Alan Marshall (New Zealand author)

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Alan Marshall as he appears in a 2018 article about future cities published in the Swiss newspaper 'NZZ am Sonntag'
Alan Marshall in 2018 as shown in Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag

Alan Marshall is a New Zealand author, artist and scholar working within the discipline of environmental studies. He is noted as a key scholar in environmental philosophy[1][2] and for his investigations into sustainable cities of the future[3]. For his research on these topics, the University of Wollongong awarded Marshall a doctorate and National Geographic assigned him as an explorer. Marshall has undertaken projects within institutes all around Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, he's held fellowships at the State University of Nizhny Novgorod (Russia), IAS-STS (Austria), Prešov University & UPJŠ (Slovakia), Masaryk University (Czech Republic), KUSTAR (Abu Dhabi), Nirex UK (Great Britain), Curtin University of Technology (Australia), and Mahidol University (Thailand).

Major projects[edit]

In the 1990s Alan Marshall developed a postmodern version of the Human–Nature relationship,[4] one that throws into doubt the very concepts of 'Humanity' and 'Nature'.[5]  Marshall's approach is heavily influenced by the science of ecology but has been criticized as privileging one school of ecology, i.e., 'community ecology', over others such as systems ecology and the ecology of Gaia.[6] His book The Unity of Nature[7] is one of the fiercest critiques of Systems Theory in general, and Gaia Theory and Chaos Theory in particular.

In 2006, Alan Marshall founded The Ecomimicry Project which tries to meld ecology with Green innovation, sustainable art, and the ethics of environmentalism.[8]

Examples of designs that emerged from this project include:

  • a Hemp Sail Battle Cruiser for the Royal Australian Navy (in which a navy ship had its engines 'designed-out' and in their stead it is powered by sails made from eco-friendly hemp)
  • a manure-powered swimming pool heating system (in which a luxury pool is heated by the composted body waste of the swimmers)
  • a hairy-roofed Carpathian mountain village where the architecture is adorned with an engineered protective material that mimics the fur of local brown bears.

These designs were compiled into Marshall's Wild Design book and then praised by the Australian art & design media.[9][10]

In January 2013, Marshall started the 'Ecotopia 2121' project; which (as noted by CNN[11] and The Independent[12]) explores 'graphic future scenarios' of 100 'super-ecofriendly' cities across the world. In 2015, the master-class part of this project conducted at Mahidol University was awarded the 2015 Kenneth M. Roemer Innovative Course Design Award by the Society for Utopian Studies. Ecotopia 2121, the book of the project written and illustrated by Marshall, has attracted broad critical acclaim.[13][14][15][16] The Times Higher Education review of Ecotopia 2121 stated "very few academics ever produce anything as stunning and imaginative as this"[17], whilst the Daily Mail[18], National Geographic[19] Al Jazeera[20], ZMEScience[21], LRT and Publishers Weekly[22] declared it 'visionary', 'thought-provoking' and 'curious and creative'. Ecotopia 2121 was put on Resurgence and Ecologist magazine's Book of the Year list[23], won a Silver Medal at the 2017 Nautilus Book Awards and placed 1st in the 'Future Forecasts' category of the 2016 Green Book Festival, whilst the 'London 2121' cityscape from the book was chosen by the Museum of London to be displayed within their 2018 London Visions exhibition[24]. A technophile reviewer in Strange Horizons[25], in contrast, indicated that Ecotopia 2121 was 'offensive fluff' without 'seriousness' and warned people 'not to read it under any circumstance'.

Marshall is also widely referred to as a critic of the car industry[26], of the nuclear industry[27] and of space exploration.[28] His writings on the latter subject have been cited as insightful but are usually regarded by scientists and engineers as being too radically 'environmental'[29][30][31] especially his calls for the protection of the Martian landscape.[32]

In early 2016, Marshall began a new project in urban ecology called Frankencities[33][34] which details the worst-case scenarios of emerging environmental problems in a series of cities around the world whilst comparing them to the insights offered by the Dr. Frankenstein story.[35] With projects such as these, Marshall has often been labeled as 'anti-science'. In response, he has explained he is a 'science critic' and not 'anti-science' (in the same manner that a 'film critic' is not 'anti-film').

