
nature by humanity by eliminating the
domination of human by human, environmentalism
reflects an 'instrumentalist' or technical
sensibility in which nature is viewed merely as
a passive habitat, an agglomeration of external
objects and forces, that must made more
"serviceable" for human use, irrespective of
what these uses may be (77).
As a social movement, ecology shares the same
concern with the scientific disciplines, i.e., the
relation between living things and their environments,
and in particular the ways that human beings view and
treat each other and their natural environment. However,
the social movement of ecology advocates fundamental
changes in human relations with nature instead of merely
26


studying these relations. A basic step in the
transformative process that the ecology movement is
advancing is to change the way that people view the
natural environment around them.
Accomplishing this basic step is the main concern of
a segment of the movement which we shall call
"bioregionalism." In his Ecotonian Encyclopedia for the
80s. Ernest Callenbach defines a bioregion as:
an area defined by natural, geographical
features (most often a watershed that is,
the area drained by one group of rivers, and
usually surrounded by mountains) and inhabited
by plant and animal communities (and usually
human communities too) different from those in
adjacent bioregions (1981b, 41).
According to Callenbach:
[i]t makes little sense to try and think of a
"state" like California as a single entity than
as a series of bioregions, each with its own
somewhat distinct culture and interrelations
with the natural world....
In time, we should bring our political
boundaries into conformity with our
bioregional-cultural boundaries (1981b, 41-42).
The bioregion serves as the basic geographic unit of the
ecology movement, and the intention of bioregionalism is
to get people to think of themselves as inhabitants of a
bioregion rather than residents of an arbitrarily defined
state.
In addition to advocating boundary changes,
bioregionalism calls on us to change our relationship
27


with the natural world. Once we have placed ourselves in
a bioregion, we are to abandon the lifestyle of mobility
made possible by the automobile and stay in one place.
As we are staying in place, we can learn the bioregional
practice which Kirkpatrick Sale calls "knowing the land":
We may not become as sophisticated about the
land we live upon and its resources as the
original inhabitants, those who had forty words
for snow or knew every tree in the forest. But
any one of us can walk the territory and see
what inhabits there, become conscious of the
birdsongs and waterfalls and animal droppings,
follow a brooklet to a stream and down to a
river, and learn when to set out tomatoes, what
kind of soil is best for celery, and where
blueberries thrive (44).
While these activities may appear bucolic and benign,
they provide the context for a second, more obviously
political component of the ecology movement: the
development of eco-villages and sustainable communities.
Many social movements have developed intentional
communities as a kind of base camp from which they can
ascend to higher levels of social transformation. If we
accept the simple definition of "intentional community"
proposed by Cris and Oliver Popenoe, i.e., "communities
formed by groups of people who share a commitment to some
common purpose and usually to some transcendent value"
(vii), then the transcendent value around which the
intentional communities of the ecology movement are
organized is the value of sustainability. In a general
28


sense, a community is sustainable when it integrates
human activities into the natural world in a manner that
"can be successfully continued into the indefinite
future" (Context Institute 7). When placed in the
context of city planning,
Sustainability implies that the use of energy
and materials in an urban area be in balance
with what the region can supply continuously
through natural processes such as
photosynthesis, biological decomposition, and
the biochemical processes that support life.
The immediate ieplications of this principle
are a vastly reduced energy budget for cities,
and a smaller, more compact urban pattern
interspersed with productive areas to collect
energy, grow crops for food, fiber and energy,
and recycle wastes (Van der Ryn and Calthorpe
ix) .
If the bioregion is the basic geographic unit of the
ecology movement, then the eco-village is the basic form
of human community within this unit. In a report which
provides a listing of several such communities, an eco-
village is defined as a:
human-scale
full-featured settlement
in which human activities are harmlessly integrated
into the natural world
in a way that is supportive of healthy human
development and
can be successfully continued into the indefinite
future (Context Institute 7).
29


For the authors of this report, "sustainable community"
is used:
as a broad term that includes eco-villages,
clusters and networks of eco-villages, and non-
geographically based 'communities' (such as
businesses) that are nevertheless human scale
in their components, diverse, and harmoniously
integrated into the natural world (Context
Institute 9).
In a later chapter, we shall return to this report to
examine the influence of the Ecotopian narrative on the
development of eco-villages and sustainable communities.
The third component of the ecology movement that
will be discussed in this study is the phenomenon known
as "Green politics." It is through this phenomenon that
the ecology movement forms political organizations
according to a model of grassroots, participatory
democracy, in which humans are to refrain from dominating
each other in addition to eliminating their domination of
nature. This type of political organization must be
distinguished from the style of representative democracy
which prevails in the United States. Although
participants in Green politics may mesh with the existing
system to some extent by forming political parties and
campaigning to put their members in office, Green
political organizations are not structured to allow power
to become concentrated among a few prominent officials at
30


the top of a steep hierarchy. As expressed in the
Federal Program of the German Green Party:
We start from the belief that the decisions at
the grassroots level must, in principle, be
given priority. We grant far-reaching powers
of autonomy and self-administration to
decentralized, manageable grassroots units...
(qtd. in Spretnak and Capra 37).
We shall explore the Ecotopian influence on Green
politics in a later chapter.
Participation
To participate in a social movement requires more
than reading stories. To carry the burden of persuading
someone to participate in a social movement, a utopian
narrative must bring people to step into the story and
act upon the values that the narrative imparts. To step
into a utopian story means incorporating utopian elements
into many other daily activities besides reading, e.g.,
eating, working, schooling one's children, etcetera.
Daily activities which are indicative of participation in
the ecology movement include: (1) getting to know the
bioregion in which one lives and learning to act in
harmony with the natural processes occurring there; (2)
developing an intentional community in which
sustainability is a transcendent value; or (3) organizing
grassroots political groups such as the Green Party.
31


Of course, a high level of participation in
activities such as those described above does not
guarantee that a social movement will be successful in
achieving its goals. The overall success of the movement
that a utopian narrative fosters is not a fair standard
for judging the narrative's persuasiveness because
variables other than persuasion may be the causes of the
movement's success or failure. In the most obvious
example, a social movement may be crushed by the sheer
military might of an established order to which the
movement is opposed. To account for such variables, this
study limits the test of a narrative's persuasiveness to
its ability to garner participants in a movement, leaving
aside the larger question of whether such participation
causes the movement to succeed as a whole. This study
will presume but not prove that increased
participation brings with it an increase in the
likelihood that a social movement will succeed in
achieving its goals.
32


CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY
The choice of the key terms that we identified in
the preceding chapter is informed by the methodological
considerations discussed in this chapter. Thus, in a
sense, the methods that we shall discuss in this chapter
are elaborations of the way that the terms were defined
in the preceding chapter. Such elaborations are not as
essential to the purpose of this study as the definitions
which preceded them, but nevertheless provide the reader
with a justification for why certain terms were used
instead of others, e.g., narrative instead of mvth or
argument. The methods employed in this study have
evolved from the criticism of speeches, myths and
narratives, and from the study of social movements.
Speech Criticism
Ecotopia is not a great work of literature or
political theory. In order to discover its significance,
we must apply some commonly overlooked methodological
considerations that originate from a debate over what
standards of criticism should apply to oratory. In his
1925 essay entitled "The Literary Criticism of Oratory,"
33


Herbert Wichelns argued against using the standards of
literary criticism, e.g., permanence and beauty, for
judging the merit of famous speeches. In place of these
standards, Wichelns argued that the critic of such
speeches should be "concerned with effect." The new
discipline of speech criticism that Wichelns founded
regards a speech as a communication to a
specific audience, and holds its business to be
the analysis and appreciation of the orator's
method of imparting his ideas to his hearers
(Wichelns 35).
As such, the ultimate goal of speech criticism is to
better understand the nature of persuasion and to serve
as a tool for confirming or denying theories of how a
speech persuades. The method of speech criticism
advocated by Wichelns and his followers forms the basis
for organizing this study.
Sharing Wichelns' observation that the phenomenon
being studied "is partly an art, partly a power of making
history, and occasionally a branch of literature" (33),
this study does not confine itself to a method of inquiry
that is narrowly biographical, historical, or literary.
Like the speech critic, the critic of utopian narratives
must join the methods employed by each of these
disciplines to form a coherent synthesis of writer, text
and reader.
34


