Bonfire Night Sheffield: Guy Fawkes night is finished - saving the planet should be our new tradition

A climate emergency threatens the future of humanity - and we’re going to set fire to this?

Friday, 5th November 2021, 10:13 am
Setting fire to this in a climate emergency is mad.

World leaders are in Glasgow devising ways of saving us from catastrophe. The speeches and headlines about the need for action could not be clearer.

Yet at the same time in Sheffield, and all across the country, thousands of bonfires are about to be lit for fun.

Our poor, ravaged atmosphere forced to inhale great lungfuls of toxic smoke. But it’s not just the carbon cost to the planet, it’s the poison too.

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David Walsh, business editor.

This isn’t dried logs in the latest burner - although that is bad enough. One wood stove pumps out more particles than hundreds of lorries running their engine in the street all evening.

No, all too often ‘bonfire’ is just a euphemism for pile of rubbish, as anything and everything vaguely wood-like and flammable is lobbed on top.

Painted timber, green branches and processed wood such as MDF, which is packed with glue and covered in plastic.

Millions of worried people are trying to limit their consumption, drive and fly less and recycle more. Many look at the unfolding apocalypse of melting, wildfires and flooding around the world and wonder what more they can do.

Well here’s something - don’t light a huge fire that will further wreck the atmosphere.

Perhaps axing bonfire night could be our small sacrifice, after all what would we lose? A tradition and a moneyspinner for businesses. But burning effigies of Guy Fawkes seems to be fizzling out and innovative companies should be able to replace an event on one night of the year.

Anyway, big blazes stopped being fun in the 1980s when safety zones grew so massive you could no longer feel the heat.

We are drawn to fire, a feeling that goes back to our ancestors who needed it for warmth, for cooking and for protection.

But times have changed - a lot. Today cutting fumes is so important Sheffield City Council is spending £24m on a clean air zone.

As world leaders try to save the planet from global heating, any non-essential burning is mad.

Would it help to forego the fun knowing we had bought our children a bit more time?