Sheffield Environmental Movement (SEM)
Sheffield Environmental Movement (SEM) works to facilitate people from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic & Refugee (BAMER) communities in Sheffield to access the natural environment to help promote their health and wellbeing. This work involves providing education, information by enabling exposure and reconnection of people from these communities who have been disconnected or severed from the natural environment due to the history of migration, urbanisation or socio-economic reasons. We hope through our intervention to help people become more empowered, well informed to independently access and participate in the natural environment for recreation/leisure but to also contribute to environmental heritage and citizenship.
The interactions between the environment and human health today is considered an important public health policy issue by Government. Ethical questions relating to environmental regulations as well as issues around health policy decisions necessitates need for environmental activities that would help to improve the health and well-being of people or extend human life. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the environment can affect human health and well-being.
As a result of this, the traditional divide between clinical medicine and the natural environment now appears to have taken a different meaning. This change has created a need for bioethical reflection on all levels that will promote interactions between human health and the natural environment. This is a big part of the reason so many people have described their experience of the natural environment as therapeutic.
The benefits that exist from the permanent interaction between human-beings and the natural environment is invaluable, as our health to a considerable extent is determined by the quality of our environment. The environment in which we live, work and relax, is a determinant for our health and well-being. In addition, exposure to physical, as well as chemical and micro (biological) factors in the environment are having repercussions on our health, both physically and mentally.
Sheffield Environmental Movement (SEM) has acknowledged the importance of how as people our lives are inextricably linked to the natural environment. This is in line with the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper (2010) ‘Strengthening connections between people and Nature’. However, a fraction of the BAMER population are currently taking advantage of the health benefits associated with being connected to the natural environment for a host of reasons, ‘cultural severance’ due to the history of migration, urbanisation or socio-economic.
- We therefore develop and run a programme of environmental educational/practical activities: including guided nature health or historical walks; environmental pottery/art; environmental photography; environmental heritage, residential week-ends/field trips; coarse fishing; cycling and; outdoor leisure/recreational or adventure activities that help to reconnect people to the natural environment and heritage
- We use the Imperial College’s Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) surveys of air, soil, water, biodiversity, climate & trees to help people learn about the importance of biodiversity by encouraging them to go outdoors to explore, discover and record natural indicators in their local environments
- We provide education that aim to help raise people’s understanding on access to, enjoyment of and knowledge about their local green spaces around Sheffield and the wider countryside such as the Peak District National Park e.g. walking trails, access routes, Countryside code and the Countryside Rights of Way and Freedom to Roam Acts 2002 and 2004 respectively
- We raise people’s environmental awareness through education, the understanding and knowledge about the importance of environmental heritage; uses of the UK’s different plant species for herbal or medicinal purpose; growing seasons; plants that may be considered poisonous such as the Giant hogweed etc.
- We educate and provide information to people from BAMER communities on things such as map reading, orienteering, navigation, air pollution, gardening, local farms, youth hostels, heritage sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interests (SSSIs) and also how to acquire allotments etc
- We provide support and sign post interested BAMER individuals who are interested in volunteering with environmental organisations
- We endeavour to organise and deliver taster sessions that are environmental/health related bringing environmental experts such as ecologists to speak to community groups
- We work to promote constructive dialogue with environmental organisations such as the Peak District National Park Authority, Environment Agency, National Trust, Natural England, Sheffield Wildlife Trust, Sheffield City Council’s Parks and Woodland Services and local environmental organisations and groups on how to engage BAMER communities to be involved in environmental and heritage issues