Ernest Callenbach’s 1975 novel “Ecotopia” described a mythical nation carved out of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States – Washington, Oregon and Northern California – on the premise of environmental stewardship.
As summarized in Wikipedia, “The book is set in 1999 … and consists of diary entries and reports of journalist William Weston, who is the first American mainstream media reporter to investigate Ecotopia, a small country that broke away from the United States in 1980. Prior to Weston’s reporting, most Americans had been barred from entering the new country, which is depicted as being on continual guard against revanchism.”
Wikipedia adds, “the reader learns about the Ecotopian transportation system and the preferred lifestyle that includes a wide range of gender roles, sexual freedom and acceptance of non-monogamous relationships. Liberal cannabis use is evident. Televised mass-spectacle sports are displaced due to a preference for local arts, participatory sports, and general fitness.”
Continuing, “Ecotopian society has favored decentralized and renewable energy production and green building construction. The citizens are technologically creative, while remaining involved with and sensitive to nature. Thorough-going education reform is described, along with a highly localized system of universal medical care.”
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because California, Washington and Oregon, appear to be implementing, one piece at a time, Ecotopia’s major tenets. And that’s been particularly true in the last year, since Donald Trump was elected president and Republicans solidified their holds on Congress and on a strong majority of state governments.
Some have described what’s happening on the Pacific Coast as the erection of a “blue wall” – or even a “green wall” – as a barrier to unwanted political and cultural trends elsewhere in the nation.
California Gov. Jerry Brown’s extended tour of Europe this month, setting forth California’s rebellion from Washington on climate change policy, exemplifies the rupture.
Brown and other California politicians make headlines by declaring on an almost daily basis their disdain for what’s happening in the rest of the nation and their insistence on going it alone. But a local election in a wealthy suburb of Seattle last week may have made the blue wall a political reality.
Democrats picked up a seat in Washington’s state Senate, giving them a majority, and thus solidifying the party’s total control of governorships and both legislative houses in all three Pacific Coast states.
Minutes after Democrat Manka Dhingra, a deputy King County prosecutor, claimed victory over Republican businesswoman Jinyoung Lee Englund, Washington state’s Democratic leaders announced an ambitious agenda of liberal legislation, perhaps including new taxes.
Meanwhile, Democratic politicians in all three states are musing the possibilities for putting more mortar and bricks into the blue wall by enacting three-state policies that differ sharply from the Trump-led national government. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, the New York Times reported, “harbors dreams of enacting a muscular carbon pricing plan along with California, Oregon and officials in Canada.”
So how high could the blue wall rise? Could it even lead to the Ecotopian rebellion that Callenbach depicted, one that included development of a strong defensive military and even hidden, highly destructive weapons within United States’ population centers to discourage any effort to reclaim the new nation?
That doesn’t seem likely, but the left coast – geographically and ideologically – seems bent on challenging the inherent conflict between the U.S. Constitution’s federal supremacy clause and its 10th Amendment protecting states’ rights. And where it leads is anyone’s guess.
CALmatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/articles/author/dan-walters. Dan Walters: firstname.lastname@example.org