Singing the greens: Joni Mitchell in concert 1970 – Big Yellow Taxi

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot SPOT
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot


They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

13 thoughts on “Singing the greens: Joni Mitchell in concert 1970 – Big Yellow Taxi

  1. Christine

    This idea is extraordinarily true…the problem is how to make paradise apparent to those who can’t see it when ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’?

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      And perpahs one man’s, or woman’s, paradise is another woman’s, or man’s, hell. The opinions might even co-exist when a front garden is replaced by a place to park a motor vehicle – this is a big problem in suburban London.

      Reply
  2. Lawrence

    Boutiques, Swinging Hotspots and Pink Hotels are the stuff of dream contracts for architects and landscape architects, especially if they can be built in an existing landscape of extraordinary natural beauty and high ecological value, such as by the sea or a mountain lake. Developing countries are enthusiastically taking their lead in this respect from the western world, but not yet from the western world’s – belated? – realisation that Joni Mitchell had a good point and the consequent rafts of restrictive planning legislation that this has lead to. I am still not sure which inner voices I should listen to when walking over exquisite virgin sites that have been signed over to consortiums for development. The wealth that this generates does go towards reducing hunger and child mortality rates and increasing educational opportunities. Is a shorter but perhaps happier life in the jungle better than a longer, more complex one in a suburb or a city?

    Reply
  3. Tom Turner Post author

    Maybe not in my time, and maybe not in yours, but I think the pace of development in Asia will come to such a screaming, shuddering ear-splitting halt that Japan’s lost decade will look like a stonking zoom in the fast lane. After this, Asians will find themselves living in the jungle once more, only it will be an urban jungle. Why should this happen? In Ignoble Eightfold Path: (1)an end to the construction boom, because everyone will have an apartment and a workplace in a block or factory (2) an aging population with big healthcare needs (3) western-style environmental regulations to protect forests, farmland land etc (4) a shortage of water, (5)a shortage of fecund virgins (6) a shortate of virgin sites (7) disenchantment with swinging hotspots and pink hotels (8) ennui and opiates.
    And no, I am not feeling overly pessimistic today.

    Reply
  4. Tian Yuan

    Nice melody, but a sad song!

    “They paved the paradise, and took all the trees’, who are they? They must be the persons who DESIGN the world- artificial world.

    Urban designers? or even unqulified landscape architects? I think this song could put one main landscpate text books in the future, what is the main job of landscape architects, which could be known more clearly in this song, rather than a statment of goverment.

    Yes, THEY do not know what WE have got!

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Lawrence identifies THEY as the development industry. A few years ago we used to think THEY were the ‘military-industrial complex‘. I rather fear that THEY are you and me and everyone else. We want bigger homes, better hotels, more energy, more roads, more air travel, more products. So:
      With the farming of a verse
      Make a vineyard of the curse,
      Sing of human unsuccess
      In a rapture of distress;

      In the deserts of the heart
      Let the healing fountain start,
      In the prison of his days
      Teach the free man how to praise.

      Reply
  5. Christine

    It isn’t hard to imagine that the Huaorani are happier in the treed jungle [ http://www.minelinks.com/ecuador/huaorani.html ] while I am happier in the concrete jungle. I don’t think either of us would thrive if we swapped places!

    So there needs to be some way in which the development of my city doesn’t depend on the destruction of their forest. Not only is this justice, but it is also in everyone’s interest. It is quite likely that their forest is cleaning the air of all the carbon pollution from my city (now part of the global commons) and their river is cleaning all the toxins from South American cities further upstream.

    Tom, perhaps continued innovation of the idea of the grassed driveway and other variants will provide a solution to the suburban front garden in London?
    [ http://rolu.terapad.com/resources/648/assets/images/green%20driveway.jpg ]

    As for those virgin sites [ http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_7dOXTv38zKA/TAhh8g9x-BI/AAAAAAAAACQ/SVcCC6r8RHM/s1600/Plitvice-Lakes.jpg ] some sites, (for example these lakes in New Zealand) should only be accessible by extreme eco-tourism (which leaves no trace of human impact.) Other virgin sites which exist in cities [ http://vancouver.ca/images_aboutvan/cityscape.jpg ] require a sensitive balancing of natural and built attributes and an honest appraisal of whether as Jerry says 1 + 1 is much greater than 2.

