The NIMBY (Not in My Backyard)  idea that something is fine, even necessary as long as it is not in one’s own backyard, makes us downright stupid about social and environmental decisions. Even as we try to divide up the world into good parts where we live and bad parts where we don’t, earthly cycles and global dynamics are busy mixing it all up. We ingest bits of the plastic that we thought to throw away. The same goes for pharmaceuticals, fire retardants and pesticides. Everything we create winds up in our most intimate backyard—our own bodies.

It is no different in the social sphere. Walls like the one George Bush wanted to build at the southern US border or the one the Israeli government is erecting between themselves and the Palestinians don’t protect anyone. They only make them ignorant about what is on the other side. No matter how high the wall on our southern border it will not change the fact that corporate strawberry farms have ousted subsistence farmers from their land. I once interviewed a man who joined the crowds that panned gold in northern California during the Depression in hopes of getting enough for a loaf of bread. Viewing those masses of hungry people told him in his bones that this country would have gone up in flames without the WPA to provide employment. He was viscerally aware that those good gentle people would not simply stand by and watch their children starve. Neither will any of those on the other side of the walls we erect.

NIMBY licenses not only much environmental and social injustice, but many lapses in common sense. After all, who would build a chemical factory or nuclear power plant if it were placed directly in their own backyard? And if the wounded soldiers in Iraq were Bush or his children, would he have so ruthlessly cut their health benefits?

In spite of its dangerous falsehoods, NIMBY has good press in our modern economic system, which tells us to “externalize costs”— pass them on to someone else—and “internalize benefits”— keep them for themselves. But we can no longer afford such blatantly self-defeating behavior. If we understand the NIMBY lie, we won’t buy clothes made by workers who live under conditions we would not accept for ourselves because we understand our compassion is pragmatic. It is only NIMBY ignorance that says the enemies we make far away will never wreak violence on our own soil.

Instead of hiding behind fences with our NIMBY attitude, we need an “in my backyard” attitude. That attitude will warn us away from dumping toxins we don’t want in someone else’s backyard–just as it will warn us away from benefiting on the pain of others. We should not make or buy anything we are not willing to eat (or send back to the land to fertilize what we eat), since we ultimately DO wind up ingesting it.

How might we change our decisions if we realized our backyards cannot ultimately be separated from anyone else’s? It is worth contemplating, since it all comes back to us (or to our children and grandchildren) in the end. We all share a single planet.

You are welcome to link to this post;  note, however, it is copyright 2008, Madronna Holden. Feel free to email me if you wish to use it.

696 Responses

  1. Dr. Holden-This essay is very interesting. I have been worrying over the NIMBY phenomena for a while now. It seems like tons of people have no problem doing really stupid stuff as long as they don’t have to directly view the results. I especially appreciated the part about building walls. I don’t understand how people can ignore the fact that people are not crossing the border looking for a good time. They are coming here to find a way to feed their families, supported by big-agriculture. If we were not paying them to pick our fruit and vegetables, slaughter our cows and plant our trees would they be pouring over the border? I think not.

  2. Thanks for your compassionate and thoughtful reply, Katie!

  3. Dr. Madronna Holden,

    I too agree that the Nimby theory is a very interesting concept. People can be very ignorant if they do not have to see the results of their ignorance affecting other people. It is easy to go along with the theory of “out of sight, out of mind” however, that can be a very dangerous and destructive attitude towards our planet and others. I think that you really hit home when you said that eventually everything destructive we do will come back to us and/or our children/grandchildren in the end because we ultimately all share the same backyard! How true is that. Many people do not consider that what they do today may directly affect the lives of their children and grandchildren tomorrow. If people could develop a new way of thinking that brought that into perspective, like you said, just think of how different the decision making process would be for caring individuals who often times obliviously ignore or put off important decisions that could impact the future.

    Thank you,

    Philosophy 443

    • Amber, your posting reminded me of that old Thomas Jefferson adage, “never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” I think a lot of us, including myself, think we really would like to respond to the different crises addressed in Professor Holden’s article here, but for most of our young lives, we follow what others do and we don’t really know where to start. While as a student and individual who has tried more recently to “understand the NIMBY lie” as Professor Holden put it, I can now think of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, fire retardants, and plastics in the same paragraph only once I have personally begun to address those issues and make changes in my own life. Those were gradual changes, and not ones I addressed all at once.

      I think for most of us who once shared the NIMBY approach, including most certainly myself, we are overwhelmed when first presented these issues. In terms of food alone, when I first started looking into what margarine and hotdogs were really made of, I must have found a thousand other food items I once ate that I can no longer go near. Yes, we all think these issues could have been addressed by now by all people for goodness sake, and perhaps they would have been if the media weren’t so busy covering Lindsey Lohan’s latest relapse.

      Unfortunately, to take action now and get past the NIMBY perspective, people have to force themselves to take a more difficult path to move past their ignorance as you mentioned. It actually takes some digging to discover many of the atrocities addressed in Professor Holden’s article since the majority of these issues are not covered by the general media. I mean, what is in those jet created cloud trails that spread clear across an otherwise blue sky? I have no idea. Is it killing me? Not a clue! What level of mercury is in the fish I buy at the store? How did it get there? What does genetically altered or chemically altered really mean? If the “Gulf oil slick appears to vanish quickly” as noted in today’s New York Times headline, where in the world is it going? It’s disappearing? How is that possible? Does evaporation really mean it vanishes? Hmm…

      So I guess those of us who are beginners at this “understanding the NIMBY lie” begin first by reading between the lines and looking in our own backyards (starting with our bodies as Professor Holden mentioned) at the little things, then we expand from there. It seems right now this process of learning is sadly too slow to reverse the rapidly spreading and widely accepted NIMBY approach. The results of people’s ignorance does affect others as you said, so in turn, we would need more people taking leadership roles in bringing about positive changes in order to counter the negative effects we have already had on others. How can we do this today instead of tomorrow? What needs to be done? How can I myself help?

      • Your two essential questions at the end are important ones, Odhran–and I think we (each) can only begin to answer them after we have gained some other information about the consequences of our choices. This is one reason I am heartened by the citizens groups that are doing research into these issues, issues often obscured by isolationist and exclusionary attitudes. Certainly, if we don;t know the consequences of our own actions, we can’t make wise choices about them.

  4. Amber, I think you have a central insight in your sense that we need to see beyond our backyards — and our particular “now” in order to understand the consequences of our actions–and to make ethical decisions concerning them.

  5. When Sargon attacks Mesopotamia and defeated Uruk, he tore down its wall and when wone the battle in Ur, he conquered the town and tore down its wall. Also, when Esarhaddon attacks Egypt, he boasts of laying seige to Memphis and tearing down its wall.

    Now I know where did Reason get his words from when he challenged Gorbachev to, “tear down this[Berlin]wall.”
    Whether it’s the US/Mexico border wall, the one in Palestine, or the one between North and South Korea, they separate families and communities and poor from rich.
    Wrongfully the usurpers and haughty governments think the walls last forever and will never be overrun.

    The Maqueladoras just across the border is a good example: ‘Let them worry about toxic runoffs, working conditions, and environmental issues. After all, it’s not on our side,” the wealthy thinks.
    What about the chemicals that eventually make their way to the Pacific and slowly flow northward until half the beaches in San Diego are declared off limits to swimming, fishing, and surfing?

    One last thing comes to mind is the 30 million Euro razer fence that attempts to keep away illegal immigrants from reaching Europe. On the one hand, the wealthy robs poor countries of their resources and deny them technology, and on the other they want to keep them away.

    “Those who hoard up treasures of gold and silver and spend them not in the way of Allah; give them the news of a painful punishment, on the Day when that (wealth) will be heated in the Fire of Hell and with it will be branded their forehead, their sides, and their backs, (and it will be said to them:) ‘This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard.'” [Al-Quran 9:34-35]

  6. I understand your deep feelings, backed by the Quran quote, about the greed of those who hoard for themselves what others need for survival. That hoarding creates one kind of unjust (not to mention, ultimately ignorance-producing) wall between rich and poor.
    But I don’t entirely understand how your historical examples of conquests that tore down walls applies to the fact that we are all interdependent, no matter what kinds of fences we wish to build between our backyard and the rest of the world. Are you indicating that walls never last, and are invitations for “outsiders” to do battle on them?
    If my memory serves me, Ibn Khaldun, the early Muslim philosopher, analyzed the consequences of this in his travels on the Mediterranean. He observed that wars and raids were often the result of an inclusive stance that attempted to keep others– especially the hungry– out . Ironically, the conquests he wrote about created stratified societies, in which the conquerors re-created exclusionary status by becoming upper class– he was observing the negative consequences of social stratification as well as its origin.
    It is interesting to me that he wrote about problems of class oppression a thousand years before Marx brought up the subject in the modern day.
    History tells us we must be very careful we don’t recreate the oppression we wish to destroy if we think to destroy that oppression through conquest.
    Interestingly, you bring also up Ur–which brings to mind for me the story of Gilgamesh, which certainly has an environmental moral in that tearing down the sacred forest also leads to the loss of true comradeship between the men in question. And then there is the story of Inanna (which I have written about in a Parabola article a few years back), which indicates how those on top (Inanna in this case) must face the “underworld” of the outcast in order to go on living herself.
    The lessons of these early myths certainly reflect the historical experience of the people who told them.

  7. Well, Dr Holden, by those historical examples I meant that back then, walls existed for a different purpose: protection from outsiders. As you know, between one civilization and another, there were wide expanses. They rarely were positioned next to each other.

    In our times, walls are built to divide families from families, often times from the same group. The Germans were divided from Germans, Palestinians from Palestinians, and Koreans from Koreans, by force.

    To word it differently, people are walled in or walled out for political or economic reasons, as opposed to military ones.

    Where the interdependence comes into play is when the Koreans, Mexicans, Palestinians and less so the Germans, continued to rely on one another via continually challenging these walls, either to visit relatives, send money, bring their families, exchange goods, find work, or to attend friday prayers. So, the human connection can never be cut off forever.

    The invisible cord that bonds us all–love–is something beyond walls and weapons.

  8. Thank you Madronna for the very relevant essay,

    I also am very aware of, and interested in the NIMBY phenomenon. As Americans, we seem culturally disposed to this kind of double standard in many different forms.

    It also seems to me that there exists a similar, but opposite condition where we harshly judge the actions and policies of other countries and cultures in areas that we have far greater guilt. We vilify small “rouge” nations for developing nuclear technology, when we have more nuclear waste than we can adequately deal with, and more weapons than are appropriate for a dozen world powers. Our advocacy groups rally for ecological responsibility in developing countries, while we rape the land and deplete soils in our own backyard.
    I am not sure what the term for this type of hypocrisy is, but I am certain someone prior to me has coined one.

    With respect to not buying goods from people working in conditions that we would not accept for ourselves, we need to understand the relative conditions and alternatives before we rush to judgment. We should not be proud of a company that supports a sweatshop far below our standards in a developing country, but neither should we force them to remove it outright. When these sweatshops are closed, the labor force reverts to conditions far worse than the sweatshop. (I have traveled to some of these regions, and I have heard this from the locals directly) Instead, we need to work with the companies who bring economic growth to these regions to include incremental improvement plans in their supply agreements. In this way, the sweatshop can evolve to an acceptable standard, and serve as a model for subsequent business ventures.
    We must keep in mind that our working conditions in the US did not magically appear overnight, but rather evolved over generations with legislation a maturing economy, and a more enlightened culture. We must allow, and help our neighbors in the third world follow the same path to prosperity. We could actually incite civil unrest by building a US worthy facility and paying US parity wages overnight in some of these world regions.

    Our standard is appropriate for us; we need to help other nations move the bar incrementally forward without asserting our arrogance or moral values on another culture without their consent.

    • John, I agree with your view that western enterprises can still go to third world countries and let workers earn wages in line with their existing economies (not ours). I too, have been in regions (Asia) where there are “sweat shops” operating “below” our standards and have personally heard and seen that quality of life would be far worse without the western economic stimulus allowing these people to earn a living. I think there are various solutions where the more affluent west can help other nations improve their way of life according to their needs — through employment at locally reasonable wages, fair trade practices, and etc. Economic development happens within different sectors at different rates. Sure, the western world has helped stimulate great business: witness the work of the organization behind Ten Thousand Villages, Body Shop, and so many others. If western enterprises can grow responsibly and “spread the wealth” globally at locally acceptable rates of growth appropriate to local values and economic need, then that is a good thing. Of course, economic development must happen while considering indigenous environmental values and the ecological health of the planet as a whole. That has not happened for a majority of the time to date.

      • Thanks for your comment. I think your last two sentences are key to this issue–not only environmental standards but standards of justice as well. Is see no reason corporations should do what they can get away with (and assuage their conscience by telling themselves “everyone lives like that”).
        A telling point, I think, is that the WTO has kept labor and environmental standards artificially low–and supported the “runaway shops” which move out of areas where there are higher standards into places with lower ones to make a buck.
        Not all are as bad as some– you aptly mention the Body Shop, which made a point of paying the equivalent of British minimum wage to third world workers. And why not? I don’t think the idea that we will mess up their economies by paying too much money to workers has a leg to stand on– although I might go for the idea that we are paying our CEOs enough to mess up OUR economy. From 12 times the salary of the starting worker in 1960 to over 200 times that– and continuing to grow. I think it is the height of cynicism for CEOs with these kinds of earnings to argue that they should pay third world workers lower salaries just because they are so glad to have a job!

  9. A very interesting post, John. I’m not sure what the official term for such a double standard as you cite is, but there should be one if there is not.
    I have heard the argument before about not being able to pay comparable wages in comparably enforced justice and economic standards in third world countries.
    Whereas I like your idea of helping these folks to advance to justice based on pressured the corporations that are abusing them, in fact, some businesses have made a point of paying equal wages to their workers anywhere in the world. And they have not incited riots– but instead helped the workers they employed to gain dignity very quickly in partnership with their business endeavors. The Body Shop founded by Anita Roddick (who is unfortunately, recently deceased). Others are those groups that implement “fair trade” agreements with workers in third world countries. It is true that these workers do not always ask for money compensation comparable to that in the US: many want a healthy environment, cultural protections and leadership roles in making decisions in the businesses in question.
    It is also true that many third world nations are suffering extreme poverty as a result of globalization and colonialism begun as much as four centuries ago, in which their traditional leadership structures and subsistence means were devastated. But though you do not do so, I think it is also important to be careful not to intimate that these peoples are somehow not able to handle our standard of life (by this I mean well being, rather than our standard of consumption, which the earth could not bear). You might like to look at a book called The Subsistence Perspective, which gives a number of examples of workers in third world countries exerting the kind of economic leadership models we might do well to follow.
    All in all, I appreciate your thoughtfulness in this response,

  10. It seems to me that a dominant Western worldview is primarily responsible for the NIMBY attitude. This attitude fails to take into consideration the importance of interdependence and cooperation between various societies, assuming that the harm one society causes to another will not come back to harm the perpetrating society. The clearest example of this in the post is the notion that Bush does not acknowledge, or imagine that his children could easily be in the position of the soldiers in Iraq who are unnecessarily losing their lives. This attitude is completely frightening because it is an attitude which causes great evil to come about simply because one does not recognize the unity inherent in the world.
    If people did in fact recognize that we are all on the same planet, such as the last line in the post states, there might be a chance that the NIMBY attitude would diminish, or at least the prevalence of this attitude would decrease. In this, we should turn to the examples of worldviews encompassing unity and coherence, provided by the majority of the indigenous population.
    A great example of increasing unity arises from the gathering of people to perform rituals which bond people of a society together. The Navajo, for instance, perceive and remember the connectedness apparent in the world through performing a major ceremony entitled The Blessingway. The Blessingway consists of much prayer, singing, and other such practices. Prayer serves to help the Navajo connect their bodies to the ancestral Holy People to realize that there is a certain component within all persons which bonds people together (Suzuki, p.205). The Navajo realize that all people are one.
    If societies holding the NIMBY attitude came to this same realization of oneness then they might realize that causing harm to a different portion of the world is simultaneously causing harm to the entire world, and the environment that one inhabits. Therefore, everyone loses. There are no winners.

  11. Professor Holden,

    I do wonder if by allowing these things to happen in our own backyards if it would open people’s eyes to what is happening elsewhere behind the “walls” that have already been built. It’s very easy to say “out-of-sight, out-of-mind”. We are aware of things that are happening and yet we are not hesitant to speak up for only a moment to show our disapproval but once the raging river of life comes to sweep us away behind the corporate walls we become once again blind to the destruction that is awry. I have to say that I am embarrassed to admit that I have a sister who is serving in Iraq. I was angry to know that she was being sent. Angry at Bush for not knowing what a kind, loving person he was sending out to do is destruction and yet now that she is gone, sure I worry for her, but with the safety of the ocean between myself and those bullets I am blind to what occurs behind that “safe” wall. It is easy to ignore it or have the ability to turn our heads away from its devastating effects. But I know for the families who have had that wall torn down for them and the body of their loved one placed in their own backyard, it’s not truly “real” until then.
    I appreciate your article and it has reminded me to make my voice a little louder and open my eyes a little bigger. Just because I don’t see it right in front of me, does not mean that it is not happening and is not possibly harming other humans on earth. It’s a strong message, not only assocaiaed to the war, but to all aspects of our life. We forget to take into consideration the implications that could come from placing these walls. The retalliation we could endure by ignoring their effects. It could proved to be more harmful.
    This just proved to be a tough issue to have to create a true stance upon because for myself who is so limited to the resources I have within my own backyard, it is hard for me to investigate every particle of my everyday being, where it’s come from, or how it’s made. It’s a hard stance to take without the time to research and limit the resources I choose to support. I am not sure if that makes sense. But easy to make a person seem so small with so much occuring all around in the world as a whole.
    Thanks for letting me comment.

    Debbie Hampton PHL 443

  12. Hi Debbie,
    Thanks for your personal comment. You certainly do not have to feel embarrassed to say that your sister is serving in Iraq. I am sure that she and the vast majority of the other soldiers on the ground there have a serious commitment to the well being of our nation. This is something to be proud of, though I know it must be difficult given the current unpopularity of this war among the US public. I do think that your anger at Bush is well founded, since he pushed us into this war under what even he has admitted are false pretenses–and there is far too much money being made by Cheney’s business affiliates for NOT servicing our soldiers with proper food and armor. (And charging the US populace unbelievable prices for these shoddy goods, since the government had no competitive bidding on these contracts, allowing the contractors to charge whatever they wish for whatever they provide).
    For those caught in the terrible tragedy of this situation, I recommend this article from YES magazine, written by a soldier from Viet Nam who works with healing PTSD syndrome in soldiers from all US wars:
    (“Heal the Warrior, Heal the Country”).
    You make a good point about the “reality” of this situation to most of us here in the US. Perhaps you know that the major tv stations have made bargains with their advertisers promising not to show body bags– it seems that sells less products.
    During the first Gulf War, I taught a class in a small community in Oregon where many of my students were the parents of soldiers there: they were furious about the way in which the media hid the reality of the war that they had to experience in having their sons and daughters serving there.
    Thank you for your thoughtful and open-hearted response about bringing things into our own backyard for viewing.
    I think you certainly have a point. And my best wishes to you and your family.

  13. I believe that the NIMBY concept was born out of ignorance as the world was once “a very big place.” A place where it took long periods of time to not only travel, but to communicate with others as well. As we have advanced technologically, our world has become smaller and we are slowly becoming more aware of how our actions not only affect others in foreign lands, but how they ultimately affect us as well. As we gradally move toward a more “global” society, we must begin to acknowledge that our backyard has expanded to include the whole planet. As such, we bear responsibility in how we conduct ourselves. In the past two years, since “An Inconvenient Truth” came to the “mainstream” community, I have seen a significant shift in bringing about the employing of more renewable sources of energy and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. It has even become a hot topic in this Presidential campaign. It is refreshing to me to see we are beginning to address these problems. It is my hope that the NIMBY concept will soon fade into distant memory and we truly become “good neighbors” to all.

  14. A hopeful vision indeed, Kathleen. As to the world once being a very big place, interesting idea. it is interesting to note that traditional indigenous societies had a characteristically holistic vision of the world. It is Western culture, especially with the beginning of Western science in the late Middle Ages, that began to divide the world into parts in order to study it analytically.
    It is also important to note that having a close sense of belonging to a particular place and people does not necessarily imply rejection, ignorance or hostility to others.
    Why some societies develop an “enemy” perception of those outside their borders is an important topic for all of us to consider.

  15. I feel the NIMBY attitude is slowly being replaced with the more realistic attitude of what’s not in my backyard now is going to affect what’s in my backyard later. The world’s population continues to explode; human space has become increasingly limited meaning that the results of our behavior are felt far more rapidly than they were in the past. There is no where left to go if we devastate our planet, too many areas have already been exploited, if we don’t acknowledge that our responsibility to our planet is greater than the responsibility to our individual backyards, we won’t have any backyards to go to.

  16. I think that NIMBY is an excuss for people not to own up to anything. I really found this so interesting. This is the first time i have taken a class like this, and i am learning so much. I think it was really well put. I feel if these things were happening it everyone’s backyard more and more people would have somthing to say about it, but in stead the use the NIMBY attitude to just put it away so they dont have to see or think about it. This atticle really made me think . Thank you:)

    • Hi Meagan, thanks for your comment–and thoughtfulness in response. The ultimate self-destructiveness in an interconnected world is apparent as well in a follow up post on NIMBY on this site.

  17. The Nimby attitude is something will come into play more and more and globalization and 24 hour news cycle pervades our society. It seems like anything that is somewhat controversial is all that appearson the news anymore. This will only serve to exacerbate the Nimby attitude as TV news networks search for the most tittilating subjects to garner ever higher ratings and advertising dollars. God forbid that we put out some real news, instead lets report on court cases and things that in the big picture just make no difference. (<–read with sarcasm).

    To me the ultimate Nimby story is Yucca mountain. Yucca mountain is the proposed national nuclear waste dump located in the desert areas of Nevada. No states wanted the nuclear waste dump when this legislation was coming about. NIMBY was all over the news with people protesting nd argueing. They finally settled on the state of Nevada after much controversy.

    As a nation we must try and come together about more things and really about the goals of our nation, whatever they may be and work towards them as a community.

    • Hi Joe, thanks for your comment. Your last sentence sums up an imperative in an interdependent and increasingly imperiled world. I think we need to come together (in moral terms) with those who follow us as well: and assume responsibility for our actions on future generations.

  18. The section that you wrote about how we treat our service members hit home for me. I was active duty Army for four years, and I know the struggles that soldiers face. We expect them to go and fight an unjust war in Iraq, and then we don’t want to take care of them when they get home. This is reflected not only in healthcare, but in education as well. I am thankful for my GI Bill, which helps to pay for my classes, but it doesnt go far enough. It won’t cover the full cost of my classes, books, and fees … not to mention that it wont cover room and board. Thank God I am blessed with a well paying job.
    This NIMBY notion is a horrible one, as if something isn’t happening to you it doesn’t matter. When will people realize the consequences of their actions? You mentioned the border fence in your essay as well, such a horrible idea. That is tantamount to boarding up a broken window, the window is still broken but now it looks horrible too. The real solution to our border issue is education and fair trade practices in all countries.

    • Hi Andrew, thanks for sharing something of your personal situation here. The GI Bill did much better for returning servicemen after World War II. Paying for education is problematic for everyone these days. I hope Obama’s election helps us pass some legislation (Ted Kennedy has been working on this for years) that allows everyone who has the motivation to get a higher education degree. I don’t think we can have a true democracy (which is based on the knowledge of its citizens) if we only educate the rich– not to mention the unfairness in terms of future job possibilities, etc. Thanks for your contribution to our country.
      And I like your analogy of the broken window.

  19. Great article. This really riled me up because I have very strong opinions about the Iraq war and the proposed wall on the US southern border. The people who subscribe to the NIMBY philosophy were (and still are) a source of frustration for me because of their ignorance about other cultures and lack of understanding of exactly who they are in the world and what their purpose is. They live in an insulated world where circumstances outside their realm do not concern them. When the war began, I remember telling someone that invading Iraq is like blowing up the house of a neighbor whom you dislike because another neighbor whom you happen to do business with (the Saudis) blew up YOUR house(9/11). This same person didn’t seem fazed when I told him that the civilian Iraqi dead count was around 100,000 as a result of the war. He didn’t care because of his NIMBY attitude and the belief that he was somehow detached and, in fact, superior to those he didn’t understand and had no contact with (which is essential to viewing them as human).

    I also have asked the same question you ask in regards to what Bush would do if placed in the predicaments that he has placed others. It is clear that his ruthless behavior results in part to a lack of empathy. Hurricane Katrina is a great example. His slow response cost lives and property. Would his apparent indifference be similar if a hurricane had hit Martha’s Vineyard or West Palm Beach?

    The only way to save ourselves is to eliminate the borders that exist not only physically, but also in people’s minds. Ignorance and bigotry are results of a lack of education and backward rearing. The only way to put an end to the NIMBY outlook is to somehow teach people that we are all bilogically the same despite our cultural differences and outward appearance.

    • Thanks for a powerful personal response, Michael. I am hopeful that we will get over this attitude when we start realizing just how self-destructive the NIMBY attitude is– since in an interdependent world all that we do to others (in terms of releasing toxics into the environment, for instance) comes back to us. That is the theme of the essay NIMBY, part II here.
      I like the idea that we are all in this together because we are all human; indigenous peoples extended this idea even further– applying the ethic of kinship to all life.
      And even if it weren’t for the self-destructive consequences of the NIMBY attitude, I think we lose out on much by closing ourselves off from so much of the rest of the world- think how small we have to become to do this. And how large we might become if we truly reached out to others and learned from them
      Thanks for both a thoughtful and heartfelt post.

  20. I’ve met a lot of NIMBY people lately, and I’ve seen lot’s of ignorance about the same world we share.

    Around me people don’t recycle because they don’t live near a dump, they commute 3 hours a day because they don’t live near a refinery. My county sprays for moths without ever notifying me.

    The farmers spray pesticides two feet from where my dog is. When I approach this topic with people, the answer that I often get is “It’s been proven safe”. My response is usually something like… “Yeah, like DDT, Arsenic, and Vioxx?” How do you respond to people that think if it’s on the market – it must be safe? I actually think the people who aren’t sure if it’s safe – so let’s put it in a 3rd world country just in case – should be prosecuted under human rights laws. At least the previous group of people are just ignorant.

    This same attitude follows the path of people thinking they are the only ones using a resource. If somehow the law says it’s theirs… then they can do whatever they want with it. Last year my town had a severe water shortage, so severe that the town actually ran out of water. I live out in the country on a well, but we were under restrictions as well. My neighbor insisted on having a sprinkling system running. When I talked to him about it – he told me that it was his well, it was dug deep enough, and it was his water. I shook my head at him and tried to explain to him that we are all pulling from the same aquifer, and he was using all of our water, and that we didn’t know how much was left.

    How do you change people’s thinking if they are convinced that natural resources belong to them?

    • Hi Angie, I am sorry you are having these problems even speaking with your neighbors. I don’t know where you live, but the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides might give you some cues/information as to how to approach this conversation (and protect yourself). Check out the links on the right hand column of this site and see if you can find anything that is helpful.
      This values “wall” you are running (folks believing something in the “commons” necessary to the survive of all belongs to them) is one reason why the, an offspring of the Science and Environmental Health Network, support changing our worldview AND instituting the “precautionary principle” to take up our responsibility for caring for our earth in support of future generations of all species.

  21. ”Everything we create winds up in our most intimate backyard-our own bodies”. This very powerful statement is what “jumped” off the page for me. The NIMBY attitude has migrated to the forefront of many issues as wide open spaces have decreased. It is becoming increasingly difficult for political and corporate entities to “slip” legislation and projects by an ever growing population. I would add that the NIMBY philosophy only works for those who have money and/or power. Unfortunately many sectors of populations have suffered the emotional and physical consequences when people who live far from them make decisions which affect their lives. In this age of technological advances and instant access to the media perhaps this is an area that may begin to wane. Especially as you so aptly pointed out that many of the affects will ultimately end up within the human body. I think scientists have finally managed to convince most people that our natural resources have a limit. It will now be their job to help facilitate solutions. It is my belief that the solutions need a community approach. So many of the decisions that ellicit a NIMBY response seem to stem from a more individualistic point of view that addresses the needs and/or concerns of a few as opposed to the entire world population. It is definitely a tall order but as it is proven that what happens in one part of the world affects another, as in acid rain, maybe people can look past cultural and political differences to set a new standard. We must protect the environment if we wish it to continue to sustain us.

    • Hi Colleen, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I especially like your insight/vision at the end, that we might spread good will and change and health for the environment instead of things like toxicity and poverty in our ultimately interdependent world. Perhaps that is an essential lesson nature will teach us– if we will only pay attention.

  22. To relate, one of the drawbacks to the national park system in the US and the Japanese tree conservation policy is although it puts incredible value on the environment (trees, animals, plants, etc.) within the country’s own borders, it does not stop the country’s destruction of others’ land. To explain, Japan imports much of its lumber from Canada although it places much of its forested land as untouchable by the lumber industry. This hypocrisy illustrates Japan’s own NIMBY value to place the destruction on others rather than themselves and further enforcing the NIMBY hypocrisy.

    To really get out of this lie, it seems, we may need to enforce an isolationist view of our own natural resources to see that our own development is the problem and not industry itself.

    • Hi Tony, you bring out a good point: how we cost things in this society. Suppose that we priced things according to the environmental impact that we might have to pay for in the future (houses coming down the hill from clear cuts, transportation systems interrupted by flooded roads as in Washington state, the health costs of pesticides and other toxic chemicals in our environment)?
      Whether it is by changing what we value most in this culture (money?), we need to help create a system in which we reward those who actions result in what we as a society really want. Wouldn’t that be something to be proud of as a way to use your creativity in engineering. I know there are currently green chemistry standards, but I don’t know about engineering. You are getting your degree in a time of very interesting change.
      I’m not sure an “isolationist” view is the same as a self-critical one– since in order to understand the results of our actions we need to see its effects on others. But the central idea is a very important one!

