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Sustaining change: Stories of The Great Turning book review

By 6th May 2019No Comments

It’s been a few months now since my last formal Carbon Conversation with PLANT and I was feeling the loss. It’s difficult to keep going on your own, I find, and although a few of us had vowed to keep in touch and meet up informally, with the best of intentions and busy lives it just hasn’t happened. So, for me, the next best thing is to keep my carbon journey supported by reading some books around the topic. The first one I turned to was, Stories of the Great Turning, a collection of articles written by people, like myself, who are trying to sustain changes to their way of life that doesn’t damage the planet.

The first article was spot on for me. It tells about the long and difficult struggle a small community group had to change a derelict plot of land in Oxford into a community garden. Sound familiar?? The author describes the dreams, vision and hard work involved in transforming the space with honesty and humour – one of the sub-headings is, Another spanner in the works. I’m glad to say, like our own wonderful team at PLANT, the journey eventually led to a community garden which continues to evolve. One of the regulars says, ‘There is something about the space that holds a sense of happiness. It makes me feel hopeful the world can be a better place.’ A sentiment I wholeheartedly share about our own Tayport Community Garden.

This opening article sets the tone of the stories. Most are first hand accounts of personal journeys, outlined in straightforward, accessible text. Some are about apparently mundane choices, like the mother who struggles with the issue of eco nappies! Others are at the extreme end of the spectrum with an account by a couple who chose to ‘give it all up’, buy a farm and live ‘off the land’. The 4th article, Knickers to That! particularly resonated with me! Let me explain, please! It was a critique of our throw away, fast fashion industry. As someone who enjoys clothes and accessories, it reinforced my own, ‘two steps forward and three steps back’ attempts to address (no pun intended!) the sustainability/ethical choices around the clothes I chose to wear.

It’s not a book to read in one go. But it is, I think, worth reading all the testimonies which are consistently inspirational and truthful about the challenges of living more sustainably. They gave me a sense of, you are not alone…that there are other folk out there with the same values as myself and they shine a light, as our very own PLANT does, on what is possible. The only part of the book I was a wee bit unsure of, was the authors introduction and conclusion. I’m wary of expressions like, ‘shift in consciousness’, ‘new paradigms’ and ‘sacred living body of Earth’. I’m much more convinced by the practical and factual. Having said that, it’s not a book full of facts, figures and percentages: another of my pet hates when it comes to climate change literature. Neither is it a ‘scolding’ book, if you know what I mean? I didn’t read it and feel chastised that I wasn’t doing enough or playing my part, rather it was reassuring about the complications and emotional choices we are faced with today.

As an arty sort of a person (!!) I liked the middle section by various artists responding visually to the notion of caring for our planet. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, and I’m aware I may be contradicting myself, as there is a fair bit of ‘artist speak’ accompanying the pictures. Still, I think it is worth including in the book.
You can make your own mind up about, Stories of the Great Turning, (Vala Publishing, Bristol) by borrowing it from PLANT and sharing your views on this site. I’d be interested to know what others think of it.


Are you inspired to take some steps to a greener you? Join our Carbon Conversation workshops – more information is available here. Our next workshop series is starting in the autumn.

We have a small library of climate change related books, including kids books. You can see the online catalogue here. Get in touch with Kaska on if you’d like to borrow any:)


I grew up on a farm in the NE of Scotland so have always had a close affinity to land and growing my own food. As a family we ate only what was in season and preserved fruit and vegetables if there was a glut. I am still passionate about cutting air miles on the food I eat. I’m lucky to live close to the Tayport Community Garden and pop in regularly for advice and produce.

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