The premiere of The Felling at a packed City Hall was a huge success. The film captures the amazing spirit of the tree campaigners who had no choice but to take radical action. They put their bodies on the line risking huge fines and even imprisonment to prevent the needless destruction of our street trees. They stood up to the bullying tactics of the Council who were determined to meet the target of cutting down 17500 trees, despite the huge reputational damage this was doing to our city.
How wonderful it is that the Council have now moved on from the dark days of dawn raids to destroy our trees. We now have an excellent Tree Strategy that ensures our urban forest is managed sustainably. It has been heartening to see new street trees planted in Nether Edge recently, paid for by crowdfunding from local residents. Thanks to the co-operative agreement between the Green and Labour Parties on the Council an inquiry will soon begin under the chairmanship of Sir Mark Lowcock. Hopefully, this will reveal the truths behind the dispute and lead to some reconciliation.
If we are going to protect humanity from the increasing threat of global heating we can learn much from the tactics used by the protestors in the film. Non-violent direct action has once again proved to be successful. These are the tactics that will be necessary to force corporations and governments to act now to reduce our carbon emissions. Do go and watch the film for a masterclass in non-violent direct action. Catch it at the Showroom from April 1st.
The consultation on whether or not the Knife Angel sculpture comes to Sheffield is a good opportunity to have conversations about carrying knives. As a young teacher, I had to remove a knife from a teenager at a school disco. Fortunately, the incident ended without injury, but it could have been so different. Knife Angel is one of several movements teaching about the harmful effects of violent behaviour. We know that every one of these crimes leaves a trail of broken lives and communities needing to heal.
Every person we can turn away from carrying a knife is one less tragedy waiting to happen. If you’re worried that someone you know is carrying or thinking about carrying knives, try to make space for having a talk with them, ask them why, tell them how you feel about it, and try to find alternatives. We all need to think about how we can stop young people from being in situations where carrying weapons is any kind of answer. To have your say on the Knife Angel sculpture coming to Sheffield, see the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit page.
Extinction Rebellion Sheffield is partnered with Extinction Rebellion Université de Goma near the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to enable the two organisations to support and learn from each other. As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world, Hazel Bober spoke to activist Francine Fataki about being a female climate activist in the DRC.
Hi Francine! Can you start by telling us a bit about the Virunga National Park?
The Virunga National Park, in the DRC, was created in 1925, making it the oldest park in Africa. Covering an area of almost 8,000km2, its main objective when it was established was to protect the mountain gorillas.
The park contains a huge variety of ecosystems, stretching from the snow-capped summits of the Ruwenzori Mountains and the active volcanoes of the Virunga mountains to the swamps of Lake Edouard, the alpine forests and the savannah. Virunga is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet and is home to endangered mountain gorillas as well as okapi (also known as zebra giraffes) and elephants.
The park is important for our community in that it provides food for the local population. On a national level, the park is of huge environmental and economic importance.
The park is under constant threat of oil exploitation by fossil fuel companies. What would the consequences be if proposals by this industry go ahead?
Oil exploitation could have negative consequences in 85 per cent of the total area of the National Park.
In terms of environmental impacts, there would be the destruction of ecosystems, loss of biodiversity and certain species would be forced to migrate.
From a socio-economic point of view, we would expect reduced tourism, affecting both the local population and the country as a whole. If drilling goes ahead in Lake Edouard, accidents could cause major pollution and oil spills, affecting the survival of more than 40,000 families living in and around the national park. During the activities carried out by the oil company SOCO we recorded multiple cases of human rights abuse. In short, there will be no positive socio-political outcomes for Congolese people from proposed oil exploitation projects.
Why did you join Extinction Rebellion? What is XR Université de Goma doing to protect the Virunga National Park?