  23. I loved it when you said “walls… don’t protect anyone. They only make them ignorant about what is on the other side” beautifully said! NIMBY very closely relates to the, “what I don’t know cant hurt me”, phenomenon. Blissfully ignorant. However, I would hope that this is changing. I feel as if this is changing. I feel that we are getting more aware of the fact the dumping waste in China, for instance, does not make it go away.
    I would love to think that because we are the most powerful country in the world we are making conscious decisions, that we are constantly improving. We are not so dumb to believe NIMBY is an answer, we have to know it is an excuse.

    • Hi Kate, thanks for your comment. We certainly have a responsibility for global leadership in this way. We can all hope that we express it in the future as we have sometimes done in the past (in spearheading the UN Declaration of Human Rights after World War II, for instance).

  24. This article was a literal shock to the system. I have thought before of the NIMBY attitude in our culture, but not quite in the way that you have laid out here. I know that I don’t always consider the consequences of my actions on the environment even though I have very strong feelings about our disregard for what we do not see everyday, and how that will affect all of us. To visualize ingesting the chemical and nuclear waste of plants that are NIMBY, just amplifies my responsibility to do the little things each day not to contribute to the damage already being done in the distance.
    I also am motivated to become more educated on the ways in which our world is putting up blinders to justify ignorance, and support with our money, work conditions that constitute slave labor so that we can enjoy more for less. Thank you for your insight.

    • You are certainly welcome, Aaron. Thank you for your comment. My hope is that our realization that we live in an interdependent world will wake all of us up to both the consequences of our actions and our human potential.

  25. This essay produces so much anger in me. There are so many things that our society promotes and does. It still astonishes me. I have personally fallen victim to things produced from people who will never know how they have altered and affected my life and I believe that this is simply unacceptable. This dilemma is one that I feel very strongly about. I have considered trying to write a book that simply teaches people of the dangers of putting young children on drugs like adderall and ritalin simply because I don’t think it is talked about enough. The ignorance that shields our world from the decisions made by those who are greedy and those in power sometimes feels like a bad dream to me. I think to myself “this cant be actually happening can it?” Then I wake up and realize that it can be happening and it is happening everyday.

    • Hi Megan, I think anger is an appropriate response to some of this– and healing through finding a community of mutual support where you can express the care and share information like that you want to put in your book. You can find material on misuse of ritalin and support for changing this here:
      Good luck and take care.

  26. I did not know much, if anything, about NIMBY before this article, and while I have not ever taken a look at all that it entails and the facts about it, I now have a general idea of it, and this reply is in response to that. Having done mission work in Mexico, and having spent time in different parts of the country, it is shocking to me, that our government, which is a democratic one, which we Americans make decisions about (generally speaking), could do anything but want to HELP our neighbors in Mexico. I know it is very idealistic and unrealistic to want to help people and not hurt people, and we have MANY reasons and complicated systems to stop this from occurring, but why do we have to make it worse, but blocking off our “problems” south of us? What are we going to accomplish from this? I wish that we could respect humanity, and spend more time taking care of one another instead of being naive to other’s peoples problems, which, really, are OUR own problems. NIMBY separates and divides people, which is the opposite of what we need to do to create progress.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your compassionate response. I especially like your statement that other’s problems ARE ours–and what we need to do to create progress. It would be great if we all took some time to critically redefine this term, rather than linking it a new invention or a rise in gross national product.

  27. First of all I wanted to say that the eye opener for me was the plastic that we ingest. I can readily grasp it but did not even think about that before reading this article. I had thought of other things like tires piling up somewhere in a sanitary landfill, but now I realize how many things like plastic do not necessarily just break down/biodegradable like.

    That also brings up another thought in my mind regarding NIMBY and globalization. Yes, I see the idea of we are a global community, and can consider ourselves neighbors with people all over the world, but the concept of NIMBY shows that we have been separating ourselves from other people and other places, putting up the walls. So it behooves us to realize everything we do affects everybody. We need to understand the imperative in taking responsibility and taking down the walls. Thanks for a great eye opening article and concept.

    Jim Jarrad

  28. The whole NIMBY concept is one that I find so incredibly. It is very hard for me to understand how people are still carrying around this attitude. We are a community. Everyone, even though we may all be at different levels, needs to work together. No one is exempt from this environmental crisis and so no one should be taking on an unfair amount of the negativity involved with it.
    People are still holding on to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality here. That point of view, however, is just hurting us all in the long run. Not noticing the problems that are present just allow them to pile up until they are too great to handle. We are putting the most vulnerable populations at risk while the stronger and wealthier just aren’t dealing with it. This is not okay. We all did this. We all need to help each other find a way out.

  29. I think for so long our society and its demand for new things was growing so rapidly, we did not know how to properly handle this expansion. I believe the NIMBY idea stemmed from this rapid growth. We became so obsessed with material possessions that manufacturers could barely keep up with demand, let alone spend time and energy researching where their products would end up in the future. I think the important thing is that we are now realizing our mistakes. Consumers are finally taking note and starting a trend that will hopefully spread to the general population. This trend of responsible (“green”) manufacturing will hopefully be well received by all US based producers within the next 10 years. If we set a good example, other countries are sure to follow to meet the expectations of US consumers.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jason. The economic expansion you point out here is certainly linked to the NIMBY attitude– but I think it goes further back than that. It is also linked to colonialism, which sees someone else’s land as the fodder for such expansion.
      As your point out, our choices as consumers also create models for the rest of the world. It is time to be conscious about those choices, lest we pay for all kinds of things (e.g. pollution, child slave labor) none of us want.

  30. I have always been aware of this NIMBY attitude, but I never knew there was a name on it. I have always been suspicious to the idea that Americans believe themselves to be superior over the rest of the world, and that everyone else deserves what they get from us. As long as our country looks good it doesn’t matter what’s going on over there. It brings to mind the whole walmart situation. There arechildren and such are making the products for hardly any pay, but we deem them as an all american family store because of the bargains.

    • Thanks for your response here, Kelli. As you indicate, the ethical standards by which we judge our actions should include the ways those actions effect others– whether those others happen to be our own family members or someone an ocean away.

  31. This is a very touchy subject it seems by some of the responses ive seen. I personally have never herd of this NIMBY lie, so this was all new for me two read about. As i do believe that all the cultures around the world have to deal with the same problems we should not be making barriers to helping eachother. Yet just because there are walls between us and mexico or walls between any country to another doesnt mean we are not all in this problem for ourselves. I think more so in the case of building a wall from us and mexcio was to keep illegal immigrants out. Because it is illegal to live in the US and not be a citizen. This is the same for all countries, its not because we hate eachother but because it is law. Why in other words would we have to have passports when we travel to different countries.
    I do believe we should be taking care of things ourselves in our country, and then helping others, cause we have problems to fix already. Reading this essay did remind me of something i learned off recently, is that we send our trash to different countries to take care off such as china, i am sure this has been going on for a long period but it was new to me. This almost made me feel embaraced, it like throwing your trash over the fence to your neighbors rather than taking care of it yourself.

    • Hello Christian, thanks for your comment. I like your last point especially. You have obviously grasped the ethical point that our ethical standards should be based on the consequences of our actions– whether or not the others those actions effect are one miles or two thousand miles away.
      Your earlier point is thoughtful–and I would want to ask the following questions. 1. How do laws get made? Are they always as they should be– or are there times when they do not produce the results we really want. There is much debate on the issue of immigration. 2. Does putting up a wall really help us get what we want out of this situation? My point here was that the wall may cut off options and make us ignorant of one another–and foster the idea that if we put up a wall, we don’t have to think of what is on the other side–which consists of a complex economic situation in which US interests and corporations have played a part in creating. More information gives us more options.
      You might also like to take a look at this essay on the NIMBY lie, Part II and its self-destructive consequences, in analyzing whether this attitude really serves our interests:

  32. This is a very interesting discussion. There are many examples of the not in my backyard mentality. I think of the way that people want as many criminals enprisoned in jail, but then when the prisons filled up and we need to build another, no community wants to volunteer to have the prison built in their backyard. Offshore drilling for oil is a contentious topic in my community as in 2008 when fuel prices were very high, Republicans solution was to loosen the restrictions on drilling offshore and other areas that were previously protected from drilling rights. Ironically if you looked at the national statistics for people that supported offshore drilling at the time, the majority of Americans supported it but if you looked at states like Florida, California, and Oregon with large shorelines, the populations of those states overwhelmingly opposed offshore drilling. Hopefully somewhere down the line people can build a coalition to oppose the use of pesticides, petroleum products, toxic chemicals that linger in the soil, water and air long after they are invisible to the naked eye.

    • Very interesting examples that further illustrate the NIMBY attitude. I think your idea of a coalition to oppose those things no one wants in their own backyard is an important one. I do hope that environmental concerns may also bring cultures together as well.

  33. The NIMBY attitude discussed in this essay reminds me of a saying I always seem to hear “out of sight, out of mind”. It worries me so many have this mind set, because as many families that may have some child or friend in the military, there are just as many people who dont. What happens to our soldiers and their promises that are broken by the goverment hardly reach every Americans ears. In the case of the soldiers losing benifits , most people are wrapped up in their own personnel everyday issues. These issues we hear about on the news and in the papers dont hit us in the face everyday like our own issues of paying rent and putting food on the table. This bring back the mind set “out of sight and out of mind”. I dont believe that we choose as a culture to express the NIMBY attitude but more are too wrapped up in out own little worlds to care for neighbors. Something could be said for “Love thy self and love thy neighbor”. I think the NIMBY attitude is a world wide issue in that sense. I found this article very interesting to read and full of some great info!

    • Thanks for your comment, Kevin. I find it distressing that there was a media ban on showing the devastation of t he Gulf War as well as the war in Iraq– in fact, it was “managed” for the sake of advertisers who protested that real shots of war dampened buying urges. This is vastly unfair to those who fight there.
      If we don’t have a family member there, as you indicate, we might at least see what is really going on. It was this kind of full media coverage that eventually ended the Viet Nam War– another reason the Bush admin was against covering the war. I think a great remedy for NIMBY in making decisions about war would be to put those who declare war on the front lines (just a whim).

  34. Belief in NIMBY is a sepratist philosophy wherein lies a simple misinterpretation. We have been taught to define boundaries; the seperation of atoms, molecules, cells, multicellular organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, and the ecosphere represent a divided continuum . Like photons which behave as both waves and particles, so we too are in unified synchronicity and yet function as somewhat closed systems, respectively.

    Adopting an attitude like NIMBY is self-destructive addictive behavior perpetuated by the social norm. We have been brainwashed to believe that we can get something for nothing, and have devoted our lives to the pursuit of more bang for our buck. It is not simply literal, usury is now a symbol of status and is exemplified by our domination and subjection of what we deem inferior.

    The ecofeminist assertion of the pervasive duality and disregard for the discreditied female form has led to a general lack of reverence for the life sustaining properties of this world. Mothers give life; they are not to be abused. However, the patriarchal dominance of women is analogous to our dominion over nature and our belief that the earth will rebound.

    I truly believe the earth, for it’s own sake, will persevere. However, the bread the Little Red Hen makes may not be very good for us to eat; we contaminated the ingredients.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Jenna. You bring up a very important point about the results of dualism/separation and the ecofeminist perspective. It is self-destructive certainly to demean the sources of our own lives, as you point out. I agree with you that the earth will persevere– perhaps much changed (from species loss, for instance, as a result of our actions), but we are endangering our own survival upon it. This should give the arrogance with which many carry out the dominant and dominating paradigm pause.

  35. I think one of the most consequential outcomes of the NIMBY lie was the nuclear arms buildup that resulted from US-Soviet tension across the Berlin wall. It turned out that the “Wall” kept us from understanding our “enemy,” and as a result both sides ended up with massive stockpiles of weapons that now pose a serious environmental hazard to the planet. Perhaps if both sides had adopted different attitudes about one another’s intentions we could have avoided the perilous situation we now find ourselves in?

    • Very thoughtful additional example with respect to the consequences of the NIMBY attitude, Allison. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it. I am heartened by Obama’s recent statement that our goal should be a nuclear free world.

  36. There is a great example of NIMBY going on in Jefferson county right now. My father was a a meeting proposing some developments on this one property, and the case that was before his was supposed to take an hour to hear. Instead, it took four. The case was concerning some young gentlemen who wanted to put a composting plant in a certain location. Practically the whole community showed up to protest the plant and after every testimony the judges or whoever were in charge would ask, “do you have a problem with these boys or any reason to distrust them?” to which they would answer no, the boys had grown up in the community and everyone knew they were great kids. The second question was “are you against composting?” again, the answer of all but one man was no. So finally the question was “then what is the problem with this proposed facility?” The answer always boiled down to… “I don’t want it in my backyard.” I’m sure there are many ways that the plant could reduce it’s negative consequences while providing a great deal of benefit to the community and it’s surroundings, but no one wants a composting plant in their immediate backyard. Instead, they’d rather be slowly broken down by insidious, but distant, pollution and the spoils of their own ignorance. The sad thing is though, in all honesty if I were living on the property that bordered the proposed compost plant, I’d probably be up in arms protesting it as well.

    • A great example, Mark. Thanks for your honest remark at the end. For myself, I would want to know more about this plant, but I would certainly prefer it as a neighbor to some of the industries in the “caner alley” that others have referred to in comments on this forum. Sometimes I think we just need to get used to particular new ideas. In many communities manicured lawns used to be the aesthetic ideal: now these same communities are urging natural landscaping instead, which the community now accepts as environmentally friendly. But formerly our cultural views had such landscaping as unsightly (since it was not under human control, I think).

  37. Physicists will tell you that no matter what you do you cannot erect a totally impermeable wall. No matter how thick that wall is or what it is made out of particles of all sorts of shape and size will pass though. Therefore I agree that in the case you mentioned about building walls between you and your neighbor brings no resolution to a major problem. The only effect that this may have is that there is now a wall between you and your neighbor. In the real world there are no barriers. Delimitations are a man made creation. Even something as clear as the line where the ocean meets land is in fact not clear separation. If you zoom out to space you see a whole planet and the seashore is just one part of it.

  38. Hello Professor Holden,

    The NIMBY perspective or rather un-perspective is an interesting one. And, I agree with your thoughts where this meets ecology and conservation.

    In our discussions the physical meets and equals ethics and spirituality. So, I’m finding it hard to sort ecology from spiritual value and safety. Let me explain. While I was reading your article, part of the time, I completely disagreed. Here’s the crux: I’ve been taught to have boundaries. Boundaries are good. Boundaries keep me safe. Drawing a line against oppression and pilage is a life saving characteristic both within a home and a nation. Allowing others to do what they may under the name of “everything goes”; lets all get along is a fallacy. To my way of thinking when we adhere to boundaries, we embrace balance. Boundaries can also be applied to important ecological stances.

    I don’t think a wall is an effective tool; never has been. And ecologically speaking NIMBY is a way of thinking which will come to punish us and our children. But, I am certainly not opposed to boundaries.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Tina. Walls (and fences) are problems; knowing who you are and standing your ground is a matter of self-respect– and something very different. I do agree that we each need to start from where we are and stand that ground and interact on that level: from this perspective what we do not wish in our backyard is a basis for honoring that there are some things that should not be in anyone’s backyard.

  39. First, this is the first I have heard of NIMBY. I did not realize half of what I read in this article but of course, why would I? The media only tells the public what they want and keeps us in the dark on many issues. The “Not in my back yard” attitude is also what keeps us in the dark since if it doesn’t concern me than what is the problem? The problem is the walls are not just being built up along the borders but also in our own back yards. Learning that we are indigesting plastics along with other chemicals is more than disheartening, it tells me that we are getting back what we are giving out. So when we continue to allow others to work under slave wages through our buying practices, then I feel that it comes right back at us.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tina. If the disheartening part of this is that we get back what we give out when we give out things like plastics and pesticides, the heartening part is that if we change what we give out for the better, we will get that back instead. Good note about the links between the walls in our backyards and the ones on our borders.

  40. This is an interesting article that clearly explains our role as human beings. We are to protect and care for our environment even if it does not “get noticed” or directly affects our daily life. If everyone cared a bit more, chipped in, and watched out for our environment we may not be in quite as big of a dilemma. It seems like we humans are willing to do a lot more if we aren’t necessarily going to get caught… such as polluting, throwing garbage out the window, and judging immigrants who come to America to find a better life. The NIMBY phenomena is new to me but the “not in my backyard” seems to be a long standing frame of mind. If it does not directly affect me or someone I love then “who cares”. I think it is time for all humans to pay attention to what is going on and take a stand against the injustices.

  41. If we stop buying all the products manufactured in poor nations, you take the little employment opportunities those nations have away from them. The problem is much bigger than what we purchase, whether as “customers” or “consumers.” We do need to extend our undrestanding of the scope of our backyard to include the entire globe, but we have to do something about the imbalance of wealth and health. This week my wife and daughter are in Uganda at a dedication of a high school that my 16 year old daughter has been raising money for to buy desks for the orphans that will attend the school. The compassion and drive that she had to keep at a project for kids half way around the world was inspiring. We need to get out and look around our backyard, open our eyes and see what is going on back there, instead of burying our heads and pretending that buying local products which really just keeps our front yard employed is going to solve the problem.

    • Thanks for your comment, David. No one that I know of here has asked that we stop buying products manufactured in poorer nations– instead I hope to make the point that we cannot in good conscience be blind to the manner in which something is manufactured just because it is cheaper to us. If we continue to pressure poor nations (and many large multi-nationals are currently doing) to create cheaper and cheaper products, we will get things like melanin in baby formula and chocolate grown with child slave labor. There are alternatives: and as consumers being conscious of the entire cycle of our purchases is another way of spending our dollars ethically. The issue is not that we fail to trade with others, but that we do this without middlemen, exploitation, and the environmental costs of transportation.
      Since we use so much of the world’s resources far out of proportion to our population– and much of our current wealth depends on extracting resources from other countries (and impoverishing them as we go: check out Shiva’s Stolen Harvest), one of the best things we can do for others is to clean up our own act. (Another case of interdependence here). You might also want to visit Bread for the World (–a Christian organization that works intensively on world hunger issues, whose analysis and experience indicates the ways in which our food policy currently CREATES world hunger.

  42. I get so frustrated at the selfish nature of NIMBY. How can people be so willing to pass the buck onto someone else, turn a blind eye as long as it doesn’t effect them??? I can’t help but be reminded of a story I read in one of my psychology textbooks that told of a girl who was brutally murdered on the street outside of an apartment complex. Autopsies revealed her murderer had stabbed her to death, but not quickly. The first few stabs were not enough to kill her and she tried to crawl away, a few yards later the stabber tried again to no avail, at a third and final destination the murderer was successful in his conquest. What shocked detectives was that this girl had the strength to crawl away and therefore was probably capable of screaming for help, but not one resident mentioned hearing ANYTHING!! The purpose of this story was to serve a horrifying example of how people put their own well-being above others. The inherent selfishness of human-kind.
    The shoving off seen in the NIMBY attitude is very much similar, as long as I am ok it doesn’t matter if they aren’t. How very sad and uncompassionate.
    Our brian power would be so much better used towards finding solutions, it has to go somewhere! So why not work cooperatively, do some group-problem solving and figure this out.

    • The story of this murdered woman has become a famous ethics case– a model for considering what went wrong and how we might change that. You make a pointed connection with the NIMBY attitude: in the case of the stabbing, many of those who heard this woman’s screams (they were interviewed afterwards) created a NIMBY situation by viewing the woman as not “one of them”– since she lived a different lifestyle. and if she wasn’t a member of their community, they rationalized that they didn’t have to help her–or even call the police, for that matter. I like your expression of the NIMBY attitude: “as long as I am OK, it doesn’t matter if they aren’t”. Cooperation is certainly the alternative that the natural world has come up with the in the interdependence of natural systems. We could learn some things from ecology about how to conduct human affairs!

  43. This article demonstrates how selfish people with the NIMBY attitude can be. I am directly reminded of those who are part of a very high socioeconomic class dictating the dumping grounds of hazardous waste and construction of polluting plants near low income minorities to bear the unhealthy consequences. A particular story comes to my mind that demostrates the use of the NIMBY attitude…the proposition of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste dumping ground. This story is never broadcasted in regards to the detriment of the Native Americans who live there. Rather, Yucca Mountain is mostly refered to as a good nuclear waste dumping ground, but the concerns of the Native American population that inhabit and, in fact, own Yucca Mountain are left out of the media. Not only does Yucca Mountain belong to the Native Americans, it is refered to as a spiritual ground that must be kept sacred among the tribes. Yucca Mountain has suffered from some nuclear waste dumpage in the past, and the Native Americans who live near the site have a high rate of birth defects and cancer related illnesses.
    Those who propose to cart all nuclear waste to Yucca, clearly posses the NIMBY attitude. Would they have done the same if Yucca belonged to wealthy caucasian individuals, capable of hiring skilled lawyers? Of course not! Would they have considered the land suitable as a nuclear dumping ground if they themselves possessed strong interdependent-related environmental values? Again, no.
    Fortunately, the Obama administration has denounced Yucca mountain as a good nuclear dumping ground in February of 2009, however, this does not fix everything. The scares both Yucca Mountain and the Native American tribes bear from the federal government’s dishonesty and broken treaties will remain.

    • Thanks for adding another example to the tragic consequences of the NIMBY attitude, Kristen. I am grateful that there is a political change that takes us away from this in the case of Yucca Mountain. You indicate the selfishness of this view: I certainly agree: I don’t think we would have industrial processing plants with their multiple polluting outputs up and running if we placed each of them twenty feet from an elite suburb rather than in the corridor of predominantly poor black residents in the Southeast along the Mississippi River. The other part to this selfishness is its blindness: yes, environmental racism of this type hits certain socioeconomic classes hard; but it also hits all of us in the long-term, since the natural world is an interdependent one and what we place in the air and water ultimately comes back to our own bodies.

  44. What’s amazing to me is that some people (government, individuals) think that building a physical structure (wall) on our southern border or elsewhere protects them from what is really going on. We don’t need to build a physical wall, we have already built many mental walls through what we have done, are doing, and will do in the future. What I mean by this is that by externalizing costs (poisons, debt, just plain hardship) to other people we are telling them we don’t care about you or the planet (the whole). In other words we’ve already put up our walls, many of them. Another thing that gets me is that we even played a part in helping tearing down the Berlin Wall, reunification of Germany. In the big picture, tearing down the physical wall was nothing compared to the mental (psychological) symbolism it created of being united, caring for one another, caring about our planet…just caring at all. So…bad or GOOD can happen your backyard, but not in mine…..what a falsehood. Like you said…”we are ignorant.” We do need common sense!

    • Great point about the mental walls, Patrick. In effect, walls of any kind represent what we don’t wish to see. It is a powerful truth that externalizing the costs (like toxins) is a statement that we don’t care about those effected. Our carelessness is thus a form of violence.

  45. NIMBY reminds when you’re a child, if you didn’t like something or didn’t want to see something you closed your eyes and buried your head. We hang photos, awards, and things that make us happy to remind us of the good things in our lives; we don’t hang on to negative things. The whole idea behind NIMBY seems to me to be a way of avoiding reality, if it’s not happening in our backyard we don’t care. It is so much easier to only worry about what effects us, worrying about how every action we take is pretty big inhibitor for a lot of people. We need to start looking at our backyard as our whole environment, not just the area we inhabit the most.

    • You have a great point in the immaturity and denial involved in the NIMBY attitude, Rebecca. I also think we should create a sense of our “backyard” as inclusive as possible!

  46. NIMBY should be brought to the media and placed in peoples minds more often! Technically I do not believe that there are “boundaries” anywhere. Wherever a boundary is placed, another exists, therefore they are one in the same. I agree that we should treat our waste and actions as though we are placing them upon ourselves. It reminds me of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy too. For some reason people seem to be okay with something if it isn’t directly affecting them or someone they love dearly. That is an immature and undereducated mindset.

    • I certainly agree with your comment about placing the repercussions of NIMBY in more people’s consciousness, Lorena. I also agree that NIMBY is an “immature and undereducated mindset”– it is up to each us to help change the prevalence of that mindset in our society.

  47. Generally, when people are comfortable in their own backyard it is not of much concern to them what is happening in someone else’s so long as it does not affect them. Reading this essay as well as other responses reminds me of the situation in the Congo in eastern Africa. Right now thousands of women are being raped, families torn apart and killed, and millions are being forced into the jungle by power-hungry militias. Around 6 million people have already died and the rest of the world, especially the United States, is doing nothing. Not because we can’t but because we have no holdings in that area. There are no commodities such as oil there so we do not get involved. It is rarely talked about on the news or elsewhere because politicians have nothing to gain from supporting the cause against these atrocities. This NIMBY attitude absolutely horrifies me because this situation is not hopeless and yet there are very few people acting out against it. I liked the ending quote of this essay that “we all share a single planet.” My backyard is your backyard, and we all have a responsibility towards the earth as a whole and not just our own tiny, comfortable backyards.

    • Thank for you for compassionate response, Lauren. Didn’t Obama make a political response to the situation in the Congo. I certainly agree that it is horrifying that we can allow others to suffer as long as we have no personal profit in helping. I do thing that this is, fortunately, not the attitude of ALL Americans–there is a very strong organization that is working to end the tragedy in Darfur, for instance. But we can certainly imagine the difference it would make in our current world if we all understood, as you point out, that my backyard is also yours.

  48. The NIMBY lie is indeed a huge problem with today’s society and it is an attitude that must be reconciled. You hit home by saying that it makes us downright stupid about social and environmental issues, but that problem is that people prefer to be stupid about such issues; they don’t want to accept the responsibility that they are destroying their real home with their material homes. They don’t want to have to be burdened with that guilt, it is out-of-sight and thus out-of-mind. It is indeed self-defeating behavior, but so is much of human nature, we are prone to being selfish and ignorant, we always look at the immediate benefits and not the long-term destructive effects. People want to live out their short lives comfortably, deep down 99% of us are incredibly selfish and will let everyone else suffer for us, we are Americans, we are born to be selfish materialists, sadly.

  49. The NIMBY mentality seems to be one of convenience: it is a lot easier to do something if you don’t have to worry about the consequences of your actions. If something turns out to be a problem, you can either work hard, spend money, and try to resolve it, or you can just redefine your boundaries and make it not affect you anymore. NIMBY could be rephrased as “somebody else’s problem” but it is even more of a problem than that. All these things that are disregarded by the NIMBY mentality really *are* their problem, and it’s easier to ignore it than to fix it.

  50. The Yucca Mointain in Nevada is home to a proposed nuclear waste disposal facility. This is a classic example of this NIMBY additude. The waste would be shipped across the country to be stored here out of the way. The effects on locals has been disregarded when compared to the benefit to those receiving power from the nuclear plants elsewhere. This viewpoint is not sustainable, and certainly not taken with a partnership worldview. Those citizens of the area may be exposed to toxic drinking water and other hazards. The benefit of nuclear power in one place cannot allow for the destruction and degredation of the environment of another.

  51. The inaccurate assumption here is that we are able to separate ourselves from everyone else. This blind and ignorant assumption can not only lead to further separation from helpful sources but can also lead to the harm of the NIMBY view holder. The solution to this problem is to open our eyes to what we are doing to this world and find ways to keep the destruction from happening, rather than just turning a blind eye and moving the problem away from our living space. As discussed in Dr. Holden’s essay “Partnering with the Natural World,” we need to treat nature like the indigenous people of the Northwest did, with the same respect that we have for each other, as living beings with intrinsic value. If we adopt this view in how we live our lives, rather than just pushing all the bad stuff away from us, we will be able to learn new things from nature and improve destructive trend in our world.

    • A hopeful as well as critical perspective here, Chris. Your point that we need to get an accurate vision in order to change what needs to be changed is well taken. It is ironic that NIMBY-thinkers are trying to protecting themselves from harm, while actually harming themselves in the process.

  52. I agree that the premise behind NIMBY can be considered a lie since people believe that by keeping things like landfills, mines, hazardous wastes, and e-waste out of their communities, that they are making them safer. Yet, it doesn’t since many of these wastes come back to haunt the people that rallied against them in the first place. The prime example that I think of is e-waste since it is a relatively new problem. While some companies are making strides in adopting a cradle-to-grave responsibility for their products, most are not and that e-waste often ends up in the poorer countries as “donations” to bridge the information gap. However, it turns out that children and women melt the plastic to get at the tiny amounts of precious metal in them while poisoning themselves and the atmosphere.

    So, in not dealing with it, we still get the adverse effects of it since the mercury, lead, and dioxins that are released on the other side of the world will eventually end up in our food, water, and bodies. People don’t realize that their NIMBY ideals create more harm than good in the long run since many are only concerned with the here and now. It is true that there is no way to pass the costs on to others since eventually, we all end up paying the costs through environmental degradation.

    • Thanks for sharing another example in which we cannot continue to ignore the results of our actions forever. And should you be so fortunate as to live in Eugene, e-waste can be taken to Next Step, where some of it is reused and the rest is recycled.

  53. I believe a very good example of the NIMBY attitude and how it negatively effects the environment’s “health” and ultimately our health, (Again, my interdependent views are expressed.) is the mercury poisoning cases in Japan in the 1960s. (I speak of this in more detail in Assignment 1) The chemical company in Minamata, Japan began dumping heavy metal waste into the ocean which lead the fish to be poisoned and ultimately lead to thousands of humans obtaining many horrendous illness and injuries. This example not only expresses the falsehoods behind the NIMBY attitude but it also shows that humans are, in fact, a product of the environment and are a part of the circle of life. We are not separate from our environment or the other orgamisms in it.
    I did enjoy the fact that you related social and environmental injustice due to the NIBMY attitude in many examples. I really think that environmental and social injustices are related in the fact that our social capabilities stem from our environmental comfort such as drinking water, housing, and other resources. These are often the seed of social conflict on a governmental stage. This just further cements the interdependent point of view and further weeds out any validity in the dualistic worldview. I say this because again another relationship is formed where environmental and social issues end up drastically effecting each other.

    • I certainly agree with the links between social and environmental problems your comment also supports, Shamon. Let’s hope someday we will no longer be able to collect so many tragic cases of the results of the NIMBY attitude.

  54. I agree with this article and don’t have much to add. The NIMBY attitude is ignorant and selfish. Education can do a lot to help against such problems with attitude. If people understood that the Earth is just one ecosystem, they will understand that everything is their backyard and they are only hurting themselves. Anyone who adheres to a faith that preaches a variation of the golden rule should also be fundamentally against pushing your problems onto other people to take care of, or just suffer with.

