Extreme weather continues but the media are still not telling the truth.

This week we have seen further extreme flooding in Belgium, China, India, Panama and Russia. London is flooding as I write.

Watch how a peaceful road in Belgium turns into a raging a torrent in less than a minute.

The famine in Madagascar has been recognised as the first to be caused solely by global heating. The Greenland ice sheet is on the brink of a major tipping point. Scientists say it is now impossible to stop  melting  which will cause between 1 and 2m of sea level rise. Even if we cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero tomorrow the rest of Greenland is in great danger of continuing to melt, which will cause sea levels to rise by 7m. This would flood most coastal cities and make Doncaster a seaside town. 

The Amazon Rainforest is no longer a carbon sink. This means that instead of breathing in the carbon dioxide humans are producing, it is now adding to that pollution because there are so many fires. Fewer trees mean less rain and higher temperatures, making the dry season even worse for the remaining forest.   Luciana Gatti, at the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil explains, “We have a very negative loop that makes the forest more susceptible to uncontrolled fires.”

The media have been reporting some of these events but they are still not telling the whole terrible truth about the climate and ecological crisis. 

The recent Climate Change Committee report  has been ignored by the media. Published in June this advises the Government about the risks the UK are facing from the changing climate. It details extreme risks we are facing now, not just in the future. These include 

*Risks to the viability and diversity of terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards

*Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system 

*Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings

*Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas

So in plain English we should be preparing for widespread power cuts due to extreme weather, food shortages due to harvests around the world being devastated and many deaths due to extreme heat. Some species will go extinct.

Other risks that are not quite so imminent but that will hit us in the next two decades include

*Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought

*Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees from multiple hazards

*Risks to supply of food, goods and vital services due to climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks

*Risks to natural carbon stores and sequestration from multiple hazards leading to increased emissions

In other words a hotter climate will make it much harder to grow crops as the soil will deteriorate. Supermarket supply chains could collapse, leaving the shelves empty. Our forests and woods that currently absorb carbon could be subject to wildfires, turning them from carbon sinks to carbon emitters, further increasing climate change. It is hard to imagine how our civilisation would survive these threats. 

Extinction Rebellion Sheffield are distributing a tabloid paper called “Not the Sun”. The front page features Rupert Murdoch in front of a burning planet. It accuses him of pumping out propaganda through his global network of newspapers and TV channels to convince us that climate change is fake news. “He’s part of a super rich cabal of newspaper owners including Viscount Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, and Frederick Barclay, who owns the Daily Telegraph, who Not the Sun believes want to boost their huge bank balances by stopping urgent action to tackle a global warming meltdown-until it’s too late.”

https://issuu.com/mediattt/docs/not_the_sun_final?fbclid=IwAR33GToTrzgQuCQz2xlf0z2K_Cb1uDL22QMXwKdxGiwitTwjz7DX2JfT0o4

The media are  not  holding the Government to account when it comes to the climate emergency. They let the Government get away with fooling us. For instance the Government is nowhere near meeting the first major milestone for its net zero target, which is a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030. At best they will miss this target by 25%.  The Government also lies to us about the emissions we add to the atmosphere. They count 451 megatonnes of CO2, but ignore the 347 megatonnes from air travel, shipping, and goods that we import, which make up 43% of our emissions. 

Somehow we have to free the press from the control of this super rich elite, so they can tell the truth about the catastrophe we are facing. 

In the light of the continued dramatic increase in extreme weather, the continued worldwide increase in CO2 emissions and the failure of the press to report accurately in our newspapers and tv, it is not surprising that climate activists will again be taking to the streets of London in August to demand the politicians ACT NOW to defend us. 

Edgar McGregor recently tweeted “I don’t think people understand….climate activists are losing. Despite everything we have done, our civilization is STILL emitting more CO2 than ever before. We are on track for ecological collapse. We need your help. We need you to be a climate activist. Please. Please.