I joined XR to play a part in bringing about positive change. I’m here to say no, loudly and clearly, which most Congolese people don’t get to say! No to oil exploitation in the Virunga National Park and no to the illegal exploitation of the park’s resources. I’m also here to help my community, to raise awareness of the dangers we are facing and to remind them of their rights as Congolese people and as people living near and in the national park. In summary, as activists of XR Université de Goma, we are fighting for the rights of our fellow citizens living in this area and to prevent activities that harm the environment. Here are some of the actions XR Université de Goma has carried out:
Actions on the street and to mobilise people in schools and universities, raising awareness at markets and using performing arts to communicate this cause
Our “Oil, no thank you” campaign in which we blocked roads to companies such as TOTAL, SOCO and EFORA who have been seeking to exploit oil in the Virunga National Park since 2005
Launching a campaign calling for community management of the national park
Tell us about your experiences as a female climate activist in the DRC
To start with, this is Africa where there are certain things women aren’t allowed to do. There’s an idea that activism isn’t for women. So it’s a struggle which is not easy for a woman because nobody understands you – people give you a funny look when you talk to them about environmental issues, given that the population has other pressing issues such as poverty, famine and a lack of drinking water.
Can you tell us about the lives of women in your region?
I live in a zone where there is daily armed conflict and killing, and where women are victims of sexual violence. Women are marginalised and considered objects. I’m telling you this with tears in my eyes – the life of a woman living in the east of this country is a nightmare – it’s hell on earth.
Are women more affected than men by climate change in your country?
I would say so. The majority of women in this region work in agriculture and climate change disrupts the seasons which impacts crop yields. Women are calling for equality but this hasn’t been achieved yet in our society. As a female activist of XR Université de Goma, I’m fighting with all my strength to show other Congolese women that we are capable of playing a role in protecting the environment, just as men are. It’s not easy to find a place in a male-dominated world, but we should never give up.
I was looking recently at paying my Council Tax and to my shock and horror, I found that the Sheffield City Council still banks with Barclays Bank! Why does this matter, you may ask?
Barclays claim that they can make a real contribution to tackling climate change. But they are Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuels.
It has become abundantly clear that if we are to meet the carbon dioxide emission targets set by the International Energy Agency,( the IEA), then we need to stop drilling for new fossil fuels, immediately. That means to stop drilling for new oil and gas fields. The IEA has made its position very clear on this issue. It states that there is no room for new oil-gas fields in its Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 pathway (NZE). And even the advice given by this Agency only gives a 50% chance of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees C. So the Banks absolutely should not be putting money into new fossil fuel exploration.
Two of our high street banks, here in Sheffield, Barclays Bank, along with HSBC, are some of Europe’s worst offenders for continuing to invest in fossil fuel exploration.
Barclays also fund tar sand oils, as well as arctic oil and gas companies. Since the Arctic is warming faster than any place on Earth, the ecosystems there are already under severe pressure. An oil spill in this region would be catastrophic for the unique ecosystem. The oil industry has no effective way of removing oil from the ice.
Additionally, these two banks, HSBC and Barclays, are two of the worst European banks for funding biodiversity loss.
Barclay’s commitment to net-zero by 2050 is greenwashing, Net zero targets are inadequate and are being used by banks such as Barclays to appear climate-friendly by creating targets for the future whilst continuing to support the fossil fuel industries.
Big banks made pledges to stop new investment in 2022. But in spite of this, many banks, including HSBC and Barclays, are still backing new oil and gas exploration.
The latest research by ShareAction shows that HSBC and Barclays have provided US$59 billion, US$48 billion since 2016.
And this is in spite of the well-recognised belief, now, that investment into fossil fuels is a lose-lose situation. The reasons for this are that if demand for fossil fuels decreases, the prices will fall and so the assets become what is known as ‘stranded’; whereby assets become increasingly worthless. (This happened in the US in 2020). If on the other hand demand increases, then the damage caused to the Environment by this increased usage will severely damage the economy.
At COP 26 in Glasgow last year, there were many fine words spoken, but clear measurable action was singularly missing. In the words of Greta Thunberg, there was a lot of bla-bla-bla. Meanwhile, people all over the World are increasingly paying the price for this ongoing fossil fuel exploration. And this is being done in our names.
