Big Yellow Taxi is a seminal environmental song coming long before most everyone was in the routine of recycling and turning their lights off for an hour each year.
Paradise was being covered in concrete, chemicals were being sprayed indiscriminately with little knowledge of the long term effects, and people were paying to see nature they used to appreciate outdoors for free.
As an early warning, it’s impressive.
Some of the themes may have been picked up by the “grandmother” of environmental books, Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson (1962). This popular work drew attention to pesticides and pollution.
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), widely used in agriculture (it makes bugs have spasms and then they die, apparently) next became banned or widely restricted. It is no longer as effective, but was once a powerful tool in reducing mosquito populations, and hence, malaria cases, in Africa.
Concerns about rejecting DDT bans are leveled. In addition to skepticism about the cancer link in humans, there is a serious criticism: that the restrictions on the chemical spray may have preserved paradise for insects, but not for Africans that caught malaria; maybe, in the millions died – transported to heaven in a very big yellow taxi. In this light, rebuttals of more strident variations of environmentalism charge that the ideology is ultimately anti-human.