Save Owlthorpe Fields

Today I joined campaigners from the Owlthorpe Fields Action Group for a wonderful walk around the area, not far from Crystal Peaks, threatened by the development of a massive new housing estate. I was bowled over by the amazing range of birds and insects- I have been to RSPB sites and seen less variety! Planning permission has been given for 2 more building sites, but the campaigners are still hopeful they can prevent further expansion onto the remaining sites. Please help them by signing the petition.

Here are Act Now performing at the beginning of the walk.

I spoke to Claire Baker (Chair of the Action Group) and Gary Monaghan (treasurer) about the campaign.

Some photos from the walk.

Sheffield City Council use of Glyphosate over last 5 years.

Today I received the reply to my Freedom of Information request regarding the use of Glyphosate. Here are the results.

20162017201820192020
Parks1125950900450450
Bereavement310310310310660
Highways3606345833153451.53570.95
Total5041471845254211.54680.95

It appears from the graph that Highways are by far the biggest user. However, there are some important points to note. The product purchased for Bereavement services in 2020 were ready mixed, ready diluted controlled droplet application (CDA) products, containing significant volumes of both water, adjuvant and carrier, so
these figures do not represent “neat” chemical use of glyphosate. This explains the big increase in 2020. Unfortunately the Council did not tell me what proportion of the mix was Glyphosate so I can’t work out the actual figures. The same is true for all the Highways figures, so actually the total amount used on Highways may be much nearer the figures for Parks and Bereavement.

The main conclusion from the data is the Council are using large amounts of Glyphosate on our streets, cemeteries and parks, poisoning the soil and harming biodiversity. Despite strong warnings about the dangers both to the workers and to nature, no real effort has been made to reduce the amounts used over the last five years.

The Council have given information regarding a trial of Katoun Gold. This is a product containing an active ingredient Pelargonic Acid which is used for weed management around shrub beds. It is marketed as a natural weed management solution.

The trial is described as follows-

“Fig 1 – depicts the area sprayed with glyphosate and Chikara. As can be
seen the results were very effective.”

“Fig 2 – depicts an obstacle where Khatoun Gold and Chikara was used to
spray around it. As can be seen the results were moderately effective.”

“Fig 3 – depicts an area similar to Fig 1 but using the Khatoun Gold and
Chikara mix. As can be seen the results were less than satisfactory.”

They conclude “Furthermore, it is worth bearing in mind that Khatoun Gold is not yet
licensed for use on hard surfaces. Given the facts presented it’s
considered that Khatoun Gold is not a viable alternative to Glyphosate.”

My thoughts on Figures 1 and 2 are they both look a mess! I would question why it is necessary to spray anything along the wall or around the post. Figure 3 looks much more attractive, but again I don’t see why anything needs to be sprayed here.

It is very disappointing that no trials have yet taken place on the various other alternatives to Glyphosate that are detailed on the Pesticides Action Network website.

How should Sheffield react to the events in Germany and Canada?

As I write this it’s 30oC outside and I’m sweltering. Extreme heat is very debilitating, and for some can be fatal, especially if it continues for several days.

Heat can cause dehydration and heatstroke. Over the course of several days, extreme heat affects the internal organs and puts extra strain on the cardiovascular system. The kidney, liver, heart, brain, and lungs can be affected, which can result in renal failure, heart attack, stroke, among other potential causes of mortality.

During the heatwave please keep out of the sun, drink lots of water and check in on any vulnerable friends and neighbours. 

We can expect far more extreme heat in the future as the climate continues to overheat. Examples recently from Western Canada have been extremely frightening. The town of Lytton didn’t just break it’s hottest temperature record- it smashed it to pieces. Meteorologist Bob Henson tweeted “Prior to this week, Canada’s all-time high was 113oF.  Now it’s 121.3°F.  That’s a 21% increase in the all-time high!” It’s a bit like someone beating the Olympic high jump record of 2.39m, not just by 1cm but by 50cm, jumping 2.89m!

What followed in Lytton was of course the wildfire, which almost totally destroyed the town. 

Lots of people mistakenly believe climate change will be gradual. It won’t be. We can expect more sudden and massively disturbing changes to weather around the world. As feedback loops kick in, disasters will follow, making whole countries uninhabitable.  