Barclay’s commitment to net-zero by 2050 is greenwashing, Net zero targets are inadequate and are being used by banks such as Barclays to appear climate-friendly by creating meaningless targets for the future whilst continuing to support the fossil fuel industries.
There has been a large move amongst people who believe that this investment is wrong, to disinvest from Banks that behave like this and move their accounts to banks who don’t do this. Many of the pension schemes have been put under pressure to disinvest from fossil fuels, as have other Institutions, such as Art Galleries, Theatres, Universities and Doctors Colleges.
A small number of Banks have started to restrict financing to oil & gas projects. These Banks deserve us as their clients. See https://switchit.green to find out more.
If you ask most people on the street, ‘are you worried about climate change?’ then most people now say that they are very worried about this. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in October 2021, 75% of adults are worried about the impact of climate change. And yet these big Corporations that make profits for relatively small numbers of people, continue to behave in this ruthless way, disregarding the impact of their greed on people, animals, and ecosystems everywhere, reeking damage that may never be repaired, worsening the Climate Crisis.
The people most impacted by the climate crisis are the ones who have done the least to cause it. This is true in all places, all over the World, including in the UK. Women, working-class people, people of colour, indigenous people, poor people everywhere are the ones who are hardest hit by the Climate crisis that is already well underway, not tomorrow, but now.
This week, Extinction Rebellion will once again be holding protests outside Barclays Bank. This is part of the ‘Better without Barclays’ campaign that is being held around the UK. #BetterWithoutBarclays. They are asking the Banks to stop investing in fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, it is three years since Sheffield declared a climate emergency!!! And what has been done so far to seriously tackle this emergency?
Come on, Sheffield City Council, this is an easy step, stop banking with Barclays!
After campaigning on this for several years I am delighted that Green councillor Alison Teal made the most of her position on the cooperative executive to initiate the process to ban the use of the dangerous herbicide Glyphosate. Coincidentally, Brincliffe, the trial area, is in Nether Edge and Sharrow ward where I am hoping to be elected in May. I look forward to working with residents who live in Brincliffe, helping them understand the importance of this trial. Glyphosate is dangerous to insects, birds and humans. The nature emergency means we need to stop using it for general purposes as soon as possible.
Graham Wroe has been selected as the Green Party candidate for the ward of Nether Edge and Sharrow for the May elections. He aims to replace Councillor Alison Teal who has decided to return to her professional practice in May.
After 40 years of teaching, in Sheffield, Uganda, Barnsley and Rotherham, Graham has retired to concentrate on campaigning and supporting local residents. For the last 20 years he has been teaching maths at Sheffield College and for the last two has combined this with writing a column on environmental issues in the Sheffield Telegraph.
Graham has been involved in many campaigns over the years including the tree dispute, the campaign to stop the Council using Glyphosate on streets and playgrounds and the campaign to shut down the old Bernard Road incinerator.
Graham is a lifelong Trade Union activist and was recently chair of Sheffield College UCU. He is concerned about energy and food poverty in the ward and wants to encourage more local food production and better insulation of homes to save on ever-increasing energy bills.
Unfortunately, my selection means I can no longer write for the Telegraph, but I am pleased to report that a small team has been created to continue writing about the Climate and Ecological Emergency and how this relates to Sheffield in the Telegraph.
I hope you will support my campaign. There will be lots of leaflets to deliver, doors to knock on and social media posts to share. Do get in touch if you would like to help. Now would be a great time to join the Green Party and help us get more Green policies passed at Council.
New routes could connect the Hospitals, Chesterfield, Barnsley, Rotherham, Huddersfield, Totley and Stocksbridge
The arrival of Supertram in 1994 was a great boost for the city, but unlike our dynamic neighbours in Nottingham and Manchester, development has stalled, just at a time when we need fast, high-quality public transport as a viable alternative to more car trips
Transport activist Thomas Atkin has produced a plan to extend the Supertram system.