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Maybe, maybe. But I often think of a week in which I walked along a street in Egypt, looking at happy people with happy laughing faces, and then walked along a street in London, looking at unhappy, stressed, ashen faces. So I am doubtful about ‘development’ making people happy.
      Yes, they should certainly make green driveways in London and elsewhere – but is this a responsibility of the owner or should it be enforced by law?
      Protecting virgin sites is not so hard: you just ‘refrain’ from building roads! Still thinking about China, it is a great pity that they have built a coach road through the Chengde estate AND they refused permission for a man with a sore ankle (=me!) to take his small bicycle into the estate! I managed a very long walk, with several cameras, so why can’t everyone walk?

      Reply
  6. Christine

    Interesting. Was the street in Egypt in Cairo?

    In the first instance in London green driveways could be incorporated into all new development precincts. It would be important to consider the character implications for wider implementation in other parts of suburban London.

    In considering walkability understanding the nature of the city and the opportunities it offers residents, workers and visitors is important.
    [ http://www.walkscore.com/rankings/what-makes-a-city-walkable.shtml ]

    I have visited a few cities which contain within them old walled cities. These sites seem to be ideal places for gaining an understanding of walkability. [ http://www.touropia.com/walled-cities-in-the-world/ ] A good question to ask is when residents leave their city or people arrive at the city, how do they travel to get there?

    Tom, perhaps you could also do a cyclists guide to walled cities?

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I have had similar experiences with a back street in Cairo, where I used to watch a family of orange-sellers who lived in cardboard boxes, and looked wonderfully cheerful, and with the main street in Luxor.
      Thank you for the list of walled cities – I have visited 8 of them and wish the world had kept more of its walled cities. In fact I am rather in favour of building more walled cities – to keep cars out and to keep the residents safe. They obviously would not be the first choice for everyone (!) but I think they would suit sufficient people to make their construction worthwhile. They would be super-sized-condos!

      Reply
  7. christine

    Gosh. I had no idea such a walled city existed in Hong Kong!
    [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kowloon_Walled_City#Layout_and_architecture ] and [ http://flotsamjetsamligan.blogspot.com/2009/05/kowloon-walled-city.html ].

    I wonder what Corb would have thought? It certainly makes modernist highrises seem like super-sized condo’s in comparison.

    An interesting study from MIT suggests city location and growth of cities depended to a large degree on the availabilty of modes of transportation, with transportation being usually either by river or sea (harbour). The critical factor was the movement of people and goods between cities and the hinterland regions.

    Cairo (6 million) is certainly comparable to London (7 Million plus)in terms of population. Should we compare the happiness of the orangeseller in Georgian London (2 million) to your Egyptian family or to Tom Moggach who lives in London today?
    [ http://www.newcoventgardenmarket.com/blog/fruit-vegetable-market-report-sep ]

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I did not know about Hong Kong’s walled city either but I think it was more like a fort than a traditional Chinese walled city. It has a nightmarish quality on the photograph but I rather regret its loss. It would have been a great thing for the world if Corb could have spent a couple of weeks there, preferably in his 20s. I can’t see it having put him off high-rise but it might have let him work out a way of ‘doing it better’.
      The recent talk about planning for Gross National Happiness (instead of Gross National Product) came up against the problem that there are no agreed measures for GNH. My suggestion is to judge happiness from facial expressions – I think it probable that face recognition software could be developed for this purpose. There are many paintings of Georgian London but not enough, I fear, for the computer test to be applied.

      Reply
  8. Christine

    They say that dogs are particularly good at recognising human emotions. Yes facial expressions are one way, but happiness is also a state of being as much as an emotional expression.

    The Bhutanese use four measures of GNH: 1) sustainable development, 2) cutlural values, 3) natural environment, and 4) good governance.

    As you can see these are not individual measures so they would not be suitable for measuring whether our respective orange sellers are happy.

    In asking my question I was attempting to find two comparable (environment) contextual (indivisual) orange sellers and a way of summising whether one was happier than the other.

    Yes, I agree it would have been interesting (in a strange way) to go inside the walled city in Kowloon – but not at the risk of disappearing(!) – so I would have had to have toured after the residents had left and before demolition. Or maybe it would have been safe to enter and exit with a Chinese Hong Kong guide?

    Reply

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