Hua Hsu, in The New Yorker, writes, "Perhaps, as Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Brent Ryan Bellamy argue, our inability to imagine another path forward" in the face of climate change "reflects a limited vocabulary. Their modest contribution is the recently published An Ecotopian Lexicon, a collection of essays that seeks to expand the language we use to describe the present-day crisis and its possibilities... An Ecotopian Lexicon is part dream, part provocation... There’s a wonky yet infectious hopefulness to An Ecotopian Lexicon... Reading these entries, each so careful and thoughtful about their small terrain in a larger debate, one can’t help but slow down... An Ecotopian Lexicon, as [Kim Stanley] Robinson notes, is a story. But it’s one with a dozen different endings, bound by a collective push to rethink what we resign to inevitability."
Deborah Dixon, in Science, writes that "An Ecotopian Lexicon offers a fascinating collection of non-English or newly invented words that impart something of the complexities of everyday life in an era of warming skies and oceans, mass degradation, precarity, and insecurity, each of which also helps map a possible future. The stated work of words here is to clarify, diagnose, and stimulate action... This is a book that wants to stir passions, which in turn become a means of realizing desired futures... An Ecotopian Lexicon makes futures with words."
Eric C. Otto, in The Los Angeles Review of Books, writes that "An Ecotopian Lexicon presents 30 loanwords, borrowed from creative and cultural sources, that underscore concepts central to the question of human flourishing in uncertain times. Whether by defamiliarizing the mundane or familiarizing the strange, these loanwords 'change our cognitive maps of the world,' reorienting us to forgotten cultural and ecological histories, meanings, and concepts—or making us aware of them for the first time... The book is a perfect artifact of our complicated present. It reflects the tremendous difficulty we—inheritors of obscenely unjust and unsustainable social and economic structures—encounter in figuring out what to do about climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, freshwater depletion, and other ecological crises... The book is an effective tool for environmentalism because of the questions it raises and the thinking it forces us to do. The editors include a number of visual representations of the book’s lexical content, along with statements from their artists. This enriches the project and suggests the possibility of any of us—students, teachers, parents— continuing the development of an ecotopian vocabulary and body of art to help us conceptualize our responsibilities as socially—and ecologically—embedded citizens of a finite planet, both now and in the future."
Jennifer Ladino, in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, writes that "Wordplay and defamiliarization are old hat to literary studies, but An Ecotopian Lexicon is a unique project [that] invites and rewards re-reading... While An Ecotopian Lexicon ‘creates a dizzying effect’ to match our ‘dizzying time,’ its overall tone is one of ‘wonder and possibility.’ There is so much work to do, and this book reminds us to use all the creative resources at our disposal to do that work as joyfully as possible. ‘Cancel the apocalypse; apocalypso now!’”
Paul Graham Raven, in Extrapolation, writes, "These words are windows into worlds of alterity. It is not the words themselves that we need so much as the fleeting views of possibility that they might afford us... This delightful (if somewhat dark) dictionary of differences represents what might just be the best method we have for mapping the gaps in our conceptual landscape. On that basis, I recommend it wholeheartedly."
Adeline Chia, in ArtReview Asia, writes, "The tenor of most environmental coverage is apocalyptic... Which is why this book, a lexicon of new words via which to address climate change, is such a breath of fresh air. Comprising concepts from sci-fi and loanwords from other languages, the index doesn’t downplay the direness of the ongoing environmental disaster but does give us new perspectives from which to respond to it. Each entry features the loanword and an essay explaining its provenance and application. The texts, which are written mostly by professorial types whose specialties include English literature, anthropology and environmental studies, range from the drearily academic to the gloriously weird. But the entries’ basic messages are: do not despair; be humble; get creative... Crunchy? Maybe a little. But then again, where did the stone-cold rationality of Western Enlightenment get us? Colonialism, misogyny, senseless ecological plunder leading to the apocalypse, etc. In these end times, there is a case for opening your mind to radical alterities."
Elizabeth Bailey, in The Kenyon Review, writes, "Linguistically, what we English speakers need are words to define how we can relate to the environment, to each other, and to our own internal states in the midst of a climate apocalypse. An Ecotopian Lexicon positions itself mid-catastrophe, anticipating our need for words to describe a dissonant present and articulate a desirable future... As a whole, the project strikes an invigorating, forward-leaning stance [and] offers a fresh mode of engaging."
Gardiner Allen Brown, in Ancillary Review of Books, writes, "Climate justice in the broadest sense is clearly a driving force for every essay in the collection, meaning that, critically, this book is not only invested in how these words can change the way we think about our environment, but also in the ways that they can inspire further action... An Ecotopian Lexicon is the kind of book that invites revisiting. Each essay is a kind of short meditation, an invitation to imagine further possibilities not only of language but of engagement with the more-than-human world; even having read it all before, you could easily flip to any of these and encounter something meaningful to reflect on."
George Jacobs, in Language and Ecology, writes, "Dipping into the book An Ecotopian Lexicon, edited by Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Brent Ryan Bellamy, is going to be my Artist’s Date for the next few weeks, and quite an enjoyable and hope-inspiring date it is turning out to be... The climate crisis provides opportunity and impetus for humans to make some of the changes, big and small, that we need to continue to progress. An Ecotopian Lexicon provides us with some of the creativity, language and concepts we need to make these very necessary changes."
Michele Neri, in La Reppublica (the Italian daily newspaper) writes, "How can we better locate, through a vocabulary no longer inspired by neoliberal capitalism, the escape route from the Anthropocene? The necessary words are in a book that is a utopia in the form of a dictionary: An Ecotopian Lexicon. The lexicon contains poetic, esoteric and exotic suggestions. The authors of the individual entries identify their ecological and ecopsychological potential... Do words like apocalypso, cibopathic, fotminne, blockadia, gyebale, sound strange? Of course, because they don't exist; but they could come in handy."
Katarzyna Boni, in Vogue Poland, writes, "I feel that words are starting to run out. I don't want to write only about despair. I can't believe it's the only thing we have left... We just need new tools, a new perspective, new ways of acting. New myths and new dreams... This is a lexicon of new words for new times. Schneider-Mayerson and Bellamy invited a group of writers, scientists and artists to collaborate, asking them to create new words or adapt existing ones from non-English languages to help us think about the future and describe it in a new way. By creating words based on all languages (Norwegian, Arabic, Thai, Bengali and Dolphins appear), they want to point us in a direction—the crisis is global: supranational, supranational, supra-species. So must be the solution."
If you're interested in reviewing An Ecotopian Lexicon, please email the University of Minnesota Press to request a review copy.
"Ecotopian Art amidst Climate Crisis: An Interview with Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Nikki Lindt" by science writer Jena Pincott, for Artists & Climate Change.
Listen to historian Lance Thurner interview Brent Ryan Bellamy and Matthew Schneider-Mayerson in a podcast in the New Books Network. (You can find it in the New Books in Environmental Studies, New Books in Literary Studies, New Books in Politics, New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, and New Books in Critical Theory feeds.)
Listen to anthropologist and herbalist Charis Boke, visual artist Michelle Kuen Suet Fung, and literary critic Sam Solnick discuss "Hope and Art While the World is Falling Apart" in a University of Minnesota Press podcast.
An Ecotopian Lexicon featured in an article in the Straits Times, "Take a Page Out of these Green Books."