Blognor Regis beat me to this one — Jeremy Clarkson’s excellent rant against the environmentalists who have blocked his honorary doctorate from Oxford Brookes University.
We imagine environmentalists as well-meaning woolly liberals, but they’re not. They are ultra-conservatives who don’t want the world to change or, for preference, for it to return to some imagined elysium before our green and pleasant land had been sullied by man’s hand. In short, they are a dangerous lot. Clarkson’s article bears reading in full:
When someone from Oxford Brookes University called recently to say its School of Technology wanted to give me an honorary degree”for championing the cause of engineering” I was thrilled. It had been only a couple of years since a similar honour was bestowed by Brunel University.
So I would be Jeremy “two doctors” Clarkson, which isn’t bad for someone who barely managed O-levels.
However, much to the delight of the BBC’s fanatically pro-fox, anti-car internet news service, my nomination is being boycotted. Because, in this day and age, it’s preposterous to honour someone who has a four-wheel-drive Volvo and a ride-on lawnmower.
This means I’m in the same boat as Margaret Thatcher, who was snubbed by Oxford University for stealing milk or something, and Tony Blair, who wasn’t even nominated because he accused the dons of being elitist.
Honorary degrees were first introduced about 600 years ago and are still the highest honour that a university can bestow. They are designed for the great and the good, thinkers, men of vision, women of principle. And Alan Titchmarsh.
Noddy Holder from Slade has one, as does Robson Green from everything on ITV. David Attenborough is reputed to have 19. It’s easy to see why. A celebrity in a floppy hat and a huge red cape does bring a touch of glamour to what might otherwise be rather a dull day.
You may think this devalues the concept of honorary degrees and I would have to agree. But my nomination is not being boycotted because I’m a two-bit television presenter from some poky motoring programme. Crikey no. I’m being boycotted because I’m seen as anti-environmental.
Craig Simmons, leader of the Green group on Oxford city council, said: “Awarding Clarkson an honorary degree devalues Brookes, Oxford and the planet.” Others have been less polite, calling me a “git” and an “idiot”.
For a full rundown of my crimes you need to consult the BBC’s internet news service which, pretty much every week, runs a story charting my sins against left-thinking, Guardian-reading, fox-loving people.
It seems I once crashed a car into a tree, damaging the bark. Also, I drove up a mountain, hurting the heather. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had the temerity to tear up literature from the pressure group Transport 2000 on television. And do you know what I did last week? To protest about enormous gas-guzzling vehicles clogging up city centres, I chained myself to a bus.
Well now I’m going to give them something else to write about, because I’m going to explain why I think engineering is more important than environmentalism.
God made the world in seven days, but it was a fairly bleak and hopeless place full of volcanoes and sharks. On the eighth day, however, man got cracking and as home improvements go, did a monumentally good job. He created light, warmth, the potato crisp and the dishwasher. And every single one of these things — everything that makes your life pleasant, comfortable, safe and exciting — is down to engineering.
Environmentalists make out that the planet is some kind of wondrous, self-sustaining entity and engineering has ruined it. They look at the gun, the car and the jet engine as instruments of Satan, but the mosquito has killed more than all three put together. And don’t forget that the Boxing Day tsunami killed more than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
What’s more, it’ll be engineering that creates the satellites to make sure that no tsunami ever has such dire consequences again.
There’s more. Thanks to the last Ice Age, which was not man’s fault, anyone wishing to travel between Denmark and Sweden had, until recently, to drive round the Baltic or use a plane. Neither of which would go down well with the environmentalists. Now, though, God’s oversight has been corrected by engineers who have built a massive and staggeringly beautiful 10-mile double-decker bridge for trains and cars.
The thing is, they couldn’t just go ahead and build it. They had to make sure the construction project in no way affected the local avocet population. How mad is that? How far do you think Brunel, Stephenson and Watt would have got if they’d had Greenpeace sticking its nose into every single thing they did? And what about the future? It will be engineers who bring an air-powered jet to fruition, not Stephen Joseph from Transport 2000. And it will be engineers who predict the next volcanic eruption, not Simmons from Oxford council.
I feel for engineering students these days. When they get a job the pay is derisory. There’s no respect. They have to operate with the anvil of environmentalism permanently attached to their left legs. And when they nominate someone other than Bill Oddie for an honorary degree, they’re made to look like murderers.
If I’m turned down for the award, it won’t make any material difference to my life. But I refuse to remove my name because that would be yet another victory for environmentalism, which has given the world nothing, over engineering, which has given us everything.