However, there are two areas in which this study
diverges from the method of speech criticism. First,
since the rhetorical artifacts in this study are written
texts instead of speeches, we cannot hope to find an
immediate effect upon an audience of listeners. There is
no "eyewitness" to a utopian narrative whom we can regard
as the authoritative audience. The difficulty of
identifying an authentic audience may prevent the critic
of written texts from carrying the burden of proving
direct, causal links between the rhetor and his or her
audience. Showing the effectiveness of the Ecotopian
narrative requires us to weave an intertextual chain of
circumstances that may only frustrate the critic who is
accustomed to the direct situations provided by an
entirely oral medium.
The second point at which this study diverges from
speech criticism is its focus on narrative instead of
argument. Speech criticism originated in an era when
argumentation often took precedence over the study of
other means of persuasion. Hence, speech critics often
focus on the arguments in a speech to evaluate whether
the speech has rationality. If we use this method, then
we will find that utopias are not rational, because
utopias are not arguments. An argument-centered approach
35


to understanding the rationality of utopias is biased
against utopian thinking from the beginning.
To avoid this bias, we must adopt a methodology that
includes consideration of the narrative contexts in which
arguments are placed. Since we are concerned with the
effect that a utopia has upon its readers, we cannot
adopt a method which excludes the very effects we are
looking for. Nonetheless, we do not wish to stray too
far from the logos (and other artistic means of
persuasion), lest we find ourselves studying some kind of
change process which is coercive or irrational. The
answer to this dilemma is to broaden our concept of logos
so that it includes narrative discourse.
Although he does not go far enough to reach
narrative discourse, Stephen Toulmin begins to broaden
our concept of logos by making an analogy between
arguments and lawsuits: "Logic (we may say) is
generalized jurisprudence. Arguments can be compared
with law-suits, and the claims we make and argue for in
extra-legal contexts with claims made in the courts..."
(7). This analogy is meant to replace the conventional
wisdom which likens arguments to the kind of strict,
formal proofs found in mathematics. For Toulmin, it is
jurisprudence (or law) rather than mathematics that
36


provides the model of rational behavior on which to base
a definition of argument.
A distinguishing feature of legal reasoning is its
allowance for proofs that do not give the same likelihood
of validity by which deductive syllogisms are judged.
Often, legal reasoning can only meet a standard of
probability. We may never know whether a person is
guilty of the crime for which he or she was convicted.
While our courts make use of whatever empirical
confirmation is available, in some cases they are
fallible enough to enter judgments against people who
have not broken the law.
To understand why conclusions of law can be reached
without carrying the heavy burden required of
mathematical proofs, we must pay heed to the fact that
lawsuits involve people engaged in social or moral
controversies. Courts of law were created to answer
questions of right or wrong, guilty or innocent. The
answers that courts provide to these questions are so
laden with human values that they cannot be measured
adequately by formal, mathematical criteria of validity.
Toulmin's jurisprudential model of argumentation allows
us to study social and moral controversies that involve
complex claims about values in addition to the simple
37


statements of fact which can be accommodated by a narrow,
formal definition of argument.
Like lawsuits, utopias come in response to such
complex, value-laden controversies. However, unlike
lawsuits, utopias are deliberative rather than forensic.
That is, utopias aim to plot an expedient course of
action for the future rather than judging the guilt or
innocence of a past act. Therefore, we need to go
further than the Toulmin model to find a method for
examining the controversies that give rise to utopias.
We need a method that specifically applies to utopian
narratives rather than legal arguments.
Mvth Criticism
Some scholars have tried to understand the moral
controversies of our society by studying narrative
processes rather than the argumentative situations to
which speech critics usually are attracted. In the
structural anthropology of Claude Levi-Strauss, for
example, this narrative dimension of moral controversies
is called myth. Myths involve "a narrative process
whereby tribal society seeks an imaginary solution, a
resolution by way of figural thinking, to a real social
contradiction..." (qtd. in Jameson 1988b, 77). For Levi-
Strauss, even though myths are imaginary and figurative,
38


there is a rigorous logic to mythmaking. It is in virtue
of this logic that myths have the power to shape
societies. The power of myth lies in its ability to
overcome a contradiction of values that lies at the root
of a social controversy. Without the imaginary
resolution provided by the myth, such controversies can
cause a society to disintegrate.
To distinguish myths from lawsuits and the like,
some critics maintain that the function of myths is to
solve problems that cannot be solved by means of
argumentation. Myths are commonly thought to employ
miracles, magic or acts of God to solve the problems that
they address. However, this use of magical thinking in
place of argumentation does not necessarily mean that
myths are untrue or unreal. On the contrary, in order to
fulfill a mythic function, a narrative must be taken
seriously enough to be treated as true by an audience
(Rowland 103).
The truth of mythic narratives is maintained by
placing them outside of the world governed by normal
rules of space and time, or in a setting that, "because
of the great symbolic power associated with it, has been
transformed into mythical time" (Rowland 104). Such
settings allow mythic characters to accomplish the
extraordinary deeds which are necessary to overcome the
39


kinds of contradictions that are beyond the scope of
reason and argument. Thus, myths must use basic
structures of narrative such as character and setting in
a distinctive way in order to fulfill their social
function.
Some critics do not accept such a limited definition
of the structure and function of myth. Literary critics
such as Northrop Frye, for example, have attempted to
broaden the definition of myth to include works of
literature such as utopian novels (1967). Frank and
Fritzie Manuel have constructed an elaborate account of
how the utopian genre originated from a prehistorical
myth of paradise:
In the beginning paradise was a myth with all
the ambiguities of a myth; in time it became a
religious belief in Israel and eventually a
theological doctrine in Judaism and
Christianity. Like all orthodoxies it was then
subject to imaginative deviations that strayed
far from the dogma of the ecclesiastical
establishments. Toward the end of the Middle
Ages paradise ceased to be speculative alone
and became enmeshed with action programs, often
of a violent revolutionary character. As
simple religious faith in the existence of
paradise waned, the unconscious material of the
original myth was preserved in a literary
genre, the utopia, and in a political form, the
movement. Today even among those who no longer
believe in paradise in an elementary sense
residues remain last vestiges about to
become extinct or seeds waiting for the moment
to germinate (35).
40


II
When the Manuels speak of utopia arising from "the
unconscious material of the original myth [of paradise],
they mean to imply an analogy between utopias and dreams.
To treat utopias as dreams is to ask: "what secret
wishes of mankind do these works seek to express?"
(Manuel 70). Such a question does not necessarily imply
that utopias are irrational expressions that we should
avoid. On the contrary, Frank Manuel's history of
utopian thought concludes that: "to attack utopias is
about as meaningful as to denounce dreaming" (Manuel 95).
The "secret wishes" found in utopias may reveal an
attempt to grapple with some deep conflict of human
existence that cannot be resolved by the faculties of the
conscious mind.
Nonetheless, while it may be unwise to ignore our
dreams, there is an important defect in the analogy
between utopias and dreams, i.e., dreams are the "secret
wishes" of an individual while utopias are public myths
shared by groups of individuals. Making utopia secret
can exclude it from being an object of criticism because
the phenomena studied by rhetorical critics must take
place in a public forum, i.e., they must be "addressed to
an audience, with a meaning" (Winans 25). While dreams
may contain meanings addressed to the dreamer, the
audience for a dream is limited to a single individual.
41


In the sense that dreaming is an intrapersonal form of
communication, dreams do not involve a collective medium
such as a public speech. Thus, the interpretation of
dreams is no substitute for a method in which the "fusing
agent" is "the conception of the orator as a public
[hu]man, and of his [or her] work as public address"
(Wichelns 27).
Transforming dreams into myths is one way to make
dreaming seem like a collective experience. That is, by
shifting from utopia-as-dream to utopia-as-myth, myth
critics allow their methodology to escape the confines of
individual psychology. In addition to tracing the
meaning of a story to the dreams of a writer, the myth
critic traces the dreams of a writer to a myth, and myths
are understood to be preindividualistic, preliterary
forms of storytelling. According to critics such as Jung
and Campbell, these preindividualistic stories are said
to contain archetypes of a "collective unconscious" which
gives insight about a deep level of "transhuman"
experience (qtd. in Preminger 156).
Still, even if the "secret wishes" that myths
express are part of a "collective unconscious," there is
no guarantee that elevating such wishes to the level of
collective experience makes them more true or real. Some
critics avoid this problem by dispensing with the notion
42


that a myth must be true or real. They claim that even
if we admit that myths are fictitious or imaginary, myths
still may serve as a means of imparting moral values. In
the fables of Aesop, for example, the stories attribute
human characteristics to other animals in a way that is
obviously false, but also attempt to teach a moral
lesson. By teaching such lessons, some critics say that
fables perform an important mythic function.
To the extent that works of literature impart values
or solve moral conflicts just as well as fables, a mythic
function also can be attributed to literature. Northrop
Frye goes so far as to claim that literature can have
both the structure and the function of myth: "the
structural principles of a mythology, built up from
analogy and identity, become in due course the structural
principles of literature" (1963, 33). According to this
view, literature can adopt the narrative structures of
myth in a way that gives literary works the power to
resolve the contradictions of modern society. Applying
this analogy between myth and literature to the study of
utopian thought, Frank and Fritzie Manuel claim that a
prehistoric myth of paradise is still at work in modern
utopian literature, and the audience for this myth has
become so large that, in the 1970s, utopian literature
43


