An Open Letter To Jeremy Clarkson

Dear Mr. Jeremy Clarkson,

You don’t know me, and all I know about you is the side of yourself you show to the world. That being said, according to Richard Porter’s Top Gear tell-all And on That Bombshell, your public persona and your private personality aren’t all that different.

A little background on how I know you: I saw your Top Gear segment on the original Tesla Roadster some time ago on YouTube. Sometime after that, I watched other bits of the show that site had to offer, from both the BBC and, well, other people. At the time, I thought the show had ended a few years prior (this was in 2012, and yes, I largely had my head in the sand when it came to television) but I later learned that not only was the show was still going but that I could catch it on BBC America...yes, that’s right; I’m a colonial, but in many ways I’m about as American as shepherd’s pie. I don’t drive (or want to drive) a truck or a sofa on wheels (though I admittedly have family members who do), the closest thing to country music I can tolerate is certain Johnny Cash songs and some of Jack White’s more...traditional-sounding material, and I only eat fast food as a last resort. At the same time, I do have a soft spot for some of Detroit’s offerings, especially pony cars (though my favorite, the 1984-1993 Dodge Daytona, didn’t have RWD or a V8, something the purists will insist are prerequisites for the pony car designation), I like the color orange, and though I don’t own or plan to own any firearms, I can (mostly) respect those who hold the Second Amendment to our constitution in high regard as long as they aren’t aiming at me or someone I care about.

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Anyway, watching you on Top Gear lead to me watching some of the other material of yours that YouTube had to offer. I laughed out loud at your race between a G-Wiz and four guys carrying a table, and yes, I could (mostly) see your point in your dunking of American cars in The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. I watched you on Top Gear and other things for hours, the closest thing I’ve ever done to binge viewing, before the term came into wide use. Later, I realized that was my way of coping with some adversity I had gone through not very long earlier, but that’s not important here.

Like you, I’ve loved cars since I was a child, although I did take a short detour in my 20s when I became obsessed with music and musical instruments above all else. My favorites were the Mazda RX-7 and the Porsche 911 and I still like both (sorry, but I have to side with your longtime associates Richard Hammond and James May here; yes, it’s largely derived from the VW Beetle but does that really matter at this point?). But another thing I learned as a child was the impact of the widespread use of cars on the environment. And I can understand that as an automotive enthusiast, this can be difficult to reconcile with.

I get that cars get more blame than they deserve when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. I will be the first person to point out that shipping vessels and trucks produce more of the percentage of CO2 that comes from transportation than cars when people start talking about phasing out cars in favor of transit “for the planet”. But I can also understand why Mazda had to pull the plug on the RX-8, why the V12, V10, and even V8 in some cases are endangered species, and why internal combustion as we know it today will likely not last the century.

Human-induced climate change is real. We’ve known about the greenhouse effect for a long time now, and companies like Exxon knew that fossil fuel usage was amplifying it to unnatural levels; they just chose to suppress the data and carry on, out of fear of angering their shareholders or effecting their bottom line. I’m sure you remember hot this past summer was in Europe. It wasn’t too much cooler here, and frankly it’s still hot. I’m sitting here in shorts with my AC on in the first week of October. Earlier this week, I was out with a friend and it felt like July. This isn’t “Indian summer”; this is just summer, period. Speaking of July, this past July I received five flood warnings on my phone.

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I learned through a comment on an article on Jalopnik that you had joined the chorus of Boomers dunking on young climate activist Greta Thunberg in a column for The Sun. I read it, just in case you were being witty or ironic. But you weren’t. You called her a “spoilt brat” and said she should shut up and be thankful for all the creature comforts granted to her by the use of coal, oil, and gas - the “pillars of modern civilization” as you called them on Top Gear - and let the adults handle things. Well, guess what, they aren’t handling things. Like I said about Exxon above, energy companies have put in a lot of research into fossil fuel alternatives but little development, while billionaires with the money to invest in climate change mitigation have basically said they’d rather shelter themselves in automated bunkers or run off to Mars or Elysium-style space colonies and let the rest of us suffer. We need young people like her to tug on the heartstrings of adults and let them know just who their selfishness will affect the most.

Just what about climate action is it that scares you and her detractors so much? Are you afraid cities banning cars from their downtown areas is the first step toward governments banning them altogether? How many times has it been shown that the slippery slope argument doesn’t hold water? And besides, city driving is no fun. How are you supposed to open it up with all the traffic and pedestrians who’d sooner risk their lives for the chance to sue someone than take a few seconds to check for traffic or, heaven forbid, actually wait for the crossing signal? Are you afraid phasing out ICE cars will leave us with “boring” EVs and hybrids? You as a automotive journalist should know that performance EVs and hybrids are a thing now and there’s more on the way. They may not have the noise you (and I) love, but they have plenty of “powah” and at the end of the day, speed is speed. Do you think renewables and next gen nuclear like thorium reactors can’t form new “pillars of modern civilization”? I could find examples of where you are wrong there, too, but it’s getting late and I want to wrap this up.

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I know you told Alastair Campbell that you don’t believe what you write (anymore than he believes what he says, but that’s not important here either), but if Porter is right in this case and you do believe the above, you’ve let one of your biggest fans down.

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