It’s our economic system that is in need of a psychiatrist

To the Editor of the Sheffield Star

Your correspondent S Thompson was highly amused that Dr Bing Jones is so terrified of the dangers of climate change he chose to sit in Ecclesall Road to warn us all about it. Let’s think for a moment why he is so terrified. 

When CO2 concentrations were last at the levels we have today temperatures were 2C to 3C hotter and sea levels were around 50-60 feet higher. This is what is happening to our planet. We can expect ice caps and glaciers to continue to melt, food supplies to be endangered as crops fail in droughts, storms and floods. We can expect millions of refugees including from within our own country as cities like London are flooded. We can expect extreme suffering and deaths from heat exhaustion as the temperatures continue to rise. We can expect wars over increasingly scarce resources and more pandemics. Our children and grandchildren will have to foot the mega bill for technological solutions that don’t yet exist to extract the carbon dioxide back from the atmosphere. Is this the future you want for your grandchildren?

We must stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere as soon as possible and certainly by 2030. Tinkering with the recycling system as S Thomson suggests is not going to cut it. Governments all over the world must cooperate now to switch from oil and gas to renewables. Our homes and workplaces need to be fully insulated and converted from natural gas to air source heat pumps or other renewable systems as soon as possible. Kevin Hughes (on the same letters page) has the right idea, we need to convert our military spending to combat the very real threat of an unstable climate. Public transport needs to run on renewable energy and needs to be so good people don’t bother to have a car. We need to be planting billions of trees and re-wilding nature. This is what Green campaigners mean by systemic change.

Like Bing I have signed countless petitions and been on countless demonstrations yet each year CO2 emissions continue to rise. There have now been far more arrests from protesting against climate change than were endured by the Suffragettes. You may think Dr Jones is a nutcase, but it is our economic system that is in need of a psychiatrist.

Graham Wroe

Original letters from S Thomson and Kevin Hughes

Labour Councillors and the Green New Deal

A group of Sheffield Labour candidates have been promoting their support for the Green New Deal

This Tweet really saddened me because it is so obviously untrue. Green Councillors and candidates have been campaigning for a Green New Deal for many years. All the Green Party candidates support a Green New Deal for Sheffield. Nationally Caroline Lucas and Clive Lewis (Labour MP) have cooperated brilliantly together to promote the campaign in Parliament.

Caroline Lucas and Clive Lewis (frpm

To successfully tackle the climate emergency it is vital for politicians to work together and cooperate. Instead of rubbishing the Greens, these Labour Candidates should be working with them and learning from their experience. The Labour for a Green New Deal movement have many good ideas and some of these people I consider to be my friends. However I have to call out the untruthfulness of this tweet.

It is very clear from the map that none of these candidates are currently in the Cabinet. So if they were elected they wouldn’t have the power to change the Council policies. The map also begs the question, what do the other Labour candidates support? The planet has not got time for us to elect politicians that are not taking the climate crisis seriously.

To be sure of voting for a candidate that makes the climate crisis the top priority, vote Green. Please do not vote for the following Labour candidates who are apparently not supporting the Green New Deal.

Mick Rooney-Woodhouse

Adam Hurst- West Ecclesfield

Lisa Banes-Stocksbridge and Upper Don

Tony Damms-Southey

Peter Price-Shiregreen and Brightside

Mike Drabble-Richmond

David Barker-Richmond

Tony Downing-Mosborough

Robert Johnson-Hillsborough

Jackie Kennedy-Fulwood

Alan Law-Firth Park

Zoe Sykes -Ecclesall

Andy Bainbridge-East Ecclesfield

Samantha Nicholson-Dore and Totley

Mazher Iqbal-Darnall

Bryan Lodge-Birley

Julie Gledhill-Beighton

To find out more about the candidates in your ward visit

I declare a Nature Emergency. Do you?

Sheffield Council still refuse to declare a nature emergency. They know if they did they would have to rethink their use of dangerous pesticides and herbicides like Glyphosate that kill our wild flowers, insects and pollinators.

Nature Recovery Sheffield has been set up to form a massive coalition to campaign for a Nature Emergency declaration. They have brought together Friends of the Earth, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trusts, the Diocese of Sheffield, Sheffield Green Parents and Owlthorpe Fields Action Group. They need your support.