The cost has been calculated at £1.8 billion pounds. A great deal of money, but this is the sort of ambition that is needed if we are to get people to choose public transport rather than the car, and so meet our net zero carbon targets. Other cities have won large amounts to improve their public transport. The Government has so far allocated £200m to Leeds Supertram but the final costs will be much greater than this. Manchester’s new super tram extension cost £350 million, but with the northern HS2 rail link scrapped, the Government might be looking for other big schemes to shout about.
There are three pre-construction stages to the scheme. First is the design stage, creating plans and visuals and consulting the public. The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority will need to invest in funding for this. Then the Funding stage, where data is analysed and used to apply for funding from Central Government. Thirdly the Preparation stage is where contracts are put out to tender.
A Night Tram, based on London’s night tube and bus services could be run throughout the night from Monday to Saturday supporting NHS staff, shift workers and the night-time economy.
Thomas’s idea is to build in three phases.
Phase One consists of the Dore and Dronfield to City Centre branches, the Purple Route extension to Bradway, the Circular Route links and the Doncaster, Chesterfield to Stocksbridge and the Penistone extensions to the Tram-Train.
Phase Two Construction includes the Burngreave and Walkley, Lodge Moor and Hellaby branches and branches to the City Hospitals and The Wicker. Phase 2 involves some areas of difficulty, especially in the Fulwood, Broomhill and Fir Vale areas, either due to interaction with heavy traffic or with emergency vehicles. In these areas, construction will occur one lane at a time to minimise disruption. Phase 2 also links with the railway in the Darnall area.
Phase Three includes Huddersfield, Elsecar to Barugh Green, Bentley to Lakeside, the Hillsborough Circular Extension and the Stannington Blue Route extension.
I asked Thomas if all goes well and both the new Regional Mayor and the Government fully back the plan, when could it become a reality? 2028 was the most optimistic timescale Thomas could envisage. The scheme is complicated as it needs agreement and cooperation with various councils. In Phase 1 Network Rail jurisdiction could cause delays and the NE Derbyshire fare zone will be complicated. Clive Betts MP has had talks concerning a possible Chesterfield, Eckington Killamarsh line and it appears NE Derbyshire are willing to come to the table. The current Crystal Peaks line goes briefly into NE Derbyshire so there is already some cooperation on this.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive would own the physical infrastructure. If the contract is not being fulfilled then the Mayoral Authority would be able to terminate the contract and appoint an Operator of Last Resort if the contract is breached.
The rails would hopefully be manufactured in local steelworks.
Lewis Chinchen, Conservative Councillor for Stocksbridge and Upper Don said “I support the expansion of the Supertram network to isolated parts of Sheffield and the wider region. “
Alexander Stafford, Conservative MP for Rother Valley said “I am very supportive of any plan that would improve public transport across Rother Valley – in particular to communities that are currently very badly served by public transport and have no current rail links, that also have some of the lowest levels of car ownership in the country – for example, Maltby, Dinnington, Swallownest and Thurcroft.
Green Party Mayoral candidate Bex Whyman said “Our towns and cities across South Yorkshire deserve better connections. Connecting hospitals, universities, cities, and towns by trams, gives the county the opportunity to become the heart of innovation, connecting the people of South Yorkshire to incredible employment and educational opportunities. Not only will our business and education thrive, but it will also unleash the possibilities to be more connected again on a human level, who wouldn’t want to hop on a tram to visit their family.
Labour MP Olivia Blake added a note of caution. “If the government were serious about levelling up they wouldn’t have dragged their feet on renewing the Supertram and they would have prioritised the extension of the tram to serve the people of Sheffield and South Yorkshire.”
Lib Dem group leader in Barnsley, Cllr Hannah Kitching said “ When I was the Lib Dem candidate for Penistone & Stocksbridge in the 2019 GE I talked about the need to invest in Supertram expansion; initially out to Stocksbridge and North Sheffield but also further afield. People do not live and work within local authority boundaries and the inability of the Council Leaders to work together on matters like this is holding our region back.”
With so much cross-party support surely South Yorkshire can pull together to demand extending Supertram?
As I write the House of Lords are voting on the most draconian proposals to undermine democracy, The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This is how Sheffield reacted to the proposals on Saturday.