  55. First time I hear of NIMBY. I believe that I suffer from this. It is just easier to push all the bad stuff away and see only the good. As a kid when my mom told me and my brother to clean up he would hide all the dirty clothes and toys in the closet. In the end he would open it and his collections would fall everywhere. Point is that eventually one has to do the hard work.

    • Thanks for your personal assessment and the lesson that “eventually one has to do the hard work”– I think all those who have grown up in this society suffer from this attitude to one extent or another.

  56. The ‘NIMBY ignorance’ is a Western worldview luxury which we can currently afford to pay for. We choose not to see or deal with environmental or social problems, we would rather pay to have them hidden or dealt with. The dominant attitude of the Western worldview also comes with a sense of entitlement and convenience. A materialistic society which CHOOSES not to take responsibility or deal with inconvenient things, it’s much easier to have someone else deal with our problems. This dominant attitude allows us to devalue everything below us in our hierarchical structured society. This includes ecosystem services which we currently don’t even consider when determining the value of goods. If we were to consider all of the external costs (including future costs to society) we would consume products in a extremely different way. Currently 50% of the food produced and purchased by Americans is wasted, 30% is wasted even before it gets to the dinner table. If the external costs associated with the food we purchase (i.e. carbon offsets, loss of soil, eutrophication of waterways, etc.) I can guarantee that number would be dramatically reduced.

    Humans are currently the largest natural force on the planet; our technologies have allowed us to become one huge global society: transferring and trading knowledge, currency, and goods. However we are still trying to act like small isolated communities. We draw superficial boundaries around things in order to make them manageable. When we blur these boundaries and learn to work together for the greater good we will be able to accomplish so much more. Suzuki and Knudtson state that the Western worldview presumes that they have culturally superseded and displaced the Native worldview however it seems to me that we are culturally devolving into a self destructive society.

    • Great point in the fact that we can afford the luxury of NIMBY because of our privileged status. If we were forced to actually pay for all the consequences of our actions, we would certainly begin acting differently. I think there is both hope and realism in the last part of your comment.

  57. The NIMBY philosophy resonates through our society. The idea creates an ‘us versus them mentality’ which we embrace daily and are force fed without always realizing it. The media, corporations and political parties use it to foster a sense of community in one arena, and division in the other. It’s natural to identify one’s self with a culture or community (the sense of belonging is necessary for human survival) and this tendency has been used with great effect to create unnatural divisions within our society.
    The process of urbanization (which also creates a division of communities and cultures) and the NIMBY philosophy have continually placed the burden of locally unwanted land uses (LULUs) on poor communities. The “externalize costs” and “internalize benefits” which industrialized nations have so come to live by continue to pass the buck to impoverished communities, cultures and finally, nature. What is becoming more apparent is that everything is cyclical as is mentioned in another NIMBY essay on this site. It states that we our shooting ourselves in the foot by seeking short-term gratification with our lifestyles by pretending we are not responsible for what happens to communities that are forced to bear our costs.

    • Thanks for your pointed comment, Joseph. I had not heard the acronym LULU, but it is certainly appropriate. It is a great tragedy in an interdependent world when, as you so aptly put it, fostering a sense of community in one arena leads to division in another.

  58. Amazing how we can use modern science to prove just how interconnected the earth is, and then completely disregard it when it’s convenient to do so. Take something as basic as the Hydrologic Cycle. Clearly, no matter where we pollute, it’s going to end up raining back down on us or lapping against our shores. So how do we manage to justify such environmentally devastating practices as burning our grocery bags in Indonesia, or dumping electronic waste on the shores of India and China? I’d like to think that the powers in charge of making those decisions made it through third grade science class, but if that’s the case than they either a) have the memories of goldfish, or b) are so tunnel visioned they are completely blind to anything that doesn’t have a bottom line. The NIMBY attitude is an absolute travesty, and it’s this selfish, individualistic approach to life that is responsible for all of the ills of the world. If we (as humans) could just get over it, and recognize that we are all connected, and that pain and suffering felt by one is felt by all, we could heal the world.

    • Thoughtful comment, Liz! This is the trouble with a world in which we fragment so many things (including knowledge). We see knowledge as being forgotten in third grade (as soon as we learn it)–to use your example. And we don’t tend to see how it applies to our personal decisions. Time to change that– I do see some hopeful signs–such as the response of yourself and so many others here!

  59. After reading this article I can’t help but think how ignorant and selfish we can be when it comes to issues that some human beings face. We tend to have the attitude that ignores everything bad if it does not affect us. For example, many people are unaware of the amount of sweat shops that exist in America alone; or they simply choose to ignore it. Sweat shops do not just exist in thrid world countries and by ignoring the fact that it exist everywhere and continues to be a growing problem, we are not helping the situation. This is where the NIMBY attitude sadly takes place. Children work under very poor conditions for extreemly long hours for very little pay. But because it is somewhat difficult to know what porducts to avoid, people believe “what they don’t know, can’t hurt them.” I myself have complained about working for “minimum wage” and when we hear of the term it is used somewhat negatively. Imagine working for etreemely long hours, and being just 6 years old. Ultimately in the end, by consuming these products, we are somewhat supporting child labor and sweat shops. A good point in this article is instead of having a NIMBY attitude, we need to have an “in my back yard” attitude”, where we picture our children,loved ones, or even ourselves working under these conditions. Having the NIMBY attitude is an aweful and very selfish approach on issues that exist in all parts of the world.

    • I appreciate your personal concern in this response, Jena. You might be interested in checking out some of the websites under “consumer info” here– many groups are beginning to monitor how the goods we buy are produced. I see this as a very hopeful sign.

  60. I think the Not In My Back Yard attitude is a very interesting one. I think if people adopted this way of thinking they would make very different choices. It seems to me that people often distance themselves from situations, this article gives some good examples of that. People seem to take the “if it’s not affecting me personally I don’t care” attitude a lot. People are not only inconsiderate to people in other countries but also to strangers, people they aren’t close to, future generations, animals, and even nature. I believe our culture especially is just so individualistic and egocentric that we are willing to exploit anyone or anything for personal gain and in doing so looking past the harm it may be doing to others. I think adapting the NIMBY attitude would force people to look at the consequences of their choices.

    • Hi Karen– I think you meaning countering a counter to the NIMBY attitude, yes?. The NIMBY attitude is the one you describe with all these problems– including self-destructive consequences for the ones who hold it (see the essay on that point here). Some on this forum have suggested adopting a NIABY (Not in Anyone’s Backyard) attitude instead. And though I think you are right that there is a good deal of egocentrism expressed in our culture, I think this is not how people are, but what our economic system, unfortunately, supports.

  61. Interesting topic to be reading about this week. The way I understand the concept of NIMBY is that it is an attitude that if I don’t see it, its ok, as in your examples of a country erecting a wall to keep people out, or flagrant abuse of the environment, or abuse of a workforce by bad working conditions. I’m not sure I understand how a couple of your examples fit with the NIMBY attitude. Like a cut of military health care benefits–I don’t see how that is an example of turning a blind eye. (And, in fact, as a military family, I think our health care benefits are actually better now then they were 15 years ago!) Anyway, back on topic!

    I’ve been seeing an example of the NIMBY attitude lately here in Utah. Several groups, including the local power company, are trying to work out a deal to create a dump site for waste from nuclear power plants in Utah. A lot of people are outraged and trying hard to stop the creation of the site. I agree that having to dump nuclear waste is bad, but my opinion is that we/humanity (I think the waste is actually coming from Europe) created the waste in the first place. It has to go somewhere! The only way to prevent dumping nuclear waste is to not create it in the first place! I haven’t seen Utahns get outraged about dumping nuclear waste before the proposed dump site in Utah. It seems hypocritical to me to be outraged about a dump site in Utah, but not upset about a dump site in Siberia. I think this is a good example of the NIMBY attitude in action.

    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for your analysis of this concept. You are exactly right–and the case of nuclear waste is a good one. I think we should get at the root of the problem– and certainly not fund the building of more nuclear power plants until we have figured out what to do with the waste. When we have rendered that so harmless that anyone (not only poor communities far away) are willing to take it. In nature, waste is food–as in finished compost. Unfortunately, the only thing nuclear waste is currently good for is building nuclear bombs.
      And in an interdependent world, there is no “away”- this will come back to us as does ddt on imported veggies. (See follow posts on NIMBY here).
      Good points on health care and problems with the if you don’t see it it doesn’t exist attitude.

  62. It shall never cease to amaze me how so many people choose to live their lives in denial with regards to the rest of the world. It is as if they think that by not thinking about the fact that we are constantly polluting our own world it is as if it is not happening–like it could never really affecting. The reality is that literally everyone is affected by the negative actions of people around them and even those who live across the world. By sheltering yourself and your loved ones from the real world you are only building an ignorant perception of how life really is. The concept of NIMBY is an absolutely naive and ignorant way of handling something that nobody wants to confront. The only we we can see a difference in our world and in the state of our own bodies is by coming to terms with the fact that things happening across the world are affecting you and it is now imperative for you to stand up and make a difference. Obviously there are those of the human race who are not going to budge in their ways, but there has to be a good portion of people who are ready to see things change. Hopefully it will not come to a point where there has to be a nuclear power plant in view from everyones backyard in order for people to finally realize that we are all apart of this mess.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your comment. I agree with on the dynamics of denial: I would add that attempting to “shelter one’s loved ones” does not actually shelter them– but works in the opposite fashion, but ultimately leading to actions that undercut the commons upon we must all rely for survival.
      I do agree with you that some folks seem particularly dedicated to avoiding change– since facing the full results of our actions can take some courage in the modern arena. But I have seen so many change once they have the information–and begin to make personal decisions based on it, that I see hope as well as gravity in our current situation.

  63. I was told once, that if all the American people had to complain about was the idiocy of their president, we must be doing something right. The author of this thought lives in a country that recognizes their natural rights, denied by none. But what if we didn’t have the ability to complain, but instead had to fight for our lives, day to day. Maybe then genocide and UN aid would mean something to us. We can trace our global issues back to the source: the NIMBY lie. Rich, industrial countries live in excess, at the expense of depleted, war-torn countries who have sold everything and are stuck in the clutches of not only their government, but ours too. We believe something comes of nothing. Even if we remembered where the gasoline came from, is there a second thought given to what becomes of it? Sir Issac Newton gave us the laws of gravity, but aside from the literal effects, when he stated that, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” I believe it also applies to the gravity of our own actions.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jessica. Would you say that our freedom then entails essential responsibility–and part of that is to use and develop a technology– and an economy– that does not depend on the extraction of resources from other societies–or other times, harvesting limited stores of fossil fuel that took millions of years to create or old growth forests that take five hundred years. The fact that every action has an equal and opposite reaction also should tell us we need to live within the budget of our time and space, yes?

      • Professor, I disagree that we need to limit our actions to the here and now (If you’re speaking of time and space from generation to generation). I think this is only reinforced with the techniques used by the First Peoples themselves. Their actions at the time not only supplied them with their nourishment, but the example of the Kalapuya tribe sparing the fittest of their prey, lends evidence to their lengthy existence. I believe that we should not aim for immediate satisfaction, but for long term sustainability…unless you meant the “time and space” of the human race, then, I do agree with you, confused? hah.

  64. This reminded me of the “butterfly effect”. Many snicker, smirk, and just out-right laugh this concept. I ask why? We are part of a whole. Everything we do affects something else. Why is a butterfly exempt from this? Because it is so delicate and small? I would imagine the butterfly would have more of an impact on the entire world for this reason.

    The Super Fund was set up to clean up chemical dumpsites because the chemical companies had the attitude “it’s not my problem”. The laws of today encourage this attitude. Once inspectors began finding the sites, the Super Fund isn’t expansive enough to clean up all the sites needed. Many companies moved on or went under. Make the clean up personal. My husband is fond of saying “it’s all in who feels the pain”. This is a very adept saying.

    Unfortunately, this attitude isn’t one that will change easily, quickly or without a lot of work but we can make a difference. As the article stated, we can make choices that can better the environment, other people, and our back yards. We can’t change anyone without changing ourselves. By changing ourselves, we lead by example and may influence someone else to make changes and choices for others- be it animals, humans, or the environment.

    • Hi Christy, thanks for your comment. We do like things large in modern industrial culture– just our mainstream history is based on the “great man” emphasis– that only the stories of famous and powerful men are worth telling. But as ecofeminist Val Plumwood points out, our worldview not only ignores those “below” us in social status (and stature?) but ignores their essential contribution to our well-being. Bacteria may be small, but we would not survive without their help within our own bodies.
      Environmental scientist Mary O’Brien, author of the well-researched, Making Better Environmental Decisions, once wrote about the fact that even though the EPA sets limits on toxic chemicals based on how much we can “safely” ingest, we might just as well set limits on how little we should ingest, since tiny amounts of chemicals sometimes seem to affect the body more than larger one. We can speculate that such small does may more easily pass through the screens our body sets up to protect us.
      Your comment helps remind us that we need to attend to the invisibles we affect with our actions, not only because they are far away, but because we think them too inconsequential to notice. But the latter is a judgment call we may well make to our detriment, as the essay on the self-destructive consequences of NIMBY points out.
      As you point out, the up side of our interdependent world is that the actions of any one of us may have such far reaching consequences.

  65. I agree with you on all of the points you have made. Building walls only builds misunderstanding and creates a feeling of other. It is easy to hate or ignore someone if you can’t see them and don’t have to talk to them one-on-one.

    My question for you is how do we creat a world that isn’t full of toxins? We create and use so many poisons in our world. I don’t know what the world would do without plastic and from what I have read, humans are all full of chemicals from plastics. That can’t be good. How can we change our world so much that we decrease the amount of toxins that we make, use and put back in our world. I would love to shop in a grocery store that had very little packaging on food or to buy products that are not sealed in those hard plastic, impossible to open without a knife, packaging. I don’t know how to make that happen. Just looking around my room right now, there is plastic everywhere! I try to use non-toxic cleaners and products, but there are so many things I use that I have no idea how many toxins go into them.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christina, on the practical application of this idea– and getting toxins out of our environment (not to mention, our bodies). Obviously, we are surrounded by these, but we choose to bring most of these into our personal environments by buying them.
      I’m glad you asked this, since I think each of us can make a difference by changing our buying habits, becoming aware (and thus supporting societal changes in behavior when we see the chance), and both modeling change and educating others about this.
      One way to start is to get information about the products we buy and make choices accordingly– the “consumer info” connections on the right column of this site give you a list that allows you to start getting information and making this change.

      • I know there is no easy answer. I still feel powerless even when I try to make the best decisions for my health and the health of others. It is hard to for me to feel like I make much of a difference. Money is still the most important thing in our culture or we would have healthcare for all and better schools (I think that these are two of the most important things that the government should be supporting right now). Our readings this week are pretty sad, but really hit home with me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

        • I know it is difficult, Christina. Education and healthcare– for different reasons– would free our citizens to make better decisions all around, since they would be both better informed and not so pressured from potential emergency economic situations.
          And though the losses that modern industrial society has created are sad, it is also hopeful to know that humans ARE capable of living in mutuality with one another and nature. I hope you understand how important your own personal decisions are: firstly, they model to others and educated others; secondly, they are joined by many others– such as those who have read and commented on the issues on this site. You are not alone in grappling with these difficulties or making the personal choices that result from this.

  66. Although the whole concept of NIMBY is destructive, there is one good thing about it that I can think of…when they were proposing more drilling off of the California coast, all of the wealthier people said “Not on my waterfront” and ultimately more driggs were never erected.

    • Important to remember, Coral. The problem here is NOT any affinity with place, but precisely the opposite– we need to cherish our backyards AND the rest of our interdependent world. The problem with externalizing costs and internalizing benefits is that this mindset goes hand in hand with what Wendell Berry has called a “one night stand” attitude toward the land–just use it up and move on.
      Cherishing a particular place can model cherishing the rest of nature– just as cherishing our children can lead to our working for the well-being of children everywhere. Thanks for your comment.

  67. I suggest we all get “NIMBY” tattooed on our forearms as a daily reminder of what our consumer society here in the West is costing the rest of the global community (and not just humans but the earth as a whole). We are bombarded with ads and commercials telling us we need a new computer with a faster processor, larger bananas, and fancy French water in a plastic bottle. What the ads don’t tell us and what we so blithely ignore is that children in Africa and India are picking apart the old computer monitors to harvest the lead, children are suffering from birth defects in Ecuador because of the pesticides sprayed on the banana trees, and billions of plastic bottles are filling landfills across the world each year. The earth is an interconnected system of ecosystems. We need to face the fact that our consumption and exploitation of the world is poisoning the stream from which we all drink.

    • An eloquent reminder of the real “costs” of our actions when we seek to “externalize” (and outsource?) them, Peter. Your statement that “our consumption and exploitation is poisoning the stream from which we all drink” is well said indeed. And something, as you point out, that we need to remember as we make our personal choices: we should no longer behave like children in a candy store when disrupting the processes of life itself is at stake.

  68. NIMBY in my mind is the primary reason for our problems today and for reason we have gotten away from the american way. Yes we do help other countries with stabilizing their governments and helping to secure their freedom but we aren’t helping fellow americans. Every time I watch the news it is always something negative, they never show anything positive and I believe it’s because people have become more selfish and there are less and less good deeds done today. So many people are concerned with their own being that they forget to lend a helping hand.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mitch. I think that the news does not show us the good since research has shown them people buy more if they get an adrenaline rush from what they watch– anxiety is used to set us up to buy something. I think there are wonderful and amazing things being done– and I hope that you will feel much better about the state of things by the end of this quarter, since we will see many examples of, as you put it, lending a helping hand rather than exploiting others.

  69. I think that many people suffer from NIMBY. I can say that I don’t really think about where my food is grown, or how it is processed, just if it it affordable. Especially in this economy. I would like to do better, and make better choices, but at times I just can’t. The nearest market that sells organic foods is probably at least 100 miles from me. Should I travel there to purchase foods that are raised in a more sustainable way, using 200 miles worth of gas to get it? I do think about these things, I just think that sometimes one has to do what is best for oneself at that time. I realize now that this is a perfect example of NIMBY, for if I saw the conditions and waste that I am sure are created by some of the food growing practices of food that buy, if I saw them in my backyard, or near my town, I would probably not purchase from those people and would work to have them better their conditions and practices. But, since most of these things are 100s or 1000s of miles away, I tend to ignore it, and thats not good at all.

    • Thoughtful personal assessment, Matt. We can work to get better choices accessible to all so that you don’t have this dilemma. I am thinking that there are also choices you can make within the food budget of what you do buy– coffee and chocolate are both produced in hazardous ways in terms of the environment and under terrible labor conditions unless they are far trade. These and other (non-food) products are luxury goods we can do without, or lessen our consumption of– or “tax” ourselves in the use of by buying sustainably. If you have a car/tv/major appliance or other substantial product, and drove somewhere to get it–you can consider such purchases carefully in terms of things like energy efficiency and just manufacture, etc.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • Yes, we used to live in Portland in the Alberta Arts neighorhood and it was very easy to get fair trade goods and organic foods, only 2 blocks away! Our house we own there, we also refinished with energy efficient appliances and lighting. It just amazing the differences with there and where we live now!

  70. I think NIMBY does pose many problems in our nation. We know the things in our society that are termed environmentally “bad,” but for many us we cannot see it directly, nothing changes. It is the whole “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that has come to shape our external views. I see myself falling victim of the NIMBY mentality every time I choose to drive somewhere over more ecological ways, or to grocery shop looking at the price before paying attention to how it was grown. Although I have made some great strides in becoming more environmentally aware, I could still use a lot of room for improvement.

    • Congratulations on your improvement, Matt. I know that I could use some improvement myself (couldn’t we all). But I believe each thing each of us does is important. “Out of sight, out of mind” does no one any good.

  71. As idealistic as this might sound, if people stopped thinking in the “not in my backyard” mentality; a lot of the world’s problems would probably cease to exist. I am just as guilty as the next of NIMBY thinking. This article made me realize that. It is amazing how ingrained that thinking is in our world. People don’t really take the time to realize that what affects someone in Africa will and does affect them as well.

  72. What’s the bumper sticker, “think globally, act locally”? If you are a NIMBY thinker, then you are not thinking globally about the decisions you are making. There are a lot of opportunities to engage in my local environment that may not be global, but it is a start. I can side with Matt on food shopping though and how it’s not always convienent to say, buy organic foods, and they are not as cheap. There’s a certain spelt bread that I love that I think is made in Eugene, but it’s around $6.00 a loaf! I can buy some other bread for price and convenience, but I’d rather stave off and save for the spelt.

    • Thanks for your comment, Melissa. It does not make sense in terms of environment or community that something grown without pesticides and not transported a thousand miles should be MORE expensive. No excuse for the subsidies that create this lopsided system.

  73. After reading this article, I felt a sense of disgust. I had disgust for my own self as well as the others around me. I know I personally get in my own routine and you just become “numb” to the happenings around you, and the choices that you are making daily. Then when you read an article like this, you become fully aware of the choices we make daily and how it affects our earth as a whole. Then in thinking about it, I realized that if I am becoming complacent in my own daily routines, there are probably millions of other people just like myself making poor decisions when it comes to the land, which we sleep, eat and breathe from. This article made will now make me think twice of the choices I make in life, and the things that I need to change to better “our” earth as a whole. You can have the mentality that it just takes one, because if I am that one to make better choices, then hopefully that will rub off on others and then that one will become two, then three and so on for people to take better care “our” earth, and then all the toxins’ will not be in mine or anyone’s backyard.

    • A caring and perceptive analysis, Jose–though I think feeling disgust is not necessary– change is the better course. Thanks for being open enough to take this on–and I think you are very right that each of us–as one person– is important in helping to make the change we need.

  74. I think that the willingness to vote for and to place nuclear power plants and toxic waste dumps in other peoples backyards, but not our own, stems from the line of thinking that attempted to justify the murder and removal of the native people of North America. I think most of the people of the newly formed United States knew what was happening in the West, but they chose to do nothing about it. The West was either too far away from them, or they were arrogant enough to think that it was somehow ok, or they did not care. Whatever the reasoning, this article reminds us all that we need to be always vigilant to the dangers of thinking that we know what is best for other people. The odds are good that we will change our tune quickly when they start building that toxic waste dump in our own backyard. Who then will come to our aid? And is it reasonable for us to ask them?

    • Hi David, thanks for your comment. Two very important questions to end with in your thoughtful response. A country founded on turning a blind eye to injustice is not going to be very good at learning from the past–and we need all the knowledge we can get to meet our current environmental crises.

  75. I became more painfully aware of the NIMBY attitude when I found out that my job would be out-sourced to India. It was purely financial for the company, no promise of better accuracy or faster turn around, only cheaper. As I began working with my counterparts in Chennai, I also began to learn more about their culture and the desperation with which people hold onto low paying, high stress jobs. Along with that are working conditions that no one in the U.S. would tolerate and living conditions that to us, would seem like prison. There is substandard plumbing, electricity, and sanitation. To my friends in India, this is ‘normal’ and they are grateful for their jobs no matter that their environment is being destroyed by companies coming to their country for cheap labor and zero pollution regulations. It’s shameful that corporate America places more value on profit than long term livability.

    • I am sorry that this happened to you, Susan. It is far too common in the context of a globalism that values cheap labor over human values–as you point out, it is shameful to place more emphasis on “profit rather than long term livability”.

  76. There is an interesting disparity in the way people view the world. I have stood by the idea of pragmatic compassion as the corner stone of my personal ethics for a number of years now. It just seems like such common sense. For me it developed as a reaction to the unquestioned individualism of libertarian politics. The main problem here, as with NIMBY, is that it may work fine on the individual level, but the wheels quickly fall off when you have multiple people thinking that way. Joe’s NIMBY outlook includes Bob’s backyard, and vice versa, so if they both adopt NIMBY attitudes they’re both going to be worse off rather quickly.

    As far as naming the concept goes, pragmatic compassion is a descriptive name. I’ve tended to think of it as empathetic morals. The name “golden rule” shows up around the world so the concept is clearly universal. It’s just so simple, but unfortunately just so uncommon.

    • Thanks for your comment, Peter. I like your blend of pragmatism and compassion. In fact, in an interdependent world, I think that compassion is an eminently pragmatic stance. In this and your former comment, you have hit upon aspects of what I like to term, “the dominator paradox”– whereas domination (and the competition it engenders) may seem to win something for the dominator in the short term and in a limited arena, it ultimately winds up being self-destructive in an interdependent world.
      I like your example of Joe and Bob’s backyards…
      Natural reciprocity is another name for this dynamic.

  77. It is the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is our empathy that drives us to treat others how we would want to be treated ourselves. Whatever one buys there is a story to how it came into being. Sometimes this is a hard thing to visualize when, as an example, one goes into a store to buy a sweater, the story of how the sweater is made is so hidden from our eyes that it is simply void. The sweater is just there to be bought. But upon further investigation we find the terrible journey the sweater made to get to the department store, and if that story were printed on the tag many would be revolted and not buy it. It is the lack of consumer responsibility that creates this ignorance. Once again, we cannot always put trust in our government or even in fellow human beings to do the “right” thing, we must, must, must educate ourselves on who makes the sweaters, where they are made and how they treat their workers, and if this information is too hard to find then buy from a company that is legit in it’s practices. The NIMBY is all about protecting oneself and not the whole, and many companies will continue to ship off, dump and hide dirty practices that those with loud voices want somewhere else, and make the poorer, with less means to vocalize and be heard, shoulder the repercussions of the practices. Decisions based on the golden rule benefit everyone.

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment. You bring out the important point that it is difficult to express empathy for the human and natural sources of what we purchase when modern globalization distances us from this knowledge.
      Your emphasis on education is an essential one, as well as is the personal responsibility that goes with it. It is also our responsibility to share power with those who have comparatively little voice in the modern world–and upon whom we depend for our food and clothing. I think you are absolutely right that the golden rule benefits everyone; by contrast, decisions based on profiting for or protecting oneself against others ultimately lead to self-destruction in an interdependent world.

  78. There are so many parts of day to day life that can be changed to make things better for ourselves and for the world that we all share. Reading this made me think of the song “Ain’t no Reason” by Brett Dennen. He talks about so many issues of our American society that everyone just allows to happen because it’s just the way it is. but really,” there ain’t no reason things are this way it’s how they’ve always been and they intend to stay I can’t explain why we live this way, we do it everyday.” I think what it comes down to is that we need to start living intentionally and purposefully, thinking about where we put our money and how all of their choices are affecting the world around us which is just as much ours as it is our neighbors.

    • Hi Allysa, thanks for your comment. I think you are absolutely right about living intentionally and purposefully. The behavior here certainly lacks a reason–though the problem is that it appears reasonable– so that we need to address it critically to see if we really get out of it what we think we might. I can imagine the immense change that in our world if we did indeed start considering the results of choices not only on our ourselves but on those who share our world.

  79. This article unexpectedly brought to my attention a contradiction in my own life. Each month, I donate money to sponsor a poverty stricken child in Indonesia, but today I bought a new pair of Nike’s that could have been sewn by him for all I know. What’s sad about the situation is that neither of us have much control over the system that puts us in these roles. NIMBY is an American way of life. It’s the dominant social paradigm. I’m reminded of all the U.S. congressmen and senators that have no children in the Iraq war, but are perfectly willing to send ours. NIMBY affects not only those disaffected by it, but also those of us who feel helplessly unable to escape being its agent of action. If the “not in my back yard” principle were modified to dissuade people from committing heinous acts, it could be extremely powerful. For example, if someone wanted to build a sweatshop in a community and the citizens banded together to prevent it. That would be an inspiring redefining of NIMBY. This subject brings to my mind the concept of “externalities” in economic theory, which are a spillover of an economic transaction that causes an impact on a party that is not directly involved in the transaction. Even though that third party did not benefit from the transaction it in any measurable way, he/she is left to provide compensation. Only a NIMBY mentality can make externalities possible. I’m certain that this theory is the birthplace of my new Nike’s. Until we can stop distancing people from the consequences of their actions, we will never be able to remove the NIMBY mentality for our collective American consciousness.

    • Hi Joshua, thanks for sharing your self-reflection–something each of us need to do in order to turn our system around. The recognition of the responsibilities for “externalities” is an indication of moving away from the notion of “internalizing benefits and externalizing costs”–which licensed much colonial behavior and is a legacy we inherited from that history.
      This is further indicated by the shift from the legal focus on stockholders to that of stakeholders (all those effected by a business activity). Unfortunately, in a complex society it is sometimes two steps forward and one step back. At the same time that some corporations are culpable to stakeholders–and stockholder activism is on the rise (activists buy stock in organizations with bad records and attend board meetings to complain)– CEOs of large corporations have begun to separate themselves more and more from stockholders of any kind.
      In the past, for instance, most CEOs received a substantial percentage of their compensation in corporate stock; now it is hardly ever the case that they receive any of it this way. Thus their actions are separated from both the responsibility and the performance of the corporations they govern (I say “govern” advisedly, since many CEOs have more economic power than do whole countries in the global arena). At the same time, the salaries of CEOs are on a runaway course from what is paid to their average worker–dozens of times more–even when the business they govern fails.
      So in the midst of this it is all the more important not to be “distracted” as you aptly put it, from the consequences of our actions (and history of the things we consume). At the same time that there is a rise in corporate offenses (sanctioned by policies of the WTO), there are citizen organizations such as those in our “links” section that are working to stem offenses–and many are working to deliver information as to the means of production (and health and safety) of consumer products (see our “consumer info” links page here).
      Further, there is a growing movement in ethical investing and ethical corporate models as well. We stand on the brink of change– which is why our personal actions are so important in weighing in on one side of this issue rather than the other.
      You are absolutely right that if every time someone built a sweatshop there was vast public outcry, these would soon become obsolete.

  80. What a great reading. I agree wholeheartedly with everything that was said in this piece and try do everything in my daily life to think about what I’m throwing away, how much water I’m using, and take other “out of sight, out of mind” areas outside of my backyard into consideration. My family lives in a small town in Missouri and the town (and the areas surrounding the town) doesn’t have a recycling program. So, they just throw everything away not thinking about it. Every time I go home to visit them, I pack everything recyclable into a box and I take it somewhere else that recycles. It’s ridiculous how such a small everyday thing that I practice isn’t even thought about in other parts of our country.