Last week saw the hottest temperature ever recorded on this planet. 130oF (54oC) in the appropriately named Death Valley. Elsewhere in the States, Portland Oregon broke its longstanding high (107oF) three days running, with temperatures of 108, 112 and 116 oF. Quillayute in Washington broke its all time high by 11oF (old record 99oF, new record 110oF).

In Europe we have seen catastrophic floods, turning small rivers into torrents reaching the third floor of buildings. The latest death toll in Germany and Belgium is 180 as I write, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel exclaiming  “the German language doesn’t have words for the destruction that’s been wreaked”. Meanwhile horrendous floods in Uganda went unreported by the press. 

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Gone are the days when we have to say “you can’t attribute one weather event to climate change”. These events are so extreme and so obviously way out of statistical norms, it is perfectly clear that they have been caused by climate change- just as climate scientists have been predicting for many years. 

So how should we react to them in Sheffield? We have to be more prepared for extreme weather. We are well aware of the damage flooding can cause, but we need to do far more to help prevent future disasters. It was very pleasing to see news this week of the £183,000 plan to plant more trees across Sheffield. Trees are brilliant at both providing shade and cooling to cities in a heatwave and preventing flooding. We need far more of this! Also it was pleasing to see plans for active neighbourhoods in Crookes and Nether Edge, making it easier and safer to cycle into town, to encourage people to leave their cars at home. An important step forward, but this is needed all over the City.

Better flood defences may be needed in some places, but usually this moves the problem further downstream, as the residents of Fishlake can testify. So we need to be planting thousands of  trees upstream of the rivers to provide more natural flood defence. Why not  reintroduce beavers to make dams to hold back the waters?  

In the city we need to continue to turn grey to green. We need green roofs on city buildings and bus shelters to help absorb the torrential rain when it falls, and more permeable surfaces instead of concrete and tarmac so the water doesn’t run straight into the sewers and overwhelm them. Some work undoubtedly needs to be done to increase the capacity of our drains. In a recent downpour I was at the bottom of Granville Road and the water was jetting out of the manhole cover like a fountain. 

To protect from heatwaves we must ensure all homes and workplaces are well insulated. 

Even if we implement all the measures I am suggesting, there will be no defence if we experience something on the scale that Germany has just gone through. So we also need to up our game when it comes to a local emergency response plan. We need to involve citizens in this, so when a catastrophe occurs at least people are prepared to start to deal with it. 

I hope the awful events in Canada and Germany will convince Sheffielder’s that this is an emergency. Those preparing to go to Glasgow for COP26 must demand strong legally enforced measures to cut carbon immediately.

Sheffield Council debate Glyphosate

Today I presented the petition to Sheffield City Council, calling them to stop using Glyphosate. This forced a debate, which was very positive. The conclusion, after some debate about who it should be referred to, was that the Executive Cabinet will make a decision about this. (The Lib Dems and Greens voted for this, Labour prefering it was referred to Scrutiny Committee, but the Greens and Lib Dems can now out vote Labour). It was a very positive debate with most speakers in favour of a ban. You can see it in full here. (starts after 34 minutes)

Before the debate there was an excellent rally outside Ponds Forge. Here are some videos.

Graham Wroe who started the petition

Cllr Alison Teal, Green Party member of the Cooperative Executive

Ci Davis XR Justice Group

Act Now

Wilko, stop selling Glyphosate

Dear Sir
I am writing to ask you to stop selling Glyphosate in your stores. Other responsible retailers such as B&Q and Waitrose have already done this. 
Here are 10 reasons for you to do likewise. (taken from the Garden Organic website).

