Do we really have a free press?

Extinction Rebellion has taken a great deal of flack recently, for preventing Rupert Murdoch’s papers from leaving the printers on 3rd September. Much of the argument has concentrated on the assertion that it is anti-democratic to disrupt the free press. But do we really have a free press in this country? 

 Empty newspaper shelves in Sheffield containing XR leaflets. Thanks to Luke for the photo.

Five billionaires control approximately 80% of our media. Rupert Murdoch runs the Times and the Sunday Times, The Sun and the Sun on Sunday. He lives in the States and avoids paying tax in the UK. His papers consistently support the Conservative Party in elections (apart from Scotland where they support the SNP). Murdoch has financial interests in oil, and his News Corporation often spread mistruths about renewable energy. Even his own son, James, has criticised News Corp for downplaying the impact the climate crisis is having, particularly in spreading forest fires in Australia. He and his wife, Kathryn, issued a joint statement directly criticising his father’s businesses for their “ongoing denial” on the issue, which has been reflected in the family’s newspapers, repeatedly casting doubt on the link between the climate emergency and the forest fires. These fires resulted in the death of 2 billion animals. 

Most of our press is anything but “free”. It has continually ignored the climate crisis, and when it has mentioned climate change it has confused and misinformed us about the threat we face. This has delayed the action Governments need to take to prevent us from hurtling towards extinction.   

Rupert Read from Extinction Rebellion said “we caused a tiny disruption, to warn about the vast, permanent disruption that’s coming if humanity doesn’t completely change path. We need to drastically re-localise our world, to protect ourselves against climate-chaos and coronaviruses alike.”

What XR did in Broxbourne, Knowsley and Glasgow was a huge shock to the super-rich tax-exiles who largely control the press. Rupert Murdoch wants you to be angry at XR, while he pretends that global heating is not wrecking our world. 

All three party leaders condemned the XR action, with Kier Starmer the Labour leader saying “the free press is the cornerstone of democracy and we must do all we can to protect it.” Green politicians defended XR, with former MEP Molly Scott-Cato saying “A genuinely free press means one where all views have open access. This is why the Green Party will campaign to restrict ownership so that no individual or company owns more than 20 per cent of a media market”.

After the protest, government briefings proposed classifying XR as an “organised crime group” threatening peaceful protestors with 5 years in prison. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel said: “The very criminals who disrupt our free society must be stopped and together we must all stand firm against the guerilla tactics of Extinction Rebellion.” But Shahrar Ali, Green Party home affairs spokesperson, said: “Patel may not like XR’s tactics but her threat to criminalise them is disproportionate in the extreme. We must fight for the democratic right of all to demonstrate peacefully.” 

Ironically these government threats came in the same week as the Prime Minister proposed the Internal Market Bill, which will break international law. 

In my view, it’s the press barons, not the protestors, who are the criminals. They know that the UN Secretary-General has warned the public that we now face “runaway climate change” and said this is “a direct existential threat”. They know that NASA has revised their forecasts for the ice-free Arctic Ocean from the 2060s to the year 2034, indicating that we are now approaching climate breakdown. They know that Prof Sir David King has warned that billions of people could be killed. And they know that specialists, like Sir David Attenborough, warn we risk the runaway effect within around 20 years, which would cause a collapse in the food supply, which risks the collapse of civilisation.

The press barons are also well aware that MPs have decided that the vast cost of stabilising climate, through yet to be invented negative emissions technologies, must fall upon the young. The Paris COP21 agreement means that the young will have to pay to remove all the CO2 now being emitted and do so between 2050 and 2100. This war on the young is hidden by most media outlets.

Despite knowing that billions of people will be killed unless we make dramatic and immediate cuts to emissions, the press barons lobby relentlessly for the maintenance of high carbon lifestyles, even supporting the expansion of aviation. Their papers incite politicians to deliver policies that will cause mass loss of life and suppress the information the young need to defend themselves against those who will make their future deadly. The press barons are far closer to the definition of “terrorist” than any of the peaceful protestors who were willingly arrested to bring attention to this planetary crisis. 