    And recycling is just a small part of the picture. Things like buying clothes that are made in the USA instead of in sweatshops in other countries, buying organic foodstuffs, composting scraps to fertilize the garden.. these are all things that require a total change in thinking. But if we can start to take small steps to make small changes, one’s outlook becomes completely different.

    • Thanks for your comment and your personal actions, Katy. It may not seem like much, but I absolutely belief actions like yours at your family’s house will ultimately make a difference–changing consciousness if nothing else. And the list you have of things that we each change is an important one!

  81. Wow! This article really hit a note in my heart. I feel it is all to common and irresponsible to ignore that which we cannot easily see affecting us directly. Our society has such a linear lifestyle and way of thinking, that we often fail to see what is to come of our actions. We live in the moment and don’t anticipate what decisions would be most beneficial for our people as a whole. I was touched by the story of the man panning for gold in order to earn enough money for food. If we could just see how we are all connected and intertwined we would be forced to open our eyes and no longer ignore that which suffers.

    Thank you for the article, it was enlightening!

    • Thanks for reading this essay with an open heart, Dana-and for the reminder that it is both practical and ethical to see the real connections between ourselves and others in an interdependent world.

  82. If people chose to apply the NIMBY idea of thinking into their daily lives it would greatly harm others around them. The most current example I can think of surrounds the earthquake in Haiti. Relief and aide has been pouring in, while many are volunteering to help those involved in the tragedy. The NIMBY mindset would leave these people to their fate and be thankful that it wasn’t in their neighborhood. While this is somewhat of a far-fetched example, the idea of only looking out for yourself is still dangerous.

  83. The NIMBY phenomenon is associated with fear. If the energy used in externalizing toxic material to outside sources was utilized in energy toward finding a solution, less fear would surround the problem and more positive answers could be given. This starts with education. I recall when the fear of finding certain pharmaceutical materials was in our drinking water. I noticed instead of eliminating the pharmaceutical dump into water the solution was to try and filter out the materials. This may be a solution for short term, but in the long term the problem would only get worse. Since I am one that tries not to put chemicals into my body, learning I may be drinking someone else’s medications was terrifying. Learning ways that prevent pharmaceuticals from penetrating our water supply should have been explored.

    People should take heed of the philosophy that if an item cannot be placed around my home and family, then it shouldn’t be anywhere on earth. Eventually chemicals, or other toxins, will seep into our food source causing many health issues. This type of legacy should not be passed down to our grandchildren for generations to come and burden them with trying to clean up the mess. By that time it will be too late.

    • Hi Marla, I’m not quite sure what role you feel fear plays in here. Why is NIMBY specifically a fear-related problem? I see why we might be afraid of facing particular environmental issues: but we obviously must face them in order to address them. And, as you indicate, the unpleasantness of having things like pharmaceuticals in our drinking water can only be dealt with by getting to the source of the problem– I think you are very right.
      But can you say more about why fear leads to or results from NIMBY?

      • I was referring to people are fearful of having certain facilities in their backyard, when in reality if they chose to educate themselves and solve the problem, fear is not necessary. People fear the unknown, therefore not knowing what materials are being placed around their area would cause fear of the end result. Instead taking direct action, learning about whatever is going into their backyard, and then supplying educated answers on how to solve the problem and change the situation.

        Primarily I was referring to gaining the education on what was happening, and then taking positive actions to solve the problem. In this manner no one should need something in their backyard they do not want, nor would they be sending it to anyone else’s backyard. Through education positive solutions can be found.

        • Thanks for the follow up comment to clarify this, Marla. So we have a negative loop here in NIMBY: fear of what might happen “in our backyards” that we deal with by shutting our eyes– which subverts any real possibility of removing that fear by addressing its causes. A little like running across the street with our eyes closed because we fear the oncoming traffic might hit us?

      • An example I was thinking about was the Erin Brockovich story. Where through education, hard work, and support for those who couldn’t help themselves, a major problem was solved, and an environmental mess cleaned up. It started with learning about the problem, research, and working toward solving the problem.

        • Good example, Marla. And here the “fear” was created by the corporation that did the harm through direct threats to anyone who was harmed–or might try to help those harmed. It does often take courage to address some issues head on. But it is only through facing them that we can hope to resolve them.

  84. In reading this essay it seems to be that the NIMBY attitude is representative of the dualistic worldview, a view that sees the world as composed primarily of mutually antagonistic pairs. A NIMBY view might have pairs made of Us/Them or Me/Everyone else. It seems to place oneself outside of their larger community and only focus on their immediate geographic boundary, it does not consider that communities can be larger than the immediate localized area. Some, such as many of the indigenous peoples we’ve been reading about, view their community as all encompassing. The adoption of this type of belief could go a long way towards lessoning the NIMBY attitude. If one were to view their “community” on a much larger scale (however one wants to expand the scale, geographically, culturally, environmentally, etc…) then I believe that we could get away from a NIMBY attitude to a more interdependent one, a belief that see ones actions as having an affect on a much larger scale and expands their “backyards” to include people, areas and environments, previously not included.

    • Hi Jeff, it does seem ironic that we think ourselves cosmopolitan in the global arena– and yet indigenous peoples we tend to label as parochial in fact see their world far more extended in time and space than we. I agree that we need to expand the sense of inclusion in our communities– not only to reflect ethics but reality.

  85. I had never heard of the NIMBY idea before reading this article, but it is an interesting concept and something that sometimes I fail to remember. I forget to think about the effect that my actions has on others. It made me think about how I sometimes support businesses that do not treat their employees fairly. By supporting the business, I am also supporting their work ethics. I think of Wal-Mart. Living in a small town it is often times the only place to buy certain items so I shop there, but I would never work for Wal-Mart because I have heard terrible things about working for them. I suppose, in theory though, I am supporting this by shopping there. With new NIMBY knowledge in mind, I hope that I can change some of the actions I make that may have a negative impact on myself or other beings.

    • Hi Hannah, I think our society encourages us to forget about the long range effects of our actions on others–and so we all fail to remember this all too often. Thanks for your resolve to move into a more conscious place in terms of your purchasing choices. There are some cues of how to do this on the websites under “consumer info” here.

  86. I think that our problem is we are good at hiding things. When my brothers and I used to clean our room, we would stuff everything in places that hid our junk rather than sort it nicely. We thought we were so efficient. We lived by the “out of site out of mind” mentality. Later, when we went to find something to play with, it took us a very long time to find what we wanted, and we ended up trashing our room up again. We ended up expelling more energy cleaning up our mess repetitively rather than sorting it once.

    We were actually just repositioning our entropy rather than making it more organized with our energy. I think that part of this nimby problem goes along with the “I’m not doing it if others aren’t” problem. Until we are directly effected by what we do, we are going to have a hard time changing. Our technology is really good at cloaking our effects on the environment.

    • The lesson of the “easy way out” approach to our rooms is a metaphor we could all do some thinking about, Benj. It is true that the social complexity of the modern global arena as well as modern technology makes us very good at hiding things. But perhaps it has potential in the other direction as well– as this use of the internet indicates. Far places in the world are more difficult to keep hidden– if we truly choose to open our eyes to what is going on there.

  87. The NIMBY ideal is interesting since people just don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of doing the right thing. I was shocked to learn about plastics being dumped in the ocean by actual companies. I had heard of ocean pollution but I thought it was by individuals. Not companies. I also had learned that there are no regulations for cruise ships on dumping, at least that I’m aware of. I was horrified by this. There is so much that the public doesn’t know. Or maybe we’re just too busy to see it.

    • Hi Judilyn, being “too busy to see” the consequences of our actions– including the indirect ones that we support with our consumer habits– does not do ourselves or the rest of the world any good. Thanks for your comment.

  88. The Not In My Backyard syndrome is an understandable one given that most Westerners possess a cultural viewpoint on nature according to the environmental values of their culture. Westerners have not been particularly endeared to environmental behaviors in the past but as our culture becomes increasingly environmental, awareness and perhaps values are changing. However, the furthur one is removed from a situation, I believe, the more difficult to comprehend the dynamics of the situation. When a situation is occurring close to one, they are thusly inclined to act because it directly affects them rather than the distant perception of environmental wrongs occurring far away. One may also be able to feel more passionate about the matter due to this therefore it is important to “Think globally, act locally.”

    • Hi Sky, it is certainly true that the further removed we are from a situation, the less likely we are to act responsibly toward it–and that modern industrial culture fosters many such removals.

  89. This essay hits home more now than it did a year ago for me. I was one with the NIMBY attitude. I threw away everything and as long at new construction did not affet me, I really did not care. Two years ago I realized the amount of waste I was throwing out. 55 gallons of trash a day, to be place in someone back yard and the the Natural Gas pipeline people came knocking on my door. Both hit home and with the pipeling crossing all 40 acres of my property, right through the middle of crop land I made it my business to know. This essay defines all that I have learned about myself and others. Many in my community want the pipeline, it brings money to the community and it is not their backyard. For me it is my back yard, just my informing myself of the environmental impacts, I have made other changes in my life. I recycle all paper, tin and glass and have reduced my garabage to 5 gallons a week. All food items are feed to my chickens, who are free range, that way I know what is in the eggs. I don’t have a say in the pipline as it was approved anyways, but I can make other changes to help. All so that I no longer have the NIMBY attitude. Great Essay.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal journey into growing consciousness, Adeena- it is a journey shared by many of us. I am sorry that you had no say in this pipeline: I can only hope that for the future, we begin to understand that our backyard is everyone’s backyard.

  90. It is such a difficult topic to address because I worry that in the current economic climate it is hard for many people to address issues within their own household let alone lift their head and think about someone else. I also find the media becomes the reference point and framework by which many people live. Education is the key to this lapse in our moral framework, we must lead by example.

    • An important perspective, Stacie. Our system puts what some call “economic blackmail” on its consumers to ignore those who are effected by their purchases in distant areas– especially rough in hard economic times. Education is certainly key, as you note, since in the long run, I would argue that it is in our best interest to be aware of and responsible for the effects of the long term consequences of our choices. Take the case of buying cheap goods from China, for instance: if we support an economy that pays so little to their labor, we encourage factories to leave our country–and thus add to our unemployment picture.

  91. I must say that I don’t have much to contribute to this article. I rarely question where my food comes from, or how it’s been treated. I figure, if it’s in the store, and people are eating it, it’s safe for me. Nor do I question where the remains go. Garbage and recycling collectors come by once a week and take it all away for me. “You don’t need to be involved in the process,” they seem to say. Blissfully ignorant I remain.

    The curiosity of the production and disposal of the products I buy everyday was never brought to my attention in school, so my worldview was created without it. Being a poor college student without television or a subscription to the newspaper leaves any information to trickle down to me through word of mouth or discovered through personal inquiry. The latter of which never takes place due to the lack of time.

    The NIMBY train of thought is something I suppose I’ve unknowingly adopted. The phrase, “out of sight, out of mind,” rings true for me.

    The challenge I’ve slowly been discovering over the course of this term is: how can I change my worldview without losing hold of my dreams? In other words, how can I better my day-to-day routines without disrupting my career choice. Being in a creative field, most, if not all, of my spare time is devoted to my work. I don’t have time to join a rally or become deeply involved in a movement. I have to find small things I can adjust.

    Becoming aware of where my food/products come from, and where they go is a good start. But when recycling and garbage collection is so convenient, where does that leave someone like me? How can I purchase things that are made in such a way that I would be proud to have made in my backyard?

    • Thanks for sharing your self-reflection and the difficult choices involved here, Lincoln. You are certainly not alone. I think becoming aware of the means of production of what you purchase is a step in the right direction– for your own health as well as the health of the economy and that of the environment. Many of the groups linked here under “consumer info” can give you some quick and easy info in that regard: their whole purpose is often to investigate such things so that everyday consumers won’t have to.
      I was not suggesting that you place your garbage in your backyard (and certainly not take advantage of garbage and recycling services, but that you rethink the level of waste created by your purchases– and whether or not those same purchases have toxic components). I was saying that IF we evaluated our purchases as if their wastes wound up in our living environment, it might motivate us to be more critical of these.
      And I would hope that the creativity in your field extends to some creative links between sound environmental choices and ethics…

  92. Well I do agree that the NIMBY idea is stupid for some environmental and social situations but does it apply to all environmental and social situations? Environmental situations like where to deposit waste when it’s toxic or just waste in general. The waste has to go somewhere and it will definitely not go in the backyard of someone’s home. You say, “We ingest bits of the plastic that we thought to throw away. The same goes for pharmaceuticals, fire retardants and pesticides.” However, where is the stuff supposed to go? Should we not produce any of these things? If we shouldn’t then it’s obvious we need to develop alternatives that do not harm the environment if it is possible. I am for anything that doesn’t harm the environment but it’s hard to replace things that are as effective and get other people to change their ways. I’ve also noticed that you state that we need an “in my backyard” attitude and that this will “warn us away from dumping toxins we don’t want in someone else’s backyard.” You also write “We shouldn’t make or buy anything we are not willing eat (or send back to the land to fertilize what we want), since we ultimately DO wind up ingesting it.” I believe that maybe the only way to do this is to look at the bigger picture and either tell a company to change their ways or else their company can no longer exist, instead of the approach of telling the consumer not to use harmful products. To me, I see this as a dualistic relationship. Environment or Jobs? Which one is greater? It seems to me like a lose, lose situation especially in today’s economy.

    • I think you ask an essential question, Dylan. Where IS this toxic stuff we produce supposed to go. I maintain that if we don’t want it and its waste in our backyards, we should not be producing it–or purchasing it. I think we need some evaluation of the word “effective” here: is plastic really “effective”? What kinds of plastic? Can we do better than harden plastic with BPA, a tiny bit of which escalates heart attack rates, according to the latest research? Or plastic whose manufacture caused the bones to dissolve among the workers who made it?
      I don’t think the only answer is a dualistic one: environment OR jobs. In fact, the areas with the highest environmental standards ALSO have the highest employment rates. We need to look at some realistic hard data here. I agree that we should not award corporations (which are licensed by ourselves, the public) to do business and reap economic rewards for creating and selling things that destroy our health and our children’s future. I also think that since we are not doing this at the moment, consumers can exert pressure in that direction by changing their purchasing habits.
      See a comment or two before this for my response in terms of the “economic blackmail” that tells us we need to destroy our environment in order to maintain ourselves. We need to destroy our environment to maintain certain corporations and certain technological practices we now have: we do NOT need to destroy the natural systems that sustain us in order to survive– indeed, that is a contradiction in terms.

  93. The symbolism of a border wall does far more damage than whatever caused it to be put up in the first place. A wall ignores whatever fundamental problem warranted its erection, causing the problem to be further ignored, and in turn, exacerbated. Of course, ignoring problems in “other peoples backyards” is always easier than facing the problems head on. Unfortunately, there are no “other peoples backyards.” Those backyards are ours as well, even though we may not realize it in this generation.

  94. This article has caused me to think of many examples of NIMBY. It leads to degradation in cities as the rich and poor separate. Many of the poor areas in cities such as St. Louis where I live are close to the noisy and polluting industrial districts or airports while the nicer developments are not. I see it happen on the state to state level with Missouri and Illinois. The border towns seem to provide things that the state across the border has deemed NIMBY. Illinois does not allow the sale of most fireworks so there are always many fireworks stands at the Missouri border around the 4th of July. NIMBY seems to me like an out of sight out of mind type of solution that doesn’t work because the Earth is a closed system. In many ways I feel that NIMBY demonstrates a worldview of humans dominating nature as well as other humans.

    • Thanks for sharing your observations from St. Louis. NIMBY is tragically associated with environmental racism. As a resident of a community in an inner city where a toxic facility was to be located put it, another term for NIMBY is PIBPB (Put in Black People’s Backyards).
      I agree that NIMBY demonstrates the domination worldview toward both nature and other humans.

  95. I have heard people say this many times.

  96. I have just finished reading this just minutes after having read and analyzed for lesson two “That’s My Farmer” and all I can say is how horribly guilty I feel for being a NIMBY. I didn’t do it with any intention of harming anyone or anything. It never dawned on me how much damage I was doing by just going with the flow. I can’t help but wonder how many people are just like me. Not mean spirited or hurtful by intent but just plan ignorant, uninformed, maybe even guilty of being a little mentally lazy? I know that this essay, along with a couple others so far, have opened by eyes and started me thinking on what I can do to be a part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. My future will be much different than my past. I can no longer claim ignorance as my excuse for causing harm. Change has to start with me.

  97. I remember the protests against nuclear power plants in the 70’s and 80’s. I don’t think that anyone who wanted them shut down and no new ones built was against generating power more that the plants were unsafe if things went wrong and what to do with the waste. I was shocked at the new energy policy and the go ahead to build more nuclear plants. Isn’t the waste and where to put it still a consideration. The NIMBY part of this was dramatically illustrated when we lived in Reno for graduate school. The intense controversy had subsided somewhat so quiet plans were made to deposit nuclear waste at Yucca Flats in eastern Nevada. It may not have been so quiet as I was raising two babies and my attention was not as focused as prior to that. I do remember the wave of protest about depositing the waste there. No one wants the waste! So it seems to me that we have to decide before we build more of these plants, where is that stuff going to go and do we really want and need energy so badly that we are willing to produce waste that will be around for a very, very long time? My information on nuclear waste certainly could be old and maybe it’s not such a concern because there is a way to not create it anymore and if so, I would love to hear about it. Until then, I think this illustrates some of what you are saying in the article. We have to be mindful of how we get what we need and the consequenses it has to the environment and all those who inhabit it (which really does include us!).

    Another thing that I have to mention here is the albatross and polar bears. All the plastic we use and throw away is polluting our oceans. I saw a program about it and how adult albatross are mistaking plastic for food and their young are starving to death. And the beautiful, amazing polar bears drowning in search of food because of climate change. I can no longer casually throw away or often even use plastic (ie bottled water) without accepting my part in what is happening. I am aware of my footprint having a direct correlation to animals suffering. My heart breaks for them and I would say this is in my backyard!

    • Thanks for your comment, Sue. Cigarette butts are causing the same sorts of problems to other birds who also mistake them for food. It is my sense that we should not produce anything that does not follow the natural model of “waste equals food”– that is, if our “waste” cannot safely be consumed by other natural life, we shouldn’t produce it.

  98. I have been concerned about NIMBY for a long time. I have seen the plastic in the Pacific. People just don’t think about what they are doing to the environment. To me, NIMBY reminds me of the bison disappearing, overgrazing, and overfishing. No one wants to do anything about it until it is too late. I am not exempt. I have witnessed things thrown off a ship before, and I didn’t do anything about it. It is not only the oceans we are hurting. It is the cities that we all live in. We all have turned a blind eye to these types of actions. We are drilling for Natural Gas in the Barnett Shale here in Texas. But, what about the high levels of methane that we are breathing because of it? What is the drilling doing to our water table here? People are looking at the royalties they receive and think that drilling is a good thing. Will it be good in 10 years? The border fences that we have on our southern border have not worked keeping drugs out, why would a wall? I agree with the statement that we need an in my backyard attitude. Maybe then, we can all right the wrongs that we have done to our world.

    • Hi Scott, thanks for giving us a response from one who has seen this immense island of plastic that one who has not seen it can scarcely imagine. I think it is essential (if it also takes some courage and discipline to open our eyes) to see each of our parts in actions such as those you cite here.

  99. I absolutely love this article! We are taught the golden rule in grade school, but how quickly that goes out the window when money and politics are involved. It’s just sick and disturbing. It’s too easy for people to ignore what is happening in other countries since it doesn’t directly affect them on a daily basis. However if there were children here in the US working their fingers to the bones for mere pennies, there would be huge protests. We need to stop looking at it as we’re Americans and their Asians or Mexicans, we’re all humans. We should treat each other ethically regardless of the country we come from.

    • Thank you for your compassion here, Jennifer. I very much like your stance: treating others (and their families) how we wish to be treated is what the golden rule is all about — it is ironic that the ethics we teach children we neglect as adults.

  100. “Downright stupid” is right. The planet seems to be so big that dumping elsewhere won’t affect us. It seems really obvious to me in the cycling of air and water and I need to realize how closely related the land is to these things. It’s hard when I don’t see the immediate effects of my actions.
    It is the same with products that are made by workers in poor conditions. It doesn’t say anything about that on the label. Only when you take time to research do these things become apparent.

    • Hi Ashley, thanks for your comment. We live in a world that obscures the consequences of our actions, so it is up to us to be alert as to discerning and being responsible for these.

  101. It is true that the whole world is our backyard. People opposing polluting and destructive actions in their own neighborhood is not a bad thing. The problem comes when companies and individuals want to do these things in the backyards of people or animals that don’t have a voice, which is all too often the case. We here in America tend to turn a blind eye, especially to the exploitation of peoples and environments of other countries because we can, and its more comfortable to do so.

    There was perhaps a time when NIMBY worked for individuals, when the planet was scarcely populated and was seemingly endless, when there was no media such as T.V and the internet. However, generation after generation of a NIMBY mentality has resulted in pollution levels and habitat loss on such a large scale that it affects us all. Since humans have done what they pleased with the earths resources, we now face a real danger in the world being uninhabitable for us.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Laida. I don’t think there was ever a time when the “not in my backyard” worked for us. From what I know sustainable cultures have felt–and taken responsibility for– their connections to the whole of life.

      • Thanks for your response Professor Holden. What I meant by NIMBY working was that at a time when the earth was so scarcely populated, individuals had the luxury of having this mentality. It of course has not worked for our species as a whole, and we have come to a point in history where turning a blind eye to everything that is happening outside of our backyards is beginning to have direct effects on us as individuals.

        • Thanks for the clarification, Laida. It is something to consider that when there were fewer of us our industrialism and the mindset that went with it had less capacity to do harm. This may well have contributed to our lazy habits of mind.

  102. Important to realize that the falsehoods of the NIMBY attitude create a lapse in judgment and environmental injustices. It is more convenient to live unaware or not use common sense when thinking about environmental injustices that happen as a result of the not in my backyard phenomenon, but we need to acknowledge that the earth is a shared home by many others and the whole earth is our backyard—as we have seen with our atmosphere polluting.

    • You bring up and interesting point: perhaps nothing so much proves that we share a common backyard than climate change, Erin. It sometimes amazing me to imagine how we are breathing the same oxygen that is ultimately shared by all of earth in the current day– but that we are breathing the same air breathed by those of many thousand years ago.

  103. I like the point about how people have the NIMBY attitude, yet are ignorant of the contaminants they allow into their bodies without ever giving it a second thought.
    This reminds me of the Great Pacific Garbage patch east of South America. The ocean in that area carries tons of garbage from around the world into one localized areas because of the currents that are unique to that area of the world. Much of that garbage is plastic which only breaks down to a certain size, known as “knurdles”. Larger and larger creatures are being found with small pieces of plastic, proving that this NIMBY perspective is already messing with the food chain.
    The author’s comments about the walls along Mexico and Israel threw me a little. I don’t get any strong correlation with the NIMBY perspective, unless the walls are being used metaphorically. The same goes for the health benefits of the soldiers of Iraq…what is the authors meaning? It seems off tract a little.
    A local situation where I see a NIMBY type situation is when I see evasive species that can really hurt a local ecosystem if not detected, ironically in someone backyard. Sometimes these species are purposely introduced!
    I wish people would be more connected with their surrounding and know what is around them.

    • Hi Zachary, thanks for your comment. NIMBY sets off one’s own backyard (or situation or community or country) from all else in the world. It is defined by walls, thus the examples of the walls in Mexico and Israel. I haven’t seen the evidence directly in Mexico, but I have heard this is particularly ineffectual. I have seen the evidence in Israel, where I taught for a year-and where the Israeli Military Occupation’s attempt to separate Palestinians and Israelis has exaggerated the conflict. I have a couple of essays on this site related to my experience in that. I brought in the lack of care for returning soldiers in Iraq as a symptom of the out of sight , out of mind attitude the past administration expressed toward those whom they asked to put their lives on the line. There is another NIMBY essay on this site that speaks directly to an experience of soldiers in Iraq. The whole idea here is to counter NIMBY by bridges rather than walls and fences.
      And I agree that the plastic island in the ocean (and all the plastic in fish species and in our own bodies) is something we need to address.
      Thanks for your comment.

  104. Oregon is currently facing a massive NIMBY problem when it comes to siting windfarms. People think that green technology is great as long as they don’t have to look at it. The problem is that these windfarms are not really causing any environmental or social injustices. They do not cause any environmental degradation.
    There really is no disconnect between one’s own backyard and another’s. When we accept that fact we will not buy things from businesses that take advantage of their employees.

    President Bush used the epitome of NIMBY when he told us that it was, “better to fight the terrorists over there than to have them here.” This is BS because our actions anywhere will have a direct affect on us right here.

    We indeed need to realize that we have no right to benefit from the “pain of others.”

    • Thoughtful perspective, Jeff. And actually the wind farms can kill birds if they are sited in the wrong flight path. The example you cite is a direct example of Bush’s NIMBY attitude-and if the leader of our nation expresses this it is all too easy for us to do so.

  105. The NIMBY effect has a positive and a negative result. Positively, because of this effect, we obviously do have an understanding of what is good and what is not good for our natural world. The negative approach is that the NIMBY effect is constantly in practice. It is sad to know that if we don’t see it, we believe it won’t have an effect on us. Making ourselves ignorant of what is going on on the other side of our wall. The philosophy I take on is that if it’s nature, then it is my backyard.

    • So are you saying that there is a essential connection to our sense of place and protecting where we are? I agree and I also think this should be the ground for our relationship to others rather than our excuse to exclude them. Thanks for your comment, Angela.

  106. To be honest, the first time I’d heard of NIMBY must have been early on in high school and while I was largely unaware of realistic and sustainable environmental practices beyond my own habit of recycling, I had the vague impression that NIMBY was some sort of environmentally positive and progressive thought. I now greatly wonder why or where I got this impression, as everything I’ve heard of NIMBY since gaining some perspective on natural issues tells me that my current understanding of this doctrine is that NIMBY couldn’t be more environmentally backwards.

    On one hand, if a person understands the interconnectedness of all life and how ecosystems interact with each other (especially with human involvement trucking in produce and goods from all over the world), Not in my Backyard sounds like a responsible ethic. But this is only if one understands the entire natural world *is* our backyard. When we dump our waste into any part of the natural world, we are bound to have it come back to us – in our polluted air, water, produce, climate change and so on. Once we’re aware of the fact that all life is connected, a new and necessary way of decision making becomes inevitable: we must acknowledge that the environmental world is circular, and any practices that would pollute and damage our own personal backyards must be changed. Off the top of my head, simple things such as: sustainable recycling practices, better clean air emission regulations, and sustainable and environmentally ethic farming methods. It would also be an interesting concept to propose that no “tangible” waste leave our country’s backyard. While air and water pollution travels throughout the world, from country to country (which is one reason why polluting each of these resources means we are just using our own bodies & backyards as dumping grounds), and would be difficult to keep in the US alone, any solid waste – such as that which would go into a landfill or low-grade ‘recycling’ practices – could easily be kept here rather than shipped to India or another less well-to do country. Imagine the consequences that would have on NIMBY thinking!

  107. Ah, the NIMBY phenomenon. It certainly has multiple forms—in natural resource use, pollution, and economics (etc). We take more than our fare share from the environment and don’t give anything back. We pollute and waste as much as we see fit and make others deal with the effects. And we externalize costs so our balance sheets are overflowing in the internal benefits column. The bottom line seems to be that people who fall prey to the NIMBY lie believe two things: one, that they live in a bubble and, two, that it doesn’t matter what injustices fall on others as long as they don’t have to see it or experience it themselves. But, as this article makes very evident, the world is made up of interconnected parts. What we do to nature will inevitably come back to us and end “up in our most intimate backyard—our own bodies.” But until we understand this and accept it, we will be stuck serving our own self-interest and believe that we can take all the benefits of our actions while either pushing the costs onto someone else or sharing the costs. Either way, there is an obvious imbalance in this. And even though we may have gotten away with this in the past, I believe a new consciousness is arising that demands better. And in the end, when we treat each other and the environment better, I believe our own live will also improve. It’s just a matter of getting to that point that is going to prove very challenging. People with wealth and power aren’t going to give up their special privileges just because. It’s much easier to buy carbon credits than to actually change behavior. I think it will take a greater public awareness of things such as the NIMBY lie to start seeing meaningful change (as in, a reduced use of fossil fuels instead of just buying credits). But I do believe we are moving in the right direction.

    • Hello Kirsten, thanks for your perspective here on the multi-dimensional aspects of NIMBY. I certainly hope you are right that we are learning to know and do better. You have a good point about wealth, power, and convenience holding up such consciousness– but I think there are other compensations and satisfactions for living a holistic value– and I agree with you that we are moving in the right direction.

  108. The idea that all actions in the world have a way of manifesting results or reactions elsewhere on the globe is a common way of thinking about the positives of the business and economic worlds.

    Using the same concept to apply to negatives, however, is something that is much less common. I would agree that we need to begin treating the entire planet as our backyard. The problems in developing and third world countries affect us in more ways than we can understand.

    A move to a true global economy and giving the United Nations more authority over its members would be a good place to start. All countries need to be held to the same standards so that companies can not just dump their industrial waste in the water supply of someone else’s backyard.

  109. With the human population exploding at outrageous rates, we have to consider that no matter what harmful things we do, it is eventually ultimately effecting someone’s backyard (almost in a literal sense). Not only should we consider the whole planet as our “backyard”, but we should also consider the other people and natural beings we are harming. It only makes sense to think of things in a cause and effect way, even if we are not able to see the immediate effect of our actions. Just because we aren’t seeing, or choosing to ignore, the negative impacts on others doesn’t mean that they aren’t happening. Simply realizing what sort of attitude we hold is a good first step in making changes to better our environment.

  110. This article is about how the public avoids the ugliness of their way of life by being in denial about the truth. A very pertinent NIMBY example that I’ve been seeing lately is in wind power generators. A community that has previously been pro alternative energy will suddenly start protesting when getting that alternative energy is going to affect their scenery and peace and quiet.
    Although I probably would not have a problem with this specific example, I can definitely say that I am often guilty of NIMBY. I would have to be deeply aware of every social injustice and environmental issue to not be. Too many issues in this world have a complex mixture of pros and cons that often aren’t fully understood until our lives are going to be directly affected. I often feel that I already have enough things going on in my backyard to deal with.
    Overall, I understand and agree with the gist of this paper. We should all be fighting this NIMBY hypocrisy to whatever extent we are able. I just think we need to pick our battles.

