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.

Bail out the planet

A letter to the Star in reply to Gary Speck

It is a shame that Gary Speck of Millhouses does not recognise that Extinction Rebellion supporters may also currently be mourning the loss of loved ones, be risking their lives in front line jobs or wondering if they will still have a job when the lockdown is over. He seems to have forgotten the first rule of the pandemic- be kind. I certainly won’t be punching the air in delight at other people’s misfortune.

He is correct to say that the current reduction in our emissions will have little effect on our climate. Terrible damage has already been done, and the greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere are not being removed, so the earth will continue to get hotter, bringing yet more floods, droughts, wildfires and tornadoes.  But there is some good news. A recent report from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air says the improvement in air quality over the past month of the coronavirus lockdown has led to 11,000 fewer deaths from pollution in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. Unfortunately, the drastic changes we have made in reducing travel are not enough if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. George Monbiot pointed out that “despite the vast changes we have made in our lives, global carbon dioxide emissions are likely to reduce by only about 5.5% this year. A UN report shows that to stand a reasonable chance of avoiding 1.5C or more of global heating, we need to cut emissions by 7.6% per year for the next decade. In other words, the lockdown exposes the limits of individual action. Travelling less helps, but not enough. To make the necessary cuts we need structural change. This means an entirely new industrial policy, created and guided by government.” A Green New Deal.
Presumably, Mr Speck would like the Government to give Richard Branson the £500 million bailout he has asked for. Why should the Government rescue a company that never pay tax and are literally jetting us to climate catastrophe? The loss of jobs will be regrettable, but many new jobs will be created in renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transport and sustainable agriculture when a Green New Deal is implemented. This money should be used to support a transition to a new normal, where the planet and people are put first. We must not return to business as usual, because that is what is destroying the planet.

Yours faithfully

Graham Wroe

Make your verge a wildflower meadow!

Some people are discouraging Council/Amey workmen from mowing the verge and spraying the verge outside their house with Glyphosate, by putting up signs like this.

The Ecologist says “With coronavirus putting pressure on council services and causing staff shortages, non-essential activities such as spring mowing could fall by the wayside.” Unfortunately here in Sheffield spraying seems to be more frequent with many residents complaining their street/verge has been sprayed with poison.

To make your own sign print this graphic (it wont use too much of your printer ink) and then colour it in with felt tips.
or here is a ready made one that can be colour printed.

Please send pictures of your Glyphosate Free Mini Meadow and I will share them here.

One from Corby

We need a new normal

Politicians are debating how the country can get back to normal as we begin the long road to recovery from Coronavirus. Citizens should make it clear that we must not return to “business as normal”. My heartfelt sympathies go out to all who have lost loved ones to this awful pandemic and to those that have lost livelihoods. Tragic as the last few weeks have been, there have been some positives to the situation. A recent report from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air says the improvement in air quality over the last month of the coronavirus lockdown has led to 11,000 fewer deaths from pollution in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

“Sharp falls in road traffic and industrial emissions have also resulted in 1.3m fewer days of work absence, 6,000 fewer children developing asthma, 1,900 avoided emergency room visits and 600 fewer preterm births.”  While the pandemic continues to take a terrible toll – more than 233,000 deaths worldwide since the start of the year as I write – the authors of the report say the response has offered a glimpse of the cleaner, healthier environment that is possible if the world shifts away from polluting fossil fuel industries.

Unfortunately, the drastic changes we have made in reducing travel are not enough if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. George Monbiot pointed out that “despite the vast changes we have made in our lives, global carbon dioxide emissions are likely to reduce by only about 5.5% this year. A UN report shows that to stand a reasonable chance of avoiding 1.5C or more of global heating, we need to cut emissions by 7.6% per year for the next decade. In other words, the lockdown exposes the limits of individual action. Travelling less helps, but not enough. To make the necessary cuts we need structural change. This means an entirely new industrial policy, created and guided by government.”

Governments and Councils must drop their road-building plans. Sheffield Council’s scheme to build a dual carriageway through Sheaf Valley Park, behind the station, should be thrown out straight away.

Airports must contract. Our carbon budget will not allow a return to the days when a plane ticket was cheaper than the fee to park your car at the airport. Richard Branson must not be given the £500 million bailout he has asked for. Virgin Atlantic has not paid the Government taxes, so why should we support Virgin Atlantic now they are in trouble? They should not be resuscitated. Governments should support the companies and organisations that will help secure the survival of our species and the rest of the living world, not those that are pushing us to the brink of extinction. Fossil fuels must be left in the ground.

