Religions have a vital role in helping save the planet

27th July 2019

Dear Editor

Having lost the debate about climate science Neville Martin has now moved on to religion (Star letters 20.7.19). If he has grandchildren I wonder if they will be comforted by his assertion that God is in control, so we needn’t worry about the destruction of our life support system.

For those that don’t believe in God Mr Martin’s letter will of course, be an irrelevance. For those of us that do, we must counter his extremely lazy theology. If people agreed with Mr Martin’s view that we shouldn’t intervene in world affairs because God is in control, then none of the great social movements that Christians have contributed to in the past would have happened- the abolition of slavery, the end of child labour and the campaign against apartheid to name just three.

God’s very first command to Adam in the book of Genesis was that he should “work the land and take care of it.”1 We have patently failed to take care of it, and now creation is in such a mess that the very survival of our species is at stake.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has supported Extinction Rebellion since it began last year. He said “It really isn’t an exaggeration to say that the future of the human race is now at stake. The nature of the changes in climate and environment that we are living with threaten not only the wellbeing but possibly the very being of our species on this planet in the long term and in the middle term they threaten some of the most vulnerable populations on earth. It is not at all surprising that people in this urgent situation feel that they have got to take non-violent direct action. They have got to find a way for putting a case for the human race before those in power. That’s what Extinction Rebellion is doing, that’s what the Friday strikes are doing and that’s why I believe wide, deep support from the public is needed.” 2

This week as temperature records were broken yet again Christian Aid found that 71% of the UK public agreed that climate change would be more important than the country’s departure from the EU. Six out of 10 adults said the government was not doing enough to prioritise the climate crisis. The poll also showed that church-going Christians were more likely than the general public to say the climate emergency should be the government’s top priority, at 77% compared with 66%.3

Having delivered talks about the climate and ecological emergency at two local Churches, St Aidan’s on the Manor and St Mark’s Broomhill, I would be happy to receive further invitations. The Church, and indeed all religions, have a vital role to play in saving our planet from climate catastrophe and ecological disaster.

Yours

Graham Wroe

References

1.       Genesis 2:15

2. Dr Rowan Williams, ” the future of the human race is now at stake” Extinction Rebellion

3. Climate more pressing than Brexit, say 71% of Britons – poll


SherwoodChristian Aid poll finds climate emergency should be Boris Johnson’s top priority

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The Star must tell the truth about the Climate Emergency

Have you ever noticed a lump growing on your body? Maybe you’ve thought, it’s probably nothing, if I ignore it, it will go away. If you’ve been in that situation I sincerely hope you had a good friend who encouraged you to go to the doctors and get it checked out. Denial is a natural response to danger, but it is very dangerous.

Planet earth has a perilously high fever. We are experiencing the symptoms all over the planet, with increased droughts, floods, melting ice caps, rising sea levels and extinction levels between 100 and 1000 times greater than the background levels. People who deny this and ignore the science that says we must change the way we live now or face an uninhabitable earth in the future, are spreading denial and encouraging governments and people not to take the action that is necessary.

I recently visited Nancy Fielder, the editor of the Star, with a small delegation from Extinction Rebellion. We presented a petition of more than 400 names demanding that the Star tell the truth about the climate emergency. I asked her if a reader wrote in, telling parents not to get their children immunised because this causes autism, would she publish it? She didn’t answer the question, but I like to think she would not publish it, because she knows it would be irresponsible to encourage people not to immunise. The Star has a duty to educate and inform people, especially on matters which affect our health. How much greater then is the responsibility to inform people about the climate emergency when the very survival of our species is at stake?

Sheffield XR present petition for Sheffield Star to tell the truth about the Climate Crisis
Rachael Kidd, Nancy Fielder, Graham Wroe and Louis Brijmohun

Since then we have had several more letters from Neville Martin who is in complete denial about the climate emergency. He is entitled to his opinions, but surely if the Star prints these letters, they have a responsibility to add a fact-check, showing what the scientists say.

In his latest letter, for instance, he claimed that ice on Antarctica is gaining not losing. This is a lie. Only this week we had the news that the massive Thwaites glacier, which is as big as Florida, is now in danger of slipping into the sea. When it melts, sea levels will rise by 2 feet.  But that isn’t the worst of it. Thwaites sits at the centre of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and if it breaks off into the sea, it would destabilise nearby glaciers that could, in turn, raise sea levels by roughly 11 feet. Without new infrastructure to protect them, coastal cities around the world would be flooded. Hundreds of millions of people’s homes would be inundated. 

The ice at the poles currently reflect the sun’s rays and keeps our planet cool. When the ice melts the rays hit the dark ocean water, and the suns energy is absorbed. The warmer water then melts the surrounding ice even quicker, producing a dangerous feedback loop which continues to speed up global heating.

