Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Matter of Honours

Recently, the School of Technology at Oxford Brookes University decided to honour journalist and Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson with an honorary degree. He is to be honoured in recognition of his "contribution to learning and society and as an exemplarry role model for the University's students". On the face of it, the move is quite justified. Clarkson is a well known and respected motoring journalist, an automotive and engineering enthusiast, and one of BBC's better TV presenters.

But Clarkson's inclusion in the list of degree recipients has provoked protests from University staff, the Oxford Green party and other Environmentalists groups. His crime? He is "anti-environmentalist".

George Roberts, director of e-learning at the University is one of the dissenters. The University, according to Roberts is committed to "ensuring the understanding and care of people and stewardship of environmental and public resources". But Clarkson is clearly unsuitable because, "anti-environmentalism is part of Clarkson's persona".

There is also criticism of specific actions of Clarkson. In an edition of Top Gear, Clarkson allegedly tore up literature from the environmental pressure group Transport 2000. This has led to the group also criticising the honour.
Transport 2000, a pressure group committed to safer driving and reducing the environmental effects of transport, also criticised Clarkson. Steve Hounsham, a spokesman for the group, said: "It seems incredible that Jeremy Clarkson should be awarded an honorary degree; that's like giving rottweilers the Cuddly Pet of the Year Award.''
Green politicians are also using the journalist as target practice:
Craig Simmons, leader of the Green group on Oxford City Council said, "Awarding Clarkson an honourary degree devalues Brookes, Oxford and the Planet".
Now in all this criticism and protest, not one good reason has been put forward for the denial of Clarkson's honour. Do the protesters deny that Clarkson is a respected motoring journalist? No. Is he not an engineering enthusiast then? Well, no, he is. Has he not promoted "high standards in engineering production"? He has.

The only reason the environmental lobby has given for their protest is that Clarkson is anti-environmentalist. Not anti-environment. He does not advocate burning of rainforests or hunting of endangered species. Not agreeing with Transport 2000 on Transport policy doesn't necessarily mean Clarkson drives cars just to ruin the environment. He just has a different view, that's all.

In effect, the Environmentalists' protest is a way of punishing Clarkson for not agreeing with them. This is their way of saying that you either agree with them, or you're an enemy of the environment, a pariah. This is Clarkson's only crime. Let us hope that saner heads prevail at Oxford Brookes and that Clarkson is allowed his (perhaps) well deserved honour.


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