  111. The NIMBY mindset leads not only to ignorance, but to a false sense of security. As long as the bad things are not happening in a place which DIRECTLY effects our way of lives we act as if it simply doesn’t exist, or matter. I know this is true for me. It feels like we cannot make a difference. We settle for the instant gratification of our needs without thinking about the consequences. This actually makes me think of a poem from a minister in Nazi Germany. He talks about keeping silent when they came for everyone else, and when they came for him, there was no one left to speak for him. Essentially, while it may not be happening to us directly, or at that moment in time, it will all catch up with us in the end. Therefore we must be proactive in our approach, exposing, as you do here, the NIMBY lie for what it is, a dangerous falsehood.

  112. I think we can all relate to this. I’m sort of guilty of this type of behavior myself. I think it’s only human nature to ruin other people’s property in favor of ours. When I was young I used to throw all kinds of trash into my neighbor’s yard. When I grew up I realized it wasn’t right because it was disrespectful and wasn’t too cool to my neighbors. I grew and learned. The NIMBY idea never grew up. We constantly do it. It does come back to bite us. One of these days other countries will have the same ideas as us and we’ll be dumped on. It’ll be a constant war on dumping. We’re not creating good examples here, and actually make us look childish.

  113. (PHL 443 Student Reply) NIMBY seems to be the mantra of many of our current industrialized countries in the world today. If we cannot see the instant consequences of our actions, then our shortsightedness assumes that no consequences exist. This is a deadly assumption with dire results. Somehow, as our planet has gotten smaller in terms of communication and travel, we have divided ourselves further from the rest of the world in terms of compassion and obligation. This can be related to the same phenomenon of city life versus rural. In the city, people can live right next to each other, feet away, and never know their neighbor’s name. There are bars on the windows and people walk the streets without making eye contact. In more rural areas, it has been noted that the relationships people create with their neighbors are on a much more personal level. Can this show us that industrialization is not always the answer and perhaps our indigenous people had it right from the beginning. The First Peoples of the world seem not to carry this NIMBY mentality and have created a better relationship with the environment and its inhabitants.

  114. Dr. Holden,
    This was a great article to read. It is really interesting to think about these walls that society builds to keep out people rather than learn about people on the other side who are essentially neighbors. I thinks at least with Mexico, the NIMBY rule has a direct correlation with NAFTA and its effects on Latin America. I find it interesting our nation builds these walls to keep out foreigners yet there is no problem in receiving their money from produce grown here cheaper and put local farmers there out of business.

  115. The NIMBY concept is a perfect categorization of many of us in western culture. As this article states, it is vital that we realize it is impossible to create anything without it being in our own backyard. The interconnectedness of nature does not allow us to do anything that stands alone. It is extreme ignorance to think that one can cause distant pollution, extinction, or any other natural tragedy and have it not affect the perpitrator. I also liked having this concept applied to politics. This opened my eyes to see how easy it is to “play dumb” about any topic, not just ecology.

  116. The NIMBY viewpoint is absurb. We often neglect to consider how the things we do might affect other or even ourselves in the future. As we speak there are plans to build 2 new nuclear reactors in Georgia. Some people are excited about it because both the construction project, expected to last about seven years and the opening of the plants themselves will bring much needed jobs to the area. But what about the physical affects on the workers of these plants. My father is a chemical engineer and worked for a number of years in one of these plants. I won’t go into detail as to the affects it has had on him. I will just say that we had better take time to look at other things besides just the monetary aspect of these plants.

  117. I do not know much about the NUMBY idea but as a Public Health major we spent a lot of time discussing ideas just like you talk about in this essay. We especially learned about breast milk and how even that is full of pesticides and chemicals that it is getting so bad that there is controversy over whether or not breast feeding is the ‘ healthier’ choice anymore. It really is sad that so much of the world has formed this NIMBY attitude. I am a firm believer in the ‘treat others as you like to be treated’ and by putting up walls there is no show of interest or care, its saying we want you to stay out and forget about you.

    • Thanks for reminding us of the public health aspects here, Briana. The kind of exclusion you speak about the end of your comment is certainly responsible for much of the social conflict we see in the world today.

  118. Learning how this world operates overtime, I could not help to think about choices I make everyday, such as places to shop, kinds of food to eat and even to whom I shall give my votes to, because it seems to me, it is clear than choices I make will impact on not only me but also my friends, my family, the earth, the air, and my future generations. This is why I try to buy fair trade products and buy organic produces. The reason is not only because of my mental health and physical health, this is because I think with my consumer power, it may be insignificant alone, but with the help of other thousands of people who are agreeing with me, we can shift the interest of the whole industry into a more ethical mind set.
    I have never thought that being ignorant of such issues like this is also a part of the NINBY syndrome, but now that I think through the situation, it is clear that the mind set of “not in my backyard” is almost exactly the same as the mind set of “non of my business, as long as I cannot see it.” This seems to be one of the causes of externalized cost. In today’s society, people who are living in the bottom layer of the economic structure; fast food restaurant workers, factory workers and etc., are destine to bare with the externalized coast that has been inherited through the economic structure with the help of ignorant mind sets of people who are higher in the structure.

    • “None of my business (even if my action caused it) because I can’t see it” is a good phrase for the dynamic that causes so many destructive actions in the current day, YunJi. And this helps institute the economic hierarchy you refer to. Thanks for your thoughtful personal comment.

  119. “The NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) idea that something is fine, even necessary as long as it is not in one’s own backyard, makes us downright stupid about social and environmental decisions.” I have always felt that this has been a huge issue amongst our society and am glad to see it in a concrete idea. I really liked the discussion concerning the building of walls and how people believe that shutting out the world can fix any of our problems. It is similar to when you are a child and you close your eyes in order to hide from a monster. In subjects of importance ignorance is hardly ever bliss. It is amazing to think that such small actions (for example where your clothing that you purchase is made) can have such large, negative consequences. I do also think that this can work with good consequences and just a few small, sound choices can make a huge different in our world. In response to the question I think that there have been countless examples on how NIMPY can be harmful to our survival. One example I can think of is Chernobyl. Most times I feel that the issue has to affect the individual and they then have to reevaluate their personal worldview. Our choices and actions would change drastically and we would find ourselves weighing potential negative consequences much more frequently than we currently do if NIMBY was abolished.

    • Hi Ashley, thanks for your comment. As you aptly state, “in subjects of importance, ignorance is hardly ever bliss”. I find it hopeful that we may choose to open our eyes instead of close them so that we understand the potential negative and positive consequences of our actions.

  120. I couldn’t agree more with your statement of fences not protecting anyone. You are right on about how they create ignorance for what is on the other side.

    I find this same idea of NIMBY to be true of the current debate over Arizona’s soon to be practiced Immigration Law. Although there are some legitimate questions to be answered about the use of public funds for non-US Citizens, the idea of questioning individuals as to their citizenship by a Police Force seems to me to also be along the lines of creating ignorance between peoples (as well as hostility).

    In the case of Arizona, it would seem to be to create ignorance between peoples who have every reason economically and socially to live together in harmony.

    • Thoughtful point, Mark– illustrating the links between the way we treat one another and the ways in which we treat the natural world (an exclusionary and dualistic stance in both cases). In fact, there are at least two problems here: Arizona’s economy would collapse WITHOUT workers from Mexico– and part of the influx of workers is due to the dislocation of former small landholders ousted as larger corporations have taken over their lands for industrialized farming.

  121. The idea of NIMBY is absolutely ridiculous. It’s the same thing as seeing someone being robbed in an alley and simply walking past it and ignoring it. This concept is a selfish, ignorant line of thinking that is completely destructive. To comment on the wall on the U.S. border, it is basically a way of wasting money on the fence, turning your back from the true problem, and not actually trying to fix the cause. I have heard from many friends of mine the difficulty of getting through the immigration system. This NIMBY attitude puts a band-aid on a severed limb. Along with this, there are other factors such as how this would disrupt the ecosystem over some imaginary man made borders. Not caring as long as you are not directly effected, I believe, can lead to the ultimate downfall of society and our Earth as a sustainable source of resources.

    • You obviously have strong feelings about this Kyle–and I think appropriately so. Unfortunately, there are too many times we see wrong being done and ignore it because we feel it is not about us- this is especially sad when our own actions are the cause of the wrong. Since so much immigration results from devastated economies and political tension created by international corporations, it seems unjust not to take in the victims of mal-development (as Vandana Shiva calls it) and political oppression– considering we are a nation largely made up of immigrants and our food–producing economy would collapse without immigrant workers.

    • I totally agree that the “NIMBY attitude is basically a band-aid on a severed limb.” When do people start to see the problem for what it truly is? How do we wake up to the fact that a band-aid is no solution but a tactic to make ourselves feel better while turning our backs to the real problem? It’s so easy to feel as if we are untouched just because of where we live. We need to open our eyes and minds to the problems surrounding us and make a step towards truly helping out those in need.

    • Kyle, I loved that you called the attitude of NIMBY “absolutely ridiculous.” I had not truly experienced first hand someone so caught up in the NIMBY attitude until this past week. And at the time, it did seem to me utterly ridiculous.

      While cleaning a campsite at the Oregon State Park I work at, I engaged a man with Floirida license plates on his vehicle. I told him I noticed where he was from and after warming up to me as he told me about the kind of work he did, he told me he had to get away from the “crap along the the Gulf Coast,” so he and his wife came out to Oregon. I assumed he meant he did not like that an oil spill was threatening his environment or scenery in Florida, so I asked about whether or not he had seen any of the tar or oil along the beaches before coming out for his vacation in Oregon. He responded, “I don’t go to those beaches anyway. People are making too big a deal about that. Only two beaches are really affected, and it’s nothing. The media is blowing everything out of proportion again.”

      When I asked why he thought only two beaches were affected and why that would not be harmful to the environment if that alone were the case, he blamed environmentalists for getting all worked up about it and said that there have been oil spills before and there will be oil spills again. He commented that this spill is “very minor” compared to other spills that have happened in the past. He then told me I would not remember those. I wondered if he felt his age gave him insight and proper perspective that I could not possibly have. When I asked him then to tell me about other spills in the past, he said, “Why the hell would you want to know about that?” and he walked away.

      While I don’t think everyone feels this way at all, he seemed to feel powerfully substantiated in his NIMBY philosophy. I also have a friend who works in the oil industry in Alaska who makes similar comments. Neither my friend nor this elderly man are unintelligent necessarily, both seemed to have knowledge in their areas of expertise, but I do believe they are uninformed by choice. This makes them less ignorant than it does obstinant to the fact that changes need to be made to improve quality of life for not just the earth’s flora and fauna, but for themselves.

      • Thanks for sharing this example of the NIMBY stance, Odhran. We cannot change anyone else, but we can analyze the parts of our system that lead to this type of thinking–at the same time that we respect those who feel that way. I cannot imagine that someone who actually feels so little effected by what is going on around the oil spill would travel to Oregon to avoid it- -even if he blames the commotion on the “environmentalists”. Just as the NIMBY attitude is combated by compassion, it calls us upon us to have compassion for those who do not agree with us. What pain do you think this man might have been in? Feeling of loss that caused him to flee the situation in his home?

  122. This is so sad that we are so ignorant and blind to our own actions. The movie Sahara is a good example of this. Dumping toxins of any sort will always come back to us. Bioaccumulation is a threat that so many people refuse to see. Look at what DDT did to our food web. It all eventually comes back. Some of our readings discuss the earth this way as well. Everything on the Earth is interconnected through an energy pathway and also through a food web. I really enjoy Aldo Leopold’s essay Odyssey which follows the pathway of an atom in a free, natural world and then through the pathway of a human farmer world. It’s a perfect example of the movement of atoms through our world and how easy contaminants can follow the same path.

    • I hadn’t seen Sahara, Megan– I’ll check it out the next time I have time for a movie! Bioaccumulation is a serious (and too often unheeded) threat– these things we dump don’t just go away. Great use of Leopold’s essay to illustrate this as well. Thanks for your comment.

  123. It is easy to have the NIMBY attitude. If we don’t see it, or talk about it, or know someone who is directly affected by it we don’t have to worry about it. It’s someone else’s problem. When does someone else’s problem become our problem? This kind of attitude only encourages more of the same, it propagates the problem until it is completely out of hand and unmanageable. If we are just willing to look outside our box, our comfort zone and just merely open our eyes and start to see, we can start to make a change. Even the smallest changes can make the biggest impacts. And also encourage others to do the same.

    • Good perspective that the smallest acts can make large changes in an interdependent world–and that we must move out of our usual habits to make a change, which means out of our own backyard. A key point here is that in this attitude we not only close our eyes to the fate of others– but to the consequences of our own actions on them. Thanks for your comment, Julie.

    • Julie, I was trying to think of a recent small change that has had a large impact in relation to your comment. One I thought of in my own life was simple recycling. Just ten to fifteen years ago, you did not see much recycling in Oregon along curbsides with the regular garbage pick-ups. At first, recycling kind of caught on and people started sorting their recyclables and putting them in their own Rubbermaid bins out by the curbside. Then the garbage and recycling centers started providing bins for people. In my hometown of Stayton, we still had to separate everything even with the provided bins. My mom did this without issue, but I always noticed other neighbors putting no recycling out at all. This meant everything for them was still going into the trash and out to landfills. Some of them even asked my mom about how the recycling pick-up worked. Others likely thought it was just too much of a pain for them to separate their recyclables from their garbage. Eventually more and more people were using those red bins though and I really think the more people who did it, the more others responded positively because they didn’t want to be THAT guy who didn’t recycle. In response to that, the city sent out a bulletin telling what should be recycled and the kinds of things they no longer wanted to see being thrown into garbage cans. They provided medium sized green cans for yard debris, small black cans for actual garbage, and a huge blue can for recycling, and nobody had to sort their recycling anymore. The recycling center was set up to do all this. A huge change came about because a few people were willing to make small ones in the beginning. Loved your posting on the NIMBY attitude (I will admit it was my attitude too not so very long ago).

  124. Your essay speaks volumes for who we are as the human race today. Out of sight, out of mind. It is that ignorance that has brought us many of our issues today. By adapting the “in my backyard” type of living, we can be more thoughtful of what we are doing, and how our actions have consequences. We can’t just cover up our issues with literal or figurative walls, we must learn to tackle the issue at hand.

    • I obviously agree with you that this is a serious problem, Brandon. But I wouldn’t put the whole “human race” in this basket. There is a different consciousness in other cultures as well as among some of us in this one– such as the one you express in your comment. I like your point that there are destructive figurative as well as literal walls that cause these problems and that we must “tackle the issue at hand” seems pretty straightforward if, as you indicate, we see ourselves as citizens of an interdependent world.

  125. A friend of mine actually was mentioning this the other day and I think now it’s interesting I am reading such an article. I think one thing I wanted to note was that the world wasn’t simply created for just one person. Really, the article made me think of a song I heard by Alyosha in this year’s Eurovision contest in which she literally pointed out it’s our home not just hers. The song didn’t win the contest but probably had the biggest message out of all the songs in recent contests. Overall, the article pointed out to me to make wise decisions and to share even when you may not be able to.

    • Nice point about the fact that the natural world that we all rely upon to sustain ourselves does not belong to any one person– arrogance and ignorance are obviously interlinked in the NIMBY attitude. Thanks for your comment, Christopher.

  126. I really enjoyed the discussion about this article. However i do think that it is obvious that NIMBY can be harmful to our survival. This is looking at something clearly bad and turning our faces the other way, pretending like it is not happening. Its easier to turn our back on something when there are no consequences to them. This NIMBY situation seems to have many different forms, economics, pollution and natural resources. It seems like this NIMBY has its hand in many different things. Dumping toxins in never a good things, and I think that the NIMBY approach has the right idea there.

    • I think I understand what you are saying, Jessica: there are certain things we do not want in our back yards BECAUSE we do not want them in anyone’s back yard. If we had a real sense of belonging to place, we would certainly not wish that place to be trashed– just as we would not want the dumping of toxics to be passed on to anyone’s else place. Thanks for your comment, Jessica.

  127. Professor Holden, it always raises my ire when I read about walls being built to keep people out of our “melting pot” nation. It also disturbs me that big corporations such as the strawberry corporations you mentioned determine for the most part what we eat in this country by lining the grocery shelves with their toxic foods. In relation to that and a big old wall being built on “our” southern U.S. border, I am only reminded of how this country stole Mexico’s best land from them.

    As I recall a History professor at U. of Montana explaining it to me, the U.S. offered a sum of money for the area of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Texas that Mexico refused to accept. That land was and remains to this day highly productive land. After the refusal, the United States went in, “guns-a-blazin” and took everything they had offered to pay for and then some. In real neighborly fashion, they killed all kinds of Mexican citizens. This was not an official war or take-over according to the dominating society, but a simple border agreement. To prove this, after taking the land by force, the wonderfully diplomatic U.S. gave Mexico half of the sum they offered them previously.

    If the southern wall doesn’t get me riled up enough, my personal history with our southern neighbors and how we treat them certainly does. This goes along with the NIMBY approach as to people not wanting those they like to call “illegal immigrants” in their own backyards.

    I worked on the hot summer farms as a kid for years. I did back-breaking work the way my dad and grand-dad did harvesting vegetables by bending over and picking them with my two hands. It was hard and dirty, it was everyday, all summer long. We hired high school kids who wanted summer jobs for a few years until they stopped showing up and started spending their summers indoors playing video games. Most kids didn’t want those kinds of jobs, so we had to replace them with people who did. People need food, farmers grow it, harvesters get it to the stores and canneries. Farmers are nothing without the work of the people harvesting.

    On the farm, our new employees needed money and we gladly paid them. We drove around Salem in a van and picked them up from their meager homes, and they got up damn early (4am most days) to make sure they had jobs every day and that someone else didn’t take those jobs from them. We had the best crew around, and other farmers hired us to bring our crew to harvest their farms after they put in a whole day on ours. None of them ever said they were too tired. They asked for more work. They worked twice as long and sometimes four times as long in the fields as I could when I was half their age. Some of these people were seventy years old, yes, seventy!

    I learned some of their language and discovered that not all of these people were just Mexican citizens, but indigenous people with their own language in addition to Spanish. They brought their traditional food to work and shared it with me, and they taught me a lot about family and sticking together. Many of them were saving up to buy a house for one family and then when one family was situated, they would do this for the next family and so on until they were all living in better homes.

    My family even learned some farming tricks from them which they gladly shared without demanding anything for their expertise. We paid them better wages than other farmers did because they were good at their jobs and our success was theirs and we knew they all had families south of the border. Imagine being a couple thousand miles away from your family just so you can provide for them.

    Were they illegal immigrants? Who knows? I never cared to ask. They were as much from America as I was. Were they friends? Absolutely. Were they busting their backs to feed people in my home town who in turn discriminated against them and wanted to send them home? Every day.

    I always thought if we turned over the entire agricultural process we have today to those folks, we would be healthier. Of course we would as a nation need to drop the NIMBY approach. I doubt we would need to chemically “enhance” our fruits and vegetables thereby putting toxins in our bodies. I doubt we would allow large strawberry corporations to undermine true farming of indigenous peoples. We would be culturally enriched by just dropping the idea of putting up a wall, and by having our co-American neighbors here where we could work and learn new things together. And of course, they would find jobs and opportunites they aren’t currently finding south of lands we stole, lands that were formerly THEIR best.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience here, Odhran. There are many important points in this testimony about your experience with immigrant labor as a child. Would be good for many of us to read before we pass exclusionary laws (or continue working on the border wall).

  128. Professor Holdren,

    I really enjoyed this essay! In my opinion you touched on the biggest downfall in American society today. The NIMBY mindset is everywhere in our society. People are more likely to pass problems on to another person than fix it themselves, just because it doesn’t directly influence them. As you touched on though, everything comes back to them in the end. If we had more “Doers” in our society and fewer “Finger Pointers” we would be far more productive.

    • Passing on the blame to someone else rather than accepting responsibility for ourselves is a key problem in a dualistic NIMBY worldview. Thanks for your comment, Kurt.

  129. I had a quasi-experience with NIMBY today:

    I told someone at my office that I was going to start collecting food scraps for composting rather than using the garbage disposal.

    They laughed and said that their yard was way to big to even attempt composting! I explained that I don’t even have a yard but was sure I could find someone who did that could use the compost materials.

    I have heard that there is going to be food composting/recycling bins similar to the plastic/paper bins that we have now in a lot of communities soon.

    This was a quasi-NIMBY comment, but definitely a BY comment!

    • Indeed, Mark, thanks for sharing it. It seems odd that one might think one’s yard “too big” for composting–and in Washington State (Olympia, anyway), food scraps go in the big barrel with yard waste and it is all composted together– so what you have heard about is already in practice. I find it very hard myself to see perfectly good compost (and potential compost) go into the landfill (or storm drain) somewhere! Good for you in collecting the scraps!

    • Even with many people being more environmentally conscience, I too have come across people who simply don’t think that they would have any affect on our environment. It’s like voting… every vote counts. So why don’t some people understand that every little thing someone can do to recycle, reuse, etc, counts in the bigger picture.

      • I think we suffer from a “great man” theory of history– the idea there only a few heroic people ever really effect history. How different this is from oral traditions in which everyone’s story counts. In fact, in an interdependent world, everything we do counts, both cumulatively and as a model for others. Thanks for your comment on this point, Jessika.

  130. NIMBY, like you said, is in many ways a lapse in common sense and also an example of humanity’s shortsightedness. The government of Israel chose to invest millions of dollars to build a wall for “security” but it has not really solved any of the deeper problems that exist in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead of building a wall, that money would have been much better put to use building schools and infrastructure and helping to create a better quality of life for Palestinians that would ultimately enable them to create their own independent and self-sustaining Palestinian State. However, politicians know that if they want to be reelected this kind of gesture would not be greeted with support from the public who are fearful of suicide bombings and attacks on civilians so instead money is invested into a faux security barrier that allows people to sleep at night and for politicians to remain in power. However, this ridiculous “solution” has and will continue to lead to new conflicts and never really solve the problems between Israelis and Palestinians. If politicians and the public could put aside their fears and selfish needs and “sacrifice” for the better of the region things might look a lot different in the Middle East.

  131. Another great idea slash article. I think that pointing out the NIMBY attitude, as a myth is about as important as calling America a meritocracy… but I digress.

    One thing we learned from the most recent economic collapse is that the world’s globalized economy is actually as interconnected, as neo-liberalism would like it to be. Granted I am not an economist so I may be a bit off on specifics here, but it seems to me that the same NIMBY attitudes were at work in the economic system which nearly brought the collapse/clogging/quicksand-ing of world markets.

    I find it more than a little bit scary that though the bottom almost fell out of the world economy we seem to be back to, more or less, the same types of behavior. This is scariest because not only are economics, relatively, human constructs which we could live, thrive might be a different question, without, but; we have tools to fix the economy. If we let the NIMBY attitude run rampant on the environment we may not be able to survive or reconstruct after a natural collapse.

    • Good points about economy and NIMBY, Thomas– which is why I think things like fair trade and ethical business alternatives are so important– along with neighborhood initiatives to develop urban gardens and co-ops. Obviously we cannot continue to act with the NIMBY attitude in an interdependent world without dire consequences. Better that we catch onto this sooner rather than later.
      What, the US is not an actual meritocracy– there is money and elitism involved along with pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, you imply?

  132. I think the NIMBY lie is relevant and already causing problems for us on the economic front. Outsourcing jobs to countries with cheaper labor only saves money for the people at the top who are running the company, but ends up hurting the people at the bottom because of unemployment. And the unemployed cannot afford even the cheaply fabricated products and in turn will eventually affect even the guys sitting at the top. They end up damaging the market for their goods in their effort to make short term profits. This is an example of how the NIMBY lie is ultimately self destructing.

    • Good economic examples, Frank. It is obviously a negative feedback loop (except for the short term profit of a few corporations) when we try to cut costs by moving overseas and oppressing workers. We will never decently protect US jobs until there are just standards of labor everywhere (and thus no where to run away to).

  133. I think that this is a very insightful and honest post, because it speaks volumes to our human propensity to fall back on the out of sight out of mind dilemma where, as you said, we accept conditions around the world -whether they be exploited children or resources- that have been made unacceptable in our land or our neighborhoods. This disconnect, which has served to insulate our lives into ignorant bliss, shall and does come back to haunt us through the pesticides, hormones, and even the toxic toys that we are surrounded by and ingest. If we could only wake up and understand our interconnectedness to our world, and it’s delicate balance, then maybe we can forego our unsustainable ways and look with more stewardship towards the earth.

  134. The idea of NIMBY is so true. I have always seen it and never really knew what it was but now I do. So many people in this world have this attitude that if they cannot see the effects of something then there are no harmful effects or they just don’t care about them since they are not being affected. NIMBY really does make us stupid about social and environmental decisions, since it makes us blind to what is really going on with the environment. NIMBY really does see it as every man for them self’s and there is no helping or caring about others.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ayla– perhaps someday we will realize that in an interdependent natural system like the one we depend upon for our lives, failing to care about the effects of our actions on others is also failing to care about ourselves.

  135. If everyone views their own “backyard” as right and the problems lie else where, why are there so many problems? If everyone’s backyard is clean and right so should the whole world be. Obviousy the NIMBY thought process is flawed. I agree with the wall building story. Building a wall not only does not keep things like water and air pollutants out, but it just tends to push the things/people that are trying to be kept out to try to find other (more dangerous) ways around that wall. We should work on fixing the problems that are forcing people and pollutants into our “backyards” not just try to contain the consequences of those problems.

    • Great question, Jessika– of course, if everyone had their own house in order, we wouldn’t have any problems globally. We should indeed work on fixing problems originating in our own backyards rather than trying to “contain them” (as you aptly phrase it) by foisting them off somewhere else.

  136. NIMBLY is a social attitude many people have, its more commonly labled as Selfishness, which is a serious issue and also a violation of ones integrity as well as morals. I found it interesting that corporate strawberry farms are phasing out the “farms” which are strickly for subsistence. In my experience as a farmer/rancher, most farms are “corporate” ex. LLC, INC, etc… this allows the family that has run the farm for generations to work themselves into a healthier tax bracket so they can afford to keep on producing their produce and make payments on their new equipment which can easily cost $400k and allows them to harvest their produce more efficiently. However strawberry plants are harvested mostly by illegal migrant workers from south of the U.S. Border, the couple dozen I have worked with have all been “legal”, i.e. they have a Social Security number, but with identify theft it is these days, who knows. Most of the farms in California though that grow produce employ alot of illegal workers. I have nothing against these people though, takes alot to leave your family and come work for what many Americans would consider dirt wages, however…there are alot of unemployed workers in the U.S. just sitting on their butts collecting welfare and choosing to be unhelpful subjects in our economy, while the illegal migrant laborers choose to work the fields that produce the produce that the folks on welfare pick up with their food stamps… Maybe… Just Maybe… these folks on welfare should stop complaining about how they are out of work because Mexicans stole their jobs, and go work in the fields with them, it’ll change their sad little song pretty quick… however that would mean they’d have to stop collecting “Free + Easy” money and do some manual labor… Guess im wrong, great idea but it’ll never catch on!

    • Thanks for your comment, Kyle. I agree that illegal workers are taking jobs (for the most part) others do not want. But I would not classify out of work folks in such a way that we do not honor those who are working very hard to find work, but have not been able to. Most of the unemployed workers are not on welfare, but unemployment– and unemployment is an insurance fund they themselves and their employers paid into while they were working.
      As for welfare, able bodied men do not receive: only women with children do. Barbara Ehrenreich looked at the real stats here (though it was a bit of time ago), and at that time, the average stay on welfare was 2-3 years per family– and the most common reason– abuse within the family. In fact, what the stats have shown is that pulling welfare actually hurts children most of all by making more women stuck, for economic reasons, in physically abusive situations. And the two largest groups of hungry/homeless in this country currently are children and veterans.
      I would make a distinction (from my own experience) between small family farmers and corporate farmers (the latter of which do work the largest agricultural acreage in the US); it is former who care most about the land that their families have often belonged to for more than one generation.
      What is certainly true is that runaway shops– corporations that move overseas to avoid environmental regulations and gain cheap labor exaggerate the economic problems both in the US and in other countries: since they are often responsible both for US unemployment and displacement of global workers from subsistence farms. (Check out the stats on the site of Bread for the World, for instance).

  137. I have never heard of the name given to this concept, but I have certainly witnessed this attitude in our country before. We live in extreme privilege and comfort in this country compared to many other places. However, while it may seem like shipping our electronic waste to China is a simple solution, we end up sharing the negative environmental impacts of the rudimentary metal extraction that takes place over there. Indeed, even though we would like to just ship our waste to other places and turn a blind eye, we end up getting back exactly what we dished out. This can be seen in countless examples, such as the record high mercury levels present in today’s fisheries, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is contaminating the Pacific Ocean, and the increased level of hormones in water systems from birth control pills that are causing the majority of fish to be born female. The NIMBY mentality certainly does foster “self-defeating” behavior; the Earth is a giant circulatory machine, and what takes place on the other side of the planet will affect us in some way.

    • It seems like the privilege we enjoy should lead to sharing and gratefulness rather than license, Allison. Good points on the interdependence of our world– which ecology is teaching us more and more.

  138. The lesson I see being repeated – and one which I wonder if we will ever learn – is that making war one’s enemies tends to make them stronger. We made war on the Taliban, and they don’t seem to be diminished in strength. As you discussed in the other NIMBY essay, our war on germs only served to make superbugs. Another example I thought of while reading this essay is the war on drugs. Many years and several million dollars later, this is an utter failure. Because what we actually did was make war on PEOPLE, many of whom are sitting in prisons when what they needed was help. Meanwhile, the thugs who make money off illicit drugs are stronger than ever. Ironically – and I recognize this is pure speculation – I think it has also exacerbated the illegal immigrant problem with Mexico. If Mexican citizens are being terrorized by drug gangs, naturally they want to move somewhere else. They want to move to “our” backyard because we have dumped some of our problems in theirs. I do think that the illegal immigration problem is mainly one of simple economics, but we won’t solve it until we stop viewing them as “others” and recognize that they are driven by the same motivations as we are.

