The Big Challenge: Putting the focus on social justice

Sheffield Against Fracking group at the Peace in the Park event at Ponderosa Park in Sheffield. Photo: Chris Etchells
Sheffield Against Fracking group at the Peace in the Park event at Ponderosa Park in Sheffield. Photo: Chris Etchells

1) What are your priorities for this year? And What work-­related achievement are you most proud of?

Sheffield Climate Alliance is a broad network of different kinds of organisation concerned about climate change, and wanting to see urgent action to tackle it in a fair way. My focus as our Campaigns Worker is on social justice, how reducing our impact on the climate can also create good jobs, improve air quality and health, reduce fuel poverty and put more money into local people’s pockets. I’m really proud that Sheffield Climate Alliance has linked our campaigns to making Sheffield a fairer place.

A Supertram service travels through Sheffield

A Supertram service travels through Sheffield

2) If I had a magic wand ...

If I had a magic wand I would somehow make the climate crisis feel like World War 2! Then, there was no hesitation about investing the money needed to transform the economy, and we need the same kind of clarity and commitment now. So many good things could flow here in the Sheffield region if we created that huge change from dirty energy to clean energy, and to using less energy. We could start by making sure everyone’s home is insulated to save warmth.

3) What should Sheffield do to cut pollution and improve its air quality? And how can we realise the aim to truly become a ‘cycling city’ and is it really achievable? What are the obstacles standing in Sheffield’s way?

We could invest in our transport systems so there is always an alternative to hopping in the car. This would make a massive difference to our climate emissions and we’d cut congestion and save 500 lives a year with cleaner air, saving costs for the NHS too. Just imagine what could be done with the billions planned for HS2 I’d like to see a brilliant network of trams and electric buses for every neighbourhood, ones that would take your bike as well if you’re too tired for that hill on the way home.

I’d like to see a brilliant network of trams and electric buses for every neighbourhood

3a) Do you think individuals should take more responsibility? How can mentalities be changed?

I think that excellent infrastructure like this can change mentalities. Most people want to do the right thing, but they need to see that they are part of a bigger process of change, and feel that their leaders are actually leading. You can see the way this momentum has built in Bristol. I hope devolution will help us grasp this challenge here.

4) What are your thoughts on the drive to become the Outdoor City? Does it take into account the city’s environment as a whole?

We’ve always been an outdoor city, from the creation of the Peak District National Park, to the Sheffield climbers populating Stanage and the boom in cycling. I’m concerned that it doesn’t reach everybody, though, and the role of transport is again really important. Instead of more and more cars at the popular spots, we could make buses and trains the easy and cheap choice to get out for a walk. And boost skills and routes for cycling so that everyone can get around and out of the city safely that way.

Star reporter Dan Hobson tested out the roads on a bicycle after a protest about the saftey of cyclists on the roads in Sheffield. Picture: Andrew Roe

Star reporter Dan Hobson tested out the roads on a bicycle after a protest about the saftey of cyclists on the roads in Sheffield. Picture: Andrew Roe

5) What are the strengths you feel the city can tap into in terms of boosting the local environment?

Working as a local alliance we are continually impressed by the brilliant community groups, social enterprises and small businesses that just get on with making our city a nicer place. Whether it’s the local park, art, local food or help for people there is masses of energy and time being spent every week, for little financial reward. We are concerned that many of the supporting structures that used to come through council staff and grants have now sapped away. As a city we have a gold mine, but we need to keep it open!

6) What are your favourite locally produced food and/or drinks? And what makes you proud to live in Sheffield?

One example of that gold mine is Regather Works in Sharrow, where the Real Junk Food Project turns waste food into delicious cafe meals. Regather do a thousand other crazy, lovely things like brewing beer, showing films, hosting Green Homes Sheffield and running festivals. Another favourite of ours is Sunshine Pizza, who, as well as making probably the best pizza in the world, are helping fundraise for Sheffield against Fracking to stop seismic testing coming to Mosborough! It’s people like this who make me proud to live in Sheffield.