Mr Martin is like a friend that, when he hears you’ve got a lump, tells you not to worry about it and it will go away. 

Yours faithfully

Graham Wroe

References

1.       Is Thwaites Glacier doomed? Scientists are racing to find out.

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The Star has broken the readers charter


Our argument is not with Neville Martin, who is entitled to his misinformed view, but with the Sheffield Star for publishing such an outrageous headline. If a reader writes to you claiming measles jabs cause autism, will you make that your headline? If Benson Hedges writes to you saying smoking is good for health, will you publish that? Or if Ann Azi writes saying the gas chambers were a hoax, will you make that your headline? Presumably not! So why then do you think it is ok to splash “Man-made climate change is a myth” in a bold headline on 31st May? Scientists are no longer debating this. Man-made climate change is a fact and those that try to stop meaningful action to combat it are complicit in both genocide and ecocide. People around the globe are already fleeing their land because they can no longer grow crops. Islands in the Pacific are beginning to drown. Wildfires are increasing both in intensity and frequency. Hurricanes are more common. We are experiencing mass extinction of species. The UN says we have until 2030 to halve our emissions or risk the planet’s climate spiralling out of control.

Publishing this headline has clearly broken your Readers Charter. which promises to report accurately and fairly stories in the public interest and to report news readers can trust. What is the Star going to do to regain the trust of its readers? When is the Star going to start telling the truth and properly educate its readers about the dire state the world is in?


Yours sincerely
Graham Wroe
Sam Wake

Louis Brijmohun

John Grant

Jake Helliwell

Robert Howarth

Ohushola Adesanya

Andrew Clark

Liz Worrell

Frances Yarlett

Sophie Armour

Naomi Rosenberg

Lottie Hopkins

Jess Zollman Thomas

Jemma Crisp

Nina Lallemand

Dave Baillie

Ella Musgrove

Edie Elliott

Natasha Hobbs

Ken Hobbs

Deborah Karour

HJ Rostron

Mike Tanson

India Johnson

David French

Ro Barkshire

Clair Mullineaux

Mandy McCann

Geraldine Roberts

Carol Dale

Zaheem Mushtaq

Joanna Harley

Emma Plant

Geoff Cox

Janice Brown

Andrea Allsop

Laura McQuillan

Tara Appleyard

Sam Baker

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The controversial letter.

dav

We now face an existential threat bigger than Nazi Germany

It was wonderful to see the Lancaster bomber fly over Sheffield. We need constant reminders of the sacrifices that both our armed forces and civilians made to ensure the defeat of the Nazis. But as well as looking back we also need to look to the future.
We now face an existential threat bigger than Nazi Germany. Already people all over the world are dying or being forced to leave their homes. And the situation has many parallels with the second world war.


The threat, of course, is climate chaos. Just as before the war many denied that Germany was a threat, today many ignore the scientist’s dire warnings that we must act urgently to avoid disaster. 


When the war began there was an amazing mobilisation. Factories were converted at great speed to produce the weapons we needed to defeat the Nazis. We need a similar mobilisation today, to produce the renewable energy we need to replace fossil fuels, to insulate everyone’s home and workplace, to replace our gas boilers with air source heat pumps or other renewable methods, to build public transport systems so we can leave our cars at home, to plant millions of trees and to change our farming practices to sustainable agriculture.


During the war times were hard but everybody pulled together. People put up with rationing, as they realised that this was the fairest way to share out the food and other resources that were scarce. And people dug for victory, so the country was not so dependent on food imports. Today the Government should be considering rationing oil and petrol as we have to quickly reduce our emissions if we are to avoid disaster. The 17% of people that make 70% of all flights should pay a frequent flyer levy so that the number of flights can be reduced and airport expansions abandoned.  


As war spread, we welcomed many refugees to this country as people fled from the persecution of the Nazis. Today many people are having to flee their homes as a result of drought, floods and other extreme weather events. We need to show them the same compassion as those that fled the Nazi’s back in the 1930-40s. 


According to Wikipedia World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. An estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion). A truly horrific loss of life. If we do not act now to stop climate catastrophe it could lead to the extinction of the human race. (currently 7.7 billion people).

dav

Media ignored alarming increase in methane levels

Chris Broome’s analysis is spot on. Sheffield Climate Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Green Party and many other green groups have been campaigning for  40 years, but petitions, marches, letters to MP’s have largely been ignored by those in power, and greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise. It has taken the radical action of Extinction Rebellion to get the nation talking about the issue of climate catastrophe and both Parliament and Sheffield City Council have been forced to admit that there is now a Climate Emergency.

Extinction Rebellion’s first demand is that the Government must tell the truth about the impending climate and ecological catastrophe. This is still not happening, and the media are continuing to ignore the matter. This is far more important than Brexit or Boris Johnson!