Here is a video made by those on the protest. Please excuse the strong language which I think is justified in this case. Also see this statement from XR North here.


Five reasons why we don’t have a free press. Open Democracy.

James Murdoch criticises father’s news outlets for climate crisis denial

Rupert Murdoch says ‘no climate change deniers around’ – but his writers prove him wrong

Rupert Read:  One day’s disruption, a tiny price to pay for our future?

XR: “Spine-chilling” and “Stalinist” – Baroness, MPs and former counter-terrorism policeman speak out against reclassifying Extinction Rebellion as serious organised crime

Extinction Rebellion ‘criminals’ threaten UK way of life, says Priti Patel

Alan Storey in Green World: XR printers blockade: How free is our free press?

Priti Patel in the Independent

UK Government formerly warned over lack of Press Freedom by Council of Europe

What do West Ham, Southampton, Chelsea and Norwich City have in common?

(A letter to the Star and Telegraph)

Football fans, what do West Ham, Southampton, Chelsea and Norwich City have in common? They are the 4 Premier League clubs who will be at risk of flooding every season within the next 3 decades. A report by the Rapid Transition Alliance found that a quarter of all football league grounds will be regularly threatened with flooding due to the climate crisis. In the Championship there are seven grounds threatened, including Hull’s KCOM Stadium and Cardiff City Stadium, both of which are predicted to be entirely underwater by 2050. Nearer to home, Doncaster Rover’s Keepmoat stadium can expect an annual partial flood by 2050.

International sporting competitions have already been affected by climate events. 2019’s Rugby World Cup was hit by a typhoon and this year’s Australian Open was affected by smoke from the region’s bush fires. With Arctic ice now melting rapidly, we can expect things to get far worse. 

Footballers are currently doing a great job to bring peoples attention to the Black Lives Matter campaign. Which star will do for the climate crisis what Marcus Rashford is doing for child poverty? My recent letters to the directors of SUFC and SWFC (which were published in the Sheffield Telegraph) have so far gone unanswered, but I continue to hope that they will up their game and be a powerful force within the sport to highlight the urgent action needed to prevent climate catastrophe.  

Graham Wroe

Full report here

A challenge to the Blades and the Owls

Blades and Owls logos surrounded in Green.

In my youth, a popular mantra was “Sport and Politics don’t mix”.The truth is that sport and politics have always gone hand in hand, sometimes for the good, sometimes not.

Marcus Rashford won a brilliant victory, forcing the Prime Minister to continue free school meals over the summer and has now launched a campaign against child food poverty. This is arguably more important than any goal he has scored!  

Premier League matches since lockdown began with players “taking the knee” in support of Black Lives Matter, a significant move in a sport still blighted by racist chanting. I congratulate the players for kneeling in solidarity with the victims of racism.  In the States, basketball players have gone on strike to support BLM.

Going back a few years the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa was an important contribution to the eventual fall of the racist regime. 

In Boxing in 1967, Muhammad Ali refused to enlist to fight for the US in the Vietnam War. Already a superstar, Ali was opposed to the war due to his Muslim beliefs. Ali was arrested,  found guilty of draft evasion, stripped of his titles, and had his fighting license suspended. Ali couldn’t compete for three years until his conviction was overturned in 1971. 

In horse racing, in 1913,  the suffragette movement went mainstream thanks to the fatal protest of Emily Davison. On the day of the Derby, Davison entered the track and was hit by the king’s horse, Anmer. Her cause was the right of women to get the vote in Britain, which happened five years later.

A much less welcome collision of sport and politics was when Hitler attempted to use the Olympics to showcase Nazi Germany in 1936. Fortunately, he was undermined by Jesse Owens, an African-American track and field athlete, who won four gold medals, clearly demonstrating that there was nothing superior about the “Aryan” race.