"has already mounted to about a tenth of all fiction that
comes off the presses in the United States" (809).
Some scholars argue that to imply this kind of
connection between prehistoric myths and paperback novels
is to widen the scope of myth criticism to absurd
proportions. For example, Robert C. Rowland suggests
that we limit the scope of myth criticism to stories with
truly heroic characters (104). Stories that lack such
characters are mere "folk tales" or "social narratives."
Of course, Rowland's distinction between myths and other
narratives depends enormously on how we define the term
heroic. In one sense, we might limit myths to stories
about great characters who possess magical or divine
powers. In another sense, we might speak of non-mythical
heroes who possess only human powers but nonetheless
serve as models for social action. This study will heed
Rowland's distinction between myths and other kinds of
narratives, and between mythical heroes and those who are
merely exemplary protagonists.
Another issue in the debate over whether myth
criticism is applicable to modern works of literature is
the question of how much continuity exists between the
collective experiences of prehistoric, tribal societies
and our modern world of television and automobiles. Can
we say that a popular movie such as E.T. is a myth in the
44


same sense that the term applies to a sacred religious
ceremony practiced by Native Americans? Placing a
popular commercial film in the same boat with a sacred
ceremony of traditional peoples implies a kind of
unrestrained relativism that fails to recognize some
important cultural differences.
Even within cultures where the traditional type of
myths are still operating, such myths are distinguished
from other types of storytelling. In The Mythology of
North America, for example, John Bierhorst notes that:
...the Eskimo used to speak of old stories and
young stories. Among the Winnebago, stories
were either waikan (sacred) or simply worak
(narrated). To the Pawnee, the distinction was
between true and false. The second of the two
categories, which varies from tribe to tribe,
can refer to fiction, nonfiction, or a mixture
of both; mainly it sets up a contrast with the
first category, which, whether defined as old,
sacred, or true, corresponds to the English
word "myth" (qtd. in LeGuin 288).
Thus, like modern European cultures, tribal societies are
complex enough to have both the sacred kinds of stories
(myths) that Europeans associate with religion, and
other, less powerful stories that Europeans might
classify as literature or folk tales.
According to Frederic Jameson, myth critics such as
Northrop Frye use the
doctrine of literary archetypes to reinforce
our sense of the Identity between the literary
present and [the] distant mythical past, and to
45


inspire some sense of the continuity between
our psyches and those of tribal peoples....
[To Jameson] ... it seems ... equally feasible,
and more realistic, to do the reverse, and to
use the raw material shared by both myth and
literature to stimulate our sense of historical
difference and to help us to an increasingly
vivid apprehension of what happens when plot
falls into history, so to speak, and enters the
force field of modern societies. So what myth
criticism ought to be telling us is not that
modern writers recreate myths, but rather that
they wish they could; and it ought to be
explaining the origins of such a compensatory
wish in the very structure of modern social
life itself (1988a. 127).
Jameson's critique of myth criticism warns us that there
are significant differences between the cultures of
tribal societies in which myths prevail and modern
industrial (or post-industrial) cultures in which
literature is read as an art form. There are also
significant differences among the stories told within
each culture. Thus, paperback novels such as Ecotopia
should not be read as if they had the power of myth.
Our ability to recognize differences among
storytelling practices may be hampered by the way human
lives are structured in modern industrial society. For
example, the average twentieth century American has much
more privacy and mobility than the residents of tribal
villages. Moving often and possessing private property
leaves the modern individual less open to the collective
experiences in which myths are told. As even Northrop
46


Frye admits, "new utopias would have to derive their form
from the shifting and dissolving movement of society that
is gradually replacing the fixed locations of life"
(1967, 48-49).
This absence of fixed locations is apparent in the
discontinuous mode of communication that dominates modern
society, i.e., television. As Neil Postman notes,
televised discourse is meant to cause us to believe that
the world
has no order or meaning and is not to be taken
seriously (99).
The fundamental assumption of that world is not
coherence but discontinuity. And in a world of
discontinuities, contradiction is useless as a
test of truth or merit, because contradiction
does not exist (110).
Watching television is one possible response to the
unresolved controversies of modern society, but
television does not assume the powers of myth because it
lacks both the narrative structures and the collective
contexts of myth. By causing us to believe that the
world is not to be taken seriously, television precludes
us from using mythic narratives in the manner of tribal
societies.
Another important difference between myths and the
storytelling devices of modern industrial society lies in
the use of characters. Even if we admit that characters
47


do not have to be heroic in order to play a role in a
mythic narrative, members of the audience for such a
narrative still must be able to recognize themselves in
the story in order for the story's characters to serve as
models for social action. Such recognition can be
limited by racial or gender barriers. For example, a
Native American child may not be as likely as a European
child to identify with the pale, suburban children who
form the cast for movie E.T..
The myth critic's search for universal symbols of
the "collective unconscious" may distract him or her from
processes of recognition and persuasion which are unique
to each culture. In order to avoid unwarranted
comparisons between tribal societies and the modern,
Eurocentric world, this study shall not regard utopian
narratives as myths. Instead, we shall restrict our
definition of myth to sacred stories of tribal societies
which are incommensurable with the modern, industrial
worldview. To the extent that myths enter this
worldview, they are commonly regarded as stories about
great characters who possess magical or divine powers.
The characters in utopian narratives generally lack such
magical or divine powers.
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Narrative Criticism
To move from myth to narrative is to move from a
particular term to a general one. While it may not be
fair to say that both the film E.T. and a Native American
ceremony employ myths, it is fair to say that both forms
of communication are centered on narrative. This move
from the particular to the general enables us to avoid
placing utopias within an opposition between myth and
reality, or between magical thinking and rational
decision-making. To place utopias in the realm of myths
and magic is to box utopian thought
into categories of fiction or the fictive, the
imitated, the unreal, the merely imaginary.
But to defend the aesthetic on the terrain of
an opposition of this kind [is] clearly to have
surrendered everything in advance and to have
resigned one's self to a sandbox conception of
literature and culture and their respective
efficacy (Jameson 1988a, 139).
While admitting that we do not need to verify the truth
of a utopian narrative in the same way that we verify
simple statements of fact such as "this is blue," we do
not want to abandon the notion that utopias have a
rational connection to reality. This study shall
highlight such connections by identifying relationships
between the Ecotopian narrative and the ecology movement.
Narratives are rational to the extent that there is
a logic to storytelling by which narrative structures
49


such as character and setting are organized in relation
to social and moral controversies. Such a logic provides
clues about how narratives operate in such controversies,
just as the mythic logic of Levi-Strauss modelled the
mythical structures of tribal societies. One attempt to
construct this "narrative logic" is found in the writings
of Walter Fisher.
Fisher's narrative logic has more in common with the
topoi found in Aristotle's Rhetoric than the more formal
criteria for determining the validity of deductive
syllogisms. Rather than proposing to test the validity
of narratives, Fisher offers a set of "identifying
questions ... that can reasonably be asked about a
subject that is controverted in one or another
traditional way or is argued [or narrated] in a
classifiable kind of rhetorical situation" (29). As a
system of topoi, the object of a narrative logic is to
identify all the possible lines of narrative that are
appropriate to a particular rhetorical situation, and
then to select the most probable of those narratives from
the larger list of possibilities.
Although this process of generating possibilities
and picking the most probable alternatives is not as
clear-cut as the process of inferring a valid conclusion
from an identifiable set of premises known to be true,
50


Fisher's criteria for judging narratives are still
analogous to more logocentric criteria of truth and
validity in some ways. For example, both Fisher's
criteria and their logocentric counterparts can be
divided into formal and substantive components. The
formal components of the logocentric criteria are the
rules for determining the validity of syllogisms. The
formal components of Fisher's narrative logic constitute
a criterion of probability, and Fisher assesses the
probability of a narrative in three ways: structural
coherence, material coherence, and characterological
coherence.
Fisher's procedure for assessing the probability of
narratives overlaps with the rules of logical validity at
the level of structural coherence. That is, a
structurally coherent narrative could include a deductive
syllogism. However, other means of coherent structuring
are available to the narrator, e.g., the use of a central
character, events which flow in a defined temporal
sequence, a moral transformation which brings "narrative
closure" to the story. Such narrative structures can
make a story's conclusion more or less probable (or
believable) depending on how they are arranged.
What Fisher calls "material coherence" is assessed
by "comparing and contrasting stories told in other
51


discourses" (47). The process of comparing and
contrasting is more akin to analogical reasoning than to
deductive reasoning, and reading "stories told in other
discourses" allows us to consider meanings which depend
on specific audiences. Returning to our previous example
of how a Native American child reacts to a movie such as
E.T.. we might find that E.T. lacks material coherence
for the members of a tribal society because E.T.'s story
is not commensurable with the stories traditionally told
in that society. A materially coherent narrative is one
that is at least commensurable if not entirely consistent
with other stories favored by the storyteller's intended
audience.
The third element of Fisher's narrative logic of
probability, i.e., characterological coherence,
establishes a key difference between his "narrative
paradigm" and the "rational world paradigm" which he
critiques. Characterological coherence is distinctively
narrative because, according to Fisher, "central to all
stories is character. Whether a story is believable
depends on the reliability of characters, both as
narrators and as actors (Fisher 47). These definitions
suggest that Fisher's conception of character is similar
to the Aristotelian notion of ethos. A story which
establishes characterological coherence might be regarded
52


