"This is an emergency and we need to take action now" - Sheffield climate groups unite to call for whole city to get involved

A coalition of climate-concerned groups have come together to declare a nature emergency tomorrow, May 21, after the climate crisis reached ‘critical’.

By Sam Ward
Thursday, 20th May 2021, 9:13 am
Updated Thursday, 20th May 2021, 9:13 am
The Nature Recovery group wants more wild spaces for families and children.
The Nature Recovery group wants more wild spaces for families and children.

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, Sheffield Green Parents, and The Diocese of Sheffield have formed the collective cause group, Nature Recovery Sheffield after they all separately declared a climate emergency.

The three groups have today, exclusively in the Sheffield Telegraph, called on individuals, groups, businesses and schools in Sheffield to sign a declaration in joining them in calling a nature emergency tomorrow, Friday, May 21 and to announce, ‘I declare a nature emergency’ on their social media channels, in their communities, and by word of mouth.

"We want this declaration to be a point where people say, ‘there is a problem, nature is in trouble, and if we don’t do something about it immediately we are going to be suffering the consequences’,” says Anna Parkin from Sheffield Green Parents, who set up the Kids Plant Trees initiative.

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Kids Plant Trees planting event at Bole Hills.

"As a mum of young children I want them to see we are doing everything we can to help and I don’t want them to be older and saying, ‘what did you do, why didn’t you help?’

"That’s where my motivation is coming from.”

Sheffield Council has already declared a climate emergency, and recently hosted a summit outlining their plants to reach carbon net zero by 2030.

However, Liz Ballard, chief executive of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, says that they have been ‘reticent’ in implementing strategy to combat the nature emergency.

The nature emergency highlights the need for action.

She said: “Sheffield Council has declared a climate emergency. And they already have ambitions around working towards net zero carbon, and they have been a little reticent in that.

"We are challenging the council and the city as a whole to declare a climate and a nature emergency – we are trying to highlight the nature emergency and the nature crisis, because the two really go hand in hand.

“They are about the both the extinction and loss of species and the habitats, and the impact that has on us, and also the impact that has on the climate, and making the climate emergency worse. "

The group wants nature to be a critical element of the Sheffield Local Plan, and they want to work on corridors for wildlife, as well as hoping developments are done with nature in mind.

"It is critical," says Liz Ballard.

But it is not solely the council that can implement changes, “we are all in this together”, says Cathy Rhodes, environment officer from The Diocese of Sheffield.

Cathy, a former doctor whose organisation declared a climate and ecological emergency in November, added: “We all believe this is an emergency, and this needs action, action, action. And that’s not just talking.

“We are all in this by definition, and we are all in this together. There is not a single person in the world that is not going to be affected by this and as a city of Sheffield we want to come together, be stronger together, and we are much more likely to take effective action, learn from each other.”

The alliance is asking individuals across Sheffield to think about nature, and the impact everyone can have, when going about daily activities. This includes mowing an area of grassland less frequently, adding bird boxes or bug hotels onto balconies or gardens, to thinking about transport.

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust are also calling on Sheffield Council to tackle issues set out in their 2018 Sheffield State of Nature Report – including decisions about infrastructure, flood protection and transport.

Liz said: "This isn’t just about protecting species, it is much bigger than that.

"We are connected to nature, and wholly reliant on nature working for us. We rely on it for the way it cleans the air, the quality of the water, we rely on it to help us feed ourselves and make sure we have good, quality food, and with climate change we are going to be looking to nature to help us.

"It is a complex web and wildlife and habitats are part of that web, and so are we so its important to say this isn’t just about protecting furry animals, which is important, but its about the complex natural ecosystem that we all rely on. And that is why it is a nature emergency, it is really critical.”

Sheffield Green Parents have already been trying to engage the next generation in nature recovery.

As well as Kids Plant Trees and a protest march in the city centre they want to increase the amount of natural, wild play spaces for children.

Anna said: “I have a nine-year-old, a six-year-old and a two-year-old, and they’ve all got involved.

"I think by them being hands on and doing something fun it makes them see helping the environment in a helpful and hopeful light. I feel we are in a slight state of fear and anxiety about the environment, and hopefully we can bring up children to protect and nurture it without that.

“We are talking to councils and schools about natural, wild play spaces. Loads of research says being in nature can increase a kids’ imagination and concentration, so we want that across schools and with the council in public spaces. And the council have agreed to start doing that.”

One important thing people can do on an individual level is lobby their councillors and MPs, making sure the issue remains in the public eye and is clearly seen as something people care about.

"It is still really valid if people write to their councillors, or write to their MPs,” Liz added.

"They are politicians, they respond to what people think are important so if they don’t hear from people they think they’re not bothered about it.

"We on our nature reserves have seen a phenomenal increase in the number of people enjoying and accessing our sites and its because they’ve realised how important the connection to nature is for their mental health and wellbeing, to be able to hear birdsong and get outside.

"The opportunity for children to play in a natural space, climbing trees and looking at insects, that connection to nature has come to the fore in the last year so there’s real potential for people to say how important that is and tell councillors and MPs that they want to see it protected and looked after.

"Lets not settle for what we’ve got and look for more opportunity to create more space for nature.”

To join the declaration on social media, use the hashtag #NatureSheffield.