Sportsmen and women have a massive influence on our culture and our beliefs. They have a great responsibility to be positive role models and to use their influence for the common good. 

Currently, the world is sleepwalking towards the biggest catastrophe it has ever faced. Due to the inadequacy of our politicians and our media most people don’t understand the existential threat that climate chaos is posing, not just to future generations, but to people alive today. Already crops are failing, sea levels are rising, forests are burning and ice caps are disappearing. A third of Bangladesh is underwater as I write. We are dangerously close to many feedback loops that will further heat the world’s climate and send temperatures spiralling upwards, making our planet uninhabitable.

So today I am challenging the directors and managers of our leading sports clubs to educate themselves, the staff and players about the threats we face and what we can do about them. Please host a talk on Zoom, to hear a speaker explain why we are currently heading for extinction and what we can do to prevent it. Armed with this knowledge I am sure you will then want to make some dramatic changes to the way your clubs are run, but most importantly you will want to use your influence as Marcus Rashford has done so successfully, to change Government policy. 

Forest Green Rovers are not as successful as the Blades or Owls on the pitch, but they have been leading the way in creating a sustainable sports club. FIFA have described them as the greenest football club in the world. They’re the first and only vegan football club. They’re also the first club on the planet to be certified carbon neutral by the United Nations. Local teams should follow their green achievements. 

The club is powered by 100% green electricity and carbon-neutral gas from Ecotricity, some of which is generated with the solar panels on the stadium roof.

The pitch they play on is organic, free from pesticides and herbicides. It is cut by an electric ‘mow-bot’  a GPS-directed electric lawnmower, powered by energy harnessed from the sun and watered with rainwater collected from beneath the pitch. 

Sustainable travel to all games is recommended, and they provide EV charge-points from The Electric Highway.

They offer freshly made vegan food to all players, staff and fans, which is great for the environment, health and performance, and tastes good too.

If United and Wednesday followed suit, these improvements would be small steps in the right direction. Every business and household has a responsibility to do what they can to become more sustainable. But what is needed is radical system change that must be initiated by Governments and international organisations. If footballers speak out this could influence public opinion and government policy. 

So come on Wednesday and United, host a talk, educate your players and fans and start to be part of the solution, rather than part of the cause, of climate chaos.


A truly sustainable football club

Don’t scrum with a racist bum!

‘A third of Bangladesh underwater’ after heavy rains, floods

When sport and politics meet

This article has been sent to directors of both SUFC and SWFC and tweeted to those players and managers on Twitter.

We plough the fields and spray them

Sing along to the video!

We plough the fields and spray them

With Glyphosate each year

It kills the weeds and insects

And gets into our beer

The cancer grows inside us

The bees they fade and die

But farmers keep on spraying

They believe Monsanto’s lie.

All good gifts around us

Are sprayed with Glyphosate

Please save the earth

Oh save the earth

From this awful fate

The Council sprays our playgrounds

Our streets, our parks our lawn

The wild flowers are depleted

The worms become forlorn

We’re in a mass extinction

Our hedgehogs are at risk

The Council keep on spraying

They really take the piss

All good gifts around us

Are sprayed with Glyphosate

Please save the earth

Oh save the earth

From this awful fate

Corona is upon us

A virus that can kill

Glyphosate kills our wildlife

And makes our people ill

The planet is in crisis

What do we think it’s worth

We need some urgent changes

To save our precious earth

All good gifts around us

Are sprayed with Glyphosate

Please save the earth

Oh save the earth

From this awful fate

Coldplay, Leonardo DiCaprio and Malala

What do I have in common with Coldplay, Leonardo DiCaprio, Malala, Emma Thompson, Annie Lennox, Brian Eno, Greta Thunberg and Bjork?