    • Thoughtful point, Brenda. If our wars actually devastate civilian populations, we wind up giving folks like the Taliban more ammunition for recruitment. I very much like the alternative approach of Doctors without Borders– whose goal is offer medical assistance to all human sufferers whatever their nationality. As you will see in Gaviotas, one of the ways this community survived in the midst of so many violent factions was not only to disallow the presence of guns in their village– but to treat the illnesses of whomever came to them.
      They thus took themselves out of the category of “enemy”.
      And there is a sad link between drug dealing and economic privation. On the drug issue, our penchant for looking to punishment costs us millions (maybe billions) of dollars more to imprison individual addicts rather than to treat them– a daily bed in a treatment center is far less costly to maintain than a bed in a prison cell. Treatment is an option especially for those who have only committed non-violent crimes to maintain their habits. Altogether, the spectre of addiction is a terrible tragedy and we need to do all we can to heal those who are afflicted.
      Interestingly, Portugal, several years back, legalized all drugs– and it undercut the drug “business” (the black market that motivated continuing trade and addiction in drugs) and their addictions rates have been falling.

  139. This is the first I’ve heard of NIMBY, but it seems very similar, though no exactly, to out-of-sight-out-of-mind, where the negative consequences of our actions are ignored or unrecognized. The interesting thing that NIMBY brings out is how hypocritical we can be with our standards of living, that we would allow things to happen to others, such as hunger and poor working conditions, that we would be outraged at if they were to happen to someone we know. And yet it is usually those very things, where others are in a less privileged and more confining way of living, that allow us to live as we do.

    This reminds me of some of the economic thought of Rudolf Steiner, where he said that one of the main things lacking in the realm of how we carry out business today is that we have a lack of interest in what we are buying and selling and in where it all comes from. It seems that when that interest can turn on, good things can happen such as fair trade or the protest of Trident missiles in Britain. The one thing about this interest though is that it must be maintained, because as soon it isn’t than undesirable things can sneak back in. I’ve noticed this happen with organic farming in particular, that there is a label, and so actually finding out about what went into making the food becomes less of an issue. Many larger companies, for instance, miss the intention and just follow the guidelines and so we get something like organic milk and beef from cows packed in feed lots being fed organic grains. As far as NIMBY goes, I’m pretty sure no one would raise a cow this way if they had to do it themselves, yet they are happy to let others do it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Andy. “Out of sight, out of mind” about sums it up– like denying global warming by closing one’s eyes to the evidence. A bit like closing one’s eyes when crossing a street on the premise that if you don’t see a car coming, it won’t hit you.
      What is hopeful about opening our eyes to the suffering of others and extending the responsibility for our actions accordingly, is that pragmatic choices arise with our compassion for others. You have given some good examples of this “turning to good things”.
      But, as you point out, the good in such choices are not a once and for all given: the factory farming takeover of particular organic arenas is a case in point: I understand the “organic” label was suspended by federal inspectors in one such cow farm because of the treatment of the cows as well as the treatment of the cows’ waste. On the other hand, I know local farmers who are TILTH certified organic who are working hard to use sustainable methods and build their soil fertility as they go.
      In the end, it is very important to pay attention!

  140. This is the first time I have ever heard of NIMBY explained fully. I have heard of it mentioned, but never knew exactly what it meant. It is an interesting concept and it seems as if people are not fully educated on what it means. In other words, they support it because it kind of sounds like a good concept at first, but they don’t truly understand what NIMBY really means. When will people realize that there is no escaping the damage we have done to our planet? The impacts a factory has on our environment won’t just go away because it’s not built near your house. Like you said, pollution and harmful agents will find their way into our bodies somehow. This seems like a very ignorant and selfish way of thinking. The thing that gets me the most is that people are not accepting the entire world as their back yard. Just because you purchased and you “own” 1 acre, doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for the rest of world as well. Back yard needs to refer to the entire globe, not just a person’s home or neighborhood. That just seems very selfish to me!

    • Hi Hana, thanks for your comment. I like our point that purchasing your own acre does not mean you thereby abdicate any responsibility for the effects of your actions on the rest of the world. It is too back we cannot cherish all nature as we might our own backyards– just as many indigenous peoples extended their concept of family to a kinship with all of life.

    • I agree with you. I have never heard of NIMBY also, but ths concept is a good one. We need to educate people, like you said, owning jsut 1 acre doesn’t mean your off the hook for the rest. We need to be responsible for everywhere else.
      The sewage and trash we throw away ends up somewhere else. So we are responsible for that place also.

      • Good point that we are responsible for the results– wherever they result from our actions, Will.

      • I feel as though too often people believe things so blindly without even know what they really mean. It’s scary! Education and bringing awareness to others is probably one of the most powerful tools that we, as humans, posses. Imagine if you only knew what you learned from your parents, or what you taught yourself? Or if you were scared to question what others told you? I think it’s important to educate people on issues like this one and let them know: “this is what you are really saying.” Sometimes people just don’t realize what their words mean. Of course, there are always people out there who DO realize what their words mean and feel very strongly about the topic. But we can’t let people just blindly agree (or disagree) with something or someone. We first must make them aware to what they are agreeing with, and then let them decide.

        • Hi Hana, blind belief (especially if it is based on greed, arrogance or fear) is certainly a scary thing– especially in a democracy where we depend on one another’s knowledge to vote intelligently.
          Thoughtful point that sometimes people do not indeed understand what their words mean to others. Thanks for your thoughtful response. Have you heard of “interest-based negotiation” (Harvard Negotiation Project)? It entails finding common interests at the beginning of any negotiation, working on the assumption that we have such interests no matter how divergent our stances seem on the surface.

  141. The last line the article “We all share a single planet.” was the key to this article. We all live on the same piece of land. regardless of the water at seperates us, we live on the same soil and grass. The same sun and clouds bears over us. So in this case, we have to work together to keeping this world nice.

    I believe that everyone should have the mentality and thinking that the world is our backyard. Not just the 15 miles that surround us, but the world. Everyone travels these days and in the future when I travel I hope to backpack in the forests and natural places the countries have to offer. If we keep this mentality, we help share the beauty that the country holds. If not for economical reasons, we should do it for the benefits of ourselves.

    • Hi Will, you have a powerful statement, “we all live on the same piece of soil and grass… regardless of the water that separates us”. The world needs us all to work together, as you put it, to care for it. Thanks for your comment.

    • Hello William,

      I agree with everything you said, and would like to add that in addition to sharing these common planetary resources, we share a common humanity. We tend to forget this as we pigeon-hole each other depending on our racial characteristics, countries of origins, language, religions, etc. The first color picture of the Earth from space was taken during the Apollo 8 mission, which orbited the moon in 1968. The photograph is entitled, Earthrise, and it’s a testament to how isolated we are, and to the reality of our situation here in Earth. The picture brings into clear focus the fact that we human beings simply share a planet, without any apparent borders, religious differences, language barriers, or self-imposed racial differences. Here’s a link to the Earthrise story:

  142. Their are a lot of benefits to getting rid of this toxic preconceived notion such as, as mentioned in this essay, the fact that people wouldn’t be so careless in choosing the clothes they buy if they knew and cared about the conditions of the workers making those clothes. I think the “green movement” has slowly helped make some of these changes that seem like common sense to some people, including me. The only issue I do not agree with in this article is the statement, “We should not make or buy anything we are not willing to eat (or send back t the land to fertilize what we eat), since we ultimately DO wind up ingesting it.” What I envision when I think of this is an indigenous village of people living off the land. There is no way that our society could go back to this style of living. I think this is unrealistic to expect this of the majority of society and I also think it would hamper further technological advancements, which are not always destructive to the environment. For this to be practiced would flip our whole world upside down and create more chaos than good it would provide to the Earth. I definitely do agree that people should be more aware of how their actions effect the environment and, as stated, their own bodies.

    • Hi Emily, thanks for your comment. I think you are quite appropriate in calling this notion “toxic”.
      You may be interested to know that there are those designers (like William McDonough) who are holding to the standards of products whose waste can go back to the earth– and manufacture of non-toxic products. It seems that we need to consider our idea of “advancement” if we believe that the price of this is, for instance, the cancer that it is now indicated (according to a recent article in Nature) to be non-existent in ancient human societies and is now rising fastest among our children.
      Technology is simply a tool: all cultures have it–and we get to choose what kind we use and by what standards we develop it. Currently, certainly ethical and environmental standards might “hold up” progress– but only because of the ways we reward and support particular technologies: note our sidebar quote for this week, for instance. I would hope we are smart enough to develop technologies that sustain us and meet such ethical standards. I think we are in deep trouble if we do not apply ourselves to this–and I have seen much creative change in my decades of teaching that brings me hope. We cannot return to the past, but the success of indigenous peoples in creating sustainable lifestyles also tells us that we should not sell ourselves short in terms of our potential.

    • Hi Emily, I agree with you that it is probably not possible for most societies today to stop producing everything that they wouldn’t feel comfortable eating. However, I do think that we need to be very careful what harmful and toxic substances are allowed to end up in the environment. I also think that it is important for us to understand that at least a little of everything we make (including toxic chemicals) do end up in the environment whether due to spills or careless waste disposal.

      Below is an article on this site that I highly recommend, it discusses a study that showed how many toxic chemicals are found in breast milk (ie in our own bodies) due to these chemicals winding up in the environment. Because of this study, and others, the EU stopped the production of many of these chemicals. It is also important to mention that most toxic chemicals have less toxic analogues that can be used in their place for specific purposes. I think we should take the EU’s lead and stop manufacturing chemicals that are causing us and the environment harm. We can always find ways to reduce or eliminate the use of harmful chemicals at home and in our industries.

  143. This article makes a good point that it doesn’t state outright: when we have to look in the faces of those we are hurting, we tend to be more compassionate. You can say whatever you want about premiums, research, and bottom lines, but when it comes right down to it, healthcare in this country is a NIMBY approach. If doctors had to hand their patients the bill directly and watch as they read, in plain language, the cost for the services provided, healthcare would be a lot cheaper. We build walls, borders, and everything else just so we don’t have to look directly at the people we are hurting

    • Hi Michele, you make a powerful point about looking in the face of those we are hurting making us more compassionate than if we turn away and/or never see or think of them. Thank you!

    • That is so true about how the way we treat each other is directly related to the amount of barriers between us. Barriers can be fences or walls, or automobiles – I always marvel at how rude people can be when hiding behind steel and glass. Whenever somebody cuts rudely in front of me in traffic, I think, “Would you cut in front of me if we were standing in line?” I suspect not. I ride my bike to work and, one morning I almost hit a guy walking because we both misunderstood what the other was doing. I stopped and said, “I am so sorry!” Spontaneously, he touched my shoulder and said “That’s ok.” There was only compassion on his face, no anger. Afterward I thought about how, if we’d both been in cars, we probably would have been yelling and cursing. As you pointed out, though, many of the barriers in our society are bureaucratic. Your example with health care is a great one. The people involved in the many layers of the health care system are so removed from the actual patients that we get things like insurance companies dropping coverage for somebody with cancer. It makes me sad to think of all the barriers we maintain in our society – it makes it hard to connect with others.

      • Lovely example of a face to face exchange between two persons, Brenda. I wonder if car rage is linked not only to the metal between drivers and the world, but to moving along in the environment without any commensurate bodily exercise. So there is no physical way to vent physiological responses to what is going on. The disjunction between ourselves and our world as we travel in our cars is another illustration of the way in which, for better for for worse, our technology tends to remove us from our own physical presence in our world. Thanks for your comment.

      • Brenda,

        That’s a great point about people behind walls and glass. How many times have we seen cases of road rage without even thinking about what might be going on in the other car. We all need more compassion for others and our ecosystem as a whole, not just the area immediately surrounding us.

    • i agree with your thought however most of the time this is not the case, and its sad.. for the case with doctors they think of these people as NIMBY. They can hand them the bill and walk out of the room right after hearing them break down and think well NIMBY on to the next one. I really wish this was not the case, but under the circumstances of “doctors” i understand. Its the people who control health care who are to blame for this, but then again i understand this as well.. Its how our economy and way of life works. It would be extremely hard for people to change there ways from thinking NIMBY into IMBY, but if we can all do our best to turn our way of thinking in some way or another the world would be better off.

      • I am sorry you have had this kind of experience with doctors– obviously not a healing experience, Jason. Doing our best to think for ourselves (and thinking of a way to create the world that matches our values) would indeed make this a better world.

  144. I often wonder why we as Americans can have so much compassion for someone living next door, but little to none for someone living on the other side of the world. People are people wherever they live and deserve our consideration and compassion. I have traveled extensively around the world and Americans have a negative image many places and I do have to say that some of these views are justified. We are the biggest polluters of CO2, yet refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol. We are the ones using parts and clothing made in third world countries, without asking what the conditions are like for the workers. Americans can be self-absorbed and the less we think about others, the more damage we inflict upon them.

    • Thanks for sharing the perspective of one who has put a human face on peoples distant from us geographically, Jamie. It is inexcusable that we did not sign the Kyoto Protocol– I can’t see how we can maintain any kind of ethical leadership in the global community through such actions. As if the rest of the world would not notice our self-serving self-absorption.

  145. This was a very interesting article, especially in light of something I read on Oregon Live last night. Apparently, Multnomah County has banned bottled water at events in the city (public events, I believe) —

    A person commented on the article with this response:

    here! here!
    (I work with people who refuse to recycle anything because it’s against their ideology. They throw cardboard boxes, pop cans, aluminum cans, glass containers all in the trash but they sure wouldn’t want a landfill in their neighborhood. I think they think once it’s in the trash, it disappears into thin air.)

    I found the last line of cpvon’s comment especially thought-provoking. This seems like the ignorant human’s condition; that is, this concept that once something is out of sight, it has magically resolved itself.

    I see this evidenced at our apartment building all the time. Our neighbors apparently put out their trash, laying cardboard (that everyone knows is recyclable) next to, or shoved into the dumpster and it’s off their plates! The “garbage fairies” will take care of it now, my hands are clean of it! While it’s just a minor example of the NIMBY concept, these kinds of things snowball.

    This all reminds me of a Jewish biblical principal that resonates strongly with me, “you shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” To stand by while the earth and animals outside of “my backyard” are desecrated, mistreated, and abused is to “stand idly by the blood” of my neighbor. Like the fish and tree people of Haida Gwaii, these are my neighbors and to not stand up for the trees and the fish and the soil and the bears is to be complacent to it, falling right into the NIMBY mindset.

    We as Americans need to stop this ignorance is bliss lifestyle and start paying attention to the atrocities committed against our environment and its inhabitants, and not wait until it directly affects us.

  146. It’s so frustrating that the majority of our press advertisers lies to the masses to benefit those few at the top. The proposal of the Bush administration’s and the Israeli government’s border walls are great examples of ignorant compartmentalized thinking. These groups promote the rational ideas with the expectation of taking care of the now and not later. This promotion of externalized thinking reminds me of the “not on my watch” expression. It seems that those with the greatest capacity to make changes shy away from doing so while crying out how difficult it is to alter present problems. Of course it’s very difficult to decide on whose “backyard” the new toxic dump gets put in. But it seems to me that the question we should be asking is; how many toxic dumps do we need and how can we cut that number back or, better yet, how can we negate them altogether? And, like you stated many times Mrs. Holden; we will all be affected because we all share a single planet.

    • It is frustrating indeed that media (largely on the air, after all, because of corporate ads) gives us such skewed views, Ryan. As I have done with other responses to comments on this topic, I’d like to call your attention to the words from the “quote of the week” sidebar from The Union of Concerned Scientists (there is a link on the “quotes to ponder” page to the Union’s report on the ways in which scientists are pressured to skew their results). It is my sense that we cannot continue to put up with such media manipulation and information spin in a democracy which depends on an informed public for election and governance.
      You are absolutely right about the difficulty in locating a toxic dump in anyone’s backyard– which in turn says something about whether we should be creating such dumps in the first place. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Ryan.

  147. The concept of “NIMBY” is one that I always knew existed, but never thought there would be a formal acronym for this phenomenon. Interestingly enough, at our previous residence a neighbor would constantly throw dog waste, trash, newspapers, etc. over the brick wall that everyone on our side of the street shared. This waste would collect in an unincorporated field in the back of our community. The waste built up over the course of 15 years, through rain, wind and heat. Early last year the local water community presented a water toxicity report to all of its customers. It was not a surprise when the 10 homes to the immediate right and left of this individual’s home had the worst water quality in the area. The water company narrowed this down to the waste that had been accumulating over the years, as the toxins began leaching into the community water supply. In an attempt to maintain the aesthetics and cleanliness of his backyard, he put an entire community’s health at risk.
    Every day on the way to work, I notice that the quantity of Starbucks coffee cups in the planter located at my freeway exit is increasing. I know that the vast quantity of those cups come from the people in my office building. It sickens me to think about how those people would rather discards these cups in this manner, to simply save their vehicle from being cluttered.
    Unfortunately it seems that most people in society have developed the “turning a blind eye” syndrome that is if an event or situation is unappealing or uncomfortable for us, it’s just easier to forget about it and pretend it doesn’t exist. In recent years, many human rights groups have tried to bring manufacturing conditions in 3rd world countries to the attention of consumers. Multi-billion dollar textile conglomerates like Nike and Forever 21 continue to enjoy high revenues even though there are people in different parts of the world being paid pennies on the dollar in deplorable working conditions to manufacture their goods. As consumers, I’m sure almost everyone is fully aware of where their newest pants or shoes are coming from and yet we continue to spend ridiculous amounts of money to acquire them. Personally, this article is sort of an awakening for me as I have to place myself in this category of consumers.

    • The neighbor who, “in an attempt to maintain the aesthetics and cleanliness of his own backyard” by hoisting his waste over the wall into the common area and thus “put an entire community at risk” is a powerful example of the negatives results of the NIMBY attitude and behavior, Khurram. I hope this neighbor was in some way held responsible for cleaning up after his misdeeds. “Turning a blind eye syndrome” is an unfortunate one indeed. Thanks for your many examples that indicate how we all might do better.

    • I completely agree with your point about people “turning a blind eye” to how their decisions may be affecting others. One thing I would like to mention is that I feel it’s nearly impossible for a normal person in today’s society to fully understand how their choices, specifically as a consumer in the U.S, can affect people and places all over the world, even if you don’t want to turn a blind eye. An average person would simply not be able to thoroughly research every single one of the items they purchase or services they use. You have to be a chemist simply to understand what ingredients are in most of the foods at the grocery store these days, much less other products that don’t have to list what’s in them. You could have a full time job just trying to make sense of what companies make what products and what they’re doing in other parts of the world, and who own these companies and who owns the companies who they’re a subsidiary off etc. There is no real way to keep track of it. It is up to our government to create laws that make these types of immoral practices illegal, and it is up to us to hold our elected officials to that ideal.

      • I agree with you that we need to make businesses practices known– and regulate them accordingly, Roman. I do find it hopeful that when governments fall down on regulating these businesses, there are non-profits who are taking up some slack. Thanks for your comment.

    • I think the “turning the blind eye” syndrome has to be corrected if we are to see any change in the current problem. NIMBY only ignores the issue, just as the consumer does when they buy from companies like Nike. These companies should not be rewarded by the consumer, and if there is not a change other companies are going to want to do the same thing. This article was an awakening to me as well.

  148. Well said… In my area we have another saying that we have learned to live by. “We all live downstream”. I live close to the Susquehanna river and one of its major tributaries. In the early days folks built mills and other factories along the river banks so that they could use the river water to power, cool or otherwise facilitate their particular industry. They also used the river to send their contaminated outflow from the factories.

    Additionally, communities saw no problem with discharging community wastewater (treated or untreated) into the river.

    As we are also an agricultural area, there was much farm runoff going into the river.

    Nobody thought much of this because it was all going “downstream”.

    The problem with downstream mentality is that the folks who live upstream from us had the same ideas about sending their waste downstream.

    The decades of waste and other pollutants have taken their toll on the waters at the mouth of the river and the waters adjacent to the shore and in the bay. These waters are popular fishing and recreation areas for many who live in along the river. Not to mention a significant source of food.

    As the pollution that we sent down river degraded the offshore and nearshore waters the areas became increasingly unfit for the things that we came to depend on them for.

    As it goes in nature, everything comes full circle. There is no such thing as being safe by living downstream or NIMBY.

    • Thanks for reminding us of the point that “we all live downstream”, Ron — I have heard this more and more often–and it is a sign of growing awareness. Perhaps you have heard the story of the ones who stand on shore pulling out drowning folks from the river as someone else runs by in spite of the fact that they call out for help in the emergency. The runner replies that he is going upstream to the stop the one who is pushing all the drowning people into the river.

  149. This article makes an interesting point when it talks about earth cycles and global dynamics mixing up all the parts of this world. I guess I never really thought about it that way before, but it does make sense give a natural system’s drive to expand and diversify. The NIMBY principle is particularly dangerous when working in combination with the capitalist principle. When there is fierce competition for profit and market share between companies, for example, corners will always be cut to reduce costs and increase profit margins. Risks may also be taken, but these actions generally risk the health of the proximate environment and human population rather than company’s revenues. And of course the ones making these decisions will not actually live in the areas affected. I think we need to put more pressure on our elected officials to create and enforce laws that stop giving so much leeway to large corporations (and even our own government) who are abusing our environment and it’s people all in the name of profit.

    • You have an important point in pointing out the dangers of NIMBY mixed with the capitalist economic system, Roman. In fact, I think these are aspects of the same worldview– their values certainly support one another. I absolutely agree with you about making sure that our laws do not give “leeway” to large corporations: the more power such an entity has, the more responsibility they should be held do (since having more power yields the potential for more danger). I see no reason why should not be allowed to make profits by “risking the health” of humans and the environment.

  150. If more people were aware of how even the smallest of actions, such as purchasing bottled water, affected the rest of the world, then there is a chance people would change their actions. The first stop is getting people to be aware; this is currently being done through environmental education at some schools, and through the internet. To carry on with my bottled water example, there is a great online flick called, “The Story of Bottled Water,” that successfully demonstrates the impacts this product has in various parts of the world. After seeing this, I definitely felt different and more educated on what bottled water does to the environment and have changed my ways in regards to purchasing water. I also felt compelled to share this knowledge with others in hopes that they would come to a similar realization. The question of, “how might we change our decisions…” is worth contemplating because there are enough people on this planet that if everyone commits to just a small change, it will make a difference. The NIMBY lie is a perfect example of ‘ignorance is bliss,’ and we can live happy healthy lives no matter what. We may eventually figure out that this is a great falsehood only when it is too late…

    • It is hopeful to me that people might change their actions if they understood the true repercussions of their actions, Kara. Bottled water is indeed not only superfluous but destructive to the environment in many ways. Not only that, but it tends to have more bacteria, etc. than tap water (so those who drink it because they think it cleaner are being defrauded–or defrauding themselves). We don’t need all this extra plastic in the world. A perfect example of NIMBY– where what we do for our convenience supersedes (in our own minds) the need to even evaluate the results of our actions.
      Great point about the collected weight of seemingly small decisions on the part of individuals. Thanks for your comment.

    • The “ignorance is bliss”, or “don’t ask don’t tell” are further examples of human’s desire to do what they need as long as it doesn’t impact others around them. What you do as an individual will always impact everyone around you; although often in a miniscule way. Things like that tend to have a layering effect and eventually all of the small things will turn into a huge dillema.

  151. The author of this article makes a lot of valid points. I agree with him when he says that we must treat our entire planet like it is our own backyard. NIMBY is not a solution to environmental problems, but only a slogan to help us ignore the problem at hand. The author absolutley right when he says that by ignoring the problem we are responsible for putting our bodies at risk to environmental problems. I believe we the consumer are responsible for this as we continue to buy brands such as Nike that drastically underpay their workers and profit off of that. Unless we can stop supporting companies like that, businesses will continue to take advantage of it. We must treat the planet like it is our own backyard, and not continue to ignore the problem like NIMBY does.

    • Thoughtful points, Kyle. Thanks for your comment. I think that it is too often true, as you say, that NIMBY is “not a solution to environmental problems, but only a slogan to help us ignore the problem at hand”. Or perhaps not so close at hand, but related in the web of life? Thanks for your comment.

  152. The idea that what happens out side of my own backyard not being of any concern to myself is highly naive. What seems to be the most surprising to me, is that the idea of medicine’s were leaking into my drinking water supply. I had never heard of this before a few years ago and the media bringing it to my attention. What my neighbors do will obviously impact me, and what I do will most certainly impact them. Everyone just needs to keep this simple thing in mind when they are living their normal, everyday lives.

    • Naive is an excellent characterization of this, Andrew. Great point about keeping in mind the ways each of our actions impact one another.

    • I agree if people were to just keep this idea in the back of their mind the world would be a much better place. This idea of leaching chemicals and pharmaceuticals leading to inherit negative effects on our bodies and our offspring was a huge surprise to me. I began learning this my second year of college… That means that i was one of those naive people for 20 years. These chemicals are already in my body and are going to be past on to my children. the only thing i can do now is try and limit this intake and start trying to my best to not leave a huge footprint on the world, for the good of my own self and future generations.

      • It is never too late to change something like this, Jason. Indeed, the more it needs to be changed, the more important it is to address it in your personal way. You might take heart from the fact that Sweden managed to clean up their breast milk supply (which reflects the body burden of toxics in many of our bodies) by prohibiting the use of certain chemicals there. We could do the same.

  153. This artice caught my interest. We should all start to consider that what we are doiung in the eniviroment affects all of us in the world. We should not be ignorgant to our neihbors who in the end can help us improve the world that we live in. We all talk about how we want to help improve the world, but as the saying goes “action speaks louder than words”. We have to get together as a planent and realize what we all want in our own backyard which is the world we live in.

  154. This article brings up one of the most important thoughts when it comes to alot of aspects. Whether is the protection of our environment, the preservation of our species, the relationships we have with our fellow man, and almost ever aspect you could think of. “Do unto others as you wish they would do unto you,” sort of thing. I would bet that the mass of our population does not think in this way. They are too concerned with self preservation and success rather than thinking of anyone else. Like you had said what if they realized that all the trash they are throwing away is probably going to directly effect someone in there family, generations down the line or even closer. They would start recycling..

    People really need to start thinking in this matter. This planet belongs to ALL of us and everything we do is directly related to everyone in some way or another. The thinking on NIMBY is a terrible way of thinking and its sad that this is how most people think today. We really need to start thinking about future generations, preservation of the planet, as well as our own bodies.

    One example is plastic water bottles.. is the convenience of having water (in this specific bottle) really worth it? the chemicals that leach into the water and then ingested into our bodies is extremely dangerous, and has been proven to have extremely harmful effects.

    The list could go on for days if i had the time to keep writing on the content of this essay. This is one of the main reasons i am taking classes like this is to inform myself of all that i can do to stray away from this NIMBY mindset.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jason. “Do unto others..” is a statement of reciprocal ethics that is part of many of the world’s religions–the world does indeed belong to all of us, even as our actions move out from us in so many ways.
      You are not the only one to bring up the issue of plastic water bottles: as this issue grows in our consciousness, perhaps we will do something about it I understand that a few local municipalities have banned plastic water bottles in their city limits. Even if such legislation does not get accepted, putting it forward allows a public conversation about this important topic.

  155. I agree that NIMBY is a lie. If more people realized that we all live in a biosphere and that all of our environmental actions are interconnected and come back to affect us in some manner then maybe people would be less likely to take the NIMBY approach to life.
    I think about this concept when I see trash that has littered just about every place on earth that man has touched. It seems to me there are many people who would rather discard what they don’t like or no longer want into our environment rather than take it back to their own backyard.
    This is especially evident with the amount of cigarette butts tossed into our environment. With the large quantities I often see at freeway exits, parking lots, and beaches it is safe for me to assume that there are many people that take the NIMBY approach when discarding their cigarette butts.
    What these people fail to realize is that they do eventually end up back in “their” backyard because thousands of harmful chemicals leach into the earth and then into “their” water supply. If these people realized they were harming “their” family by letting them drink the chemicals from their cigarette butt would they still take the NIMBY approach?

    • Cigarette butts are a special problem, since many smokers seem to think are not trash–but birds consume them and they often have toxics like asbestos in them.
      I think your last point is a key one: if we understood the interdependence of our world– that what we do comes back to us in this way, I would hope the NIMBY attitude would change.
      Thanks for your comment.

  156. The NIMBY strategy is rampant in our politics these days. Tragically the cost of the wall constructed by Bush on the Mexico border has not stopped the Mexican people from seeking a better life but only added to hundreds of deaths as the people move further east into the deserts and die a terrible death due to exposure. Yet unscrupulous politicians and those special interest dollars behind them are capitalizing on people’s fear and externalizing the blame for eight years of failed economics and ignorant decision making by exploiting the NIMBY philosophy. Just as toxic waste dumps are being proposed deep in our oceans or our atmosphere, who really still believes that the oceans and skies of the world aren’t all of our backyards!

    • Great follow ups on the examples in this essay, Maureen. The oceans and skies, as you note, are “all of our backyards”.
      And the results of the Mexican border wall parallel the tragedies coming out of the wall between Israel and the Occupied Territories.

    • Its ironic how a constructing a wall to keep people out has never worked, and yet we still do it. It’s interesting to see how people will begin to form the “us and them” attitude when there is a crisis at hand. A few years ago the state of Georgia began to run out of water, so they used Lake Lanier in Florida for this purpose. The people of FL were not happy about this and the case went to court. These states seem to have forgotten that they belong to the same country in this argument. When we start viewing ourselves as citizens of the world who share the same back yard maybe we can make some progress.

      • Well said, Tiffany, it is important to remember Martin Luther King’s words in our “quote of the week”– that whatever effects us effects others– and putting a fence up between does not, as you note, stop this interconnection.
        I like your statement about the conditions for making some progress– in fact, I think we need to redefine the stereotypical notion of “progress” altogether to reflect goals more like those you state here, such as recognizing that we all share the same backyard and behaving accordingly.

  157. I had no idea what the NIMBY was until now. This is a very interesting essay. People need to look beyond and think about the bigger picture and the effects and aftermath that may occur in the end. All people need to think like it is their future that lies ahead and see what it would be like for them. I don’t think that taking shortcuts is a good idea when it comes to most scenarios. We the people need to think about the consequences that may or may not occur. We need to dish out the better and in return we will get back what we dish out. What we don’t know won’t hurt us right or what we hear, see, and do about it, we do not talk about right? I think we all feel guilty in the end, right?