by Aristotle as a kind of ethical proof that establishes
a speaker's good will toward an audience. Fisher would
probably accept this analogy between characterological
coherence and ethical proof as long as it does not serve
to exclude narratives from being logical, or restrict the
definition of character to attributes such as
intelligence or expertise which limit ethos to speakers
engaged in argumentative, scholarly disputes.
Contrary to Fisher, some scholars maintain that
character is not always the central feature around which
a narrative is structured. Kenneth Burke's dramatistic
pentad, for example, suggests that other narrative
structures such as action (or plot) and scene (or
setting) can be central to the rhetorical function of a
narrative. To account for these alternatives, we must
allow some modifications to Fisher's definition of
character. Following Fisher's definition of character as
"an organized set of actional tendencies reflecting
values," or "a generalized perception of a person's
fundamental value orientation" (147-48), for example, we
might define the setting as "an organized set of built
environments reflecting values," or "a generalized
perception of a place's fundamental value orientation."
The key feature of all such definitions is that narrative
structures are used to codify human values.
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In addition to the formal criterion of probability,
Fisher's logic of narratives includes the substantive
criterion of fidelity. This criterion is somewhat
analogous to a logocentric criterion of truth. That is,
the term "fidelity" is, in at least some instances,
synonymous with the term "truthfulness." However,
Fisher's criterion of fidelity is intended to assess the
"truthfulness" of values as well as the accuracy of
factual material. When assessing the fidelity of values,
one must account for the fact that truth is itself a
value that is embedded in virtues such as honesty.
The fidelity of a narrative is assessed by applying
what Fisher calls "the logic of good reasons." This
logic consists of "a series of criterial questions meant
to reveal the role of values in practical reasoning and
to provide a basis on which one can begin to assess them"
(Fisher 106). The criterial questions (or tqpoi) that
constitute Fisher's logic of good reasons are fivefold;
they concern the issues of fact, relevance, consequence,
consistency and what Fisher calls "transcendent issue."
These five issues are formulated as questions in the
following manner;
(1) What are the implicit and explicit values
embedded in a message?
(2) Are the values appropriate to the nature
of the decision that the message bears upon?
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(3) What would be the effects of adhering to
the values for one's concept of oneself, for
one's behavior, for one's relationships with
others and society, and to the process of
rhetorical transaction?
(4) Are the values confirmed or validated in
one's personal experience, in the lives or
statements of others whom one admires and
respects, and in a conception of the best
audience that one can conceive?
(5) Are the values the message offers those
that, in the estimation of the critic,
constitute the ideal basis for human conduct?
(Fisher 109, numbering added).
These questions are intended to reveal the role that
values play in our reasoning, and the role that
narratives play in codifying these values. It is because
our reasons are laden with such values that Fisher calls
his questions a "logic of good reasons" instead of merely
a "logic of reasons."
The strength of Fisher's criteria for evaluating
narratives lies in their ability to locate and identify
the transcendent values (or standards of ideal conduct)
which are usually taken for granted or left unstated by
the parties to a dispute. While conflicts involving
transcendent values usually are left for myths to
resolve, Fisher's theory holds the promise of finding a
way to understand such conflicts by means of utopian
narratives. Utopian narratives in turn offer an object
of study that is well-suited to the kind of analysis that
55


Fisher's theory entails. Utopian narratives explicitly
address standards of ideal human conduct. Such standards
usually are codified in the actions of the characters who
inhabit utopia, and the utopian narrator comes to realize
the relevance and consequences of these actions as the
story progresses.
Before we can assess the rhetorical choices that a
utopian writer makes in attempting to impart values and
standards of conduct to his or her readers, we must
answer some questions about form, e.g., what are the
events, characters, settings, temporal and causal
relations in the story and how are these elements and
relations assembled? Answering such questions is a
formidable task in itself, and can involve the critic in
such a detailed analysis of the text of the narrative
that he or she is distracted from broader questions of
audience response.
A broader methodological problem that can confront
narrative criticism is the circular reasoning that comes
from defining an audience solely in terms of its
relationship to a narrative, and then evaluating the
narrative in terms of its persuasiveness to that audience
(Sillars 107). If, for example, we define the ecology
movement solely in terms of its relation to the Ecotopian
narrative, then we might be tempted to conclude that this
56


narrative created the movement. Using this type of
circular reasoning to gauge the success of a narrative
becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. To avoid this type
of reasoning, we must choose a method which allows us to
study the potential audience for a narrative in a manner
that is independent from our study of the narrative
itself. If we wish to reach conclusions about the links
between a narrative and an audience, we must define the
audience in terms that do not rely exclusively on our
analysis of the narrative. In order to accomplish this
task, we must go beyond the methods employed by narrative
critics to the field of social-movement studies.
Social Movement Studies
Just as the methodology of myth criticism has its
roots in the discipline of psychology (or, more
specifically, in the method of dream interpretation
employed by psychoanalysts), the methodology of social-
movement studies has its roots in the field of sociology.
However, while sociology views the causes of behavior in
terms of "factors such as status, position, cultural
prescriptions, norms, values, social sanctions, role
demands, and general system requirements," the rhetorical
critic's study of social movements is concerned with how
57


such factors are influenced by "symbolic interactions"
(Stewart, Smith and Denton 148).
Symbolic interaction is a type of communication that
"forms human conduct instead of being merely a means or a
setting for the expression or release of human conduct"
(Stewart, Smith and Denton 148). Rather than viewing the
rhetoric of a social movement as a reflection of static
social structures such as roles, positions and norms,
"symbolic interactionists" have come to view the rhetoric
of social movements as acting upon social institutions
and changing them. A fundamental assumption of this
approach to social movements is the notion that reality
is apprehended and changed through the interaction of
symbols. In the political realm, these reality-defining
symbols often take the form of ideologies and propaganda.
Hence, "symbolic interactionists" regard ideologies and
propaganda as important means of social control.
Early studies of social movements tried to apply the
methods of speech criticism, employing the classical
topics of Aristotle's Rhetoric, to the speeches of social
movement leaders. By the 1960s, however, it was apparent
that this method was not fruitful in many cases. As
Herbert Simons noted in 1972, social movement scholars
had to learn a method that was adapted to "the language
of the street" (qtd. in Stewart, Smith and Denton xii).
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Scholars had to admit that the conventions of classical
rhetoric were best suited to the contexts of established
institutions, and disenfranchised groups from which
movements were organized had to invent their own
strategies for getting their message across. Indeed,
recent scholarship in the field has focused on the
special rhetorical problems faced by groups that do not
have access to traditional avenues of power and
influence.
Another approach to social movements is to study
their life cycle. Stewart and his colleagues, for
example, identify five stages in the life cycle of social
movements: genesis, social unrest, enthusiastic
mobilization, maintenance, and termination (21-34).
Charles R. Reed employs a model with four stages: social
unrest, collective excitement, formal organization and
institutionalization (qtd. in Ross 197-98). In Stewart's
model, the stage of institutionalization corresponds to
the stage of termination, since a movement by Stewart's
definition is not institutionalized. Once the movement
has become part of the establishment, or coopted, it is
no longer a movement.
For each stage in the development of a social
movement, scholars have identified specific tasks that
the movement must accomplish. Bruce Gronbeck, who
59


utilizes a three-stage model of development which
proceeds from inception to rhetorical crisis to
consummation, describes the tasks of the movement to
include: defining, legitimizing, in-gathering,
pressuring, compromising and satisfying (qtd. in Ross
198-199). Defining the problem a movement aims to solve
and getting people to accept the movement as a legitimate
means of solving this problem are part of the inception
stage. In-gathering, or building a "power base" of
committed participants, and pressuring the establishment
to make way for this new base of power, are tasks
appropriate to the rhetorical crisis phase of a movement.
After the movement has provoked a crisis or
confrontation, the establishment typically is willing to
work out a compromise, and the leaders of the movement
must characterize this compromise as a victory in order
to satisfy their members and enter the consummation phase
of the movement.
The field of social movement studies provides us
with some important questions to ask about the
relationship between a utopian narrative and a social
movement: What role do utopian narratives play in the
life cycle of social movements, and what tasks of social
movements do utopian narratives help to accomplish? The
Ecotopian narrative of the ecology movement, as told by
60