Well along with thousands of scientists, activists and celebrities I have signed a letter to EU leaders and Heads of State demanding we must stop pretending we can solve the climate and ecological crisis without treating it as a crisis. There is no room to reprint the letter here, but here are some of the key points. It states we must

  • halt investments in fossil fuels and immediately end fossil fuel subsidies.
  • make ecocide a crime at the International Criminal Court.
  • include international aviation and shipping in total emissions in all figures and targets.
  • establish annual, binding carbon budgets based on the current best available science and the IPCC’s budget which gives us a 66% chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 °C. They need to include the global aspect of equity, tipping points and feedback loops and shouldn’t depend on assumptions of possible future negative emissions technologies.
  • protect democracy.
  • design climate policies that protect workers and the most vulnerable and reduce all forms of inequality: economic, racial and gender.
  • treat the climate and ecological emergency as an emergency.

The changes necessary to safeguard humanity may seem unrealistic. But it is much more unrealistic to believe that our society would be able to survive the global heating we’re heading for, as well as other disastrous ecological consequences of today’s business as usual​.

We have watched with horror how the COVID-19 pandemic has hit people all over the globe. ​We have seen how many – not all – world leaders and people around the world stepped up and acted for the greater good of society.

The climate crisis has never been treated as a crisis, neither from the politicians, media, business, nor finance. And the longer we keep pretending that we are on a path to lower emissions and that the actions required to avoid a climate disaster are available within today’s system, the more precious time we will lose.

Climate and environmental justice can not be achieved as long as we continue to ignore and look away from the social and racial injustices that have laid the foundations of our modern world. ​The fight for justice and equity is universal. Whether it is the fight for social, racial, climate or environmental justice, gender equality, democracy, human-, indigenous peoples’- LGBTQ- and animal rights, freedom of speech and press, or the fight for a balanced, wellbeing, functioning life-supporting system. ​We don’t have to choose and divide ourselves over which crisis or issue we should prioritise because it is all interconnected.

Net-zero emissions by 2050 means surrender. This target is based on a carbon budget that only gives a 50% chance of limiting global heating below 1.5°C. This doesn’t include some of the key factors, such as the global aspect of equity, most tipping points and feedback loops, as well as already built-in additional warming hidden by air pollution. So, in reality, it is much less than a 50% chance.

We are facing a crisis that we can not buy, build, or invest our way out of. ​Aiming to ‘recover’ an economic system that inherently fuels the climate crisis in order to finance climate action is just as absurd as it sounds. We need a new system.

The race to safeguard life on Earth must start today. This needs a science-based pathway which gives us the best possible chance to limit the global average temperature rise to below 1.5 °C. ​We need to end the ongoing exploitation and destruction of our life-supporting systems and move towards a decarbonised economy that centres around the wellbeing of all people and the natural world.

If all countries were to meet the emission reductions they have set as goals, we would still be heading for a global temperature rise of at least 3-4°C. ​Governments have given up on the possibility of handing over a decent future to coming generations. 

The world’s planned fossil fuel production by the year 2030 accounts for 120% more than what would be consistent with the 1.5° target. Reading the latest reports it is clear that the climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today’s system.

If we are to avoid climate catastrophe we have to tear up contracts and abandon existing agreements, on a scale we can’t begin to imagine. Those types of actions are not politically, economically or legally possible within today’s system.

The clock is ticking. Governments doing their “best” is no longer good enough. They must now do the seemingly impossible.  There is no place on earth where children face a future in a safe environment. Governments must face the climate emergency.

You too can sign the letter, here.


Latest reports

PCC SR1.5 Report

UNEP Production Gap Report

The demands for racial justice and climate justice are two sides of the same coin.

I am a white, heterosexual, professional man, so you may question my qualifications to write about racism. However, I hope you will give me the benefit of doubt and continue reading. 

When I was newly married and living on Hyde Park flats, my wife got a job childminding a beautiful Nigerian baby. We used to go to Castle Market to shop and I would carry the baby in a baby carrier. Being spat at and verbally abused, just because we had a black baby, was a blinding revelation to us and started to give us an insight into what it must be like to be the victim of racism.