On May 27th it was announced that scientists have discovered alarming increases in the concentration of methane in the atmosphere. Methane is a gas far more potent in its ability to heat our planet than carbon dioxide. Scientists report that this increase in methane threatens to eliminate all the anticipated gains of the Paris Climate Agreement, so we are back to square one. Yet the media chose to ignore this story.

Since declaring the emergency Sheffield Council have promised to move electricity supplier to a green provider and have appointed a cabinet member for Climate Change. I hope this will now lead to big changes in approach and that Sheffield will be known for planting trees rather than chopping them down, reducing traffic rather than widening roads for it, cleaning up our air rather than letting its citizens suffer from illegal levels of pollution, and increasing our biodiversity rather than spraying our streets and parks with toxic chemicals.

The Government have not yet managed to announce a single policy that will improve the situation.Indeed by pressing ahead with airport expansions, HS2 and increasing VAT on solar they are pushing fast in the wrong direction. The solutions are all available, we just need politicians who are willing to act and not be influenced by the oil lobby. The mega-rich shareholders of oil companies have far too much influence on our decision makers.

When this country goes to war the Government has no problem in finding the money for missiles and bombs. We must now move to a war footing to safeguard our children’s future, by halting biodiversity loss and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

Yours

Graham Wroe

References

1.       Unexpected surge in global methane levels. https://www.climatecodered.org/2019/05/unexpected-surge-in-global-methane.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR2v_QikPFL4Jt4N_Fkr04kCFaLBVKJ7furVjFWmERSI4RrTO2fLd79_GLQ

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Humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals

6th May 2019

Neville Martin’s Star letter of May 6th should be taken as seriously as a Boris Johnson promise on the side of a bus. A quick Google of the Deep Water Horizon disaster shows it has caused long-lasting problems.

Oil residues have altered the basic building blocks of life in the ocean by reducing biodiversity in sites close to the spill, which occurred when a BP drilling rig exploded in 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing about 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf.1

Researchers took sediment samples in 2014 from shipwrecks scattered up to 93 miles from the spill site to study how microbial communities on the wrecks have changed. Scientists found biodiversity has flattened throughout the area.

The oil spill is just one example of how people are destroying our planet and the amazing abundance of creatures we have on it. In a report released todaythe United Nations have found that over 1 million species are in grave danger of extinction.

450 of the world’s leading scientists have warned our society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems. This is the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken.

Corporations are destroying our forests, overfishing and polluting our seas, poisoning our land, ruining our soils and using our atmosphere as a giant chemical waste disposal unit.  

Nature is being destroyed at a rate ten to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10m years, according to the UN global assessment report.

The world’s 7.6 billion people3 represent just 0.01% of all living things. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of the plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds.

Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are quite right to tell us to panic as if our house is on fire. Governments and our own Council need to start taking emergency action now.

Graham Wroe

  References

1.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/28/bp-deepwater-horizon-oil-spill-report

2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/human-society-under-urgent-threat-loss-earth-natural-life-un-report

3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study

dav

There is no time to play party politics in an emergency

I am very pleased that Labour Candidate Ruth Milsom understands the urgency of climate change and wants the Council to commit to becoming zero carbon by 2030. (letters 9.3.19) I  hope she can persuade her colleagues in the Cabinet to make this a reality.  I am also pleased that she wants to work with others to make this a success. I am sure Sheffield Council will have the full cooperation of all the various green groups to help them meet their targets if the Council choose to cooperate with them.

It will be very difficult to become carbon neutral by 2030 but 25 Councils around the country have already pledged to do this. It is the United Nations that have declared we must halve our emissions by then or risk the future of a totally uninhabitable planet. If Council officers say it is not possible then for the sake of life on this planet Councillors must tell them to think again.

My letter was not about party politics, but Ruth has chosen to turn it into an attack on the Green Party. I will judge the Council on its deeds not its words. Since the declaration of a climate emergency, the Council has continued with its plans to expand the ring road which will lead to more traffic and more emissions. The Labour Party continue to campaign for more economic growth which will exacerbate the problem.

Meanwhile, there have been more scientific reports published making it clear that the situation is even worse than we thought. The recent discovery1 that the concentration of methane in the atmosphere is rising sharply, when the Paris climate accord had assumed that it would by now be falling, puts in question our ability to keep global warming below 2 degrees C- a target that many scientists think is too high to avoid a “hothouse earth” scenario where the planet becomes uninhabitable.

We are living through the 6th mass extinction.  You were probably taught that previous extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs were caused by climate change produced by greenhouse gases2. 252 million years ago carbon warmed the planet by five degrees. This was accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic and ended with 97 per cent of all life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a faster rate; probably at least ten times faster. The rate is accelerating.

This is an Emergency and there is no time to play party politics.  We need urgent action to be taken by all levels of Government, businesses and individuals now.

Graham Wroe

Notes:

1.Methane https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-methane-atmosphere-accelerating-20190301-story.html

2. Extinction http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html

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dav

Sheffield should go Carbon Neutral by 2030

Sheffield Star 13th Feb 2019

Dear Editor

At the Full Council meeting I presented a petition of over 400 names, collected in less than a week, calling on Sheffield to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Climate change is now an emergency. The 2018 State of the Climate report says that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the 2015-2018 making up the top four.

The UN told us last year that we only have 12 years to reduce our carbon emissions or the planet will heat beyond 1.5 degrees C. By that time my 3-year-old granddaughter will still not be able to vote, but the future of the planet may have been determined as uninhabitable.

As the world gets hotter feedback loops kick in, which are predicted to lead to ever increasing temperatures, the “hothouse earth” scenario.

Massive forest fires have been spreading in Tasmania and in California. Drought has increased, making fires more likely. The burning forests releases a massive store of carbon into the atmosphere, further adding to the greenhouse effect. The destroyed forest no longer soaks up the CO2, so even more CO2 warms the atmosphere.

In the arctic the ice reflects the sun’s rays. But warming has been melting the ice revealing the dark water. This absorbs the energy from the sunlight, warming the water and speeding ice melt.

Around the arctic the permafrost is melting releasing large amounts of methane, which is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. Phil Camill described this as “unplugging the refrigerator in the far north. Everything that is preserved there is going to start to rot”.

These feedback loops mean that once climate change really gets going there will be no stopping it.

We can expect food shortages, starvation, far more extreme weather, wars over resources and massive movements of migrants around the world fleeing uninhabitable countries.

This is an emergency. We need rapid action to reduce our emissions. This won’t come from individual changes in lifestyle, we need systemic changes from Government, including local Government, to help us all do the right thing for the planet. At the heart of this must be the end of the worship of economic growth.

The Labour motion failed to set targets for urgent action. It is no use saying, “Our house is on fire, this is an emergency” but then saying, “Let’s ask a committee to report back in 6 months to see if we should call the fire brigade”. It is an emergency, so the Council should have acted like it is an emergency and called the fire brigade!Yours sincerely

Graham Wroe

Notes

Video of the petition hand in is here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJVmTEeMcF4&t=2s
The petition is here https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/sheffield-city-council-should-be-carbon-neutral-by-2030-1.

About the Author

Graham Wroe has been a member of Sheffield Green Party since the early 1980’s. He has stood in many elections and been involved in many campaigns, such as the campaign to shut down Sheffield’s highly polluting incinerator, the campaign to keep the bridge over Sheffield Station open to the public, the campaign to rescue one of his students from deportation and Save Norfolk Park Trees. He is now active in Extinction Rebellion Sheffield where he has campaigned to get the local press to tell the truth about climate change. Following this campaign he was offered a regular column in the Sheffield Telegraph. Views expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent any of the organisations I support.

Fitzalan Square trees destroyed

On Sunday 20th May, at 6am in the morning, Amey workmen cut down the four beautiful healthy plane trees in Fitzalan Square. They came like thieves in the night, as they were aware that they were doing this without the consent of the people of Sheffield. Yes, they had gone through the process of pretending to consult, ignoring the petition of 3189 people, ignoring the advice of the Council tree manager and attaining planning permission to “redevelop” the square. So now the city centre is totally bereft of mature trees that soak up particulates, improving our air quality, give us shade in hot weather and soak up  water to help prevent flooding when it pours. They will be replaced with new trees but I can’t find any mention in the Council documents of the species. I fear they will be smaller trees not capable of the eco services the plane trees offered, especially hosting many birds that used to cheer up our city centre.

Photo by Cuthbert Baines
Fitzalan Square in 2017

It is so sad that our Council do not value trees. It is ironic that one thing they are making room for in the Square is air quality monitoring equipment. Without the trees the air quality will be far worse.

As we await news of what happens next with the Streets Ahead contract, here is another clear example of why the Labour Council should not be trusted with looking after our environment.

Yours sincerely

Graham Wroe

Save Norfolk Park Trees

Notes.

1.       The Council tree officer wrote

 “Removal of these four trees will have a significant impact on the immediate area. The city centre has the lowest percentage tree cover in Sheffield and there are relatively few large trees within the area. Visually, the trees provide a natural living feature that helps to soften the harsh lines of the existing built environment. The trees play an important role in trapping and removing pollutants from the surrounding air as well as providing dappled shade for users of the square. The canopies also help to break up wind movement that may otherwise funnel between the buildings. All four trees are well established with a significant 
potential longevity. All are considered to be in their prime. “

2.       The petition can be found here. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-fitzalan-square-plane-trees

3.       Attached is a photo of the Square after the trees were destroyed, taken on Sunday morning by Cuthbert Baines