Ernest Callenbach, provides some unique answers to these
questions. Callenbach's first novel, Ecotooia. creates a
vision of a society in which the values of the ecology
movement had become institutionalized. Callenbach's
second novel, Ecotopia Emerging, focuses on telling the
story of how the ecology movement progresses from one
stage in its development to the next, culminating in the
movement's success in causing the Ecotopian bioregions to
secede from the United States. Both the transcendent
values embodied in Callenbach's first narrative, and the
tasks listed in the second narrative which help to
empower those values, are key elements of the ecology
movement.
However, the methodology of social movement studies
also allows us to identify the ecology movement apart
from our analysis of the Ecotopian narrative. By
comparing and contrasting it with other movements, we can
assess whether the ecology movement shares the features
which have made other movements succeed or fail. Such
comparing and contrasting is necessary to avoid the
circular reasoning entailed by simply defining the
movement as the audience for a narrative.
To summarize the methodological considerations of
this chapter, this study shares the speech critic's
concern with finding the effect that utopias have upon an
61


audience, while recognizing the myth critic's observation
that utopias may attempt to symbolically resolve a
controversy for which traditional argumentation and
debate offers no solution. To avoid sinking into the
quagmire of a method that relies on a distinction between
myth and reality, this study shall employ the narrative
critic's assumption that there is a logic to utopian
storytelling which allows us to assert that utopias can
be rational, persuasive and constructive of social
reality. Finally, we come to realize that social
movements form the affected audience for utopian
narratives, and that utopias must answer to the
rhetorical needs of such movements if they are to play an
important role in promoting social change.
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CHAPTER 4
THE WRITER OF ECOTOPIA
In this chapter, we shall identify relationships
between the Ecotopian narrative and the ecology movement
that preceded the publication of Ecotooia. These
relationships are found in the biographical details of
the writer's life and in the utopian literature that
preceded Ecotopia. Finding these links between the
narrative and its precursors will enable us to assess the
rhetorical choices available to the writer at the time of
his writing, which in turn will aid us in characterizing
the relationship between the Ecotopian narrative and the
ecology movement as a persuasive one.
Biography of Ernest Callenbach
According to the autobiographical notes appended to
his Ecotopian writings, Ernest Callenbach grew up in a
village in central Pennsylvania during the depression of
the 1930s (1981b, 275). His family lived on a ten acre
plot where they raised chickens, ducks and turkeys.
Regarding his cultural background, Callenbach admits: "I
come from a long line of Dutch Calvinist preachers, the
63


worst kind, and I'm a bit of a preacher myself" ("Author
has vision of 'Ecotopia"' 1).
At the age of 15, Callenbach read a Book-of-the-
Month Club selection called Storm by George R. Stewart,
then a professor of English at the University of
California. Storm, as the title suggests, is the tale of
a winter precipitation event that sweeps across the
State of California, closing roads, flooding fields and
disabling power lines. Callenbach confesses that he
identified strongly with the character of the junior
meteorologist in Stewart's story the one who first
discovered and named the storm. This identification, in
addition to spare time spent at the meteorology lab of
the local college, led Callenbach to pursue a career as a
weather forecaster. He explains that he chose to
matriculate at the University of Chicago because it was
reputed to have the best meteorology department in the
nation (Callenbach 1978, 209).
Once at the University of Chicago, however, the
author of Ecotopia was exposed to the broad rigor of a
liberal arts education, and, in his own words, "I
gradually realized that it was Stewart's writing about
the weather that had really gotten to me, and not the
actual business of meteorologists..." (1978, 209). While
abandoning his weather forecasting ambitions, Callenbach
64


maintained his fondness for the writing of George R.
Stewart. One summer during his undergraduate years,
Callenbach went to California and descended upon his
literary idol, whom he described as a "kindly
professorial person, trim and a bit distant, as befits
one who has not answered much fan mail but seen
generations of callow undergraduates like myself come and
go" (1978, 209). Callenbach's continued fondness for
Stewart is evident in the former writer's Ecotopia
Emerging. in which he acknowledges a "special gratitude
to George R. Stewart, who first led the way" (1981a,
328). Indeed, the format that Callenbach employs in
Ecotopia Emerging closely resembles that of Stewart's
award-winning science fiction novel Earth Abides.
Like Storm. Earth Abides is another of Stewart's
fictional works that explores the effect of the natural
environment upon the people who live in it. Built around
the idea of a plague that suddenly kills the entire human
race except for the narrator and a few others, Earth
Abides tells the tale of how a tribe of people re-adapt
to living without modern conveniences such as automobiles
and electricity. Another of Stewart's novels, Fire,
explores how people's conflicting attitudes toward nature
are shaped by their efforts to put out a giant forest
fire.
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Before writing such stories, Stewart carefully
researched his topic by watching foresters, weather
forecasters, snowplow drivers and the like as they
carried out their duties in the mountains of California.
This empirical observation formed an important part of
Stewart's "regional approach to literature," which he
outlined in the April 1948 issue of College English;
The substance will be derived from two sources.
In the first place, it will come from the
natural background the climate, topography,
flora, fauna, etc. as it affects human life
in the region. In the second place, it will
come from the particular modes of human society
which happen to have been established in the
region and to have made it distinctive (qtd. in
Caldwell, 6-7).
This passage is remarkably prescient of Callenbach's
Ecotopian narrative and the bioregional thinking that
followed.
In addition to associating with the foresters and
snowplow drivers who worked amidst the bioregion of
Northern California, Stewart gained much insight by
talking with other prominent scholars at the Berkeley
campus, e.g., geographer Carl 0. Sauer, psychologist
Edward Tolman and anthropologist Alfred Kroeber. Kroeber
is best known for his work with the Native Californian
Ishi, who became the subject of the popular book Ishi in
Two Worlds. (The narrator in Stewart's Earth Abides has
the curious nickname "Ish.") While Kroeber was
66


struggling to document the cultures of California's
indigenous peoples before they vanished, his colleague
Carl Sauer "was developing a cadre of geographers whose
view of how cultures relate to their landscape
foreshadowed much of today's bioregional thinking"
(Callenbach 1978, 206). Insofar as the scholars
mentioned above met regularly with Stewart to discuss
their ideas at the Faculty Club dining hall, it was
really the whole intellectual milieu of the Berkeley
campus, and not just the writing of George Stewart, that
gave rise to Callenbach's Ecotopian vision. (Indeed,
this milieu produced many more utopian visions than that
of Callenbach, most notably those of Alfred Kroeber's
daughter, the popular science fiction writer Ursula
LeGuin.)
It was on his pilgrimage to the Berkeley campus that
Callenbach decided "this would be a good place to live"
(1978, 209). Hence, after obtaining his M.A. in English
from the University of Chicago in 1953, he moved to the
hometown of his idol and found a job at the University of
California Press, where he edited "film books, natural
history guides, and a variety of other volumes"
(Callenbach 1993b). By 1958, Callenbach had become a
self-proclaimed "film nut," and this new interest led him
67


to found and edit Film Quarterly, a now prestigious,
international journal on the subject.
The second half of the twentieth century marked a
shift in the grounds for environmental awareness as the
new science of ecology began to supplant the old
aesthetic and religious musings by which romantics and
transcendentalists such as Henry Thoreau and Sierra Club
founder John Muir had narrated their efforts to preserve
what remained of the North American wilderness. By 1967,
Callenbach's mentor, George Stewart, had been called upon
by George Maslach (Dean of the College of Engineering at
Berkeley) to write a book that would popularize the new
ecological perspective. Entitled Not So Rich As You
Think. Stewart's treatise on ecology chronicles modern
industrial society's unsuccessful attempts to violate the
law of the conservation of matter in the disposal of its
malodorous and often toxic waste. The book concludes by
recommending a massive recycling campaign.
One of the causes to which Stewart attributes our
waste disposal problems the cause which gives rise to
the title Not So Rich As You Think is "the affluent
society":
Americans have developed a psychological state
of mind in which anything to do with saving or
re-use is opprobrious. One of the few ethnic
references still allowable is to call a person
'Scotch.' Or a person may be a 'string-saver,'
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or 'chintzy,' or a dozen things else. To
utilize anything fully has become almost
unpatriotic, since we are persuaded that the
affluent economy depends on rapid turnover
(25).
While we cannot be sure that it was Stewart's writing on
the subject that alerted Callenbach to "the affluent
society" and its problems, the title of Callenbach's
first book, Living Poor with Style, suggests that
affluence is not to be regarded as a transcendent value.
A sort of manual for non-affluent living first published
in 1972, Living Poor with Style has been edited and
expanded twice. First it became The Ecotooian
Encyclopedia for the 80s. Then, in 1993, The Ecotopian
Encyclopedia reappeared as Living Cheaply with Style;
Live Better & Spend Less. The aspects of the non-
affluent lifestyle that Callenbach catalogued in these
publications provided him with material on which to base
the lifestyles of the characters in Ecotooia.
As influential as the ecology movement had become in
getting a flurry of new environmental laws on the books
in the early 1970s most notably the Endangered Species
Act it was not influential enough to attract a major
publishing house to Ecotooia. Indeed, Callenbach
submitted his Ecotopian manuscript to twenty-one
different publishers and was rejected by all of them
(qtd. in Cummings 69). While he was successful in
69


getting excerpts published in such journals as The
American Review and Harper's Weekly, in the end,
Callenbach
had to organize friends into an entity called
Banyan Tree Books to publish Ecotopia
independently which was, as it turned out,
quite an Ecotopian thing to do, especially
since it was then distributed by Bookpeople, an
employee-owned company (Callenbach 1981b, 4).
Although Ecotopia gained enough popularity to be picked
up by Bantam Books in 1977, the original publisher,
Callenbach's Banyan Tree Books, still operates out of his
home in Berkeley.
Just as George Stewart wrote amidst a milieu of
like-minded scholars, Callenbach has his Ecotopian
compatriots. With reference to Alfred Kroeber's
influence on George Stewart, Callenbach tells us that "I
have myself spent a lot of time around
anthropologists..." (1993b). In 1983, two years after he
published Ecotopia Emerging. Callenbach joined other
leaders of the ecology movement in founding an ecological
"think tank" called the Elmwood Institute, with a mission
of nurturing "new ecological visions of reality based on
awareness of the fundamental interdependence of all
phenomena and of the embeddedness of individuals and
societies in the cyclical processes of nature" (qtd. in
Donald E. Davis 123).
70