They’re planning a campaign of action and they’re asking you – as individuals or organisations – to join by declaring a Nature Emergency for Sheffield. 

It is vital we tackle both the climate and ecological crises together, and ensure solutions to the climate crisis are good solutions for nature too. Please click the link and sign up as an individual and get whatever group you belong to sign up to.

The Groves Naturewatch project

Some fascinating citizen science has developed during the lockdown, in the roads between the Botanical Gardens and Hallam University where I used to study, called the Groves Naturewatch Project. Founded and championed by Lera Miles and botanist Gerry Firkins and helped by many local residents the group are building a database of all the living things they find in the area.

The records are all available on An accurate app is used to help identify species along with the expert knowledge within the group, and the scientific community on inaturalist confirm the identification. 

Gerry Firkins

Gerry told me “ Since we started in March 2020 we have 344 observations covering 210 species (fauna and flora). 2 types of flatworms are new to Sheffield: and a saxifrage is new to the city area.” Gerry has been surveying the roads for wild or self-seeded plants.  This has turned up 71 species so far with more ground yet to cover.  One of the surprising finds was Rue-leaved Saxifrage

This is a plant of rocky outcrops more usually seen in Derbyshire.  Checking the distribution around the country it did appear in some cities, but there were no records for Sheffield city at all!    By alerting other botanists it has also been spotted on another road in Sheffield.  Eight plants have been found altogether. Who knew the Groves was such a special place!

I asked Gerry if the Council spraying of Glyphosate is damaging this biodiversity. He said the Council had recently sprayed the gutters in the area but had not sprayed the border of the pavement, where most of the wildflowers grow. I wondered why The Groves are treated differently to my street as the poppies growing on my pavement border were all killed when the Council came to spray. 

The particularly interesting, but also worrying find, have been the flatworms. A delivery of compost turned out to contain a tiny Yellow-striped flatworm originating from Australia (see picture).  Another species of  Australian flatworm was later found in the garden.  Both eat other small animals including earthworms.  The Australian flatworm is rare but well known now in the UK, but the Yellow-striped is a newer arrival.  This is the most northerly record as yet and only a handful have been recorded in the UK.  They look somewhat like flattened slugs with no visible head and shelter under rocks. There are 4 native flatworms as well, so not all flatworms are dangerous invaders. 

These records have been shared with the Non-native Species Secretariat who monitor new species arriving in the country and their spread. 

Our native earthworms are the gardeners best friend. They recycle nutrients, eating dead plants and leaves and turning them into worm castings which contain 5 times more nitrogen, 7 times more phosphorus and a thousand times more beneficial bacteria than the original soil. They also improve the soil structure, leaving space for water to drain and be stored in the soil. Worms even clear up our pollution. They can improve contaminated land by enhancing “bioremediation”. Their wriggling and burrowing movements regulate the distribution of microorganisms in the soil which break down the toxic materials. Worms are also a vital food for many birds, hedgehogs and frogs. 

Birds that have been recorded in the Groves so far include Tawny owls,

Siskins,and Chiffchaffs. Though in decline generally across Europe,Chiffchaffs have started to sing again in the Groves this month.  

A pair of Siskins

A Greater Spotted Woodpecker has been drumming nearly every day in the mornings for the last 3 weeks. As it is moving from tree to tree to do this, it’s unlikely to be nest building but more likely trying to attract a mate.

The frogs have been to most ponds now and frogspawn is in abundance.  42 adults were seen in one pond.  It was a noisy affair!  Please don’t share frogspawn/tadpoles with other gardens.  There is a virus that is spreading around the UK causing frogs sores and blisters and even death.

Despite being larger as adults, frogspawn and frog tadpoles fall prey to the smooth newt that lives in the Groves. The newts arrive in the ponds at the same time as the frogs, ready for the spawn.  They then breed laying their eggs in the water also.

Five other groups are developing in Sheffield including one in Gleadless Valley, the General Cemetery and another specialising in bats. 

