"They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot". This was Joni Mitchell’s farewell in Big Yellow Taxi to a middle-class apartment block in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles. So it was fitting that the song closed BBC Radio 2’s latest documentary in The People’s Songs strand, entitled Tubthumping – Environmentalism and Anti-Globalism. In case we missed the Beeb’s cultural enclosure of environmental matters, presenter Stuart Maconie prefaced the song with the remark "being kettled has become as much of a modern middle-class youth experience as a gap-year in Asia" (I know middle-class people who have experienced neither).
I’m not trying to do down environmentalist issues and concerns. As Margaret Thatcher once remarked, “we are not only the friends of the earth, we are its stewards and guardians”. But any BBC presenter who unearthed that quote without audibly dripping with sarcasm would soon be sidelined.
Maconie was, in my view, totally right to play Robert Wyatt’s Pigs (…In There). Battery farming is a vile practice – but can only increase while our population is augmented from without virtually unchecked. So why not use the broadcast to suggest common land be used for keeping pigs and other animals who would otherwise be intensively farmed, while keeping a modicum of land free for those who have ethical or religious objections to humanely slaughtering animals for food?
Tubthumping – Environmentalism and Anti-Globalism - BBC Radio 2
Pigs (...in There) - Robert Wyatt
Tubthumping - Chumbawamba