The phrase Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) was created by a group of environmental activists in the field of Environmental Justice. NIMBY was always meant as a derogatory term; used to designate the unfair, and unconstitutional, placement of Locally Unwanted Land Uses (LULU’s). LULU’s are toxic, industrial, or waste sites that are harmful to the greatest extent. The presence of a LULU in one’s community would mean immediate and direct harm to personal health or social and environmental vitality.
Environmentalists were some of the first activist groups to recognize the connection between the treatment of land and social justice. With little investigation it was found that the permitting and placement of LULU projects would be contested and denied in locations of affluence, where citizens of social power and successful activism could shout, “Not In My Backyard”, and make the LULU go away. The LULU was then unfairly foisted on poor and disenfranchised neighborhoods, primarily neighborhoods of color.
Environmental Justice advocates saw this trend, and recognized this as a new way of using the environment to cultivate deeper racism, inequity, and class privilege. In the United States courts environmental justice advocates designated the term NIMBY to recognize the people who, even though they are equally responsible for the LULU, push the environmental and social consequences on others.
Don’t call me NIMBY. You cannot apply this terminology to Open Space Advocacy issues for three reasons.
-First, NIMBY comes from a discourse that does not fit regional advocacy for responsible land use. The proportions of a LULU are amplified by intense concerns for social justice, personal health, and environmental vitality. This term was used to address fundamental injustices, not public concerns regarding local resources.
-Second, LULU’s are the result of corporate and industrial activity that smacks of elitism, non-local governance, and the privilege of excess wealth. LULU’s are not the types of entities that SOS Glenshire faces as we discuss the possibility of responsible development in our region.
-Finally, much like SOS Glenshire, those environmentalists that originally used the term NIMBY were working hard to ensure that all people in this country have the local knowledge and social power necessary to ensure a high quality of life for their family and their community. We are not pushing the problem of development away, on others. We are proposing a new and different kind of development, where responsible citizens participate in responsible land use. In other words, we are not trying to make unsustainable land use frameworks go some place else, we are trying to cultivate the knowledge, skills, and technology necessary to make them go away completely.