Other founders and directors of the Elmwood
Institute include philosopher of science and author of
The Tao of Physics Fritjof Capra, ecofeminist Charlene
Spretnak of the Committees of Correspondence (a major
Green political organization in the United States), Hazel
Henderson, a former housewife and clean air activist who
became a prominent futurist and critic of "grow or die"
economic theories, and Jerry Hander, the former
advertising executive who wrote Four Arguments for the
Elimination of Television. These people can be viewed as
both co-creators of the Ecotopian narrative and potential
models for some of the characters in the narrative. The
institute itself can be regarded as an attempt to bring
the narrative to life, since one of the characters in
Ecotopia Emerging. Raye Dutra, forms a think tank called
"The Ecotopia Institute" (1981a, 133).
While Callenbach has not returned to raising farm
animals on a ten acre plot, he is reported to have "a
large garden and two compost bins" (Callenbach 1993b).
Until he retired in 1991, his job at the University of
California Press allowed him to walk to work. Now he
"devotes full time to writing and to lecturing on
ecological topics throughout the globe" (Callenbach
1993b). Finally, despite the popularity of Ecotopia and
his other writings, Callenbach remains remarkably
71


accessible to his readers. For example, he corresponded
with the author of this study and provided extra copies
of his writings without requiring a literary agent or
publishing house to serve as an intermediary.
Review of Utopian Literature Preceding Ecotopia
While the influence of George Stewart's writings is
clear from our biographical investigation of Ernest
Callenbach, we also should look to other sources for
models that Callenbach may have used to construct his
utopia, and to get a broader picture of Ecotopia1s place
in the history of ideas. An obvious starting point is
Thomas More's Utopia. Two other utopian narratives which
warrant our attention are Edward Bellamy's Looking
Backward and Aldous Huxley's Island. The name of
Ecotopia's narrator, Will Weston, alludes to both
Bellamy's narrator, Julian West, and Will Farnaby, the
narrator of Huxley's utopia (Cummings 69).
Thomas More's Utopia
First published in 1516, the text of Utopia is
ambiguous enough to support a multitude of
interpretations. While assuming the form of a dialogue
and a narrative, More's book could be read as an attempt
to work out a grand political theory. On the other hand,
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perhaps the literary significance of Utopia outweighs its
political content. Even assinning that Utopia is a
representation of More's political beliefs, there remains
a raging debate about which of the characters in the
dialogue, if any, take the position that is closest to
what More truly believed (Wegemer).
While Ecotooia lacks the ambiguity of its sixteenth
century predecessor, there are important similarities in
both form and content between Ecotooia and Utopia. At
the level of form, the rhetorical devices used in More's
Utopia remain important in Callenbach's story. Like his
good friend Erasmus and many other renaissance humanists,
More was immersed in the rediscovery of classical Greek
and Roman texts. The importance of classical rhetoric to
the renaissance humanists is evidenced by Erasmus' De
Cooia. a latin textbook that "dominated rhetoric
instruction throughout northern Europe for most of the
sixteenth century" (Bizzell and Herzberg, 500). In this
textbook, Erasmus follows the advice of Quintilian in
saying a "most effective means of making what we are
saying convincing and of generating cooia at the same
time is to be found in illustrative examples" (qtd. in
Bizzell and Herzberg 534). One type of illustrative
example that Erasmus lists is the fictional narrative.
If such narratives "are introduced as true because they
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will help us to get our point across, we must make them
as much like the real thing as possible" (qtd. in Bizzell
and Herzberg 549).
If we accept the view that More's Utopia is
constructed according to the principles outlined in
Erasmus' De Copia and other rhetoric textbooks
circulating during the sixteenth century, then the
fictional narrative that Utopia contains may be employed
primarily to help More "get his point across," i.e., to
persuade his readers to strive for a society like that of
the Utopians. To make his narrative "as much like the
real thing as possible," More links his narrator to the
real life voyages of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, and
places his utopia in the new world that Vespucci and
others were beginning to explore. In this way, More's
account of Utopia blends in with other European accounts
of the new world most notably Vespucci's which were
circulating with great popularity at the time More was
writing. Some readers of Utopia were unable (or
unwilling) to distinguish More's fictional narrative from
"real" accounts of the new world (e.g., Morgan), and thus
Utopia was thought to be a real place, albeit a distant
and mysterious one.
The task of making a fictional narrative seem real
enough to achieve its rhetorical function, which More
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ingeniously achieves through his reference to the voyages
of Amerigo Vespucci, is an important one that many
utopian authors have faced. In a later chapter, we shall
explore how Ernest Callenbach faces this task in writing
Ecotopia. In the meantime, we must address the question
of whether More's Utopia contains any ecological values
which foreshadow Callenbach's narrative.
Elaborate and well-kept gardens are one element of
an urban landscape that might be found in either More's
or Callenbach's narrative:
Behind each row of houses at the center of
every block and extending the full length of
the street, there are large gardens.
Every house has a door to the street and
another to the garden. The doors, which are
made with two leaves, open easily and swing
shut automatically, letting anyone enter who
wants to.... The Utopians are very fond of
these gardens of theirs. They raise vines,
fruits, herbs, and flowers, so thrifty and
flourishing that I have never seen any gardens
more productive or elegant than theirs....
Certainly you will find nothing else in the
whole city more useful or more pleasant to the
citizens. And for that reason, the city's
founder seems to have made gardens the primary
object of his consideration (More 38).
Although taken from More's narrative, this passage could
easily be a part of Callenbach's narrative as well. Both
writers view urban gardens as exceptionally valuable
components of the built environment.
In an article exploring the "Origins of Western
Environmentalism," Richard H. Grove expands the
75


relationship between utopianism and environmental concern
to a broad theme of intellectual history:
In truth, the roots of Western
conservationism are at least 200 years old and
grew in the tropics. Arising in a search for
utopia. European-based environmentalism first
took shape in the mid-18th century. At that
time, colonial enterprise began to clash with
Romantic idealism and with scientific findings.
The setting for this conflict was the
threatened ecology of tropical islands and
lands, from the Caribbean Sea to Asia. In
London, Paris and other imperial capitals,
these islands became allegories for the world
at large. The power of this metaphor and the
simultaneous emergence of a community of
professional natural scientists spurred
governments to protect the environment (42,
emphasis added).
Seen in this light, an intrinsic connection between
utopian aspirations and concern for the environment
becomes clearer. As Europeans invaded and colonized the
new world, they at once killed the indigenous peoples
upon which European utopian musings had been projected,
and destroyed the native ecosystems which had sustained
such peoples. The image of what the new world was like
before European invasion and colonization, whether
scientifically preserved or artistically imagined,
remains a powerful stimulus for both environmental
concerns and utopian visions.
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Aldous Huxley's Island
Although better known for his dystopian narrative,
Brave New World. Huxley also is the author of a utopian
narrative that grapples with the longstanding conflict
between the old world and the new. The setting for
Huxley's utopia is a tropical island called Pala, which
has managed to isolate itself from colonial domination
for 200 years. The inhabitants of Pala combine the best
of Western science and medicine with the best of Eastern
mysticism. Unfortunately, like Brave New World. Island
ends on a pessimistic note, with the inevitable invasion
of Pala by its greedy neighbors who wish to open the
island for oil exploration.
While it lacks Huxley's pessimism, Ecotooia still
borrows from Island in a number of ways. In both
narratives, the narrator and central character is a
journalist named Will who struggles with an internal
conflict between amiable qualities which allow him to
befriend his hosts and ulterior motives which ally him
with the enemies of utopia. Both narrators enter their
utopia as spies for the outside world, but undergo a
moral transformation during their visit which causes them
to abandon their secret missions. Hence, in both
character and plot, it is fair to say that Ecotopia is
influenced by Huxley's Island.
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At the level of Intellectual history, Callenbach's
narrative seems to share Huxley's concern with resolving
conflicts between the old world and the new. Like the
inhabitants of Pala, Ecotopians do not cast aside all
Western technologies and choose to live as if in the
stone age. Rather, an effort is made to separate so-
called "appropriate technologies" (such as inexpensive
solar cells) from technologies regarded as ecologically
unsound or incompatible with the spiritual life of the
community. It is in the realm of spirituality that both
Huxley and Callenbach tend to cast aside Western myths in
favor of non-European religions that emphasize reverence
for "Mother Earth."
Huxley's utopia may lose some of its rhetorical
effect on American readers because Huxley chose to follow
the convention of placing his alterworld on a remote,
untouched island. Thus, Americans who want to put their
utopian vision into practice are prompted to ask: what
if there is no "virgin territory" in which to build our
new society, and we must instead reclaim the land where
we already reside? Callenbach's narrative is by no means
the first to answer this question by superimposing his
vision over an existing region of the United States.
Another prominent answer can be found in the popular
fiction of the nineteenth century.
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Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward
Rather than taking an ocean voyage to utopia,
Victorian author Edward Bellamy transports his narrator
across time: the narrator is put to sleep in the year
1887 by a hypnotist and does not awaken and depart from
his sturdy, subterranean bedchamber for over 100 years.
When he regains consciousness, the nineteenth century
city of Boston in which Bellamy's narrator had lived
prior to his slumber has been transformed into an
alluring, illustrative example of utopian socialism.
When combined with his memories of nineteenth century
Boston, the narrator's new perceptions of Boston's
utopian counterpart give him a kind of double vision that
enables us to see with great clarity the social policy
claims embedded in Bellamy's topical allusions.
In addition to borrowing Bellamy's idea of
superimposing utopia on an existing region, Callenbach
employs another element from Looking Backward, i.e., its
romantic plot. Falling in love is an important part of
the transformative process that both Callenbach's and
Bellamy's narrator undergoes. Falling in love with a
utopian reinforces the moral transformation by which the
narrator comes to adopt the values of utopia, and when
the narrator's love is requited, it brings "narrative
closure" to his story. Also, though it may be regarded
79