    • Very thoughtful comment about NIMBY, Jennifer. But I got confused about what you meant in your last sentence. Are you saying that even when we are in denial, some part of us still knows the truth–and thus we “feel guilty”?

  158. Yeah, I guess that is what I am saying. I think I just confused myself on that one. It’s like biting our tongues because we are having a hard time holding in a secret and thus we feel guilty. Maybe.

  159. I feel as though a lot of this sentiment comes from the lack of belief about responsibility and compassion. We are taught at a very young age about this word called survival, however, I think many become lost in translation of what its true definition is. If we behave like animals and treat the world like beasts, then what does that make us? I am not saying that we are higher than animals in the sense that we all rely on each other in the world for survival and sustenance; However, God blessed us with thought and reasoning abilities for a reason. In the readings it stated that the “Sioux taught their children responsibility through the their emphasis on the relationship of all things.” Just as was stated in the article, the sooner we realize that our actions will come back to us the sooner people will want to enforce change. I know it sounds cliche, but I think people feel it is too hard to care about ‘this and that’ as they have their own lives to worry about. Others have already stated it, but I think it should be blasted from television sets and radio stations that our children are going to know what the environment has been reduced to, and they will know who to blame and that laziness and lack of compassion and caring was to blame. I think a little bit of empathy in the world could go a long way.

    • You have a great point in evaluating what our term “survival” means, Jennifer. And I am not sure that we would want to say we behave like “animals” or “beasts”– since animals do not orchestrate senseless killing on others of their kind– and seem to keep their places in the natural world. Check out the quote in our class notes by Janet McCloud, who speaks of human reasoning as special– from her perspective, allowing us to understand the importance of sharing even as we understand that our body is nature– our “first teacher” that indicates how to develop a “right relationship” with all other lives.
      I think we need an enlarged sense of self that acknowledges our dependence on other lives: as Thomas Berry said, “not a single thing in the world nourishes itself”. Check out the quote of the week by Martin Luther King- which is appropriate not only because of the recent holiday but because of its contradiction of the NIMBY attitude.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  160. I really feel that NIMBY is the way a lot of things go on in this world. The US has about 5% of the Earth’s population. It is the #1 polluter and uses 25% of the energy produced. Do we see it that way? No we see the pollution in other countries when we look at our media. If we don’t see it in our back yard then it is not there. If it is in the yard down the block it’s ok. Out of sight out of mind is another saying you can use for this. I think we need to look at what we as humans influence as our back yard. I don’t think it is just here on Earth.

    • These stats should certainly give us pause in terms of assessing responsibility for our consumerism and pollution- and then as you indicate, we are aghast that developing nations might want to follow suit. I know it will take some doing, but our best course of actions is to develop a critical perspective of our own actions, both as a nation and globally-and then express the leadership we are capable of by modeling what we actually wish others to follow.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Bob.

  161. Before I read this article I thought I knew what NIMBY was. I knew that I was not one of “those people” who are so selfish that they refuse to have wind generators put up near their home because they are ugly (not my opinion, I think they are beautiful). I am wearing a pair of Nike shoes and my house is filled with questionable items that were probably not made in an environmentally friendly manner. We all share responsibility being consumers. Looking at one’s self as being different is also pushing the responsibility onto everyone else, which I think is the point of this article. I will try to be more self conscious when I purchase items, and ask myself “where did this come from?” and “can I buy this from a local vendor?”

    • Thanks for your thoughtful personal reflection, Tiffany. I think it is important to start change with our own actions first (I know I still have much to change in my own life) Firstly, we can change our own decisions– and this provides a model for others as well– following Kant, who observed that we are acting ethically when we are behaving as we wish everyone to behave.

    • I cannot speak for others but I feel the same way. As consumers we must let the producers know they need to change. If is like food and the fast food industry. The cheep and quick food is usually the unhealthiest where the more expensive and slower to make food is usually the healthiest for you. Some try like McDonald’s, I don’t think you can get an Extra large fries not but you can get a chicken salad. That’s from feedback by consumers. I remember in my youth there were fruits and vegetables that you could not get certain times of the year and we lived with that. Now you can get produce year around. Where does it come from? Does that country take care of its starving people before it sends produce overseas? It’s the producers not the countries that determine that. Again thanks for the post. I hope we can all try to change.

      • Good points about voting with our dollars, Bob.
        One problem with out of season transported vegetable is “perverse subsidies” of our own government, which actually make them cheaper to consumers than locally grown organics (which don’t get such subsidies).
        See Bread for the World on the issue of starving nations that send food abroad: often it isn’t the choice of the countries, but of multi-nationals who take over the land and/or create production systems in other countries that undercut local subsistence– especially of women and children. One example is the multi-nationals forcing peasants to give up small subsistence farms in Mexico to gain the land for huge strawberry producing operations so those businesses can send the strawberries north. They have also managed to confiscate lands to grow corn for ethanol on–and the raising price of this corn has caused the ingredients of tortillas to be out of the reach of many families in Mexico. Not to mention, that the large scale corn grown is gmo and contaminated native seed stock all the way into Central Mexico. Moreover, ethanol from corn actually takes more energy to produce than it yields in gasoline– lose-lose proposition for everyone except industrial farmers who make money from it– a sincerely stupid federal law that gas must be a certain percentage ethanol is one economic basis. And to add insult to injury, the mileage in the Prius and other hybrid cars has been cut something like 15 per cent as a result of burning ethanol-laced gas now required by law.
        So we need to do our work as consumers AND as citizens to take back the power from corporations who support the engineering of “perverse subsidies”. See this review of a book on these subsidies:

  162. I am a student-teacher in a freshman global studies class and the students are currently wrapping up a unit on the effects of colonialism/imperialism and neo-colonialism on 3rd and 2nd world countries. They each individually researched a 2nd world country and did a presentation to the class indicating the importance of the location of the country, how the country is doing today and how imperialism and neo-colonialism treated that country. At the close of one presentation, a student said to the class, “The world is only doing as well as its most hurting, needy, and hungry country”. What an idea. These students are delving into heavy issues such as the negative effects of globalization and the frequent occurrence of abuse on weaker countries by larger, stronger ones, for example, (gasp) the United States. And along with them, I have learned much. I cannot make a generalization about all the populations of all 1st world countries, that all the citizens in these countries are privileged, ignorant and naïve, but I do feel that there is a sense, especially within the United States, that what the government does outside of our (the United States) “backyard” is fine with everyone as long as we don’t have to deal with it. Outside of the troops that are overseas, there is really no indication in the average life of an American, and let me repeat average, that we are a country that is at war. You spoke of NIMBY in our economic system, of external costs and passing them on to others; construction that is unwanted, buildings not welcome, waste that is feared, tedious work that no one desires, it is these costs that we end up passing to others. Whether they are in a poor neighborhood, or on a larger scale, in a weak country matters not, as long as it’s “NIMBY”.

    • What a wonderful thing you are doing with these students, Katie. It is essential that our educational system prepare its graduates for global citizenship–and the responsibility for the choices involved. As a country with so much economic power, we have all the more responsibility to act ethically. Development is all too often coincident with exploitation– if not out and out ignorance. I was just reading a collection of essays on development projects in which they make a list of important actions, such as informing local peoples of the shape of the project and allowing them partnership in its development.
      Seems to me a little odd that any project might NOT be developed in collaboration with local cultures–sadly, power inequities are involved in projects which lead to the passing on of costs to other peoples and other lands beyond our immediate range of vision.
      Congratulations to your freshman class: they are obviously preparing themselves for leadership as well as citizenship.
      The student you quoted is joined by many others who argue for justice on the grounds that a nation or community is only as wealthy as its poorest member.
      Keep up the great work with your students.

    • Hi Katie,
      It is excellent to hear that the students in your class are having these thoughts. It amazes me sometimes, how children can see things so clearly, while it seems very difficult for some adults.
      I feel the concept of “NIMBY” is a common one, here in the United States, which is unfortunate. Hopefully someday we will see a change, and the majority will have a more cooperative, partnership worldview. I think we are heading in the right direction with the help of teachers, such as yourself, instilling these values and worldviews in our future generations.

      Thank You,


  163. I think that for most people the concept of NIMBY is only enacted by the obvious contributors to pollution or waste. Picket signs go up when landfills are moved, reactors are built, or other things that could affect quality of life or property values. I think that most of these obvious contributors are often used as scapegoats to the reality of where most of the pollution comes from. Pollutions from our daily lives have become an acceptable if not needed part of keeping up with our schedule. Changing this isn’t easy or even possible in many cases. I can’t run or ride my bicycle to work without a substantial chance of getting hit by a car. While this factor is out of my control I know there is a good number of other factors that are well within my scope of influence. I think it is a general lack of awareness that prevents lifestyle changes regarding pollution with most people. A way of tracking and informing people may be one answer. Regardless of how easy we make it the choice of living green will come down to the individual. Help and persuasion are only tools in changing NIMBY to IMBY the deciding factor is the individual.

    • Thoughtful perspective, Phillip. As you imply, the answer to changing our choices for the better is thinking for ourselves. I think there is an interactive result here: as we take even small steps to change our lives (and others do the same) the system responds in turn. Organic produce was scarcely available three decades ago: now it is everywhere. So are csas (community supported agriculture arrangements).
      Your example of limited ways of getting to work brings up the very important issue of available public transport. As long as work is not within walking distance, we will need convenient, reliable and reasonably priced public transport if we are ever to reach carbon-neutral goals to stem climate change.

  164. The main thing that this article made me think of was the way that many people take the NIMBY attitude with meat and animal products. I finally decided to stand by my ethical beliefs and became a vegetarian (working my way to vegan). Many people that I talk to say “I’m not the one killing the animals!” or “It’s just a piece of chicken to me, I don’t want to think of it as a cute little animal.” That is either denial, ignorance or naivity. It really bothers me but I know that is what I used to do, for over 20 years. I felt bad that I was contributing to killing animals but I finally took a stand towards my beliefs. Once I was educated and realized my bad contributions, I changed. Maybe we need a lot more environmental education programs?

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience– and commitment to your values, Samantha. To me, it also makes a great deal of difference how an animal is raised.
      However, looking at a piece of meat as something that has never been alive is a disconnect that leads to looking the other way in terms of the abuses of factory farming.

    • I think you make a great point about neediing more educational programs. I commented that with the internet and 24-hour news shows giving us the ‘latest’ stories, none of us should be uneducated or ignorant. I congratulate you on your choices and feel like if more of us took your approach and used it, the environment, animals, plants, the earth, and eventually us would be greatly improved!

    • I too often exchange in debate with people over the ethical reasons I choose not to eat meat. The discussion usually shocks me because most people who eat meat do not consider the treatment of the animals they are consuming. Most people who eat meat go to the supermarket and buy a package of meat at what they feel is a fair price, otherwise they wouldn’t purchase it, and go home and cook and eat it. They don’t realize the reason they were able to get their meat on sale for $.99 cents a pound is because of factory farming and genetically modified food. Most people do not realize eating that &.99 cent a pound meat is really costing them much more because of the pollution they are running eating it through their bodies and blood stream. Most people do not realize the animal they are eating lived and died in fear and they are energetically eating that fear when they eat the animal. I agree we need to break free of the conditioned thoughts and behavior so we are more able to make conscious choices. The problem is the capitalistic corporations who profit from such conditioned thoughts and behavior make it difficult. I really appreciate when documentary’s such as “Food Inc.” are released because it is a great way for people to be exposded to the real dangers that are behind eating that $.99 cent a pound package of meat they brought home to cook for their family for dinner.

      • Food, Inc. is a great documentary, Angela–thanks for bringing it up. I think you can watch it online. It has been said that the only way for evil to prevail is for good people to remain silent. I would change that to “good people remaining ignorant” as well.

    • Congratulations on living up to your convictions. Not many people put much thought into where there food comes from and placing your diet in check with your heart is very respectable in my book. I enjoyed the viewpoint of the African tribes we read about who respected the animals that died to feed them and understood when some of those animals took from among their tribe identifying the act as a shared way to benefit from each other.

      • Great, Phillip! Thanks for your own supportive response. The indigenous peoples of South Africa who understood this must have lived in intimacy with the land in order to do so.

  165. I think this article screams the truth because it is something that we all truly know in our minds is wrong, but still find ourselves doing all of the time! The idea that things such as pollution are ‘out of sight’ and therefore won’t hurt us just doesn’t apply anymore in our increasingly modern world. We cannot claim ignorance to things on the other side of the world and other side of our own country as easily as in the past because of the internet, social media outlets, and constant breaking news updates etc. I feel like NIMBY should never have existed, but now more then ever isn’t acceptable. Environmentally speaking, we all need to understand that even small thinks such as non-point pollution in a small stream really affects us all in the end through magnification in the environment. We really don’t have an isolated back yard to hide in when it comes to most environmental problems whether they are in our country or around the world.

    • Thanks for your insights here, Brad: I can only imagine how much better off humans and the environment would both be if we followed the course we “truly know in our minds” is right instead of erecting barriers of denial that allow us to continue on the same self-destructive path.
      As you note– and perhaps this will finally bring us together as a species– environmental issues show us that we can no longer hold onto the illusion that we are isolated from one another.

  166. I agree with you whole-heartedly! The NIMBY mindset has done nothing but harm to our world and everyone, human or animal or plant, residing in it. It makes much more sense to take on the view that everything that happens is in our backyard. The world is a small place and is getting smaller by the second!

  167. The NIMBY mentality is a conditioned patterned way of thinking and is part of the driving force behind many capitalistic principals. Most Americans are taught the difference between “right” and “wrong” by their parents who are merely teaching the same principals they were taught themselves. I speak from my own personal experience when I say I did not realize I was functioning from a conditioned way of thinking and behaving until I was well into my 30’s when I experienced a profound spiritual understanding that allowed me to see that for the majority of my life I was not connecting with my higher-self and thinking for myself; instead, my consciousness was limited to the patterns I accumulated the driving force behind my choices. For example, I thought I was making a conscious choice to obtain a college degree in business to become a pharmaceutical representative; however, it was not until I had the spiritual experience that realized consciously that choosing an occupation merely based on the income was not a conscious choice, rather a conditioned way of thinking and behaving and NIMBY mentality as even before I had the spiritual experience I did not believe in prescription drugs. Although I am still working on connecting with my higher-self and breaking free from the NIMBY mentality, I focus on being present in the moment and connecting with my higher-self before I make choices. Breaking free from the conditioned thoughts and behavior I would never be energetically involved in a process to advocate prescription drugs nor would I accept a job that pushes prescription drugs just because that job has the potential to earn a good living. Capitalism can only survive if the majority of the population functions under conditioned thought and behavior patterns driven by materialistic addictions. If people were to realize they are a part of the whole they would not make choices that would dirty up their own back yard because they would realize their back yard is a part of everything.

    • Thanks for sharing your journey toward personal authenticity, Angel. In choosing to live a full life, you yourself break the addictive cycle you speak of here. We simply cannot afford to continue making choices that ravage the environment that sustains us of its life (and its lives, human and more than human).

    • Angel,

      Your statement that, “Most Americans are taught the difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ by their parents who are merely teaching the same principals they were taught themselves” is in my opinion the reason the NIMBY principle exists. Just as the anecdotal stories of how to maintain balance with the earth were passed down through generations of Native Americans, the NIMBY principle has been passed down in the same manner. My father grew up in the generation of people who still believed that they could fish a creek until they couldn’t catch anymore and it was ok. Whenever I go fishing with my father today, he still questions why I don’t keep fish. He understands, but can’t get over the mentality. We need to break the cycle of tradition and make NIMBY thought part of our history, not our future..

      • Thoughtful points, Gabe. It sounds as though your father also learned something from the generation behind him–and he is struggling with your stance, though he also respects it– a gift to you, since such acceptance obviously does not come easy to him. His parents likely had very different priorities and lived in a very different time than we do today. James Hillman (psychologist) said an important thing: we become mature ourselves when we can tell our parents’ stories.
        We could use more of the oral tradition that allowed flexibility to respond to new times even as it passed on the wisdom of old ones.

  168. I feel as though we live in a world of trade-off’s when it comes to what is in whose backyard, body, etc. I use toxic petro-chemicals to burn hazardous fuels to restore resilience to forests once maintained by frequent low-intensity fire, and breathe the smoke and absorb the chamicals through m clothes and skin. Yet, I am willing on the basis of protecting forests from stand-replacing wildfire. When I go home, I do want to have a home free of chemicals and hope that sort “NIMBY” with respect to toxics means I try not to contribute to their existence at all. It seems like the saying should be “NIOBY,” meaning “not in our backyard.”

  169. I also like to relate NIMBY to the old “Do unto others” quip. If I would not want an action, practice, etc. performed in my backyard, why would I ignore it happening in another’s backyard? I think it comes down to a severe lack of compassion for fellow man that is borne from ignorance (or the quest for ignorant bliss).

    What if it was our “backyard” that experienced the same tragedy that Japan is currently recovering from (Remember Three-mile Island?)? I think that a small dose of NIMBY is needed to foster a sense of urgency to prevent in the future what is happening with the radiation being spilled into the ocean now.

    Thanks for including the part about GWB and the troops. Our current President is set to freeze any future pay raises for America’s servicemen and women because….because….well, when I figure out a good reason why, I will let you know.

  170. People really believe that they are unaffected by their actions if they don’t directly see results or if they are able to disconnect from the results. And it is alarming how people can disconnect from things such as increased cancer rates, dangerous toxins and their proven effects, and the working conditions of the people who make their goods. In the current mindset, unfortunately, I can only see people making changes when is does finally show up their backyard – when it is too late.

    I think an important point is that our backyards extend beyond our current lives and living situations – to our children, and grandchildren, to our neighbors, to our friends, enemies, and strangers. I like the idea of viewing your own body as your backyard. I am constantly shocked by the things people are willing to do, buy, and consume even though the detrimental effects on health are apparent. Maybe people would make more logical decisions if they realized the connectedness between their bodies, their backyards, other humans, and the natural world.

    • Your comment made me think of landfills – I wonder how many people send their trash off every week and then think nothing more of it because they don’t live near or have never seen a landfill. Scarier yet, I worry that some of them, even with seeing the mountain of trash, would not change their behavior in the slightest. Landfills seem to end up in the “backyards” of whichever community or group of people can least afford to fight against it. I wonder how many people would change their behavior if trash stayed right in the community that generated it…

      • I have wondered this myself, Sarah. For instance, what if even one day a year, we were required to keep all the trash we generated. It would be great if that trash could be turned to compost– but as for plastic and other packaging, we might soon be buried. I understand that in Germany, packaging goes back to the manufacturer to figure out what to do with it.
        I wonder how many nuclear reactors we would have if the developers had to take the spent fuel rods home with them.

  171. Dr. Holden,
    From the top of Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, you can look down in to the San Joaquin Valley. In the summer, on most days, you can barely see through the smog to the valley floor. I’ve given programs from there, talking in part, about the air pollution problem that exists. I’ve asked people at the end of the talk, what can they do to help the problem? One answer I received by an adult male was, “Nothing, I’m leaving tomorrow.” I don’t even know if it even occurred to the man what he just said. You might contribute the NIMBY view as an out of sight- out of mind way of thinking too.

    You ask, “How might we change our decisions if we realized our backyards cannot ultimately be separated from anyone else’s?” I have to wonder if we don’t change our way of thinking, (that NIMBY attitude), that it won’t change our decisions until it affects us directly. Listening to an NPR program this morning reminded me of this article. The program was about the ice melting in the arctic due to climate change. Some of the issues were mentioned such as sea level rising and polar bear extinction. There was also a very enthusiastic person interviewed who talked about all the new opportunities for oil drilling. I can’t imagine that the person interviewed is thinking his home is going to be impacted by the rise in the sea level, caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

    • Your man on the mountain who is leaving the next day and taking his responsibility with him (or maybe leaving it altogether) is a great illustration of the NIMBY attitude. Additionally, there is the fact that he obviously came to this place to vacation, to enjoy it– and feels no responsibility whatsoever for the place to which he travels to receive this joy. This is also a good example of Wendell Berry’s statement that we tend to treat the land like “a one night stand”.
      You have a key point in your understanding that we will not change our actions until we understand that we live in an interdependent world–and thus what we do will come back to us–or our children as well as impacting the other lives with whom we share this world.
      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Dawn.

    • The out of sight out of mind approach is the perfect way to describe NIMBY. The response by the gentleman in your audience is very indicative of the attitude of the general population. We almost need to be slapped in the face with a problem and have no way of leaving it to enact changes.

  172. I’ve come to the realization that my friends and family who have a NIMBY attitude are in denial. Our culture allows them to be that way. We’ve been taught this is capitalism and that capitalism is good. I think that alot of people choose not to learn about the reality of environmental destruction and racism because it is too overwhelming. While people will agree with me that things need to change,they stop short of actually changing themselves. For every envionmentally responsible voice out there,there are 1000 commercials encouraging people to be consumers and become rich and that they deserve it.

    It is frustrating because I know that it only takes education and allowing people to see past the screen corporations have erected for change to happen.

    It does mean changing many habits and behaviors and giving up some of the luxuries we have become so accustomed to. The positive result of being a responsible consumer is that you have alot less stuff! Fair trade and locally made items cost more and are harder to find so I buy alot less…funny my life is better than when I had “more”!

    • It is a sad point that our culture fosters such denial about our relationship to other lives, Valerie. Capitalism with its “externalizing costs and internalizing benefits” teaches the NIMBY attitude quite directly, as you note.
      Education cannot take place without open minds–and opening one’s mind is a matter of will–and sometimes, courage, when the news is bad.
      The point about “fair trade” being hard to find — thus allowing us to cut back on goods like chocolate and coffee is a good one!
      Thanks for your comment.

    • Thinking about some of the commercials I’ve seen lately it is discouraging how they push people to just keep buying more and more stuff – and it makes me worry that we won’t be able to do anything for ourselves eventually… have you seen the commercial for the E Z Cracker (or something like that)? Because apparently we are unable to crack an egg by hand without getting shell into our food. Really – another cheap plastic gadget made in a factory in China by workers paid next to nothing, that will probably wind up languishing in a landfill someday, do we really need that?

      • I can hardly believe that its advertisers think someone would buy this: not only does the presence of this product intimate we can’t do much for ourselves, as you say– but that whatever we do, we won’t be doing it right– if we can’t even crack an egg, no wonder running a democracy seems daunting!

  173. Juxtapose against the idea of the “tragedy of the commons” is the idea that the commons was never a tragedy; rather it was the very thing that gave people a sense of that whatever happened to the land that belonged to everyone in that culture, they were all responsible for it on an individual level as well. After switching to the design that land had economic value and could be owned, sold, and bought (or even stolen); that is when the real tragedy happened because it created the idea of separation and where things could be protected from outside forces. Of course this resulted in the NIMBY and created the false premise that people can separate the processes of the land and of people by artificial borders such as the walls you mentioned.

    In order to rid ourselves of the NIMBY we must realize that nothing ever goes away, and I think that the idea of a global economy and a global market actually might positively influence people. For instance, it is now being realized that our jobs are not secure in a protectionist bubble by the government because it is significantly influenced by large corporations. Seeing the global influence on our products, our jobs, and our policies could backfire and indeed did during the Bush Administration, however it might also bring an awareness that nothing is sacred to our government, no matter who is in charge and that everything and everyone is interconnected through markets, natural disasters, and environmental catastrophes. This interconnected global view can alter the NIMBY attitude by increasing awareness and communication across artificial borders and hopefully create values that we all share the Earth and it is OUR commons that we are all responsible for individually.

    • Hello Stephanie,
      I agree with you that many things never go away.
      And with NAFTA initiated, that certainly began promotion of global trade. Imagine, if you will, the reverse though. What if those companies left China (for instance) and resettled here in the US. Would we say, “I feel bad for those poor Chinese people who lost their jobs?” No, I bet not, we would be more inclined to feel happy for the new jobs that came here. However, the decisions we make about our buying practices do have some influence but companies move generally to maximize profit and productivity. I suppose Walmart wouldn’t have become so big if people didn’t patronize the company. I’m willing to blame Bush Administration for many things but cheap stuff sold by Walmart precedes the Bush Administration.

      And when we talk about “government” I like to ask, who is government? It’s people. When you walk into any government office, it is staffed by people. The decisions, good or bad, are made by people. When there is needed in change in government policy, then that means there is needed change in people.

      • ‘We may also change government by changing policy and information: in my years of teaching, I have found that many of us share the same core values, whatever our political or economic persuasion, and when we have adequate information and/or have policies in place to encourage the results we wish to see (rather than, for instance, perverse subsidies), we can come together in sometimes surprising ways.
        NAFTA had some unfortunate effects in setting minimum rather than maximum economic and justice standards. I am thinking of the case when the MA state legislative decided not to do business with Myanmar because of the brutality of their regime–and was forced into this by the NAFTA rules of not hindering trade.
        Enforcement of minimum standards only does a few at the top of particular corporations short term good. Thanks for your comment.

      • Sorry, I should have clarified that when I referred to the Bush Administration I was referring to the general time period, not the politics of the Administration. During that time period there were two recessions, two wars, and a general protectionist, us versus them attitude that continues to grow because of economic influences more than policies. Again, sorry I wasn’t clear.

        I agree that government is made of people, but unfortunately the checks and balances that the forefathers attempted to put in place do not work because otherwise large corporations would not be getting away with bail outs and huge tax breaks even while they are sending jobs oversees. Those aren’t market induced bail outs and tax breaks, those are directly tied to the federal government who are greatly influenced by big business.

        The point about Walmart is a great one; they got big because they cut costs and employee benefits in order to give consumers what they want: cheap products. People can’t have it all: good local jobs, cheap goods and services, and convenience. We’ve become to greedy and spoiled. The true costs are not included in any of these products we buy and I don’t think we really want to know what they true costs are because than we would have to face the idea of not being able to buy so much for so cheap. I truly think most of our problems center around our consumption which was actually an organized movement by the federal government to help get the economy moving after WWII.

        • We are all allowed our politics Stephanie. I appreciate your consideration for your classmate’s feelings–and clarify of your own thinking. I also think it doesn’t hurt to take a stand as long as you support it. I am thinking, for instance, of the EPA under Bush-appointed leadership, specifically, to the survey that the Union of Concerned Scientists did that found the majority of scientists working there had experienced pressure to hide their data if it was unfavorable to any corporate concern. Whatever politics one has, Lisa Jackson, the currently appointed head of EPA, is supporting the precautionary principle and the Kid Safe Chemicals Act– a vast change from the atmosphere cultivated by the previous administration.

    • You have a thoughtful point about the “tragedy of the commons” implying it was the commons rather than social structures that impelled human misuse of it that was the tragedy, Stephanie. As you point out, the commons is what we need to survive–and selling it off to the highest bidder– or whoever gets there first is hardly a survival tactic, much less an ethical one.
      I agree that we need a view of interdependence to supplant the isolationist one– and we certainly also need an appreciation of the commons that sustains us all. Thanks for your comment.

  174. I found the connection between environmental and social NIMBY policies interesting. I had never thought of there being a social aspect to it. NIMBY policies allow us to be ignorant of issues outside the sphere we inhabit. It also allows us to pretend problems aren’t there. Environmental NIMBY allows us to separate our actions from their consequences on ecosystems. We are unaware of how much our waste affects the environment because we don’t see landfills teeming with garbage. NIMBY politics also creates environmental injustice because lower socioeconomic groups generally don’t have the political influence to keep landfills and pollution sites away.

    • Hello, Melissa.

      I agree that NIMBY attitudes allow us to be ignorant of issues, pretending it is not there to an extent. In contrast, I think that oftentimes a NIMBY attitude results in us being fully aware of an issue. We won’t do anything about it…content to stare through the chain-link fence as the problem creeps towards our backyards. Once it seeps through, we become angered that anyone could “let it happen” to us when all it would have taken is early action and cooperation to eliminate the problem all together.

      Great point also about a lack of political influence. A pyramidal effect of a whole lot of smaller groups yelling from the bottom eventually creates a spearpoint at the top which cannot be ignored…

      • I like your graphic illustrative analogies here, Gabe– of watching the danger creep toward us until it effects us and we complain about those who “let it happen”.
        I also like your portrait of the effects of smaller groups working form the bottom up.

    • In your own linking of socioeconomic with environmental NIMBY, Melissa, you indicate why an understanding of worldview is so important. The same worldview that causes us to dismiss as unimportant our environmental wastes also licenses us to dismiss the human tragedies caused by particular socioeconomic dynamics. It is also why there is “environmental racism”, such that those with less power to protest are the ones most likely to bear the environmental cost of things like toxic waste.
      Separating our actions from their consequences is never a good strategy– especially in the long term.
      Thanks for your perspective.

  175. I absolultey appreciate the statement regarding cutting the military benifts and have thought that same thing repeatedly. I also believe that a requirement to being the “Commander in Chief” should be a successful stent in the military so they understand how their decisions are affecting the members of the armed forces.
    I think the NIMBY lie does have to do with the idea that violence won’t show up in our back yard but I think it depends on how you look at the NIMBY mentality.
    Does some one have that mentality because they are arrogant and believe no one would dare attack us or is it more denial? I think in this essay the denial aspect is very well expressed, I just think arrogance my have something to do with it as well.
    Having the “in my backyard” mentality would be great but that my require the US and everyone else to not consider land as “theirs”. I think its a great idea I just don’t think it’ll happen.

    • I very much like particular indigenous traditions from the Midwestern US, by which the leader of any group was always first on the battlefield– sacrificed the most and was most vulnerable for the sake of his/her people.
      I think you are absolutely right about the arrogance of the NIMBY attitude: that my place is more valuable (or I deserve more– a better life) than others.
      I understand your cynicism on the changing this point: my hope is that our environmental crises will finally help us to see how we are all in this together. There is, of course, no guarantee– but your critical perspective and the authentic thoughts and choices of everyone on this forum is an essential step in the right direction. Thank you for your response, Loni.

  176. Nuclear power is a perfect example of NIMBY; with current events as they are, will we see a change in people’s attitude? I’m always amazed at the number of people that vote to have nuclear power; yet, how many of those people would like to have the nuclear plant in their region? With the current crisis in Fukushima, Japan it will be interesting to observe if many people here in the United States change their opinion on nuclear power; especially, after the radiation that leaked has spread worldwide and has been identified in the drinking water of twelve states including Washington and Idaho. This radiation contamination clearly shows that are backyards really are shared with others around the world. Sadly, people tend to be very short-sighted. It has been just over a month since the earthquake and start of the nuclear crisis; yet, many in the United States seem to have long forgotten these issues and they have continued on with life unchanged. If this disaster doesn’t affect a change, what is it going to take?

