Ecotopia

When I was a teen, my parents’ church (I guess it was “my” church as well, but religion never really “took” with me, except extremely briefly) held summer youth camps, and I attended one at Loon Lake in southern Oregon. We slept in tipis and went on hikes and swam, and I learned that there was at least one other person my age as nerdy as myself. Actually he was more nerdy, though we never stayed in touch (I’m terrible at that). There wasn’t a huge amount of overt biblical stuff, which was a blessing (yes, I see what I’ve done there). Southern Oregon has a characteristic resinous aroma that I have always found intoxicating, so whenever I visit there I am infused with reminders of my church camp trip (and other trips: Oregon Caves, Crater Lake, the sequoia country of southern Oregon and northern California).

On the drive there to drop me off, we stopped for a break in some town that boasted a new-agey (this was at least a decade before I myself was conversant with the term “new-age”) store that also carried comics (I was really into Marvel comics at the time; I’m even related to Jack Kirby’s favorite inker!). In there I stumbled upon a volume of the magazine Seriatim – The Journal of Ecotopia. I was pretty much already an environmentalist by then and the magazine sort of looked like like it was of that genre (I thought maybe they were alluding to “environmental utopia” but that’s not quite it). As I flipped through I slowly realized that their conceit was the idea of the Pacific Northwest seceding from the US and Canada.

Now, growing up in rural Oregon, my first reaction was to wonder if I was about to be arrested for treason. Boy was my heart beating as I squinted furtively around looking for Federal agents. Ultimately, though, as with most of my first half-century, I succumbed without much resistance to my desire for forbidden pleasures, and bought it, hiding it from my parents among some Thor, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, or Tomb of Dracula. Soon thereafter I found and read Callenbach’s novel. I may even have ordered it from my local Odyssey Books, perhaps 2.5% of whose used fantasy/science fiction mass market paperback traffic ended up in my bedroom. Eventually I subscribed to the magazine after buying a few issues retail from another new-agey bookstore in a nearby somewhat larger town than my own. Seriatim was sincere (if somewhat vapid), but didn’t get enough subscribers or article submissions, or so I infer, as they failed soon after I subscribed.

Anyway, my confirmation bias towards anything remotely Ecotopian has been hyperactive ever since, for example the notion of the “bioregion” called Cascadia (which encompasses a much larger area than depicted in the novel). I love David McCloskey’s Cascadia map and although I kind of abhor the whole flag thing, I find “the Doug” attractive, even if its symbolism seems to ignore much of the intended region, with an over-limiting tricolor background. If you hope to secede (a pointless goal, I think, but ripe for fantasy-fictional thoughts) you might want to present as more unified. I often write a bit of doggerel when I have vague thoughts about vague notions, and the Doug is no exception:

The Green Goodbye

(blue: sky/water) (green: growth) (snow/cloud white)
if we’re to leave together let’s not fight
desert dryland lava shrub-steppe scrub
I want to be a member of your club

two greens? there’s space, that bottom ribbon band,
to tell the world how varied is our land
the color-combo “blue-white-green”’s a drug:
brown’s the color missing from the Doug

4 thoughts on “Ecotopia”

  1. I was just considering a blog so as not to impose on my friends’ inboxes. With a genius like you in the blogosphere, mine would be a band of debris. But totally loved your eco-history. I’m a little slow, so will have to get all granular and look up the Doug . I guess that poetry for you. Doggerel is supposed to be for us groundlings.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. I recall finding Ecotopia in the early 1980s, probably via “Nine Nations of North America”. Some of the ideas are coming to fruition, such as ride share bikes. I look forward to your future posts, glad to hear from you and read your thoughts.

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