Written in the 1970s at the height of the last eco-craze, Ernest Callenbach's classic utopian novel Ecotopia will intrigue anyone who wants to see what a sustainable environmentalist country might look like. Surprisingly prescient, and unafraid to look at the dark side of eco-fanaticism, Callenbach shows us a believable alternate United States whose commitment to things like public transportation, zero emissions, and recycling has paid off.

The nation of Ecotopia has been isolated from the United States for 20 years, but at last they've agreed to let in one American reporter to see their secretive nation. Once known as Northern California, Oregon and Washington, Ecotopia wrested its independence from the US in a fierce helicopter war over the Sierra Nevadas. Now ruled by an all-female government, Ecotopia runs a stable-state economy aimed at maintaining total harmony with the environment. Market Street in San Francisco has become a river again. People all have access to computers, they work only 20 hours per week, and have nice houses that can be mulched in an instant. African-Americans run all the prisons. There are no sexual taboos. And every once in a while, a bunch of men get together, do drugs, and kill each other just to get their war urges out.


Violence hasn't gone away, and in some ways Ecotopia can only exist because the rest of the world continues to chug along in its polluted, industrial-capitalist state. Reporter Will Weston is repulsed, but eventually seduced, by what he finds when he crosses the border into this strange new land.

Ralph Nader endorsed Ecotopia when it came out because it's one of those rare books that works as a political treatise while also being a damn entertaining read. If you're looking for another world to visit during this time of conspicuous consumption, Ecotopia is the ticket.