as emotionally overindulgent or "corny" by more
sophisticated readers, romance is a very popular genre.
By incorporating romance into their utopian visions,
Bellamy and Callenbach enable their narratives to attract
and sustain a larger audience. Bellamy's utopian romance
became so popular that many nineteenth century Americans
formed "Bellamy Clubs," and a wellspring of new utopian
literature and political parties soon arose as a result.
Ecotopia has produced similar results. Since its first
printing in 1975, over 600,000 copies of Callenbach's
narrative have been sold, and Ecotopia has been
translated into nine languages, including Japanese
(Callenbach 1993b).
Our biography of Ernest Callenbach and review of the
literature that influenced him shows that efforts to
popularize ecological values took place before Ecotopia
was ever published. Callenbach's relationship with his
precursors provides us with a context in which to compare
the rhetorical choices made in Ecotopia with those made
by other writers. From such comparisons, it is fair to
conclude that originality is not what makes Ecotopia
persuasive. In both structure and content, many of the
elements in the Ecotopian narrative have been used
before.
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CHAPTER 5
THE TEXT OF ECOTOPIA
In this chapter, we shall analyze the narrative
logic according to which Callenbach constructs his story
of an ecological utopia. Just as an argument can be
broken down into premises and a conclusion, the choices
made by a utopian storyteller can be organized according
to his or her use of elements such as character, setting,
and plot. Analyzing the elements of this narrative logic
may reveal some social contradictions or cultural
differences that the writer of Ecotonia failed to account
for. Such an analysis also allows us to get a better
sense of the transcendent value or standard of ideal
human conduct that the story aims to establish as a guide
for social action. Identifying the story's transcendent
value in turn allows us to assess the linkage between
this value and the actions of the ecology movement.
Structure of the Ecotopian Narrative
The full title of Callenbach's narrative is
Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston.
As such, the narrative alternates between diary notes and
newspaper reports. The narrator and author of these
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"notebooks and reports," Will Weston, is a "top
international affairs reporter" for an American newspaper
called The Times-Post. Two brief, explanatory notes
written by the editor of The Times-Post are appended to
the front and back of Weston's writings. The first of
these notes announces that Weston's six week assignment
"will mark the first officially arranged visit by an
American to Ecotopia since the secession cut off normal
travel and communications in 1980" (Callenbach 1977a, 1).
The latter editorial note attests to the authenticity of
the narrative: "Despite the questionable or
controversial nature of some of the notebook entries, we
have respected Weston's wishes in keeping the text just
as he wrote it" (Callenbach 1977a, 213).
The narrator of Ecotopia is a thirty-six year-old
male. He has a wife (Pat) and children (one of whom is
named Fay), but no longer lives with them. Before coming
to Ecotopia, Weston's main companion was his mistress,
Francine. The only other American characters who play a
role in Weston's story are his editor, Max, and the
President of the United States, who covertly directs
Weston to seek out Ecotopian President Vera Allwen and
propose a reopening of diplomatic relations between the
two countries with the hope that such relations will
lead to reunification.
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In addition to President Allwen and her assistants,
the narrator's contacts with the Ecotopian government
include the Assistant Minister of Food (George), who
introduces him to the idea of "stable states," and
someone from the Ecotopian counter-intelligence, who
discourages Weston from engaging in any covert operations
with the American C.I.A. Weston's two main companions
during his stay in Ecotopia are Bert Luckman, one of
about 40 journalists, writers and TV people who live at
"a sort of press commune" in San Francisco called
"Franklin's Cove," and Marissa Brightcloud, the Ecotopian
forester with whom the narrator falls in love. A few
other journalists at the Cove (Tom, Clara, Lorna, Nina,
Red) play minor roles in the narrative, as do Marissa's
relatives a staunchly anti-American brother named Ben
and a cousin named Doctor Jake, who expounds on the
virtues of bicycling. A friend of Marissa's brother
named Ron is one of four characters who "kidnap" Weston
and take him to a hot springs resort, where the story
ends with the narrator's decision to stay in Ecotopia.
The story takes place approximately twenty years
after Ecotopia seceded from the United States and sealed
its borders. The narrator's first entry in his notebook
is dated May 3, 1999, and the last entry is dated June 25
of that year. Although the nation of Ecotopia includes
83


the entire states of Washington and Oregon plus the
northern half of California, most of the fifty-four day
period chronicled in Weston's notebooks is spent in San
Francisco, with occasional trips to surrounding areas
(e.g., Healdsburg, Punta Gorda, Marshall-by-the-Bay,
Santa Cruz, Berkeley).
The narrator's descriptions of the many "stable-
state life systems" which make up the Ecotopian economy
are placed among three basic plotlines. The most
superficial of these plotlines concerns the narrator's
guest for an interview with Ecotopia's president. In
order to reach his goal, Weston first must get past
several of the president's assistants. He schedules an
interview with the Minister of Food, but she is too busy
to see him. Instead he talks to the Assistant Minister,
who changes the topic from agriculture to sewage.
Somewhat befuddled by the informality of the Ecotopian
government and its lack of a hierarchical structure on
which to ascend, the narrator allows his hosts to digress
by leading him on a tour of a massive thermal gradient
power plant, various research institutes, factories where
electric mini-buses and extruded plastic housing are
produced, and the forest camp where Weston meets his
beloved Marissa. Finally, after touring a plethora of
Ecotopian institutions, including a hospital where he is
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sent to recover from a wound inflicted during one of
Ecotopia's ritual war games, Weston is granted an
interview with President Allwen. Although Weston
faithfully transmits the American president's hopes for
normalized relations and eventual reunification, this
interview turns into an anti-climax when President Allwen
firmly refuses to consider his proposals. After the
interview, the narrator writes in his diary: "Whole trip
now seems like a waste of time" (Callenbach 1977a, 191).
The second of Ecotopia's plotlines concerns the
narrator's budding romance with Marissa Brightcloud.
After spending about a week in Ecotopia, Weston's sexual
urges get the better of him and he is scolded by an
Ecotopian woman for his inappropriate behavior:
'Look,' she said after a bit, 'if you just want
to fuck why don't you say so?' and marched off
in disgust. That got to me somehow. Realized
I don't iust want to fuck, as I usually think
when I'm away. I really want to figure out
what goes on between men and women out here,
and try getting with it; they obviously deal
with each other in ways I don't know about
(Callenbach 1977a, 54).
The narrator's sexual frustration builds for a few more
days until he visits a camp run by the Ecotopian Forest
Service. The woman guiding him on his tour of the camp,
Marissa Brightcloud, propositions him in the bathhouse.
About a week after their first encounter, Weston realizes
"I am growing terribly attached to her" and "there's no
85