The government’s Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill (the Policing Bill) reaches a crucial stage this week. The measures are designed to control political challenges by threatening dissenters with disproportionate punishment, effectively scaring people into forfeiting their right to protest. Many people are aware that this Bill is a threat to basic civil liberties but don’t realise how much worse it has become following a series of amendments that have been slipped into the Bill at a late stage, without proper scrutiny or debate. These amendments would:
Criminalise any protest that might “interfere” with infrastructures such as roads, railways, oil refineries and printing presses. This could be used to ban all effective protests, including protests against airport expansion and picketing by unions taking industrial action.
Criminalise protesters who attach themselves to another person, to an object, or to land (“locking on”). This was one of the forms of protest used by the suffragettes in their campaign for votes for women and has been used successfully by road protesters and Extinction Rebellion.
Greatly expand police “stop and search” powers, allowing the police to stop and search people or vehicles if they suspect they might be carrying any item that could be used in prohibited protests. A prohibited protest is defined in the Bill as any protest that has “a relevant impact” on or causes “serious annoyance” to any two people within the vicinity of the protest, or that causes “serious disruption” to any organisation. Material for use in protests might include placards, banners, loudhailers or any other items commonly used by protesters.
Give police the right to stop and search people without suspicion, if they believe that protest will occur in a particular area.
The Bill gives the police, acting under instruction from the government, the power to stop any protest. The criminal offences created by the Bill and its amendments carry a maximum sentence of 51 weeks in prison.
These are dictatorial powers that would remove some of our most basic democratic rights and freedoms. They would enable the government, or future governments, to turn the UK into a police state. Even former senior police officers describe the Bill as “harmful to democracy”.
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights state that the Bill’s proposals are “oppressive and wrong” and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has stated the measures undermine human rights legislation.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Protest this Saturday, January 15th at 2pm Sheffield Town Hall. (organised by Extinction Rebellion but all welcome)
Green Party Peer Jenny Jones has released a pack to help people campaign against the bill. These include social media posts, placards and a template email to MPs/Lords.
Because the latest amendments to the Bill were slipped in at a late stage in the House of Lords, the Lords are able to remove them. The amendments will fall if the Lords vote against them. The last vote is on 17th January.
Green and Liberal Democrat peers will oppose these amendments. The Labour Party has so far failed to offer strong opposition to the Bill and it’s vital that Labour and independent peers now join other peers to stop these extremely dangerous amendments.
Ideally, the Bill should be voted down. If passed it will create a new trespass offence that criminalises the way of life of nomadic Gypsy and Traveller communities, while the government manifestly fails to provide adequate sites and permitted stopping places, and has implications for access to the countryside and people experiencing homelessness. Sheffield Peer Baronness Natalie Bennett of Manor Castle spoke about this in the Lords, and repeated the conclusion of the National Police Chief’s Council that “We believe the criminalising of unauthorised encampments is not acceptable.”
For a country that so often prides itself on civil liberties, this Bill represents an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens, in particular those from marginalised communities, and is being driven through at a time and in a way where those who will be subject to its provisions are least able to respond.
I urge you to raise public awareness of the dangers of the Policing Bill and increase pressure on peers and on the Labour Party generally to oppose it. Join in local protests, talk to your friends and colleagues about it, post about the bill on your social media and write to your MP.
You can also sign this petition by 38 Degrees calling on the government to stop this attack on our democratic rights, and encourage others to sign. More than 181,000 people have already supported it.
Sheffielder and Act Now performer Janice Brown is best known for her performances as Mother Earth, having a climate crisis. She was arrested last summer for sitting in the road in a desperate attempt to draw attention to the climate emergency. Janice said “I didn’t harm anyone, but if this legislation had been passed I would now be facing 51 weeks in prison. Meanwhile, Shell, Exxon, BP and Total are directly responsible for countless deaths all over the world as homes are flooded, crops fail and wildfires blaze. Why aren’t the Chief Executives of these companies in the dock? We must stop the Police Bill from taking away our democratic right to protest. ”
Here is a list of Members of the House of Lords to write to.
