'Rethink, repair and rebuild'

Natalie Bennett speaking at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign event. Image: Palestine Solidarity Campaign. 



A review of Change Everything: How We Can Rethink, Repair and Rebuild Society by Natalie Bennett.


In pursuit of greener lifestyles, many of us have probably already made changes such as giving up air travel or reducing plastic use. Some have gone further, trying to live off-grid and be self-sufficient. 

But most of us recognise that personal changes, while hugely important, are not enough to tackle the urgent environmental crises we face. We must engage with the broader political process in order to change the wider society. 

This article first appeared in the Resurgence & Ecologist magazine.

That broader political process is full of dilemmas. What exactly do we want to change, and what is needed to win political support for greener ways of living?


Politician and journalist Natalie Bennett long ago threw in her lot with the Green Party as offering the way forward into the political processes, and her answer to what needs changing is equally unequivocal: the title of her new book says it all. 

And if charm and enthusiasm were enough to win over more reluctant citizens to a programme of radical change, she would be a strong contender for the challenge. She demonstrated that she had both qualities by the bagful during her leadership of the UK Green Party between 2012 and 2016.

Change Everything reads a bit like that work in progress. It is essentially a manifesto – delivered with great gusto – of what a green perspective would look like across a wide array of subjects, some rather unexpected: financial services, housing, benefits, education, reparation for slavery, and GDP, to name but a few. 

It’s a dizzying ride at times, but Bennett advises, in her typical relaxed style, that the reader can, and indeed should, dip into the book. “I want readers to go away and act – not be stuck for too long with me.”

Out now!


The formative ideas behind Bennett’s manifesto will be familiar to Resurgence & Ecologist readers: the idea that the pursuit of economic growth is unsustainable on a planet of finite resources, and that the pursuit of endless growth has unleashed unregulated competition, leading to declining standards of living, poor health and greater unhappiness. 

The theories of degrowth and overconsumption exert a strong influence, from her plea for a universal basic income to education for life to replacing GDP with a Happiness Index.

What is perhaps more unexpected is how much of Bennett’s frame of reference is that of Westminster political parties, especially surprising given how damning she is of the existing political structures as fundamentally undemocratic. “The UK is not a democracy,” she asserts. 

She favours more referenda, constitutional assemblies and proportional representation. Yet her focus is on Westminster politics, so there’s surprisingly little about the climate and biodiversity crises, or the people campaigning more directly on these issues.


Reading this book made me think about why, although supporting the Green Party on many issues and in many elections, I’ve never joined it. 

Part of the explanation comes down to finding it too much preoccupied with the usual political subjects, meaning that sometimes its core message of environmental protection isn’t always at the foreground. 

And sometimes the policies advanced on the wider social issues are barely indistinguishable from radical socialist policies, which are very attractive but don’t always go down well with the wider populace and are rarely vote winners.

There are too many people for whom the state of Nature and the lack of environmental protection don’t matter, and some, even, who have begun to regard ‘Nature protection’ as disadvantageous to their living standards. 

Before there’s much chance of changing everything with a radical social agenda, those people require more awareness about Nature, our interconnectedness and our deep reliance on those connections.

This Author

Ros Coward is an author and journalist who has been a columnist on The Guardian and The Observer as well as a regular contributor to Resurgence & Ecologist. She is an Emerita Professor of Journalism at Roehampton University. A collection of her articles on environmental issues is published under the title Nature Matters (Desman Books, 2016). This article first appeared in the Resurgence & Ecologistmagazine.

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