Our local peer, Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle has been urging the Government not to bail out parasitic companies because they have failed to pay their taxes and support our NHS and public services. She wrote

“The firms based in tax havens, with complex “tax-efficient”, structures – ranging from water suppliers and nursing home chains to coffee shops and finance firms — are companies relying for their profits on infrastructure that we all pay for, on the labour of their workers, on customers dependent on hospitals, schools and policing. Amazon, which I often describe as the Great Parasite, is the obvious case study here: on the road outside your house today there was almost certainly a van carrying parcels for Amazon and you contributed to the cost of that road. Amazon did not.”

The pandemic has shown that many jobs can continue without the constant need to travel. So Councils should be looking at plans for reducing the need to move and investing in walking, cycling and public transport. We need wider pavements, segregated cycle lanes, buses and trams that run for service, not profit. The photo shows a new temporary cycle lane in York, making much better use of the road space now traffic has reduced. The government must invest heavily in green energy and even more in projects that reduce the demand for energy. Top of this list is home insulation, a real win-win that will reduce both fuel poverty and carbon emissions.

Following road works on this dual carriageway in York, Green Councillor Andy D’Agorne was able to persuade the Council to leave the cones in place to create a segregated cycle lane.

This pandemic has made our society re-evaluate the importance of different jobs. All of a sudden care workers, health workers, teachers, shop workers, refuse collectors, bus drivers and all the other key workers have become heroes. We can’t go back to the time when these jobs were looked down on and undervalued both in pay and respect. A post-corona society must be a much more equal society where all good work is valued and paid well, and no one can become obscenely rich. Don’t let politicians take us back to business as usual. Let’s build a new normal, starting from today.


An open letter to Cllr Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council

Cllr Mark Jones assured the public at Full Council in February that this year’s Council Tax letter would inform residents about the extreme threats of the climate and ecological emergencies (CEE). We were therefore extremely disappointed to open our Council Tax bills and read your letter, which only included one solitary sentence on this topic. You wrote, “we must create a sustainable economy to tackle the climate emergency, becoming carbon neutral by 2030”. The statement did nothing to help Sheffielders understand the climate emergency, or show how the Council are responding to it. 

Bing Jones from Extinction Rebellion challenges Sheffield Council to tell the truth about the climate crisis in the 2020 Council Tax letter. Cllr Mark Jones says “this is in hand.”

Since your previous Council Tax letter, we have yet again experienced flooding in Sheffield. Thankfully last November the £21m flood defences prevented a massive disaster here, but the good people downstream of Sheffield, especially in Fishlake,  will not be thanking you for that. Sheffield continues to fail to construct more natural flood resilience schemes upstream, to slow the flow of the water from the moors. 

Last July the city experienced its hottest temperature on record, 35.1 degrees C. Sheffield was fortunate that the weather broke before it had a chance to cause the sort of suffering that Paris experienced in 2003 when similar temperatures led to over 15000 deaths. 

Also this year we have seen massive destruction from fires in Australia, the Arctic, California, and the Amazon, and nearer to home the moors over Saddleworth, Marsden, and Ilkley. 

The Tyndall Report presented Sheffield with a carbon budget, 16 Megatonnes for the entire century, which with business, as usual, will be consumed by 2025. A 14% yearly carbon reduction is required to stay below the target of no more than 2 degrees warming over pre-industrial times (more if the proposed 1.5-degree target is to be assured). 

Extinction Rebellion has held ‘die-ins’ at the Town Hall and in February we presented petitions to the Full Council Meeting. So that our message could not escape attention we engaged in civil disobedience in the chamber. For 30 years politicians have ignored the warnings, so XR has made three demands: Tell the Truth, Act Now and Form a Citizens Assembly.

Telling the Truth is about recognising the severity of the CEE, and communicating the findings to the residents of Sheffield. When people are properly informed about the threats  they can protect themselves and their communities and agree to measures that politicians will have to enact. Telling the Truth is understanding that we are on target for:

This emergency is unprecedented in scale. It is far greater than coronavirus. This is frightening and fear can cause paralysis, but you are a leader so you can’t opt-out of this.  Leaders must lead in times of emergency. We have asked you to tell the truth in bold and imaginative ways, to communicate using the council websites, and by writing directly to residents. We have alerted you to the good practice of other councils, and we have addressed the specific weaknesses of the communication of SCC. 

You know how to respond to an emergency, as you are doing so with Covid.

You understand the need for clear and direct messaging. If we look at how authorities are talking to the people of Britain, it could not be more different from your failure of communication on CEE.

Public messaging on Covid has provided instructions for people, described the actions that the authorities will take and informed us of difficulties that people are going to face. You can do that for Covid so why not for the CEE? 