  1. Glyphosate is rarely used on its own, but as part of a chemical cocktail, for instance with the trade name Roundup or Weedol.
  2. These formulations are potentially far more dangerous. Dr Robin Mesnage of Kings College London, writes “We know Roundup, the commercial name of glyphosate-based herbicides, contains many other chemicals, which when mixed together are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate on its own.” Recent research has show these other chemicals include arsenic, chromium, cobalt, lead and nickel.
  3. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says that glyphosate is safe. However, most of their research is provided by the industry which created the herbicide. They haven’t tested the various individual commercial formulations. And regulation safety tests on mammals cover a short period, maximum 90 days. No-one knows the effect of longterm exposure to these toxic chemicals.
  4. This is worrying, because independent research indicates that glyphosate is not only possibly carcinogenic, but that it also affects the body’s endocrine system – causing problems in the liver and kidneys. Industry testers dispute this, but interestingly have declined to reveal all the results of their safety tests. See Corporate Europe report.
  5. Over 60% of wholemeal bread contains traces of glyphosate, according to the Soil Association. While not necessarily toxic in small amounts, this gradual and persistent intake could create a health risk.
  6. This recent paper explores the effect of GBHs (glyphosate based herbicides) on the human gut. Interference with gut enzymes gives rise to many diseases such as gastrointestinal disorders, obesity and diabetes. Another paper reveals that glyphosate can increase our antibiotic resistance– a global health problem looming on the horizon.
  7. Glyphosate is the most widely and heavily used agrichemical worldwide, in agriculture, parks and amenities as well as in gardens.
  8. Recent research shows that glyphosate formulations destroy the micro organisms in healthy soil, and affects earthworms. (For a full review of the research of glyphosate on soil ecosystems, see this 2016 report from the Soil Association.)
  9. Glyphosate producers claim it is rapidly inactivated in the soil. However, the chemical is very persistent in soils and sediments, and in colder, seasonal climates, such as the UK, residues have been found in the soil for up to 3 years. It also inhibits the formation of nitrogen-fixing nodules on clover for up to 4 months after treatment.
  10. Again, makers of glyphosate claim that it is unlikely to pollute the water (ground or surface). However, a recent paper from San Paulo State University, Brazil, shows that glyphosate formulations profoundly affect the algae in fresh water. Researchers have found traces of glyphosate in wells, ground waters and reservoirs across Europe and the UK. Water contamination is probably as a result of drift from spraying, or from soil run off and erosion.

Scientists have found that we are experiencing a 6th mass extinction of species, with insects taking the biggest hit. Glyphosate is undoubtedly contributing to this decline.


We recently visited your Sheffield store with a banner and spoke to the store manager. I hope she passed on our request to you.

I look forward to hearing that you have decided to stop selling this poison in your stores.


Yours faithfully

Graham Wroe
Extinction Rebellion Pesticide Group

Sheffield Council declares a Nature Emergency

Following a strong campaign organised by the Wildlife Trusts, Friends of the Earth, The Diocese of Sheffield, Owlthorpe Fields Action Group and Sheffield Green Parents, Sheffield City Council unanimously declared a Nature Emergency at the last full Council meeting. They have recognised our country is one of the most nature-depleted in the world.  All parties on the Council backed the Green Party motion. The Council committed to developing a comprehensive Nature Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) for Sheffield, in association with partner organisations. This will feed into the local plan ensuring developers take far more care with our environment and hopefully preventing schemes that destroy our natural environment.

Cllr Peter Garbutt proposes the motion

Cllr Peter Garbutt proposed the motion. He informed the Council that according to the World Wildlife Fund we rank 12th from bottom out of 200 countries in how depleted our nature is. He said over a quarter of our animal species are at risk. Over 300,000 hedgehogs are killed every year. Experts believe there are only about 30 remaining wildcats. Many other creatures are on the red list of animals facing extinction such as water voles and grey long eared bats. Invertebrates, fish and birds are suffering too. Their habitats, rivers and lakes, wetlands and moorlands, meadows, woodland and urban habitats are all under pressure. The pressure comes from farming practices where intensive use of land degrades the soils and farmers who kill creatures like badgers in the belief that they harm their livestock. It comes from fox hunting and grouse shooting, where it isn’t just the grouse that get killed but mountain hares, raptors and anything else that interferes with their sport. From golf courses, impeccably manicured for the sport but very disruptive of natural habitats. It comes from our planning system, which pretends, via the biodiversity net gain legislation, to care about our precious and vulnerable species  but which almost invariably ends up driven by the build, build, build imperative from on high, removing vital habitats. It comes with our obsession for neatness which brings poisonous glyphosate to our streets and to noisy mowers cutting our roadside verges to within an inch of death every 3 or 4 weeks. They also ensure our parks are relatively sterile expanses of lawn. So from the carelessness of our throwaway society where  individuals who drop their single use plastic bottles, wrappings, cigarette butts, vape paraphernalia and even their dog poo bags on the streets or chuck them into the shrubbery, where the commons of land, water and air are regarded as little more than dumps to the various copious waste produced by our linear economy. 

