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, scholar, and artist working within the discipline of environmental studies. He is noted as a key scholar in environmental philosophy[1] and for his investigations into eco-friendly cities of the future.[2] For his research on these topics, the University of Wollongong awarded Marshall a doctorate and National Geographic assigned him as an explorer.

Major projects[edit]

In 2006, Alan Marshall founded The Ecomimicry Project which tries to meld ecology with Green innovation, sustainable art, and the ethics of environmentalism.[3]

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, illustrated by and large by Marshall, were compiled into the Wild Design book and then praised by the Australian art & design media.[4]

In January 2013, Marshall started the Ecotopia 2121 project which (as noted by CNN[5] and The Independent[6]) explores graphic future scenarios of one-hundred super-ecofriendly cities across the world. Many of Marshall's original artworks from the project are on special exhibition at the Bauhaus Museum[7] whilst the "London 2121" cityscape from the project was chosen by the Museum of London to be displayed within their 2018 London Visions exhibition[8] and by the London Design Biennale as part of their 2021 exhibition at Somerset House.[9] 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.

The book of the project, Ecotopia 2121, written and illustrated by Marshall, has attracted broad critical acclaim.[10] The Times Higher Education review of Ecotopia 2121 stated "very few academics ever produce anything as stunning and imaginative as this",[11] whilst National Geographic UK,[12] Al Jazeera,[13] ZMEScience,[14] Lithuanian Radio Television, Forbes,[15] and Publishers Weekly[16] variously declared it "curious and creative", "adventurous", "impressive", "visionary", and "monumental". Ecotopia 2121 was put on Resurgence and Ecologist magazine's Book of the Year list,[17] won a Silver Medal at the 2017 Nautilus Book Awards and placed 1st in the Future Forecasts category of the 2016 Green Book Festival. In turn, the book's "San Diego 2121" cityscape was highlighted on the LA7 TV show Piazza Pulita[18] during the pre-COP26 climate talks, whilst the "Tokyo 2121" cityscape adorned the frontispiece of the book Green Leviathan[19] by Belgian philosopher Mark Coeckelbergh, and the "Macau 2121" cityscape featured in the pages of the popular Arab women's magazine Sayidaty.[20]

In late 2015, Marshall began a new project in urban ecology called Frankencities[21] 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 Frankenstein story. The Daily Express and VICE reported that Marshall's work on Frankenstein extended to critiquing the popular idea that Mary Shelley was inspired to write the original Frankenstein novel because she was affected by a volcanically-induced climate change event known as the Year Without a Summer.[22]

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[23] which is not so much about design but more about inventing new social change strategies.[24] A film scripted by Marshall about this methodology was published by National Geographic Indonesia[25] and became an "official selection" at a number of film festivals across Asia[26] and Europe.[27]

In 2020, Marshall began the Global Sheeplands project which investigates the way sheep have contributed to the making of the modern world.[28] As part of this project, Marshall has made off-screen and on-screen contributions to a two-hour Arte / NDR TV documentary about sheep.[29]

Prior to his 21st century work in the eco-design field, Marshall was mainly involved in eco-philosophy and techno-criticism. In the 1990s, Marshall developed a postmodern version of the Human–Nature relationship,[30] one that throws into doubt the idea that Nature is a united orderly system.[31] Marshall's approach is heavily influenced by the science of ecology but has been criticized[32] as privileging one school of ecology, i.e., plant sociology, over others such as systems ecology and the ecology of Gaia -- both of which he critiques as shallow forms of environmentalism.[33] Indeed, his book The Unity of Nature is one of the fiercest critiques of Systems Theory in general, and Gaia Theory and Chaos Theory in particular.

Marshall is also referred to as a critic of the car industry,[34] of the nuclear industry[35] and of space exploration.[36] His writings on the latter subject have been cited as insightful but are usually regarded by scientists and engineers as being too radically "environmental"[37] especially his calls for the protection of the Martian landscape.


Alan Marshall is also an award-winning writer of fiction; a genre he was very active within from about 1998 to 2002. 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[38] that was broadcast on NPR, KFAI,[39] KUNM,[40] 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[41] who said it was "definitely on a par with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy".