Your attention is now rightly focused on Covid,  but it would be criminal if the people of Sheffield suffer so much from this emergency, and yet their leaders do nothing to stop the far bigger climate emergency that is unfolding. You will not be the leader then, but your actions will influence the lives of future generations in Sheffield.

You must take your responsibilities to the CEE as seriously as you are Covid. You must atone for the failure of the council tax letter by taking serious and far-reaching steps to communicate the severity of this threat and what needs to be done. When Covid is over we can’t go back to business as usual. The moment has come to build a fairer, kinder, sustainable world, to build upon the outpouring of altruism and community we are witnessing, and to limit the deaths that are a consequence of global heating.


Hottest day in Sheffield

Tyndall Report

Temperature rise of 4 degrees C by the end of the century

Extinction of one million species

The collapse of agriculture

Climate change raises conflict concerns

Julie Dore’s original letter in full

Glyphosate sprayers still ignoring Health and Safety instructions

This guy was seen spraying Glyphosate on the Manor today. At least he is wearing gloves but astonishingly he is not wearing a mask. This despite the Council’s previous comments. (at the foot of the article). There were no warnings to the public to avoid the area, so dog walkers and children may well have been playing there as soon as he finished. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, please do.

An open letter to the Sheffield Star. Time to take editorial control.

You must start exercising some editorial control over your letters page. Nearly every day you print yet another epistle from Neville Martin containing dangerous and extreme anti-science propaganda. His latest effort is a classic. He quotes the thoroughly debunked article “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” by Arthur B Robinson which he claims is endorsed by over 31000 named scientists. This article has not been peer-reviewed. None of the “scientists” have been verified and they have included Charles Darwin, a member of the Spice Girls and a character from Star Wars! Robinson is a Republican politician with lots of good friends in the oil industry. His co-author Willie Soon received over $1.2 million from the fossil fuel industry, while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his work. Surely when Mr Martin so kindly gives his references you could check them to see if they hold water? But instead, you publish it, creating more doubt among your readers about the urgent need to act on the climate emergency.

Today it has been reported that Antarctica has experienced a new record temperature of 20.75 degrees centigrade.

Image by Angie Agostino from Pixabay

Residents who have been flooded twice already this year don’t need convincing that our climate is changing. What they want is action to keep them safe in future. 

Climate change deniers have created a culture which has excused lack of action from Governments and international institutions over the last 30 years.  What we need to debate now is how we are going to adapt to an increasingly hostile climate and what emergency measures should be taken to rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Graham Wroe


Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. 2007. The controversial article Neville Martin quoted.

Skeptical Science debunking the article

Wikipedia-Art Robinson

The Oregon Petition

Willie Soon


Neville Martin’s letter in the Star, published 3/3/20

Airport expansion blocked at Heathrow and Bristol. Doncaster and Leeds next?

Green campaigners are celebrating the brilliant news that Heathrow airport expansion has been stopped because it is incompatible with the Paris Agreement. At last, the courts have realised how important the Paris agreement is and legal campaigners Plan B and Friends of the Earth must be congratulated for winning this David and Goliath battle.  Bristol has also decided against expanding their airport. Greta Thunberg spoke to massive crowds of climate strikers last week welcoming the decision. 

Heathrow Airport (Image by JoeBreuer from Pixabay)

This is the first time the Paris Agreement has been used as the basis for a court ruling. I believe it will open the door for more challenges to allow people to take power back from big business and protect our planet. Campaigners across the country will continue to fight the expansion of airports.

Why is aviation so bad for the planet?  Rapid reduction of passenger numbers and flights is required to limit global heating. Globally aviation is responsible for 6% of CO₂ emissions, not 2% as claimed by the industry.  Within Europe, aviation CO₂ emissions grew 4.9% in 2018 while emissions from other industries in the Emissions Trading Scheme fell.  CO₂ emitted by airlines increased by 32% from 2013 to 2018, according to a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation. The number of flights being taken globally is increasing and airports are building more runways, with expansion plans all over the UK.

The plans for the growth of aviation are staggering. Doncaster Robin Hood airport had 1,335,590 passengers in 2017 but this is planned to increase 9 fold by 2050 to 11,800,000. Leeds Bradford is planning to nearly double by 2030, from 4,074,500 to 7,000,000. The total number of passengers for all the airports in the UK in 2017 is 280 million but it is planned to grow to 440 million.  

To curb emissions in the aviation sector, the government must manage travel demand – ensuring that the number of flights does not increase and indeed starts to rapidly fall over the next decade.