For the Frankencities project and for the Ecotopia 2121 project, Marshall developed a novel urban design methodology known as 'The Literary Method of Urban Design', which is not so much about design but more about inventing new social change strategies[36].


Alan Marshall is an award-winning writer of fiction. His works of fiction include an historical novel, Lancewood, about an iconic New Zealand plant, and a science fiction radio drama called This Pointless Thing Called Life that was broadcast on NPR and XM Satellite Radio in the USA. In 2001 This Pointless Thing Called Life received the "Silver Award" from the Mark Time Awards by a panel that included Grammy-award winner Phil Proctor.[37]

Along with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, This Pointless Thing Called Life was nominated for a Vogel Award in the category "Best Long Form dramatic science fiction and fantasy production made in New Zealand in the year 2002".[38][39] Like his scholarly writings, Marshall's fiction explores the relationships between "humans and technology" and between "humans and nature".

The sequel to "This Pointless Thing Called Life" was another award-winning full-length radio feature broadcast in four parts on XM Satellite and by some NPR stations in 2003. This sequel was titled "This Miserable Thing Called Life".


  • Alan Marshall (2016) Ecotopia 2121: A Vision of Our Future Green Utopia -- in 100 Cities, Arcade Publ: NY. ISBN 9781628726008
  • Alan Marshall (2009) Wild Design: Ecofriendly Innovations Inspired by Nature, North Atlantic Books: Berkeley. ISBN 978-1-55643-790-8
  • Alan Marshall (2006) Dangerous Dawn: The New Nuclear Age, BNI: Melbourne.
  • Alan Marshall (2002) The Unity of Nature, Imperial College Press/World Scientific: London & Singapore ISBN 1-86094-330-6
  • Alan Marshall (1999) Lancewood, Indra Publishers: Melbourne. ISBN 0-9585805-1-0


