The state of Sheffield and our vision for the future

Last week saw two important reports published in Sheffield, about the challenges and opportunities facing our city and the region around it. The ‘State of Sheffield’ report for 2017 highlights ongoing health inequalities, and “A Better Future Together” sets out a vision for Sheffield City Region – not just our economy but health, education and environment.  It felt very strange reading those documents, searching for any acknowledgement of the climate crisis and how that should direct our priorities. Another report I read this week has a frightening assessment of the impacts of climate change on the Arctic, and the drastic global consequences that could ensue if we stay on our current ‘business as usual’ trajectory. But between the two Sheffield reports, the words ‘climate’ and ‘carbon’ appear just once each.  That actually makes me feel ashamed – what Sheffield Climate Alliance is saying is apparently having little impact on the city region’s leaders. One-to-one they say: “Yes, we know this is really crucial”, but in what they say publicly, there is little acknowledgement.

Meanwhile I’ve been thinking about someone who did speak up, who was a leader, willing to say things that were not common knowledge or ‘business as usual’ – this is Edward Carpenter, who lived in and near Sheffield from 1877 to 1921. He is perhaps best known today as a pioneer sex reformer who wrote about homosexuality (even before the word was invented) and the emancipation of women. But his ideas encompassed a transformation of society – individual behaviour and the economy – and all of this was embedded in his passion for nature and humanity, which allowed him to break out of the straitjacket of thinking that limited society in his time.   

What would Edward Carpenter think of the present state of Sheffield? What would he make of plans to frack at Marsh Lane, only 7 miles from his Millthorpe home? We are giving him the chance to speak about this, through adding some anti-fracking lyrics to the song he wrote, “England Arise”. As a poet, ‘a mystic with his feet on the ground’, someone who campaigned for clean air and animal rights, we are sure he would approve!

Our open lyric-writing workshop will take place on Saturday 25th February at the Millennium Galleries from 12-5pm, where Sheffield Climate Alliance will have a stall as part of a weekend of talks and music, film and dance to celebrate LGBT+ History Month. The events, open to all, and timed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality, are organised by Sheena Amos Youth Trust and Friends of Edward Carpenter. FOEC is a Sheffield-based group dedicated to establishing a permanent memorial to Edward Carpenter in Sheffield City Centre, recognising his historical and social importance and unique association with the city. 

Here at Sheffield Climate Alliance, we have a vision for the future of our region that puts human health and happiness at the centre of everything, in a way that we think Edward Carpenter would have liked! We are really keen to work with other leaders (from top, bottom and all sides) towards the great aims of an innovative economy, flourishing local communities, health, wellbeing and education for all, clean ways of getting around, and green places full of diversity of life. We know this can all be achieved, but not if we ignore the pressing need to keep the earth’s atmosphere and climate healthy and safe too.