"Ecotopia" is a futuristic novel about a country based on a "stable-state ecosystem." Ecotopia was formed when Northern California, Washington and Oregon seceded from the union of the United States. The new nation is an economical utopia with advanced methods of energy conservation and work ethics. Since its secession from the United States no American tourists have been allowed to cross its border. Now, twenty years later, Ecotopia has officially allowed the first American visitor into the country. The Times Post has sent international affairs reporter William Weston on a six-week investigative mission into Ecotopia where he will report on the economy and the lifestyle and dispel what will prove to be outlandish rumors regarding life in Ecotopia.
Because Ecotopia prohibits airplanes from entering its territory on the grounds of air and noise pollution, William Weston arrives at the Reno airport where he must take a taxi ride to the Ecotopian border. At the border, the guards question Weston with an air of suspicion. After checking his gun (because no concealable weapons are allowed in Ecotopia), he is allowed to pass and he drives on to the Tahoe station of the Ecotopian train system. Here Weston encounters his first surprise.
Upon seeing his train Weston remarks, "It looked more like a wingless airplane than a train" (7). Inside the train there were no seats, only beanbag cushions scattered about in no particular fashion. The floor was carpeted and the odor of marijuana hung in the air from the cigarettes being smoked by the passengers. At both ends of the car were bins marked "M," "G" and "P" which Weston learns are recycle bins for metal, glass, and paper and plastic. The train itself operates on magnetic suspension and propulsion so it is quite literally like flying over the ground.
After exiting the train, Weston moves through the train terminal and into the streets of San Francisco where he gets his first real view of Ecotopia. The first thing he notices is the quietness of the street. With the exception of the gentle purr of the electric taxis, minibuses, and delivery carts, there was no "city" noise to speak of. To Weston's surprise, the minibuses have no drivers. They are driven rather by an electronic devise that follows wires buried underneath the streets. Also, they charge no fare. When Weston questions a fellow passenger about this he remarks, "that to have a driver on board to collect fares would cost more than the fares could produce" (12). Those not taking the bus travel by bicycles which are also free to use and can be found anywhere along the streets or on walkways that are suspended in the air and connect to each building in town.
After settling in to his hotel and changing into some more generic and less conspicuous clothes, Weston leaves for a meeting with Ecotopia's Minister of Food. Because the Minister was busy elsewhere, Weston speaks instead with the assistant Minister...