As our climate is changing it is important that we monitor bio-diversity to identify species that may be declining and indeed invasive species that may have undesirable effects on native creatures. The Groves project is a brilliant resource that will help monitor this, as well as encouraging wildlife gardening to increase biodiversity. To find out more do visit Maybe you could start a similar project in your area? 

Green Jobs campaign to get people working to save the planet

My day job is as a lecturer in Further Education. I am acutely aware of the importance of training our young people for the jobs and skills they will need in the future. That is why I have thrown my weight behind the new Green Jobs for All campaign.

In South Yorkshire, we want to create 25,000 new green jobs. These jobs are needed in response to the Covid economic downturn and the climate and ecological emergencies.  We must invest in sustainable skills for the future. Studies suggest a need to create 6500 apprenticeships/training opportunities – for instance in home insulation, renewable energy, public transport and nature restoration. 

The Green Jobs for All campaign calls on the government to:

1. Invest directly in people and the planet.

2. Restore public services.

3.Invest in job creation and the training needed for a sustainable economy. 

4. Establish the real living wage as the new going rate.

The campaign is supported by climate campaigners such as the Youth Strike for Climate group, trade unionists, politicians, local food growers, healthcare workers and public transport workers. 

To reach zero carbon by 2030 we need massive investment in our homes and workplaces so they are properly insulated and heated by renewables, such as heat pumps. We need to train the people that will carry out that work, as there is currently a massive skills gap. 

We also need massive investment in the care sector. The covid-19 crisis has exposed the parlous state of social care in the UK. Low wages and insecure pay for staff are common, whilst years of underfunding have left the provision massively overstretched. Investment in this sector produces far more jobs than in other sectors. For instance, 2.7 jobs in care work could be created by the money to create one job in construction. 

The report calculates that the UK can expect approximately 2 million job losses by 2030 due to Covid. Our region already has high levels of unemployment and this varies tremendously by constituency. In January the highest levels were found in Brightside and Hillsborough and Rotherham (both at 9.7%) whereas Hallam is well below the national average (6.2%) with 2.5%. Job losses at John Lewis, Debenhams and many other workplaces will push these figures up. With the necessary investment approximately 2m jobs could be created in the care sector and 600,000 in green jobs.

There is broad support in the UK for the Green New Deal. Here are some local voices calling for the Government to act.

Sheffield TUC commented “Investment in a green recovery is urgently needed in order to build a new fairer and cleaner future after the economic collapse caused by the Government’s mishandling of the COVID crisis. Workers and their families have seen their real incomes fall and good jobs disappear over 10 or more years of austerity, a situation made even worse by COVID’s impact on an already ailing and unfair economy. A massive public investment programme is needed now to combat climate change, stimulate truly sustainable growth and create desperately needed good, unionised jobs. It’s a “win-win” situation – building back better, and making it greener and fairer at the same time.”

Chris Powell, from Barnsley, said “I work in public transport, which is a sector that has been massively impacted by the pandemic as a result of people taking far fewer journeys. I feel very lucky to work in a sector that helps people to reduce their carbon emissions. I hope that the government can use this period of recovery to invest heavily in the creation of green jobs and to support green industries.

Matt Duffy comments “I work for the Don Catchment Rivers Trust. We build natural flood defences. It’s something which is good for nature, which I love.”

Anne, a healthcare worker from Rotherham comments “Just over three years ago, I made the decision to change career paths, moving from a job in a creative company to a career in healthcare within a GP practice. I took a large pay cut but I knew this was a career I wanted, where I could make a difference and feel fulfilled. Over the past year, working throughout the Covid 19 pandemic has shown us first hand the UK’s need for more NHS staff. I feel lucky to work in a GP practise where I am valued and supported to continue my training so I can provide the best patient care.”

Green New Deal UK South Yorkshire will be holding an in-person action on Saturday 24th April from 11am-1pm outside Sheffield Town Hall to highlight the importance of the Green Jobs For All campaign.

The Government must act on the  Green Jobs for All report and I look forward to seeing expanding provision in Further Education to meet these skills gaps.

How should I vote to save the planet?

The local elections are on May 6th. If you live in Sheffield you have 3 votes. 