 A “frequent flyer levy” is proposed by many green campaigners. This would charge frequent flyers while leaving one flight per year priced at current levels. The majority of people would not be impacted. A 2014 survey found that 74% of adults in the UK had not flown, or had only flown once, during the previous year. On the other hand, 10% of passengers took 4 or more flights a year. These are the people that need to be dissuaded from flying first. Many of these will be business trips. In these days of video conferencing, I  question the efficiency of continually flying to make business deals. Surely this could be done using modern technology. If I can video conference with people all over the world on my home pc, business leaders can manage this in their plush offices. 

Governments must stop subsidising aviation fuel. Why should the most polluting form of transport get the biggest subsidy? It’s estimated this amounts to £10 billion a year in the UK- so roughly £150 of the tax you pay the Government goes straight to the aviation industry. This money could be invested in better rail and bus services and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians and could substantially reduce our nations carbon footprint. 

Having avoided flying for 30 years to do my best to help the climate, it is clear that my personal sacrifice has made little difference. I may have persuaded some people not to fly, but it’s like trying to bail out a flooded house with a teaspoon. We need immediate structural change from Governments, businesses and the United Nations to ensure we reduce our dependence on aviation. The alternative is to pass on an uninhabitable world to our children and grandchildren. 


Cllr Andrew Cooper on Leeds Bradford Airport

Greta Thunberg speaks in Bristol (Full Speech)

Plan B

Heathrow third runway ruled illegal

Carbon Brief Planned growth of UK airports is not consistent with net-zero climate goal.

Industry solutions are technological myths

Aviation 2-3 times more damaging to climate than industry claims.

Government fuel subsidy of £10 billion


Doncaster Airport expansion plans

Call for the plane truth at world aviation festival

Airlines emissions rising up to 70% faster than expected.

Electric cars are not the answer

Climate change denier, conspiracy theorist and religious fundamentalist Neville Martin has, at last, made a sensible point! It is crazy to expect that we can replace all our petrol and diesel cars with electrics. For a start there just isn’t enough cobalt, lithium and nickel to build all the new batteries. The mining of these materials has severe environmental costs and often involves child labour. Mining companies are considering mining the seabed to extract the required lithium, with huge consequences for sea-life. Manufacturing all these electric cars will have a huge carbon footprint, one we can’t afford if we are to get to carbon zero in time to save us from climate catastrophe. Mr Martin is also right that the grid will struggle to supply the required electricity for all the electric cars, especially as we need to start decommissioning nuclear power stations, because they are on the coast and are threatened by the rising sea levels.

Charlotte Road Charging Points

Mr Martin lacks any vision as to how we can reduce the number of cars while improving the quality of life for everyone. We need to discourage private vehicles and boost public transport. Nottingham has made a great start on this. Employers with more than 11 car park spaces pay the Council per parking space. Money raised from this has improved the tram and bus service and been invested in the railway station and in cycle routes. The net effect is less congestion and much improved public transport, so more people choose to leave their car at home. It means less air pollution and fewer cars parked on crowded streets.  People will get more exercise and there will be fewer car accidents, saving the NHS money. Discouraging commuters from parking in inner-city neighbourhoods by charging or restricting them will have similar effects, bringing relief to residents who currently battle to get a car park space anywhere near their home.

Carpools of electric cars would be available when public transport really can’t do the job, but if public transport was top quality and cheap, as Sheffield buses used to be, then most people would opt to use it. People don’t enjoy being stuck in traffic jams-they would much rather be able to travel on a tram so they can look at their phone on the journey!

Mr Martin is also correct to be concerned about future electricity supplies. We need massive investment in renewables, including air and ground source heat pumps to replace domestic gas boilers as well as solar, wind and hydro. Soon it will be common for windows to contain transparent solar cells that will power buildings. But there is still a danger of energy shortage especially as the Government are not taking the necessary actions to promote new renewable energy. Therefore we need to find a way to ration what energy we use so that those with little income can still heat their homes and those that are rich have to keep an eye on their consumption. as money will not be able to buy them all the energy they want. Massive investment in insulation, such as cladding the outside of terraced housing, is also required.

Now video conferencing is simple, far more people should be able to work at home or at least have much more flexible hours, reducing rush hour congestion.

Cars need to be banned around schools at start and pick up time and “walking buses” should be a common feature of every primary school, reducing the obesity epidemic among the young and helping busy parents who are hurrying to get to and from work.

Fewer cars need not be Mr Martin’s hell on earth, it could actually be a glimpse of paradise!

Graham Wroe

Naville Martin’s letter in the Sheffild Star, 14.02.20


Deep-sea mining

Nuclear power sites at risk of flooding

School run ban

Walking buses

Mining Lithium in Chile