  1. ^ Oliphant, J. et al.(2011) AQA Religious Ethics for AS and A2, Routledge,978-0-203-83021-5: pp222.
  2. ^ Newman, J. (2011). "Green Philosophy: an A to Z Guide". Sage.
  3. ^ National Geographic Russia (2018) Экотопия 2121: очертания будущего, 19 февраля 2018
  4. ^ Marshall, A (1998) 'A Postmodern Natural History of the World, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science', Part C, Vol. 34 Part C, No 1, 137-164
  5. ^ Marshall, A (2002) 'The Unity of Nature: Wholeness and Disintegration in Ecology and Science', Imperial College Press/World Scientific: London & Singapore.
  6. ^ de Laplante, K. (2004) Environmental Alchemy: How to turn Ecological Science into Ecological Philosophy, Environmental Ethics, Vol 26, Winter Issue.
  7. ^ Alan Marshall (2002) The Unity of Nature, Imperial College Press/World Scientific: London & Singapore.
  8. ^ See, for instance: A. Marshall (2007) ‘The Theory and Practice of Ecomimicry’, Sustaining Gondwana Working Paper Series, Issue 3, publlished by Curtin University of Technology: Perth, or A. Marshall (2009) ‘Wild Design: The Ecomimicry Project’, published by North Atlantic Books: Berkeley.
  9. ^ Downton, P. (2009) Review of Wild Design, Artlink, Vol. 29, No. 4.
  10. ^ Wakely, M (2009) Design Inspired By Nature, ABC Radio National's By Design program.
  11. ^ CNN (2017) Utopian cities of the future re-imagine life on Earth, CNN Style/Architecture, January 2017
  12. ^ Blair, O. (19 January 2017). "What will London and LA will look like in 2121?". The Independent.
  13. ^ EuroScientist, Science in Society (27 June 2016). "Journeys Toward Ecotopia 2121". EuroScientist. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  14. ^ World Economic Forum, WEF Agenda (2017-02-10). "Visions of Our Future Cities". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  15. ^ Loewe, E. (2018) This Is How Cities Of The Future May Deal With Climate Change, MindBodyGreen, Feb.13th, 2018.
  16. ^ G. Marino (2018) 'Fantasia al potere. Il futuro verde radicale di Ecotopia 2121' in Materia Rinnovabile, No 23-24.
  17. ^ Dorling, Danny (November 2016). "Review of 'Ecotopia 2121: Visions of Our Future Green Utopia'". Times Higher Education. 24 Nov 2016.
  18. ^ Dean, Sarah (2018) Is this how the world will look like in 2121? Daily Mail, 27 January 2018.
  19. ^ Strochlic, N. (2018). "Here's What Our Cities Could Look Like in 2121". National Geographic. Vol. 233 (2).
  20. ^ Al Jazeera (2018) A 'Utopian Cities' project helps to imagine a global environmental future, Al Jazeera, Doha, May 2018 (in Arabic).
  21. ^ A. Micu, ''Ecotopia 2121 shows what perfectly eco-friendly cities would look like" ZMEScience, Jan 29th 2018.
  22. ^ "Review of 'Ecotopia 2121'". Publishers Weekly. Earth Day 2017.
  23. ^ "Resurgence • Article - Our Books of the Year". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  24. ^ Aravani, F. (17 January 2018), London Visions: what does your future London look like?, Museum of London
  25. ^ "Strange Horizons: A Magazine of Speculative Fiction".
  26. ^ Marshall, A. (2015) 'Ecotopia 2121: Car-free Cities of the 22nd Century', Environment and Natural Resources Journal. Vol 13, No.1,pp.28-38
  27. ^ See, for example: A. Marshall (2005) 'The Social and Ethical Aspects of Nuclear Waste', Electronic Green Journal, Issue 21, (Earth Day Issue); or A. Marshall (2005) ‘Questioning the Motivations for International Repositories for Nuclear Waste, Global Environmental Politics, Vol. 5, No. 2, May 2005, pp. 1-7; or A. Marshall (2006) Dangerous Dawn: The New Nuclear Age, BNI/FoE: Melbourne, or A. Marshall (2008) 'Leaving Messages about Our Radioactive Waste for Future Generations', in A. P Latiffer, ed, Nuclear Waste Research, Nova Publishers, pp37-46.
  28. ^ See, for example: A. Marshall (2000) ‘The Search for Extraterrestrial Us: the Biases of SETI’, Australasian Science, Vol. 21, No 3, April issue, pp36-37; and A. Marshall (1995) ‘Development and imperialism in space’, Space Policy, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp41-52; and A. Marshall(1993) 'Ethics and the extraterrestrial environment', Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 10, No 2, pp227-237.
  29. ^ Almar, I. (2002) 'What could COSPAR do to protect the planetary and space environment?', Advances in Space Research', Volume 30, Issue 6, 1577–1588.
  30. ^ Fogg, MJ (2000) 'The ethical dimensions of space settlement', Volume 16, Issue 3, 16 July 2000, Pages 205–211
  31. ^ "Cosmic Preservationist". New Scientist. 3 January 2003.
  32. ^ McArthur, Dan and Idil Boran, "Agent-Centered Restrictions and the Ethics of Space Exploration" in Journal of Social Philosophy vol. 35 No. 1 (Spring 2004) pp. 148–163.
  33. ^ Strochlic, N. (2018). "Voici à quoi pourraient ressembler nos villes en 2121". National Geographic. 233 (2): 28.
  34. ^ Micu, A. (2018) Ecotopia 2121 shows what perfectly ecofriendly cities may look like, ZMEScience, 29 January 2018
  35. ^ Marshall, A. et al, "Frankencities: Urban Horrorscapes of Our Near Future" in Urban Transcripts Journal, Vol. 1 No. 3 (Autumn 2017)
  36. ^ Marshall, A. (2018) 'The Fantasy Method of Urban Design', Diseña 12, February 2018 issue -- available in Spanish and English via Diseña.
  37. ^ "Mark Time/Ogle Award winners". Mark Time Awards. Jerry Stearns, David Ossman. 2001. Retrieved 22 Sep 2012.
  38. ^ "Sir Julius Vogel Award Nominations - 2002". SFFANZ. Retrieved 22 Sep 2012.
  39. ^ "Sir Julius Vogel Nominees List". The LOCUS Index to SF Awards. Mark R. Kelly and Locus Publications. Archived from the original on 2012-10-06. Retrieved 22 Sep 2012.