One for the referendum, where you will be asked if you want the Council to continue with its “strong leader” model whereby the 10 cabinet members make the decisions or change to a more inclusive, democratic committee system that involves all the elected Councillors.

The second is to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner.

The third is to elect one of the three councillors that represent your ward. When elected they serve a 4-year term of office. This is a particularly important election as it is possible there will be a new administration in the Town Hall. There are 84 Councillors. Currently, 45 are Labour, 26 Liberal Democrats, 8 Green Party, 1 independent and 4 seats are vacant. 

What are the parties promising to do about the massive threats we face, in the climate and ecological emergencies?

The Labour administration declared a climate emergency in 2019 following pressure from Extinction Rebellion and the green pressure groups. Since then they have been slow to act, but they have commissioned a report which has been published by Arup called Pathway’s to Zero Carbon. It details a plan to enable Sheffield to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2030 and was discussed at the recent climate summit. Science tells us we need to reduce our emissions by 100% by 2030 or risk feedback loops that could lead to our planet becoming uninhabitable. The plan is useful as it shows how the Council must act now in order to stand any chance of meeting our targets. We need, for instance, to fully insulate all our homes and workplaces and replace gas boilers with non-fossil fuel heating, such as air source heat pumps. We can’t delay action on these projects, they must start now. All the political parties need to unite behind this report and lobby the Government for funding to implement it.

Last week the Labour Administration failed to declare an ecological emergency, even though the science is clear that we are experiencing the 6th mass extinction of species on our planet. 

All the parties have some good things to say about the environment but  they lack the urgency required to react to the emergencies we are facing. Labour say “ We are working with Sheffield Climate Alliance towards making our city carbon neutral. This includes 100,000 extra trees as part of Labour’s Trees and Woodland strategy. Major investment in parks and green spaces and £50 million for connecting Sheffield-a project to promote walking, cycling and public transport across the city.” They will also be continuing the grey to green project in the city centre.

All 3 main parties support the idea of a Citizen’s Assembly to develop policies to enable us to achieve net zero carbon. Labour promised this two years ago but it has not yet materialised.

The Liberal Democrats acknowledge the climate emergency and the need to become carbon neutral by 2030. They will “Support efforts locally to reduce waste by improving recycling and improving our air quality. Enact policies that will enable us to make our contribution to national and global targets.”

Some stand out Lib Dem policies include 

●supplying schools with air quality monitors 

●a ‘Greener Sheffield Fund’ – a pot of money for local communities to decide how they would like to invest in their environment eg street tree retention, cycle routes, recycling.

The Lib Dems and Labour  recognise ”the benefits of the incinerator to reduce the need for landfill and obtaining energy from waste”.  However, the incinerator is actually a major emitter of carbon dioxide. To reach zero carbon, this has, at some point, got to change. We are trucking waste from Derbyshire and Nottingham to feed the incinerator when we should be doing far more to reduce waste. 

It’s no secret that I am a member of the Green Party, so they will be getting my vote.  The Greens say “The climate crisis needs government spending on the scale of what was available for the Covid pandemic.  At a local level, our budget proposals focus on what is achievable here and now.”

These include

  • A whole staff team to work on the climate emergency, warmer homes and local, clean energy production, such as solar farms;
  • £3 million Carbon Reduction Investment Fund
  • Better walking, cycling and public transport; and the return of the Electric FreeBee bus
  • Helping the poorest with £2 million to offset higher council tax bills
  • £1m for solar panels on council housing; £500,000 for schools
  • £1m for low-traffic neighbourhoods / active travel
  • Cheaper bulky waste collection for low-income households

Local Government has a crucial role in helping society tackle the climate and ecological crisis. Please find out about your candidates and vote for the people who will do the most to protect our community and planet. 

Further details here (the previously advertised event on 17th April has been rescheduled due to the Prince Philip’s funeral.)

The most important parliamentary Bill for a generation.

What do local MP’s Clive Betts and Olivia Blake have in common with Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, Sir Ed Davey from the Lib Dems, Clive Lewis from Labour, Alan Brown of the SNP and Liz Saville Roberts of Plaid Cymru? They are all supporting the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, (CEE Bill) which I believe is the most important bill to be discussed in my lifetime. Why? It is simply about taking the action we need to survive on this planet. 