Along with Peter Jackson's The 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".[42][43] 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.[44]


  • Alan Marshall (2016) Ecotopia 2121: A Vision of Our Future Green Utopia -- in 100 Cities, Arcade/Skyhorse 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. ^ A designation given by AQA (see: J. Oliphant et al. AQA Religious Ethics for AS and A2, Routledge,978-0-203-83021-5: pp222., 2011) and by Julie Newman in "Green Philosophy: an A to Z Guide". Sage (2011).
  2. ^ Strochlic, N. (2018). "Here's What Our Cities Could Look Like in 2121". National Geographic. 233 (2).
  3. ^ See, for instance: A. Marshall (2007) ‘The Theory and Practice of Ecomimicry’, Sustaining Gondwana Working Paper Series, Issue 3, published by Curtin University of Technology: Perth, or A. Marshall (2009) ‘Wild Design: The Ecomimicry Project’, published by North Atlantic Books: Berkeley.
  4. ^ See, for example: Downton, P. (2009) Review of Wild Design, Artlink, Vol. 29, No. 4; and Wakely, M (2009) Design Inspired By Nature, ABC Radio National's By Design program.
  5. ^ CNN (2017) Utopian cities of the future re-imagine life on Earth, CNN Style/Architecture, January 2017
  6. ^ Blair, O. (19 January 2017). "What will London and LA will look like in 2121?". The Independent.
  7. ^ See 'Ways to Utopia', a special exhibition at the Bauhaus Museum.
  8. ^ Aravani, F. (17 January 2018), London Visions: what does your future London look like?, Museum of London
  9. ^ London Design Biennale is Back in Design Diffusion, May 4th 2021 edition.
  10. ^ See for example: "Journeys Toward Ecotopia 2121". EuroScientist June 2016 issue; and G. Marino (2018) 'Fantasia al potere. Il futuro verde radicale di Ecotopia 2121' in Materia Rinnovabile, No 23-24. Along with the "Black Panther" movie and Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang" novel, "Ecotopia 2121" was cited in Grist magazine's list of significant cli-fi works of art.
  11. ^ Dorling, Danny (November 2016). "Review of 'Ecotopia 2121: Visions of Our Future Green Utopia'". Times Higher Education. 24 Nov 2016.
  12. ^ Strochlic, N. (2019). "Here's What Our Cities Could Look Like in 2121". National Geographic UK.
  13. ^ Al Jazeera (2018) A 'Utopian Cities' project helps to imagine a global environmental future, Al Jazeera, Doha, May 2018 (in Arabic).
  14. ^ A. Micu, ''Ecotopia 2121 shows what perfectly eco-friendly cities would look like" ZMEScience, Jan 29th 2018.
  15. ^ Hintermayer, N. (2017) Urban Strategies: Utopia, Forbes (Austria), November 7th edn.
  16. ^ "Review of 'Ecotopia 2121'". Publishers Weekly. Earth Day 2017. October 2016.
  17. ^ "Resurgence • Article - Our Books of the Year". Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  18. ^ A video clip of the broadcast is viewable here -- and Piazza Pulita's Instagram post about it is available here.
  19. ^ Mark Coeckelbergh (2021) Green Leviathan: Navigating Freedom in the Age of Climate Change and Artificial Intelligence, Routledge: London.
  20. ^ The World's Cities in 2121, Sayidaty, February 2018 issue (in Arabic).
  21. ^ As reported in: Micu, A (2018) "Ecotopia 2121 shows what perfectly eco-friendly cities would look like" ZMEScience, January issue, and Strochlic, N. (2018). "Voici à quoi pourraient ressembler nos villes en 2121". National Geographic France (In French). 233 (2): 28. See also: Marshall, A. & Kaenkaew, N. (2017) ‘Frankencities: Urban Horrorscapes of Our Near Future', Urban Transcripts Journal Vol. 1, No. 3; and Marshall, A. (2020) "The Cities of Frankenstein: Graphic Scenarios of Looming Urban Horror" Liberal Arts Journal, Vol. 3. No.1, Jan-June, 2020.
  22. ^ A film co-produced by Alan Marshall that introduces the story of the purported connections between the Year Without a Summer and the "Frankenstein" novel was screened at the "Westside Mountain Film Festival" in Epirus, Greece in August 2021. In 2020, Marshall penned an article that critiqued these connections for The Conversation.
