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Ernest Callenbach, 'Ecotopia' Author, Dies At Age 83

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Ernest "Chick" Callenbach, a film scholar who wrote the novel "Ecotopia," a 1975 underground classic that inspired generations of environmentalists and readers yearning for an ecologically sustainable society, has died in California. He was 83.

His wife, Christine Leefeldt, said Thursday he died of cancer on April 16 in Berkeley.

Callenbach initially raised money on his own to self-publish "Ecotopia," a hopeful vision of a new, environmentally conscious nation comprised of Northern California, Oregon and Washington, in which recycling and solar energy were commonplace, and electric cars were the only vehicles allowed.

Later reprinted by Bantam, the book was widely used in college classrooms and went on to sell nearly 1 million copies and be translated into a dozen languages.

"The ideas that came out of `Ecotopia' were so diverse and picked up by so many people that he was always astonished," Leefeldt said. "The thing that made him very, very proud was that it inspired several generations of writers, thinkers, schoolchildren, teachers and environmental groups."

Callenbach grew up on a farm in Williamsport, Pa., and moved to California in his 20s after spending a few years in Paris studying at the Sorbonne and taking in four films a day.

He worked as an assistant editor for University of California Press and founded Film Quarterly in 1958, the prestigious journal he led for 33 years.

He also wrote "Living Cheaply with Style," offering prescient advice to those seeking a simpler life.

After retiring from UC Press, Callenbach devoted himself to gardening at his Berkeley home.

Callenbach is also survived by his two children, five grandchildren and two brothers.

"He was a very interesting guy and a good father, so we won on both those scores," said his son, Hans Callenbach.

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