Big Yellow Taxi

Joni Mitchell, 1970

Where in your area have you seen people "pave paradise and put up a parking lot"? What used to be there? What is there now? What reasons were given for the new development? Was the trade worth it? What did the community gain or lose? What impact did the new development have on the environment? Did anyone question the new development? What reasons did they give?

Besides natural areas, what other areas are threatened by over-development? Historic areas, small communities.

What kinds of changes are made to the environment when new development moves too fast (over-development)? Loss of wildlife habitat, endangered species; increased traffic and air pollution; inadequate water supplies, etc.

Besides over-development, what other environmental risks does Joni Mitchell warn about? Deforestation, pesticide use. What are our "tree museums"? National parks; state, national forests. Are parks and nature reserves enough to keep plants and animals thriving? What can we do to keep "tree museums" nearby? Greenways, rail-trails, backyard wildlife plantings, etc.

This song was written in 1970. What happened to call attention to environmental issues? Rachel Carson's Silent Spring warned about pesticides, 1962.

What progress has been made to protect the environment since 1970? EPA, unleaded gas, efficient cars, recycling, renewable energies, ozone layer, sustainability, hybrid and electric cars, etc. What has gotten worse? Amazon deforestation, more development, landfills, greenhouse gas emissions, use of plastics, infiltration of “forever chemicals” into drinking water. etc. What more needs to be done?

"Big Yellow Taxi" performed by Joni Mitchell on Ladies of the Canyon, Burbank, CA: Reprise [G376-2], © 1990. Available on Spotify and YouTube.


More information on Joni Mitchell can be found on her official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. For the lyrics please consult this online source:

Born Roberta Joan Anderson in 1943 in Canada, Joni Mitchell moved first to Toronto, then Detroit, and finally New York starting in 1963. She recorded her first album at the age of twenty-five. Because of her range of styles she has been compared to Bob Dylan. She is best known for her personal folk style, utilizing modal harmony and what has been described as "mystic" lyrics.

"Big Yellow Taxi," from one of her earlier albums, communicates her concern over environmental issues. This song demonstrates an engaging compositional style, with lively rhythms and a memorable melodic line, while it shows off her wide vocal range.

Earth Day 1970 cartoon

1970 Earth Day political cartoon.

Design environmental posters using some of your favorite phrases from this song.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.



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