The best ecotopian adventures (and misadventures)

Who am I?

Officially a professional philosopher, author of fifteen books and textbooks on a wide range of subjects including ethics, critical and creative thinking, social change, and teaching. Wikipedia calls them “unconventional”, but honestly I prefer the ad copy for my own modest ecotopian book, which calls me a philosophical provocateur. My green credentials start with growing up in the Wisconsin countryside under the distant influence of both Frank Lloyd Wright and Aldo Leopold; later, long wilderness trips intertwined with edgy environmental philosophizing (you need some real edges for that!); and over the last decade the endlessly consuming project of designing and building Common Ground Ecovillage in the Piedmont of North Carolina.

I wrote...

Mobilizing the Green Imagination: An Exuberant Manifesto

By Anthony Weston,

Book cover of Mobilizing the Green Imagination: An Exuberant Manifesto

What is my book about?

Beyond today’s desperate attempts to “green” the status quo could lie far more inventive and inviting ecological visions. Imagine cities that welcome the rising winds and waters. Imagine ways of building that keep us close to other creatures and the seasons and the stars, rather than cut us off from them. Decentralized work, artful infill and semi-self-sufficient small-scale communities can facilitate life in place – no more massive transportation infrastructure! No more trash, either: instead, many things can be “dematerialized”, others made to keep forever...  or to turn into fertilizer overnight. And why not a green space program? I believe that much of the reason for today’s unwillingness to recognize and respond to the ecological emergency is that many people cannot even begin to envision any kind of appealing or livable alternative world. What opens up if the possibilities turn out to be wonderful?

The books I picked & why

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By Ernest Callenbach,

Book cover of Ecotopia

Why this book?

Philosopher Ernest Callenbach’s novel originated the ecotopia genre as well as the term itself, pioneering many green ideas, even as basic as sustainability: Callenbach called it “steady-state society”, and imagined some of the radical forms it might take (they’re still radical, alas), weaving them together into a story that is occasionally cringe-worthy (in hindsight, you know) but nonetheless paints a compelling and informative picture of an alternative, thoroughly environmentalist society.

PS. Will Weston, the protagonist, is no relation... though that was my grandfather’s name...

Dreaming the Biosphere

By Rebecca Reider,

Book cover of Dreaming the Biosphere

Why this book?

The picture turns complex and darker with this detailed and utterly fascinating history of the cult (not to mince words) behind the conception and construction of the fabled and (sort of) failed Biosphere 2 in the red desert (could have been Mars) near Tucson, as well as its first (and it turned out only) 2-year “mission”. Guess what is Biosphere 1? And to what extent this multi-billion-dollar experimental human-inhabited terrarium was a trial run for escape from it?

Climate: A New Story

By Charles Eisenstein,

Book cover of Climate: A New Story

Why this book?

Eisenstein argues for an environmentalism ultimately of love, in place of the current preoccupation with climate change and carbon emissions and putting down the “deniers”... who might actually have a few good points. The shareable and tender common ground behind all of this is the living and maybe even sentient Earth that so many people, on all sides of today’s bitter contentions, achingly remember – some woods or stream from their youth, some tree they loved and climbed daily, later unceremoniously removed in the name of “progress” – or might allow themselves to love if they themselves did not feel just as trashed just as it is. All of this heartlessness must be – and can be – healed together.

Arcology: The City in the Image of Man

By Paolo Soleri,

Book cover of Arcology: The City in the Image of Man

Why this book?

Architect-philosopher Paolo Soleri writes in an oracular style introducing his way-outsized book of designs for hyper-dense, concrete-megastructure cities in the deserts or oceans or even in space, none actually realized except for a very small prototype called “Arcosanti” in the high plateaus north of Phoenix, a campus that could have been built in a summer by a middle-sized reinforced-concrete contractor but in fact has been slowly erected by trainee-volunteers and a diehard community of followers over the last half-century. But there is something to it. “Tightly-woven minimalist packages will become mandatory.” I recommend the tabloid-sized original edition: it fits the buildings.

Genesis: An Epic Poem of the Terraforming of Mars

By Frederick Turner,

Book cover of Genesis: An Epic Poem of the Terraforming of Mars

Why this book?

How many times have I reread it? Science/futurist fiction in the style of an Odyssey-scale and -style epic poem about (yes) the terraforming of Mars, a spectacular interplanetary saga framed against the background of the struggle against a misanthropic and authoritarian “Ecotheism” that has taken over Earth, and ending with a long and compelling hymn to the result, a new start on our transformed sister planet. Ecotopia, in short... on Mars!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in utopian, global warming, and environmentalism?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Aurora, Oil, Water, and Climate: An Introduction, and The Ecological Rift: Capitalism's War on the Earth if you like this list.