  23. ^ See, for example: 'The Literary Method of Urban Design', The Conversation, March 15th 2019.
  24. ^ Marshall, A. (2018) 'The Fantasy Method of Urban Design', Diseña 12, February 2018 issue -- available in Spanish and English via Diseña.
  25. ^ "Memprediksi Perkotaan Masa Depan dengan Bantuan Karya Sastra", National Geographic Indonesia, March 18th, 2019.
  26. ^ The Literary Method of Urban Design movie was screened as part of the Kuala Lumpur Environmental Film Festival (Malaysia), the 9FilmFest (Bangkok, Thailand), and the "To Save and Protect" Ecological Film and TV Festival in Khanty-Mansiysk (Siberia).
  27. ^ For example, The Literary Method of Urban Design movie was part of the Саратовские Страдания Docudrama Film Festival (Saratov, Russia) and the 2021 Edukino festival held at the Zacheta, the Polish National Museum of Contemporary Art.
  28. ^ An article summarizing this project appeared in Wales Arts Review An educational movie directed by Marshall that also summarized the project was screened at the 2021 RAM Film Festival in Rovereto, Italy and was also selected as part of the 12th Edukino film festival held in Warsaw, Poland.
  29. ^ See a preview for this documentary at the NDR website here.
  30. ^ 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
  31. ^ Marshall, A (2002) 'The Unity of Nature: Wholeness and Disintegration in Ecology and Science', Imperial College Press/World Scientific: London & Singapore.
  32. ^ de Laplante, K. (2004) Environmental Alchemy: How to turn Ecological Science into Ecological Philosophy, Environmental Ethics, Vol 26, Winter Issue.
  33. ^ Alan Marshall (2002) The Unity of Nature, Imperial College Press/World Scientific: London & Singapore.
  34. ^ Marshall, A. (2015) 'Ecotopia 2121: Car-free Cities of the 22nd Century', Environment and Natural Resources Journal. Vol 13, No.1,pp.28-38
  35. ^ 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., or A. Marshall (2019) Godzilla and its Evolving Environmental Messages, The Conversation, May 29th, 2019; or Russian Invasion Should Encourage Indonesia to Rethink Its Nuclear Plan, The Conversation, March 28th issue.
  36. ^ See, for example: A. Marshall (2021) 'The Solar System Belongs to Us All - Not Just Jeff Bezos, The Conversation, Dec 13th issue; A. Marshall (2017) 'Fly Me To The Moon -- Why the World Should Be Wary of Elon Musk's Space Race', Business Standard, March 7th issue; 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.
  37. ^ See for example, reviews of Marshall's space ethics in the following articles: Almar, I. (2002) 'What could COSPAR do to protect the planetary and space environment?', Advances in Space Research', Volume 30, Issue 6, 1577–1588; McArthur, D. and Boran, I., "Agent-Centered Restrictions and the Ethics of Space Exploration" in Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring 2004) pp. 148–163; "Cosmic Preservationist", New Scientist, 3 January 2003; and Fogg, M.J. (2000) 'The ethical dimensions of space settlement', Space Policy, Volume 16, Issue 3, 16 July 2000, Pages 205–211.
  38. ^ This audionovel is accessible on YouTube here.
  39. ^ As broadcast on KFAI's 'Sound Affects' show.
  40. ^ As broadcast on KUNM's Zounds show in 2016.
  41. ^ "Mark Time/Ogle Award winners". Mark Time Awards. Jerry Stearns, David Ossman. 2001. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  42. ^ "Sir Julius Vogel Award Nominations - 2002". SFFANZ. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  43. ^ "Sir Julius Vogel Nominees List". The LOCUS Index to SF Awards. Mark R. Kelly and Locus Publications. Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  44. ^ This audionovel is accessible on YouTube here.