Peter then asked,  “How can we promote our Outdoor City whilst ignoring the harms our outdoors is suffering? To reverse the decline we must first recognise the problem. This declaration is that first step.”

We can look forward to Sheffield’s green spaces, parks, riversides and verges becoming havens and corridors for wildlife.  Changed mowing regimes and reduced use of chemicals, air pollution reduction and sympathetic planting choices will all help stop the decline of insects and pollinators that are vital for our survival.  The Council aims for 100% of waterways to have water quality that supports healthy wildlife by 2030. Council understanding that good design of the built environment can help anchor wildlife in urban spaces will have to be addressed fully in the local plan.

The Council have recognised that the Climate and Nature emergencies are intrinsically linked with each other and also to social justice and by building a better world to deal with the Climate and Ecological Emergency we will also be building a better society. They have at last formally committed Sheffield to be carbon neutral by 2030. The Council will be advising Sheffield businesses to help them understand how their procurement decisions impact ecology in Sheffield.

The first big step the Council may take could be to review their policy of using poisonous Glyphosate on our streets, parks and playgrounds. This could be stopped with a combination of leaving the wild flowers to grow where they don’t pose a hazard, mechanical methods of weeding either with hand tools or powered tools, mulching (smothering the weeds)  or using hot foam. Combining this with less frequent mowing of verges will really boost the biodiversity of our city. 

Since the election many have been sceptical about how the new red/green Cooperative Executive would work, Indeed I have even been the victim of on-line bullying from someone who was disgusted that I have defended cooperation with Labour. But this motion shows that the new cabinet can cooperate and can make dramatic improvements to our city. I look forward to the next full Council meeting with eager anticipation! 

Cllr Anglea Argenzio seconded the motion.

Notes

Webcast of the momentous Council debate.

Notice Of Motion Regarding “Action on the Nature Emergency” – Given By Councillor Peter Garbutt And To Be Seconded By Councillor Angela Argenzio (passed unanimously)

That this Council:-

(a)      recognises our natural world is struggling from the impact of habitat degradation, urbanisation, consumerism, pollution, industrial agricultural and waste management practices and climate change – all contributing to widespread disruption to the survival and distribution of native species;

(b)      recognises and congratulates the excellent work by the Ecology Department, supported by the Parks and Countryside Service and partner organisations, being done on Species Specific Projects, as well as Landscape Projects, e.g. Urban Nature Parks and Nature Recovery Networks; and that, in addition, the Council defended the ecology of the Loxley River Valley by providing staff as key expert witnesses in a major planning inquiry, for the people of Sheffield;

(c)      in addition, congratulates and thanks all Council departments and employees working on projects and measures that protect and support nature, such as Sustainable Urban Drainage System work on Grey To Green projects, as well as organisations in Sheffield more broadly for their work, such as Hunter’s Bar Infant School for their work on their green wall;

(d)      declares a nature emergency;

(e)      commits to developing a comprehensive Nature Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) for Sheffield, in association with partner organisations;

(f)       resolves that the plan will look to connect initiatives and unify the Council’s approach to biodiversity through the NEAP;

(g)      requests the Climate Change, Economy and Development Transitional Committee develop the NEAP with input from all departments within the Council, and providing the opportunity for relevant external partner organisations, businesses and community stakeholders to input and collaborate on initiatives where there are benefits to doing so, for example, a wildlife corridor could affect several departments including Transport, Housing and Parks;