denying it we're beginning to love each other"
(Callenbach 1977a, 88). After another week passes,
Weston admits that:
the relation with Marissa is changing my whole
idea of what men and women are like together.
Things I used to take for granted with Francine
now begin to seem bizarre to me (Callenbach
1977a, 136) .
Like any good romance, such realizations are mixed with
lover's quarrels, but in the end, the narrator is
reunited with his beloved, who hints that they will
conceive a child together.
The third and most important plotline in the
narrative concerns the inner conflict that eventually
leads to the narrator's self-transformation. While some
of his conflicting feelings about Ecotopia are confessed
in Weston's diary, the reader also is given several
external clues of the narrator's impending
transformation. One such clue is given when the narrator
grows bored with his hotel room and begins spending more
time at the "Franklin's Cove" press commune. Less than
three weeks after entering Ecotopia, the narrator has
abandoned his hotel room entirely and moved in with the
Ecotopian journalists at the Cove he is beginning to
feel at home in Ecotopia.
Another clue is given when the narrator "picks up a
new wardrobe":
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I like dressing well, but my New York clothes
were making me stick out here; so have picked
up a new wardrobe. Dark-green serape with a
hood, soft but so tightly woven I am told it
will keep off the rain (and probably make me
smell like a wet sheep). A couple of loose
shirts in suitably gaudy colors, a vest, a
floppy suede jacket, two pairs of denim pants.
Also a pair of heavy shoes -- my elegant
Italian street shoes clearly won't go here! I
look in the mirror and laugh if I rang
Francine's doorbell in this outfit she'd call
the police (Callenbach 1977a, 20).
The significance of the narrator's wardrobe becomes more
apparent during his final struggle to cast aside his old,
American self:
I decided to kill a little time by putting my
clothes in order. Shook out my New York
clothes, laid everything out neatly. Then,
just fooling around, thought I'd put on my
regular shirt it's been seven weeks since I
last wore it, and I had the feeling I've lost
some weight out here. It felt sort of
comfortable slipping into my cool drip-dry
shirt, and I tucked it into the snug pants
first time in weeks I have had a shirt tucked
in. Belt a little loose, but not too bad
one extra notch. Figured what the hell, might
as well put on a tie too, just to see what it
looks like. I walked over to the mirror,
putting the tie around my neck and absently
beginning to tie it.
Suddenly I caught sight of myself in the
mirror. The hair stood up on the back of my
neck. I looked awful, I didn't look human! My
image was tight, stiff. I sat down, stunned.
Then, curious, I finished tying the tie, and
put on the jacket besides, and went over to the
mirror again. This time the ugly American me
was almost sickening I really thought I
might have to throw up.... My body longed to
get out of those terrible clothes...
(Callenbach 1977a, 208).
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Shortly after this frightening return to his old
wardrobe, Weston confesses his desire to stay in
Ecotopia, is reunited with Marissa, and writes that "I
begin to see that I have fallen in love with her country
as much as with Marissa. A new self has been coming to
life within me here, thanks to both her and her people"
(Callenbach 1977a, 212). The narrator's moral
transformation is complete, and to the extent that
readers have placed themselves in the story by
recognizing themselves in the narrator, they too are
ready to declare themselves Ecotopians.
If the reader were to skip over the narrator's diary
notes and just read his newspaper reports, this process
of self-transformation never would be apparent. Weston's
reports, which are sent back to his editor in the United
States periodically as the story progresses, attempt to
be detached, objective and pro-American. They are
intended to serve as propaganda, i.e., to control the
flow of information between Ecotopia and America, and to
manipulate American public opinion in a manner that
ultimately discredits the Ecotopians. The great irony is
that, when mingled with the narrator's more personal and
heartfelt diary notes, these propagandistic reports do
just the opposite. The reader learns that the narrative
voice through which Weston speaks qua propagandist is
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just an empty facade about to crumble. Not only does the
propagandist's message go against the best interests of
his audience, the propagandist eventually realizes that
his message also is contrary to his own best interest.
While the pro-American tone of the narrator's
reports is ultimately undermined by his diary, the
seemingly objective, journalistic style of these reports
makes Ecotopia seem more like a real place. After all,
the style in which the reports are written is the same
one that many reporters still use to cover current events
in American foreign policy. Perhaps if one of Weston's
reports were placed in the local paper one bleary-eyed
Monday morning, some unknowing readers would not realize
that they were reading a piece of fiction (much less
propaganda). Other readers, who really longed for a
place such as Ecotopia, would not want to believe the
story was untrue. Just as Thomas More styled his utopia
as a report from the new world voyages of Amerigo
Vespucci, Ernest Callenbach puts Ecotopia in the idiom of
contemporary American journalism to make it seem real.
Even if we agree that the fictional world of
Ecotopia seems more real in the guise of a newspaper
article, the dialectic between the narrative voice we
hear in such newspaper articles and that of the diary
notes is certainly more ambiguous than a deductive
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syllogism. This dialectic also does not cast
Callenbach's narrator in a mythical or heroic light.
Rather than relying primarily on the heroism of the
narrator or the validity of his arguments, Callenbach
grounds the values of his narrative in a utopian setting.
We are led to believe that the goodness of the Ecotopian
characters derives from the goodness of the Pacific
Northwest bioregions that they inhabit. A major premise
underlying the narrative is that these bioregions
naturally lend themselves to the development of a self-
sufficient, sustainable eco-state. Thus, the narrative
suggests that if we stay in Ecotopia long enough, we too
will want to adopt Ecotopian virtues such as bioregional
awareness, sustainability and grassroots democracy. It
is only those who have stayed in Ecotopia the longest,
i.e., Native Americans, who begin to assume the
proportions of mythic heroes in Ecotopia.
Values in the Ecotopian Narrative
If Weston's moral transformation had to be summed up
in terms of a shift from one key value to another, it
would be a shift from mobility to stability. As an
international affairs reporter for the Times-Post. the
narrator spends much of his time travelling. Indeed,
transportation is a key metaphor in Ecotopia. The first
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three of the narrator's reports begin with references to
a mode of transportation: "On board TWA flight 38 ... On
board the Sierra Express ... As I emerged from the train
terminal into the streets..." (Callenbach 1977a, 4, 7,
13). It is not until the fourth report, entitled "Food,
Sewage, and 'Stable States'," that the narrator stays in
one place for any length of time.
At the beginning of the story, the narrator seems to
enjoy his mobile lifestyle to the point of identifying
mobility with freedom, power, and even sex. He stays at
a hotel room, wanders the streets, and makes disparaging
remarks about the Ecotopian transportation system:
These primitive and underpowered vehicles
obviously cannot satisfy the urge for speed and
freedom which has been so well met by the
American auto industry and our aggressive
highway program ... no one can be utterly
insensitive to the pleasures of the open road,
I told them, and I related how it feels to roll
along in one of our powerful, comfortable cars,
a girl's hair blowing in the wind...
(Callenbach 1977a, 34).
Such remarks exemplify the way that American ideologists
use the automobile as a symbol for the value of mobility
and all the connotations of freedom, power and pleasure
that this value carries with it. By ridding their
society of this symbol, the Ecotopians are left to find
an alternative means of expressing the values that cars
symbolize for Americans.
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From the few references to his former life in the
United States, we are able to infer that the narrator
does not live with his wife and children, nor his
colleagues at work, nor even his mistress. Instead, he
has arranged his relations with significant others into
separate compartments, and his mobile lifestyle allows
him to travel from one compartment to another without
letting the contents of the compartments come into
contact with one another. As the President of Ecotopia
notes in her conversation with Weston, the
compartmentalization between the narrator's personal and
occupational life is evidenced by the division of his
narrative into diary notes and newspaper columns:
'You are not as personal in your columns as
our journalists tend to be, so we have not been
able to judge if you have had good experiences
among us.'
'I put down my personal experiences in a
diary. Many of them have been very good, but
they're not for publication You should
understand that by our standards my columns
have probably seemed rather too personal'
(Callenbach 1977a, 190).
Of course, by the end of the story, the "good
experiences" recorded in the narrator's diary are
recognized as good enough to overcome the highly mobile,
compartmentalized lifestyle to which he had grown
accustomed while living in America. As a final gesture,
Weston sends a note to his editor instructing him to
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publish the entire narrative "intact or not at all," thus
allowing the diary notes and newspaper columns to mingle.
While the first words that the narrator reports to
his editors are "On board TWA flight 38," the last word
that Weston reports is "home." And while "TWA flight 38"
is a symbol for the value of mobility, "home" is a symbol
for the value of stability. Weston is first introduced
to "the stable-state life systems" which are "the
fundamental ecological and political goal" of the
Ecotopians during his interview with the Assistant
Minister of Food. Instead of organizing his presentation
around the traditional goals of American agribusiness,
i.e., profits and economic growth, the Assistant Minister
explains that:
...our agriculture has reached an almost
totally stable state, with more than 99% of our
wastes being recycled. In short, we have
achieved a food system that can endure
indefinitely (Callenbach 1977a, 25).
As the narrative progresses, it becomes apparent that
Ecotopia's "stable state life systems" are not only a
fundamental ecological and political goal. They are used
to define human nature:
[Hu]mankind, the Ecotopians assumed, was not
meant for production, as the 19th and 20th
centuries had believed. Instead, humans were
meant to take their modest place in a seamless,
stable-state web of living organisms,
disturbing that web as little as possible.
This would mean sacrifice of present
93


consumption, but it would ensure future
survival which became an almost religious
objective, perhaps akin to earlier doctrines of
'salvation.' People were to be happy not to
the extent that they dominated their fellow
creatures on the earth, but to the extent they
lived in balance with them (Callenbach 1977a,
55-56).
Once linked to this view of human nature, the value of
"stable states" entails much more than a simple desire to
endure in one place.
In order to reduce production and consumption to
a level that is stable and sustainable, the Ecotopians
adopt a twenty-hour work week. While this work reduction
prevents Ecotopians from affording such luxuries as a
private automobile (or even producing such luxuries in
the first place), the extra twenty hours of free time
they have each week gives the Ecotopians a kind of
freedom that an automobile cannot provide. Instead of
trying to compensate for their lack of freedom by
investing in a mechanical symbol of freedom, Ecotopians
use their spare time to build a different kind of symbol:
I have seen, for instance, a truck built of
driftwood, almost every square foot of it
decorated with abalone shells it belonged to
a fishery commune along the coast (Callenbach
1977a, 33).
If Ecotopian vehicles retain any symbolic powers, these
powers are used to connote the owners' connection with a
home, a community, a bioregion, and nature in general.
94