Ernest Callenbach captured a turning point in ecological thinking.
Between 2000 and 2001, I came across the book, "Ecotopia" by Ernest Callenbach. I can remember having the book when I was working as a nanny in 2001. The story captured my attention quickly, both for the interesting story of William Weston's journey through Ecotopia, as well as the presentation of sustainable community concepts. It is rare for me to finish a non-technical book from cover-to-cover. I struggle to stay focused on most stories for more than a few pages at a time, often going back over pages to digest each word. The time commitment keeps me from finishing. Audio books are my preferred method of digesting fictional stories. Ecotopia, however, was an exception to that trend. I found myself engaged in the books and reading every chance I had. Once I completed the book, I had a strong desire to want to do something more with the story. 18 years later, that desire is turning into action!
First a bit about Ernest Callenbach, wrote Ecotopia in 1975. His life spanned 83 years, from April 3, 1929 – April 16, 2012. At the time he wrote Ecotopia, he was living in Berekely, California and working at University of California Press. He also taught the occasional film class at the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote five books during his career as an author. His website shares some of his lectures, thoughts, and a short biography. As I read his lectures, and watch videos of his public speaking events, I find that my thoughts and interests are reflected. We share a desire to create hope for future generations through understanding and working in coordination with each other and the world we are part of. You will find a playlist with videos of Ernest speaking, as well as discussions about Earnest and his work on my YouTube channel.
Next, I want to share one project I have started to share the story of Ecotopia. As I mentioned, I am a fan of audiobooks. Sadly, an audiobook version of Ecotopia is not available. After observing Zoë and Willow listening to stories read by people on YouTube, I decided I would share Ecotopia by creating an audiobook and sharing it on YouTube. Originally I was recording my own voice. Then, I got some valuable feedback from a good friend, Michael Bolanos. I needed a lot more practice with voiceover before I put myself out there. Michael then recommend using Google's DeepMind text-to-speech system. Turns out it is pretty good. Without further ado, for your listening pleasure here is the first installment of Ecotopia:
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A final note. In addition to creating and sharing the audiobook, I am also working on another project to expand on the story of William Weston. For the longest time, I thought the way to expand the audience for this wonderful book was to create a theatrical movie version of Ecotopia. This idea is also mentioned in a couple of the videos in the Ernest Callenbach playlist mentioned above. I have discussed this idea with numerous people that I thought could help make that a reality. Those discussions did not produce anything beyond fun brainstorming sessions. That is until I had the conversation with friend and senior creative marketing manager, Tom Turpel. He explained that making a movie would be too costly and complex. It was his follow-up suggestion that lit the fire and started to reveal the path that I am now taking. All around us and all over the world are people, groups, and communities that are creating solutions to our largest challenges: climate change, economic disparity, engaging education, and energy independence to name a few. Many of these resemble the solutions proposed in Ecotopia.
Therefore, I will live as a modern day, and real-world, William Weston. The style Callenbach used in the book had two angles, Weston's published newspaper article, and Weston's personal diary entries. I am utilizing this framework, and expanding using modern tools available. This blog I consider to be the personal diary perspective. In general, I will share the personal adventures, discoveries, struggles, and joys. For the journalistic view points, I have started an eBook, "Searching for Ecotopia". In this book I will follow the story line of Ecotopia, and share research and analysis of present parallels. Being an eBook, I will be able to release the book before it is finished, and provide updates as each chapter gets completed, or add updates. Because of the digital platform, I will also be to included videos and interactive artwork to provide an engaging experience.
I plan to release the fist chapter of the book by the end of this summer. Be the first to get access by subscribing to my newsletter. If you have an idea, project, or interest in helping with the book, please fill out the interest form here: