The Big Challenge: Time for more joined-up thinking on Sheffield’s environment

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I’ve been living in Sheffield for 14 years now, but to me it’s so vast that I feel I’m learning new bits about the city every year. I’ve also been involved with Sheffield Climate Alliance (and by extension Sheffield Campaign Against Climate Change) for seven years and it’s clear there are several ‘camps’ - there is a good environmental community, a high number of people where most of them know each other and try and support each other in their causes; there are people who seem to be like-minded with their principles; and then other citizens that take more persuading.

Our campaigns worker Jenny Patient has often spoken about the fact that climate change, and the matters that relate to it, doesn’t seem that ‘sexy’ to many people. I’ve reflected with others, including my old union branch, that climate change doesn’t seem to be at the top of the agenda either when there are so many other things high up on people’s lists of priorities. It could be they don’t know how to get their heads around the problem – perhaps it’s like an invisible war going on that the public know about, but the pictures are too painful to look at?

Buses in Sheffield

Buses in Sheffield

It’s been said before, but it really is important to get the ‘joined-up thinking’ in place – jobs, pensions, energy and heating bills, transport, food and crop shortage, health and disease, flooding and by extension community resources, are all linked.

Presently, I don’t drive, and have relied on public transport for many years. Some of the tools like the ‘Your Next Bus’ SMS service, display boards and SYPTE journey planner are brilliant but when buses let passengers down by either being incredibly late or cancelled, it feels like a big slap in the face when advocating public transport, so that is one thing I’d like to magically fix.

It also appears that Sheffield Council are being ‘held’ hostage somewhat in the present political and financial climate, and policies and red tape seem to be stopping them from getting to some of the issues and acting on them. It will be interesting to see if regional devolution will implement a real change on this. I’m very proud to say I live in Sheffield, a city that is a busy metropolis and yet embraces the countryside and green spaces so easily. There is a distinct climbing community and I include my husband in that, who loves being on the doorstep to the Peak District. Sport seems more visible locally after the success in Rio and it’s these matters that could drive our pledge to become the country’s Outdoor City, but things aren’t going to change enough until more people feel able to give up their cars or at least are made aware of more car share or hiring schemes locally. More bike parks and equipment places may really help the cyclists as they slog up and down the hills. The Supertram network is valuable and many want to see that extended, but it appears fraught with complications. Parking is difficult, as many people want to use it occasionally and don’t want to be charged an extortionate fee - but with many car parks having reduced prices, could reversing this help air pollution?

On Saturday, December 10, Sheffield Climate Alliance is running a small event in the Moor Market called ‘Make Santa Happy’ which ties in what is happening in London and other places across the country. It’s to put the message out that, one year after the Paris climate agreement, we’ve not forgotten that we need to take more action to change the global temperature and we need to keep the pressure on those who lead us to implement it too. To that effect, we’re asking people, especially families, to come down and make Christmas cards to send to their local MPs.

Rock climbing at Stanage Edge, Derbyshire. At four miles long, it has some of the best climbing in the Peak District and is only 15 minutes from Sheffield.

Rock climbing at Stanage Edge, Derbyshire. At four miles long, it has some of the best climbing in the Peak District and is only 15 minutes from Sheffield.

After my daughter was born almost exactly a year ago, I took almost six months off from SCA. This has actually helped reignite the passion and drive I feel for it, but I get frustrated sometimes I don’t have as much time to devote to it that I want to.

Although she was originally due to be a Christmas baby, she was actually born when the Paris conference was on - she has already been with me to an anti-fracking protest with her babygrow to match! Being an eco-conscious parent is a whole new task.