In 2008 I led a campaign to stop one of my students being deported to Burundi, a country where she had fled violent oppression. During the campaign, I was subjected to racial abuse on social media and was sometimes shocked by the responses of people who I asked to sign the petition, who refused to help because of the colour of her skin.

Roll on to 2020 and we see the murder of George Floyd by the police and the rise of Black Lives Matter protests all around the world. As my wife is shielding I could not join the Sheffield protest, but Extinction Rebellion and Green Party members did show their solidarity because racial justice and climate justice are two sides of the same coin. The world’s economic system has always required the exploitation and oppression of people alongside the exploitation and destruction of the environment.

Black people have always suffered far more from pollution and extreme weather than white people. American Activist Elizabeth Yeampierre comments

Black Lives Matter window display

“people are suffering from asthma and upper respiratory disease, and we’ve been fighting for the right to breathe for generations… those are the signs you’re seeing in these protests — “I can’t breathe.”  When the police are using chokeholds, literally people who suffer from a history of asthma and respiratory disease, their breath is taken away… this is an environmental justice issue. The communities that are most impacted by COVID, or by pollution, it’s not surprising that they’re the ones that are going to be most impacted by extreme weather events. And it’s not surprising that they’re the ones that are targeted for racial violence… and you can’t treat one part of the problem without the other, because it’s so systemic”

This is just as true in Sheffield. Who is if that suffers most from the traffic pollution? It’s the people living in the inner city and near the M1, communities where there are a far greater proportion of BAME and white working-class people. Where is our rubbish burnt? Bernard Road, to the east of the city centre to ensure the plume is blown towards Darnall and Tinsley.  Where are the most police stop and searches? You can bet it is not Dore and Totley! 

Around the world it is predominantly black communities that suffer when multinational companies come to tear down the forest where they live, or record droughts lead to crop failure and famine, or floods, tornadoes or wildfires destroy communities. Our economic system has ransacked the earth, leaving it scarred, polluted and with a fever. Indigenous, black and poor people have always paid the price for the likes of Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates to live unimaginably rich lifestyles.

I am very concerned for my former teacher colleagues in Uganda, who have been at the brunt of extreme weather recently. Storms have led to Lake Victoria rising to record levels, with whole villages completely flooded, washing away homes, crops and livelihoods. This on top of the locust plague and the COVID pandemic leaves them in an appalling situation, largely ignored by our media.

So what is to be done? Politicians must listen to the demands of Black Lives Matter. We must decolonise education, and teach the truth to our children about black history. It is not enough to be non-racist, we have to be anti-racist. We must confront issues and ask the difficult questions, like why is there no black person on this management team or this Board of Governors, why do so many more black children get excluded from school, and why so many more get stop and searched by the police. Why is news of our celebrities given more coverage than what is happening to the people of Africa, Asia and South America?  The struggle to stop police brutality is part of the struggle to prevent climate catastrophe. The environmental movement and the anti-racist movement need to combine forces to stop discrimination and combat the destruction of our planet that so negatively impacts BAME people all around the world. It is not only right for white people with privilege to take a stand against racism and the threats to our planet, but it is also our duty to do so.


‘Racial Justice Is Climate Justice’: Why The Climate Movement Needs To Be Anti-Racist

Unequal impact. The deep links between racism and climate change

Why ‘I can’t breathe’ is resonating with environmental justice activists

Magid Magid
Being non-racist is not enough. We have to be anti racist

‘Racism dictates who gets dumped on’: how environmental injustice divides the world

BAME life chances, Covid inequality and death

Worst flooding in generations in Kenya devastates communities reeling from locust swarms and Covid-19

Sheffielder’s are giving nature a chance

One of the positives of lockdown has been how noticeable nature has become. With far less traffic noise people are noticing the birdsong. Wildlife like deer and badgers have been spotted in the city centre. With more time being spent in gardens people are noticing all manner of insects.