(h)      recognises that co-operation and communication is key to the success of the Nature Emergency Action Plan and that, from the planning stage to implementation, monitoring and protecting, it is important for the Council to lead initiatives which address the Nature Emergency and have widespread support from the public and local campaign groups;

(i)       acknowledges the likely challenges to projects within the NEAP from developers under the current national planning guidelines which severely constrain proper consideration of the Climate and Ecological Emergency, and for this reason, it is imperative that this Council develops robust policies in the Local Plan which can help to protect and enhance biodiversity; and

(j)       requests that the Administration ensures relevant staff and all elected members will receive training on biodiversity net gain (BNG) – a vital aspect of the new Environment Bill.

Amendment to be moved by Councillor Bernard Little, seconded by Councillor Paul Turpin (also passed unanimously)

That the Motion now submitted be amended by the addition of paragraphs (k) to (w) as follows:- 

(k) looks forward to Sheffield’s green spaces, parks, riversides and verges becoming havens and corridors for wildlife and future proofing as the climate changes through landscape management changes, such as changed mowing regimes and reduced use of chemicals, air pollution reduction and sympathetic planting choices; 

(l) recognises that the success of natural areas to prosper is enhanced by the active engagement of both formal and informal neighbourhood groups taking a role in their care; 

(m) understands the multi-faceted ways nature plays in community building, recreation, physical and mental health, scientific discovery, literature and art and lasting economic prosperity; 

(n) recognises that both individual and communal gardens and orchards play a key role in encouraging wildlife and connection to nature; Page 5 6 

(o) understands that good design of the built environment can help anchor wildlife in urban spaces and believes that this should be addressed fully in the local plan; 

(p) reminds the Council that there are many people who take an interest in wildlife; 

(q) recognises that the terms Nature, Ecological and Biodiversity can be and are often used interchangeably by people and, for the purpose of this motion, all mean the same thing; 

(r) recognises that the Climate and Nature emergencies are intrinsically linked with each other and also to social justice; and by building a better world to deal with the Climate and Ecological Emergency we will also be building a better society; 

(s) aims for Sheffield to be carbon neutral by 2030; 

(t) resolves to request the Administration to ban the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides such as glyphosate; 

(u) will seek to rewild areas such as grass verges and make sure there are areas for wildlife in our green spaces including but not exclusively for wildlife corridors; 

(v) aims for 100% of waterways to have water quality that supports healthy wildlife by 2030; and 

(w) requests the Administration to provide and recommend resources for businesses to help them understand how their procurement decisions impact ecology in Sheffield, the UK and across the world; such resources include the Natural Capital Protocol and the SHIFT online platform. 

ITEM OF BUSINESS NO.8 – NOTICE OF MOTION REGARDING “ACTION ON THE NATURE EMERGENCY” 5. Amendment to be moved by Councillor Barbara Masters, seconded by Councillor Tim Huggan (Lib Dem amendment also passed unanimously)

That the Motion now submitted be amended by the addition of new paragraphs (k) to (o) as follows:- 

(k) acknowledges that the work done to promote biodiversity and sustainability in Sheffield over a number of years by the various organisations, formal and informal, working with and within the Council, Page 4 5 provides a solid base on which to build, for example the tree planting in Bolehills done in conjunction with local groups and the park rangers; 

(l) recognises that top down measures must be balanced by input from the bottom up such as the initiative to allow residents to take over the management of grass verges close to their home; and the Council should review the range of measures that have been introduced by wildlife organisations, volunteer groups and Council departments to inform future plans; 

(m) calls for consultation with the wider community in recognition of the need for widespread public support and engagement with any initiative proposed under the NEAP; 

(n) recognises that changes called for will have a greater impact on the livelihoods of people working in certain sectors such as those involving land use, whether for food production or leisure use, and calls for the development of new job opportunities as part of the NEAP to help people and businesses make the transitions necessary under the NEAP; and 

(o) calls on Local Area Committees to allocate a funding stream specifically for nature projects.