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From petrolhead to eco-warrior: Jeremy Clarkson’s surprising shift

By Dr Pat Harrold - 07th Jul 2024

Clarkson's farm

‘Clarkson’s Farm’ has the controversial presenter turn from environmental menace to advocate for sustainable farming

I don’t think Jeremy Clarkson and I would get on if we ever met each other, yet he may be one of the most important people in the world today.

Jeremy, as I’m sure you know, is a television presenter. I used to like him, then I disliked him intensely. I am now a devoted fan.

It started off promisingly enough. Top Gear, which was taken off air only last year, was a motoring show and gave all sorts of good advice. I bought my beloved Fiat Multipla around the turn of the century mainly because Jeremy was an enthusiast for the brand. But our relationship went downhill after that. He became an environmental disaster. He drove a jeep into an historic tree to test it out; set fire to a Prius. He was a complete petrolhead, an advocate of a defunct fossil fuel industry, which should have had its day decades ago.

We are about the same age, Jeremy and I. If we’d been at school together, there’d have been a chance of us being friends maybe. We were both big readers and undoubtedly enjoyed the same books and comics. We were also early partakers of cigarettes and booze and would have sneaked off to indulge in both with much the same type of dissolute cronies. 

But we grew up. Well, I did. He just grew.

He really would not like me now: A sandal-wearing, beardie greenie. If I were his GP, I can imagine my ‘holding-back-the-speech’ face as I ponder the pithy one liner I could use that would make him change his ways.

I can see him spoofing on as he internally prays to get away from this sawbones who has the temerity to give him unwanted advice about the habits that make him happy. A sawbones, moreover, who drives an electric car, and not an elderly Multipla.

Jeremy acts, on the telly at least, like an enormous troublesome schoolboy. He has now moved onto Clarkson’s Farm. If you haven’t seen it, please do yourself a favour and seek it out – it’s superb crack.

In the series, he teams up with Kaleb, a capable local lad with a knack for practical tasks, who has never ventured far from home and isn’t afraid to challenge Jeremy whenever the opportunity arises. Jeremy’s girlfriend, Lisa, bravely tackles whatever needs doing, while Jeremy himself pontificates like a curly-haired Oscar Wilde.

Then there is the farm manager, a wiser head, who tries to keep the show on the road.

It’s classic television. Think of Frasier, or All Creatures Great and Small, or even Father Ted. You have the protagonist, Jeremy, an older man, and then a young man, and a woman. It’s also a bit like The Good Life with the clueless, if hilarious man, who does all the talking while his female partner cracks on with the work.

It’s all hugely entertaining and set in the beautiful countryside of Chipping Norton. The farmers who come into me love it to a man and a woman. The young fellows who ply the fields in Tipperary on tractors watch it, rewatch it, and quote the best bits.

Clarkson’s Farm is worldwide hit. It’s especially entertaining to Irish viewers when Lisa curses fluently in a South County Dublin accent as she wades among the pigs.

The message is solidly environmentally sound. Why are we living so unsustainably, poisoning our land, and destroying the environment? And because it is Jeremy, who loves the roar of the engine and hates authority, people listen. He has had a Damascene conversion.

I think Lisa might be responsible, or maybe he just needed to get out of London.

He bemoans spending a fortune on chemicals on the land. The farm has enormous fields with not a hedge in sight, but he also has free range pigs in the woods.

The programme will be used as an example, in years to come, of the transition from ‘agritech’ to sustainable farming.

So if I ever meet Jeremy, I’ll happily buy him a vintage Scotch and thank him on behalf of future generations, even as he gazes over my shoulder in search of someone more interesting.

The climate crisis has put us on the same side. As millions upon millions watch the show and are hopefully thinking about where our way of life is taking us, he is one of the most influential forces for good on this shrinking, overheating planet. I just hope he isn’t too late.

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