Some Sheffielder’s have taken up the challenge of “Mow Free May”. They are breaking with the lifelong habit of getting the lawnmower out every fortnight and leaving the grass to grow to see what wildflowers emerge. Why are they doing this? A report in the journal Biological Conservation found that 97 per cent of British wildflower meadows have disappeared since the 1930s. A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications shows that many British pollinating insects are in decline, with rarer species, such as the red-shanked carder bee, really struggling. Pollinators are vital for our food supply. Between 1980 and 2013, every square kilometre in the UK lost an average of 11 species of bee and hoverfly. The reasons behind this are the use of insecticides and herbicides, habitat loss and an overall reduction in biodiversity. People are often surprised at how quickly the lawn blossoms with many varieties of wildflowers, encouraging bees and insects back to the garden.

France banned pesticide use in parks, streets and public spaces back in 2017. Last year they also banned pesticides in gardens. This has led to a surge in awareness of urban wildflowers. Botanist Sophie Leguil started a craze that has now spread to Sheffield. She set up the “More than Weeds” project and started highlighting plants growing in urban streets by chalking their name on the pavement. This idea spread rapidly, educating many about the biodiversity on their street. A recent article in the Guardian has encouraged many to take up the idea here. The photos show chalkings in Sheffield. Technically this is illegal in this country, so I could not possibly advocate that readers should do this, but reports indicate that the idea is leading to a greater appreciation of nature among people of all ages and it is having a positive effect on mental health.

If you want to find out more about the plants growing in your garden and your street there are various phone apps you can use to help you with identification. I’ve never studied botany but am finding out by using the “PlantSnap” app.

Of course, the Council still think it is the right thing to spend our Council Tax money destroying these plants with Glyphosate, denying the bees their nectar and the citizens interaction with nature on their otherwise monotonous local walks. The petition to the Council to stop Glyphosate spraying has now reached 5700 signatures. You can sign here.

My street doesn’t have any verges, but in suburbia, people have taken to adopting their verges and turning them into a wildflower meadow. They have done this by creating signs asking the Council not to mow them and noting the diversity of flowers that emerge. This has already led to one stand-off, reminiscent of the trees dispute. A resident pleaded with workers not to cut the grass, but he was ignored.  He then stood on the verge to prevent the workmen strimming it. He was unable to prevent most of the verge being shorn but did save the central area where he stood. I am sure Health and Safety regulations must have been broken in this operation.

For road safety reasons it is obviously important to keep verges trimmed at junctions or where long grass could cause a hazard. But many local authorities, struggling with cuts to their budgets, have reduced the number of times the verges are mowed. Reducing mowing to the “twice is nice” recommendations from the wildlife charity Plantlife (, cutting verges twice in late summer and autumn or once in autumn and once in early spring, could save 22,754 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

According to Dr Trevor Dines, local authorities which have taken the decision to mow less and later are now getting more feedback from residents welcoming roadside blooms than complaints about messiness.

 Plantlife is highlighting 10 summer flowering plants that are increasingly rare and seeking refuge in roadside verges through the countryside.

They are oxeye daisy, yellow rattle, wild carrot, meadow crane’s-bill, greater knapweed, white campion, burnet-saxifrage, betony, harebell and field scabious. The plants could see their best summer in years with fewer cuts. Let’s hope our Council get the message and work with residents to increase biodiversity rather than constantly destroying it.


Glyphosate Petition

Mow free May

More than weeds project

Wildflowers boom after cuts to mowing

Chalking in Sheffield (lots more photos)

Adopted verges in Sheffield (lots more photos)


The legality of chalking on the pavement

Wildflower chalking

Sheffielder’s have caught on to the French craze of chalking the names of wildflowers on the pavement. It becomes a talking point, educating everyone about the bio-diversity on our doorstep and helping people appreciate nature. It also shames the Council, who continue to waste our Council Tax on spraying the “weeds” with glyphosate. This Guardian article explains what’s happening. Here are some pictures from Sheffield streets. Technically this activity is unlawful so I can not advocate that you should do it. But the information is proving very helpful and interesting to those on otherwise monotonous local walks for exercise.