As most of us prepare to enjoy Christmas with plenty to eat and drink our media are ignoring the dreadful fate of people in East Africa. The poorest and most vulnerable children on the planet are being killed in huge numbers by climate breakdown. We still listen to “Do they know it’s Christmas” on the radio, but where is today’s equivalent to Bob Geldof, alerting the world to what is happening, and where is today’s Live Aid, popularising giving for emergency aid for those in dire need?
Of course, it is necessary to report the rise of Omicron, Party Gate and Tory sleaze, and even the wonderful winners of Strictly. (We do need some good news.) But surely the media should devote some column inches to the biggest humanitarian disaster the planet is facing.
More than 260,000 children aged under five may have died from extreme hunger or related diseases in East Africa since the start of the year, according to Save the Children.
Using data compiled by the UN, Save the Children evaluated mortality rates for untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition in children under five across eight countries in East Africa. Using a conservative estimate, the humanitarian aid agency discovered that about 262,500 acutely malnourished children may have died between January and November 2021.
East Africa is currently experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change, with concurrent emergencies like drought and floods across the region leading to mass displacement and severe hunger. While communities in eastern Kenya, southern Somalia, and parts of Ethiopia are reeling from successive drought, parts of South Sudan remain underwater after three years of unpredictable and excessive rains.
Health centre admissions of children suffering acute malnutrition have risen dramatically in 2021, with a 16% increase in the first half of this year from an already high baseline. Severe acute malnutrition is the most extreme and dangerous form of undernutrition. Symptoms include jutting ribs and loose skin, with visible wasting of body tissue; or swelling in the ankles, feet and belly as blood vessels leak fluid under the skin. Currently, less than half of acutely malnourished children (46%) across East Africa are being treated for the condition.
Akuol, the mother of 17-month-old Abdo in Bor, South Sudan, has struggled to get enough food for herself and her son. The delivery of the humanitarian supplies she usually relies on has recently been hampered by heavy rains’:
“There is nowhere I rest comfortably, no food (no grains, no oil) and the house we are living in is like living on the street. I have no one to turn to for help, sometimes I go and beg to people at the riverside and buy food to eat if I am lucky to get something. We have no food to eat, we wait for humanitarian support and when it is finished we stay without food. For the period that we are waiting for the next ratio (food distribution), we remain without food and that is how the situation is for us.
“There is food shortage because when it rains it is difficult for humanitarian food to be brought to us and distributed.”
Kijala Shako, Director of Advocacy, Communications, Campaigns and Media for East and Southern Africa, said:
” In a year that saw the COVID-19 pandemic continue to wreck lives and economies, and conflict kill and displace thousands of families, it has been the impacts of the climate crisis that have ultimately taken the highest toll on children.
“At COP26 last month, high-income countries and historical emitters had the opportunity to support the development of funds to address rapidly escalating loss and damage. Unfortunately, they missed the boat. Today’s shocking figures tell the human story behind what we are calling for.
“Deaths from hunger are not inevitable and we have the tools, skills and experience to reach children and their families before it’s too late. Countries that are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis must be supported for the damage that is already being done — that they themselves have played a very little part in creating. It is vital that we see the creation of a new climate finance mechanism for loss and damage by 2023. At the same time we also need to see a drastic reduction in fossil fuels to limit warming temperatures and reduce these kinds of disasters.”
Save the Children is calling on governments to fully fund humanitarian response plans, and support social protection schemes and health and nutrition services for children, including the treatment of acute malnutrition.
Globally, malnutrition is linked to nearly half of all under-five deaths. In 2020, 149 million children were stunted (too short) and 45 million children were wasted (too thin). Without fast and decisive action from the global community, an additional 3.6 million children around the world will become stunted by 2022 and an additional 13.6 million children wasted because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And what of the future? Unless we reverse the ever-increasing temperatures on our planet by stopping the use of fossil fuels, it won’t just be East Africa experiencing hunger and starvation. Crop failures around the world will make food scarce everywhere.