The Bill expresses profound alarm at the climate and ecological emergency, with wildfires raging in California, and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melting in line with worst-case scenario predictions for sea-level rise. Another report last week found that the Amazon Rainforest has now been so badly damaged that it is a net emitter of Carbon Dioxide, rather than a carbon sink.

Campaigners at Steelhenge in Centenary Riverside wildlife park, Rotherham. The building is Templeborough power station.

The Bill acknowledges that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are needed in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”

It is concerned that the current target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 in the 2008 Climate Change Act has been overtaken by the accelerating crisis.

If passed the Bill would ensure that the UK plays its fair and proper role in limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C, by taking account of the UK’s entire carbon footprint, including consumption emissions released overseas as a result of goods manufactured abroad for use in the UK. At present, we import many goods from China and other countries, but we then blame China for the high emissions they have released manufacturing our goods! 

The bill would actively improve the natural world by protecting and restoring the UK’s ecosystems, and ending the damage to nature caused by supply chains. Nature is currently under attack from all sides. Many species are declining at an extraordinary rate. In 2019, the  Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Global Assessment estimates that a staggering one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction due to human action, many within the next few decades. 

Insects pollinate many of our crops, help fertilise the soil they grow in and help control outbreaks of crop pests and other organisms that cause disease in people and livestock. Insects are also important in decomposing and recycling dead organic matter – including biological waste – and are critical parts of food webs in all ecosystems.

At least 75% of global food crop types depend, at least to some extent, on pollinators. In fact, 70 of the 100 most important human food crops are pollinated by insects. 

Several studies have suggested that the numbers of insects are declining dramatically. A 27-year long monitoring study across Germany revealed a dramatic 76% decline in flying insect biomass between 1989 and 2013. Worryingly, the study took place inside nature reserves, which should be the best-protected places. The CEE Bill would be a start to turning this dire situation around. 

The Bill would establish a Citizens’ Assembly to recommend measures for inclusion in a new Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy. These two emergencies are interlinked and it is vital the Government has joined-up policies to tackle them together. 

The Government should support the Bill to increase the ambition of the UK’s climate legislation and demonstrate real climate leadership ahead of co-hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in November.

Ruth Powell, a climate crisis campaigner, commented “I desperately want my MP, Paul Blomfield to support the CEE Bill. Things are looking very bleak for our planet at the moment and it makes me wonder if it would even be fair for me to have children if it means bringing them into a world that is in such a catastrophic state. If this Bill can get through Parliament, we stand a chance of being able to improve the situation somewhat, and this would benefit future generations on so many levels.”

The path to destruction is not inevitable. We can stop this juggernaut. We can become caretakers of our environment. We can have a better future. We must act urgently to join together and build a safer and healthier world. We can start to do this by ensuring our MPs support the CEE Bill.

Sheffield campaigners are planning to lobby local MP’s that haven’t yet signed the Early Day Motion on Friday, March 26th. Members of the public are invited to meet outside Sheffield Town Hall between 11 am and 2 pm where they can make a short video telling their MP why they should sign.
If your MP hasn’t signed the Early Day Motion yet, please write to them as soon as possible or join the Twitter storm using the hashtag #CEEBill.  You can find out how to do this at

STOP PRESS Paul Blomfield MP has now signed up. Thank you Paul!

Banking Brandalism

Back in my student days I supported the campaign to end the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa. A big part of that campaign was to persuade the banks, notably Barclays, to stop investing in the country, to speed the fall of the regime.

Roll on nearly half a century and today we find Barclays and HSBC at the centre of another controversy. So much so that they are falling victim to “Brandalism” by climate activists.

Barclays and HSBC branches and ATMs in Sheffield have been regularly covered in stickers and posters by members of Extinction Rebellion protesting the banks’ funding of fossil fuels and biodiversity loss, as part of ongoing actions taking place across the UK. The posters draw attention to the banks’ funding of fossil fuel extracting companies like Adani, who are building a controversial coal mine in Australia.

I asked why otherwise respectable people are resorting to such tactics. Mike, a retired GP told me “”We’re surrounded by adverts, and much as we all think they don’t affect us, I think they must or it’d not be a multi-trillion pound industry. So, it is important to correct some of the “information” they give… in whatever ways available.”

