On the Frontline: Time for more climate change followers in Sheffield

As a doctor I’m really worried about the climate. I don’t think there is any doubt we have a real issue. The diagnosis has been made. The planet has a fever (1.2 degrees at the moment), if it gets too high (over 1.5), we are in real trouble. Climate change and the way it will affect our living conditions, is the most important health issue of our time.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 10:26 am
Dr Ollie Hart with his e-bike at Heeley vaccine hub

But despite recognising the issue now, I wouldn’t describe myself as a climate change leader. I take my hat off to GP colleagues, people like Dr Aarti Bansal and Dr Honey Smith, who set up Greener Practice. Sheffield born, but national leading, this group has been dedicated to lobbying and campaigning. They have been brave enough to stick their necks out, and shout. Personally, I think I’m a little too selfish for that. I found if I submerged myself too deeply in the issues, I started to feel guilty, and ashamed. Guilty about flying, eating red meat, and ashamed of our high carbon producing privileged western life.

However, I would describe myself as a dedicated ‘climate change follower’. I really want to give confidence to our leaders to set the rules we need to keep us safe and healthy. Whether it is national politicians, local decision makers, business bosses, they tend to follow public opinion. They rely on us for our votes and to buy their products. I recognise as a follower I can have an important influence on the decision makers. I think we need more ordinary people to be climate change followers. Together our collective voice is very powerful.

I hope the pressure we can exert will catalyse a set of rules that will free us from guilt and shame. There will be plenty we can still enjoy and do. Maybe a little less of some things, maybe some changes or compromises in the short term, but if I know it is contributing to a common purpose I’ll feel happy to be doing my bit. We can hope tech advances may help.

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Ollie Hart

Maybe the rules will involve some form of ‘carbon tax’, paying more for those flights? Maybe it will need to be means tested, so richer countries and communities who can afford more, are expected to make proportionate sacrifice. Setting the details is the job of our political negotiators, but we need to assure them we are prepared to follow.

I don’t think guilt and shame are effective strategies for change, hope and a common sense of purpose are much more powerful. Please join me as a climate change follower and voice your support in anyway you can.