Ann, a concerned citizen, said “Barclays bank, HSBC and many other high street banks try to give the impression that they are your friend and they will do the best for you and your money. What they don’t tell you is that your money is used to finance polluting fossil fuel companies for example, or that your money is used to supply weapons of war used to kill innocent people. It’s time that the public knew the whole truth so they can make a more ethical choice and know their money is causing no harm.”

Chris, a call centre agent, said “So many of us are not aware of where the money we put into our banks goes. When you realise that the money is often invested in climate destruction, human rights violations and the arms trade, then it is morally impossible to keep funding these banks. “Rebranding” these banks offers an easy, fun and informative way to spread the message about the hidden side of high street banks.”

Barclays and HSBC have been the two leading European funders of fossil fuels in the last four years, according to a recent report by the Rainforest Action Network , having provided £95.2 billion to carbon-intensive companies and projects since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016.  

A recent report has also cited Barclays and HSBC as the number two and three European banks respectively for funding biodiversity loss . 

Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Rob Wheeldon, said: “David Attenborough warned us that capitalism is literally destroying life on Earth, and banks like Barclays and HSBC are among the worst culprits. Both are planning to pour fuel onto the climate and ecological crisis for the next 30 years, and our criminally complicit government has no interest in stopping them.

“As one of the world’s biggest historical emitters, the UK and its financial institutions have a responsibility to end their funding of fossil fuels well ahead of the IPCC’s global 2050 net zero target date, and furthermore to abandon the economic model of endless extraction that is rapidly destroying what is left of our natural world. We demand that Barclays and HSBC completely divest from fossil fuels and halt their destruction of nature by 2025 at the latest – 2050 is a death sentence for our planet.”

A Barclays cash machine.

Last May, Barclays announced it would shrink its carbon footprint to net-zero by 2050 , a statement matched recently by HSBC . However, both banks have set very distant deadlines and lack detail in their pledges. Neither bank has made clear commitments regarding the biodiversity impacts of their lending activities.

Government bodies like the Treasury and Bank of England are supposed to regulate the banking sector. However, the Committee on Climate Change, the government’s official climate advisors, reported in June that the UK was on track to meet only 6 out of 53 indicators and milestones needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The Government can’t even meet it’s own weak targets, let alone enforce them in the banking sector.

The Committee on Climate Change advised all government departments to prepare for “a minimum of 2C rise in global temperature with considerations of 4C.” Among other catastrophic impacts, 4C global heating would likely force humans away from equatorial regions, expand deserts into Southern and Central Europe, and intensify the unprecedented fires, floods and hurricanes already wreaking havoc across the world. Crops would fail, starvation would be common and civilisation as we know it would probably come to an end.

In 1986, to my delight, after 16 years of campaigning, Barclays pulled out of Apartheid South Africa. Campaigning does work, but we don’t have 16 years to save the climate. If you bank with Barclays or HSBC switch now to a more ethical bank. Don’t forget to tell them why you are switching.

Ban “smart” motorways

Back in the ’90s when my three children were teenagers, we were driving on a motorway on our way to a festival. My wife and kids were singing along to a tape. The motorway was busy with August bank holiday traffic. Ahead of me on the hard shoulder was a lorry. Suddenly, without warning, the lorry started to pull out into my lane. I looked to my right but another car was preventing me from overtaking the lorry. I slammed on the brakes,  but it was clear that I had to do something else to avoid the lorry, whose tailgate was now frighteningly close.  I swerved into the hard shoulder where the lorry had previously been, undertaking the lorry before coming to a halt. I will be forever grateful for that hard shoulder. I don’t think I am exaggerating to say it saved the life of my family.

M25 looking west from junction 24 near Potters Bar, via Wikimedia Commons

So-called “smart” motorways no longer have this escape route. Many tragic accidents have highlighted how dangerous they are. The Government were warned how perilous they would be before they implemented the ridiculous plan. Now it is time to scrap them and reintroduce hard shoulders. Until this is done speed limits on smart motorways should be reduced.

Yours faithfully

Graham Wroe

The South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner agrees with me!