    • Great and unfortunate example of the NIMBY attitude, Rory, for precisely the points you indicate. I understand that the majority of US citizens are now against building more nuclear power plants– but an unfortunate response of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission post this accident is to raise permissible radiation levels several times over–a move PEER, mong other, is fighting (see our sidebar “quote of the week”.).
      Thanks for your comment.

  177. I remember when I first learned about NIMBY years ago. I was living in a fairly well-off community and the idea was that it was good for us to fight the NIMBY fight and keep dangerous or unsightly developments from happening in our community. What they didn’t really talk about was that oftentimes, these developments have to go somewhere (because people don’t want to look for better alternatives or spend the money required to institute those) and so they may move from one community to the next, going to progressively poorer or more minority areas until they find one that can’t afford to fight it and that’s where the project ends up. What I wonder is what the effect is on the people in that community. Do they see environmental devastation and grow up with an urge to fight for and try to improve the environment or do they become somewhat demoralized and give up, assuming that nothing can be done so why bother?

    • I can imagine that the people whose backyards are the eventual recipients of our garbage have a disheartened view of the world– as activists against environmental racism have often themselves experienced. If we don’t want it in our backyard, likely it shouldn’t go in anyone’s backyard– and then there is the opposite by those like the founder of City Slicker Farms who chose the worst neighborhood in which to locate the best organic garden she could create. That makes Willow Rosenthal a real hero in my mind: check out what she initiated and the community ran with on the link under farms and gardens here.

    • Sarah –
      I had a very similar experience when I first learned about NIMBY. It was in high school where I go grew up, also a very affluent city. We were taught that we don’t want waste in our backyards – so Not In My Backyard sounds true, since we didn’t want it here. The next day we actually watched videos of interviews of people whose communities had been chosen to ‘house’ the waste. They were so upset – understandably. I can’t imagine growing up in a community like that – since it is in lower socioeconomic populated areas it is people that have limited power and resources. They lost the fight and didn’t seem to have much energy left. How is it fair to newborns birthed in that area? They were born at a time when chemical toxins were high and therefore their fault they will grow up in an area that is more hazardous than others? To me, this issue comes down to human rights, or in this case lack of them.

      • Thanks for sharing this story, Ellie. It sounds like a profound teaching technique indeed.
        And you have great point about babies and fairness; I think we have moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among from harmful effects stemming from our own actions.

      • It is indeed unfair for those who have to deal with toxins and wastes that we have dumped “out of our own backyard.” It will always be in someone’s backyard and will most likely end up affecting everyone. For example, certain areas have become literally poisoned with chemicals and we either have to spend an insane amount of money to clean up our own mess or allow the water supply and land to become unusable. All of this because of the last generation’s NIMBY policies.

  178. Earth’s human population needs to look at the actions and the effects they will have. By having a “not in my backyard” attitude we do not see the whole picture because we will not be dealing with the aftermath of a poorly made decision. Someone else suffers for our mistakes and we turn a blind eye and assume all is well.

    It is in our animal instinct to survive, but at the sake of others? There has to be a way to mitigate the unequal distribution of gain and loss. Changing our perspective to “in my backyard” would have people re-examining decisions and see the end-results. It becomes a “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” situation. No one wants to be treated bad, so why do it to someone to preserve yourself?

    • Surely it is a case of extreme ignorance to simply “turn a blind eye and assume all will be well”, as you indicate, Morgan.
      As you note, we surely want to do things that benefit us–but run into problems when those things come at a cost of hurting others.

    • I agree that NIMBY is kind of like saying “you can die as long as I can survive.” As you said, someone will always suffer for our mistakes and by turning a blind eye to the situation we are actually making it worse.

      If we adopted a “do unto others…” perspective, the world would be safer and cleaner for everyone.

  179. Keeping an ‘in my backyard’ policy in mind when making environmental (and human) decisions is extremely important. This mentality is fighting. I think that so many people are willing to push this issue under the rug so they don’t see it. If they don’t see it, they don’t have to deal with it. It is simply stupid to think that putting nuclear waste (or any waste) somewhere else will not make it back to us. Through water, air and food – it will be back. Why not deal with it head on – not allowing anyone to live in such conditions. Shouldn’t that be a right every human has? This will allow better conditions for all and prevent bigger issues in the future. Isn’t what we want a better life for future generations? Pushing the problems off and simply ignoring them will not fix it.

    • I completely agree with you about people wanting to sweep the issue under the rug. I call it the ostrich syndrome. If I bury my head and ignore it, maybe it will just go away on its own.

      You are right in wanting to deal with the problem head on. If we demand better living conditions for marginalized communities world wide, we surely will be working for a better future for all.

      • Indeed, Anna. Facing a problem is the first step to dealing with it– obviously there are those who would rather not deal with it– but I think we must at least uphold community standards of not harming one another– which is not always happening now with chemical and gmo usage.

    • Thanks for the reminder that preventing a problem is so much easier than fixing it once it is full blown– just like preventing cancer by curbing toxics use, according to the President’s Cancer Panel, is far easier than fighting all these battles to cure those effected by the cancer epidemic. The issue is whether or not we have the resolve to put people’s health over short term corporate profit of a few specific corporations.

    • Hi Ellie, I completely agree with you. Ignoring the problems and pretending they do not exist is just plain old self-defeat. Not only is it self-defeating, it is selfish. Personally, it is hard for me to even comprehend why there are people in this world that don’t want to take action and at least speak up for what is the right or better course of action with regard to reviving our natural world. We all have the right to drink clean water, eat pure foods, etc. As long as we put into the earth as much as we take from it.

  180. How might we change our decisions if we realized our backyards cannot ultimately be separated from anyone else’s? It is worth contemplating, since it all comes back to us (or to our children and grandchildren) in the end. We all share a single planet.

    While I’d like to think that we would change our decisions if we realized our backyards are no separated from anyone else’s, I think that the odds of that are very slim unless there’s a signficant change in our worldviews. America is all about getting what you can, winning out over your neighbor and doing something because it’s easy and convenient and cheap.

    Unless the American people are in complete denial, they have to know that the meat you buy from a frozen package at Wal-Mart comes from a factory farm. Would they buy factory farmed meat if that factory farm was in their backyard? Likely not! There are many other examples, like diamonds, coffee, Coca-Cola, and chocolate, where the suffering of the people or communities involved in getting those products to us here in America have been profiled and made public, yet the majority of Americans continue with business as usual.

    I think the general attitude is I gotta get mine and I’m not gonna worry about how that might affect you getting yours. I don’t think there’s a lot of foresight into what’s coming back around. I hate to be a pessimist, but I still see so much denial on a daily basis, I can’t really help but feel that way.

    • You offer some points to consider, Anna. I do think that greed is something some cultures worked very hard to curb– but our economic system rewards– with some tragic consequences.
      I agree that it is hard to buck these kinds of trends, but I have seen many who do it–and I am heartened by the cultures who do not have a “I want to get mine” first attitude.

  181. I have thought of the NIMBY problem before but have never had a word to go with it. I read another persons reply about how Bush should have thought of her sister or brother when he sent her or him to Iraq. I think we are seeing now, as we have seen many times before, how “everything we create winds up in our most intimate backyard”, everything we do, don’t do, or allow to happen, inevitably effects us either directly or indirectly, through those around us. While I have not gone to Iraq, and on a daily basis I am embarrassed to admit I don’t feel extremely affected by the war, the effects of the war increasingly turns up at my doorstep. My partner and his family were extremely effected by this when his cousin’s (who was in Iraq) wife, turned up with a bipolar disorder. and while on her own ended up spending all of their own savings and trying to spend my partners gramma’s savings as well. Once the cousin came home, she stopped her spending and are repaying their debts. I feel like every action we have has some sort of reaction, even if it isn’t the most obvious. Sending a good man to Iraq may mean leaving a good man’s wife alone financially and emotionally.
    I think it is important to counteract the easy NIMBY theory with the realization that with everything we get we are giving something and with everything we give we are getting something. The point that “NIMBY has good press in our modern economic system, which tells us to “externalize costs”” is a strong and very true one. At a people the U.S needs to fight to spread the idea that when you buy processed foods you are giving up non-processed equivalent foods (since the people who make those products aren’t getting that money), when you are buying foreign goods you are giving up people’s wages and quality assurance, and when you are building your house in the forest you are taking away a part of the forest. I know I would like to live in the forest but I need to realize the negatives of that choice and how to counteract those negatives in a real way, in the place where I took from. I don’t think that buying carbon credits somewhere else is enough! I think if we hold ourselves accountable and think about how the interlaced world will be affected by our decisions then we will be able to get what we care about while limiting the negatives that would happen if the choice was made hastily. Simply stated I think we need to slow down.

    • You bring up another important point here, Caroline. It is not just want we do that effects others– but what we don’t do (standing by and letting certain things happen is also a powerful action).
      It is something we don’t think about enough, that sending a good man to Iraq (as you aptly put it) effects a whole family in profound ways — and therefore beginning such wars must not only to considered carefully, but we must also be responsible for healing the effects on those who chose to serve in our wars.
      I agree with you on the point of carbon credits, which is too much (to my thinking) like license to pollute. I know there are some good thinkers who disagree, but I like Peter deFazio’s argument for why he voted against carbon trading (don’t know if you can find that online, but it comes down to ineffectiveness and unfairness).
      And slowing down wouldn’t hurt!

  182. The first thing that came to mind as a similarity is “treating people as you would like to be treated”. If you are passionate about a clean and sustainable earth where all people are equal and have the right to clothing, a safe home, clean water and plentiful food, then you should pay attention to the companies that you give your money to in exchange for goods and services. You should be aware of your carbon footprint, you should never litter and try to pick up around you as you go, and help yourself and help those around you. If you rely on public transportation, then you should not fight the government when they want to extend their services into your neighborhood. When I lived in LA, there was a huge debate about above ground rail systems. The residents of Culver City vehemently rejected having rails put into their neighborhood even though the residents approved having the rail line extended. The people wanted the trains, but didn’t want the trains in their backyard….they wanted them in someone else’s backyard. We all must sacrifice a little for the sake of everyone.

    • The example of things we want for their service– as long as they are not in our neighborhood– tells us something about our failed attached to the social and environmental commons, Amy.
      That said, it also seems like there is something wrong with a rail line (noise, dust, smoke?) that folks don’t want close by. Now no one wants (for good reason) to live by a freeway– but a hundred years ago, living by a road was a great thing for many reasons. Seems that we need to re-design our transportation technology such that it does not get us where we want to go at the cost of the countryside we pass through to get there.
      Thanks for your comment.

  183. The “NIMBY” attitude is one of ignorance and selfishness, exactly as the essay indicates, because, “We should not make or buy anything we are not willing to eat…, since we ultimately DO wind up ingesting it.” I can think of numerous examples of this:
    – The use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides. Somehow people forget about the basic water cycle most of us learned about in elementary school.
    – The shipment and production of GMO crops in third-world nations. Maintaining crops that are not native to certain parts of the world is extremely expensive in the long run and ultimately makes the land fallow.
    – Industrial factories and cheap laborers. Why is polluting one part of the world and paying laborers criminally low wages acceptable?
    Of course the list can go on and on, but where does it end? In the near future I hope. I believe it can end with us teaching our children to value everything, every “earth other”.

    • Thanks for adding sad examples to this list to the results of segregating ourselves from the world at large, Carol. It does seem to me as well that the solution for this is the holistic valuing of all “earth others”.

  184. Dr. Holden,
    The NIMBY lie to me correlates with the feeling of “out of sight, out of mind”. I feel like people think that when they throw something away, that it just magically disappears because they dont see it affecting their own “backyard”. But in fact, everything you use goes back to the earth in some way and I think you made a great point that we shouldnt use things we wouldnt want ending up in our backyard because eventually, they will.

  185. I was kind taken back by the ignorance of such a policy as “not in my backyard.” The idea that you can just ignore all the bad things that are happening as long as they aren’t happening near you is absurd. To make an analogy, it’s like ignoring a fire that’s burning in the next room and just hoping that, if you don’t hear it or see it, the fire won’t spread to the room that your in. If we ignore the fire, it will surely spread.

    The ideal system is one that follows the golden rule of “do unto other what you would have done unto you” but such a system is not good for business. After all, if businesses had to be conscientious about the environment, they would make a whole lot less money. Because of this (and because of the good press that nimbly gets) I don’t see anything changing anytime soon.

    • Excellent analogy of ignoring the fire burning in the next room with the idea that if we ignore it, it won’t burn us, Mark.
      A persuasive point about the ethic of reciprocity (do unto others) is how widespread it is in cultures throughout the world.

  186. “We all share a single planet.” In the last couple chapters, everything seems to revolve around interdependence and respect for the environment. I liked the viewpoint that the author used to make her point in this essay. I have never heard the term NIMBY before, but it sums up perfectly the attitude that too many Americans have today. Like I have said in many of my comments on other essays, if we moved towards the world views of indigenous peoples, we would respect the environment, and it would respect us. Ultimately we would be much healthier and more successful as a species, even without all the excess of plastics, fossil fuels, and other harmful substances we rely on today.

    • Thanks for your comment, Caleb. As your comment indicates, it is time to evaluate what aspects of the contemporary age really make us better off–and reshape our technology toward sustainability.

  187. This is absolutely a crazy idea, that our waste stays “away” and doesn’t effect us. The world systems are so integrated and constantly shifting that it is plain ignorance to believe such things. Even if the chemicals themselves don’t end up in our bodies or even backyard, they move and effect the world around us, ultimately effecting us. AN example of this is the dead zone in the gulf of mexico, and many others around the world.
    The concept of ‘what goes around comes around’ and the ‘Golden Rule’ seem to resonate here. If we don’t want something to happen to us, we shouldn’t do it to others. It also seems that in the end, we do reap what we sow.

    • Crazy idea that benefits some folks getting rich or no one would ever maintain that our waste stays “away”.
      You give an excellent of the “dead zones” that exist at the places where agricultural chemicals accumulate and flow to the sea.
      One think I think will open our eyes is a re-evaluation of what really matters to us in terms of true “wealth”.

  188. People really do need to embrace the fact that we all share one planet. If we could incorporate a way to help in our day lives, it would make a huge difference, even if it was only a small effort. I think why most people end up not making much of an effort, is that it seems like “too much work” in their already busy lives. In reality though, it would eventually save us time I think. For example, if we learned to accept our differences as people, then our government could save money on warfare expenses. Overall, I think the general public just needs to be educated more on the bigger picture of things

  189. The flow of information has the ability to shrink the world and as the people of the world gain more information they can come together and stand against the people who are only in if for profit.

  190. I have not heard of NIMBY before this class, although after reading it I am realizing that I knew of the happenings, just not the term. This I think is the largest challenge we face as a society and a world. It is an inate characteristic in humans and i believe in all other beings to be self-interested. If it were not we would not have advanced, species would not evolve and some plants for that matter would not have evolved either. It is in every being’s instinct to do the best for itself. Now, with that said, we as humans tend to become driven by greed and forget that we have a cyclic impact and are part of a cyclic life here on earth. Every action performed has some impact somewhere, and through chain of events will come back to affect us in some way. We need to re-learn this and be aware that it is not as easy as throwing away the garbage with dangerous materials in it or cutting down trees that shaded some precious undergrowth. Because doing so might pollute our local food supply, or kill some important plant with pharmacuetical characteristics.

    • As you point out, Carly, we are all (we might even say) all of life is self-interested. The issue is how we define self-interest: do we see ourselves as embedded in an interdependent life world– or do we feel that we can only succeed at the cost of some else’s failure?
      You are absolutely right that we need to understand that each of our actions has consequences –and we are responsible for those. Thanks for your comment.

    • Hi Carly, I definitely agree with you in that it is arguable that every sentient thing has a basic survival instinct and an interest in avoiding pain. And because humans have higher thought, we are capable of disassociating ourselves from the cyclical nature of the biosphere, especially in Western culture. We could learn much from the Eastern religions’ concepts of unity, harmony and karma.

      • Thoughtful consideration, Marissa. If all the world of life has these “instincts” (sentience, as the Dalai Lama puts it), then it follows (in the view of those like this Buddhist leader) that we have an ethical duty not to cause them pain. That implies that a good deal of conscious consideration of the long term and long distance effects of our actions.

  191. I have never heard of NIMBY before, but I have seen it in action. I don’t think people realize the consequences by having the NIMBY viewpoint that they inflict on others. People don’t realize that when they throw stuff away that it has to go somewhere. but, as long as it isn’t in their “backyard” then its not an issue. For example, many people have never heard of the Great Pacific Grabage Patch. it is an extremely large accumulation of plastic floating in circles in the Pacific Ocean. Many people could care less about issues like this, and overfilling landfills, because it doesn’t directly affect them. or at least they don’t realize it directly affects them.

  192. I spoke to my fiance, who is a nuclear engineer, about his thoughts on NIMBY since the nuclear power community and its supporters have been a topic of heated debate historically and currently. On Yucca Mountain, he said, “If you’re not going to allow the government to store nuclear waste where they tested nuclear weapons, nowhere else will ever be deemed acceptable. It’s an unrealistic and unreasonable stipulation in the face of climate change.”

    I think part of the NIMBY mentality comes from a human superiority complex in which people feel entitled to claim and secure “their” land and surrounding areas from perceived threats. It is a very individualistic attitude that opposes the cooperation and partnering methods we should be advocating detailed in previous essays. Another part of the NIMBY mindset is ignorance, as Dr. Holden eloquently stated. People need to be educated about the benefits of solar, wind, and nuclear power in order to make informed decisions.

    We speak of “progress,” but progress toward a more sustainable future will be unachievable without knowing our options and reserving hasty judgement first.

    • Thanks for this comment, Marissa. It would seem that the conclusion is that we should not be going forward with the nuclear power if we haven’t anywhere to store the waste. That is, if we don’t want it in our own backyard, we shouldn’t be producing it. Yucca Mountains happens to be sacred Shoshone land– so there is an additional issue here.
      Reversing “the trend of hasty judgement” is an important goal, as you aptly point out.

  193. This reminds me of the ‘Golden Rule’: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If we treat the backyards of others as we would like them to treat ours, then we’d be a lot more conservative in our development of harsh and/or harmful systems.

  194. This reminds me of an exhibit I once saw where a room was filled with the amount of waste that an average American creates each year. The waste was laid out in piles, lines of soda bottles, a mound of plastic shopping bags, stacks of papers, etc. The room was full! Imagine if everyone had to hold onto all of their waste- it might put a different perspective on things. On a related note, my sister lives in Europe, and in some grocery stores, the companies that produce the goods are charged for every piece of packaging that the store has to get rid of. So, when people started unpacking some of their groceries at the store the companies had to shift how much extra packaging there was in order to save money.

    • Good point Lindzy. I know I would fill a large room with waste myself. Some people don’t realize that when the garbage man takes away your trash, it doesn’t disappear. All of our trash has to go somewhere, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Google search it, its ridiculous how large it has become.

      • Not to mention how many animals we are loosing because of it. When plastic breaks down it looks an awful lot like fish eggs and zooplankton, both common foods that birds feed to their young. So the young are starving because the parents think garbage is food and no one is doing anything to stop it. The governments are to busy arguing over whose responsibility it is to clean it.

        • Good perspective, Tamara. I take heart in the work of volunteers who might circumvent all the argument and just set to work cleaning it. And all of us can help by NOT using plastic– which is also implicated in cancers in its leaching of endocrine disrupting chemicals.

      • Time to realize there is no “away”- -thanks for sharing a self-reflection we all could use regarding what we thrown away.

    • I very much like the idea that we need ways of visualizing (and getting closer to) the waste we produce, Lindzy. It would be great if we had such proactive ideas on packaging as well. Thanks for sharing this.

  195. The NIMBY attitude is one I have often argued against. It is the downfall of much of our society. “We don’t have to look at the clear cut so what does it matter if all the lives that relied on that forest are now dyeing?” Or “We do not have to live with that child so what does it matter to us that she is destroying things?” are common held viewpoints. Then those same people are shocked when the Cougar comes into town looking for food or that same child goes and graffitis their house. Then those same people who were saying what does it matter are crying what did I do to deserve this? They start crying for the government to do something. A more appropriate question would be What did you do to prevent it?

    • Your comment brings up an important related point, Tamara, which is that when we abdicate our personal responsibility, we abdicate our personal power as well– thus all the complaining about what “others” do to us.

    • You brought up a very important point on graffiti. Often society wants to quickly punish those that commit crimes against others however they do not want to become more responsible and active in the community so that the youth of the area do not have a reason to commit those crimes. It is also common when those animals from the wild invade the human world in search of food or plain curiosity. Society is quick to say, we should find that particular animal and kill it so that it does not kill a human or grow to not fear humans. This is plain nonsense because the Native Americans lived amongst animals peacefully for centuries. Society is just afraid of the problems that they do not want to fix.

      • You have an important point about fixing what causes our problems rather than cleaning up the symptoms. As you note, this takes considerable thought and energy– so many do not do it, but it is obviously the best way to go.

  196. The question posed at the end of this essay left me unsure of whether or not we, as modern industrialized humans, will ever be able to recognize the NIMBY lie. It seems as though we would have recognized by now the ultimate damage we are truly causing to our own backyard, as it is the entirety of earth itself, simply because of the media attention such destruction has received in recent years – climate change, oil spills, loss of species. If we have not been able to interpret those environmental messages, I would think we could recognize the human messages that are also abundant – hazardous waste plants being built next to communities simply because they are poor, indigenous groups bringing issues of environmentalism before the courts, consistently abnormal medical test results including the rise in cancer. What I think is most surprising is that these are all things that are directly affecting us as individuals in our immediate backyards not off in some distant place, and we are still willingly ignoring them. These examples, of course, focus on the effects to the individual, but how one human can ignore the suffering he or she is causing to another is even more puzzling. What is so wrong with modern society that we have lost all sympathy and empathy for other humans?

    I do not understand how we are still acting in ignorance with these realities knocking on our front doors. We consistently choose the easy way out looking not into our future but our present. Enough with the “living in the here and now” excuse. We can look back on history and pass judgment for so many reasons of which one is the fact that previous generations did not think of the later consequences. Well what are we doing now? We better start acting in ways that ensure our future generations have something to be proud of and in all honesty that ensure we have future generations. I am tired of hearing it does not matter; I cannot be the only one who cares (and I know I am not, but it is really about the principle). EVERYONE must care and must act responsibly and respectfully in their “own” backyards if the world is to persist.

    I think my biggest question for the world’s human population is this: Where did all the compassion go?

    • You are not the only one who cares, Amber– though it must sometimes seem like that as you view all the crises that, as you point out, are knocking at our front doors. The human capacity for denial is pretty great– but so is the capacity for compassion. I think part of the problem is the propagation of the idea of powerlessness-the sense that what we do makes no difference– thus justifying our apathy. This is solidly wrong and in need of change–and you may be assured you are an essential part of the movement in that direction.

  197. This is so true and so sad. I myself find myself thinking this sometimes- well if it doesn’t seem to affect me directly- I have other things to worry/think about. This is quite dangerous though because how are we ever going to change our worldview to be more interdependent and connected with the NIMBY mentality?

    • Dangerous thinking indeed, Jen. Thanks for sharing your self-reflection here. I don’t think we will get past NIMBY until we are honest with ourselves–and that takes some courage.

    • I appreciate your insight, Jen. I agree that it is difficult to consider what happens elsewhere in the world with so many personal concerns going on as well. I think that is what makes it so important though, because ultimately what happens elsewhere in the world will become a personal concern to some extant or another.

  198. While I agree with the concept that NIMBY is a lie, I also have to wonder about some of the examples cited in the article. Particularly, the example of the Depression era Californian that panned gold to get money for a loaf of bread. This man was aware that the people would not stand idly by and watch their children starve. This is, of course, because people are inherently selfish. Themselves and their families are the most important things in most people’s lives. While I don’t see anything wrong with the desire to ensure the safety and well-being of one’s family above all else, that IS the first stepping stone to the NIMBY attitude. Obviously there has to be either an understanding that what happens elsewhere affects much greater aspects of society & the environment, which can affect the safety of a person or their family and there has to be a greater respect across vast communities for the sanctity of other people’s rights to life.

    • I hope I did not give the wrong impression here, Dale. The man telling this story (who was himself a bachelor) had nothing but compassion for those who could not stand to see their children suffer. And I must state that I for one don’t feel it is selfish NOT to want to stand by and watch your children suffer. Whereas there is one way of looking at families that says they isolate us from larger concerns, there is another way in which they teach compassion and support the extension of it to others– I am thinking of indigenous views which extend the feeling of kinship to all life.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  199. This article is very relevant in our society today because I think the world is more interconnected now than ever before. With a greater population of people on the planet and our ease of traveling, communication, trade, etc it is obvious that what we do can and will have an affect on the rest of the environment. Whether it be a social injustice or an environmental concern, it is important to understand that what I do will affect others and what they do affects me. We cannot hide from the world and decisions of others.

    • I especially like the way you concluded that “we cannot hide from the world”–and the decisions of others effect us even as ours effect them. Our world is indeed more connected than ever before. Thanks for your comment.

  200. I feel that the people that hold this NIMBY mentality are the worst to try to get to realize the impact of humans on the environment. Because their root feeling is that of apathy, they are even harder to convince than those that dislike environmentalism. They will not and refuse to show any interest in change unless it affects them in any way, and it can be very hard to show them that everything done anywhere in the world affects everyone else in it.

    • You have a good point in apathy’s being more of a roadblock to conversation than the passion of an opposing view. A good dose of powerlessness and denial doesn’t make this easy either. It sad that some of these have to face a personal crises such as cancer in order to get it. But it is important to keep communicating as you are obviously doing.

  201. This essay points out very clearly that one’s own backyard is not necessarily the lot of land that we live on but that one’s own backyard is much closer to that in that its our own bodies. I find the comparison between destroying the environment to destroying their own body to be very similar to how the Buddhist and Native Americans feel in that all life are interconnected and a part of one ecosystem. If we simply send off an order to a developing country to make products in a factory that damages the air we breathe it will not be very long before we ourselves have to breathe the same air that is overhead at the factory in the third world country. I also find that this concept of abusing our bodies goes nicely with how the American people have begun a downward trend in the quality of food that they eat. In the past the food on the dinner table was typically fresh and without chemicals. Today even the fruits and vegetables are injected with chemicals and not to mention that many of the foods today are processed. More waste and works goes into the foods we eat today in order to squeeze more economic profits for the manufacturers. It is interesting that we continue to damage the most important backyard to us all.

  202. This whole NIMBY attitude is infuriating. I thought the comment right at the start of this article that said we “divide up the world into good parts where we live and bad parts where we don’t” really captures how some people (and I say some, because clearly there are those who do not) view the world. There are good parts, the parts we have somehow ‘earned’ and ‘deserve’ to live in, and keep everything for ourselves, even things we don’t really need because their ours and no one else can have them…..and then there are the bad parts, where ‘bad’ people live that make ‘bad’ choices and have ‘bad’ diseases and ‘bad’ things happen…it’s unbelievably childish! And sadly, I know people who think exactly that way. It’s unbearably selfish, and sad.

    • I completely agree with you. I believe that most that have this NIMBY world view are in the developed world. It seems sad that people in undeveloped countries have more respect for the planet and what it provides than the supposedly “more educated” people from the developed world. I think it comes from the sense of entitlement that plagues so many.

    • It is indeed, Kim. Thanks for sharing an alternative view!

  203. In reading both your blog post and [some of] the responses of fellow students, I can do nothing except for shake my head in solidarity. The basic principle of NIMBY, the BY, is, as your title suggests, a lie. What is our backyard? The ocean, which provides us with food? The mountains, which provide us water? Other countries, which we rely on for food, textiles, technology, and, unfortunately, fuel? Even the infinite backyard of outer space still effects us. If we start sending garbage up there, what’s to prevent it from collecting speed and coming back to us at full force?

    Living on the Earth, in the solar system, cannot be analogized with living in a house with a backyard. We are a giant, sprawling community, interdependent on one another to survive. How can we pretend that our individual lives have no effect on the big picture? Every bottle of water we buy, every mile we drive, every child we bring into the world or pass on the street with a smile: we are connected. It is the nature of being alive, be it as a human being, animal, plant, or abstract idea. There is no such thing as being solitary. Alone and naked in the woods, you might think you’ve found true solitude, but the tree you’re sleeping under would think differently.

    Your backyard is just the back of your house. Your community is the universe.

    • Thanks for the nod in solidarity, Lily. Indeed, we are none of us solitary: that is why certain African languages have no work for loneliness- the world is so full of life, loneliness is inconceivable. I appreciate your passionate personal response on the home in the larger universe we all share.

  204. I think especially here in the US, we (not all, but most) are very NIMBY minded, even if we do not want to admit it. I did appreciate the including of military service in the essay. It is not often included in these types of discussions. My brother has done four tours in his 11 years and counting career in the Army. Each time he is promised it is his last. While he is not currently aware of any upcoming deployments, he not holding his breath either. There have been contentious debates on both sides of the issue of whether to keep troops over seas or pull them home. The sad thing is that I doubt that the powers that be (on either side of the issue) have anyone over there that their decisions would effect.

    • I think it is inexcusable to keep sending people back for further tours of duty that they do not choose, Amanda. I am sorry that your brother has had to deal with this.

  205. I like this article. Today’s American society claims to continue to have grown more open minded, but I have noticed that the “open-mindedness” flows along more with mainstream media and popularity than on personal convictions; even the idea of morals and personal conviction is mocked.
    I witnessed a sad example of this at school. A group of people sat visiting and eating, and one lady said that she should finish her food because there were starving kids in Africa, her friends all laughed at the comment. Their passive attitude is an unfortunate example of the up and coming generation, these are the newest voters and parents of the future of America. I hope they learn soon to view the world’s problem in a different way, because as you said, the whole world is our backyard. I do not think that girl would be laughing if she and her friends were starving.

    • I appreciate your compassion. My sense is that an essential element of community is listening to one another– and honoring the values and convictions that each of us hold dear. If we don’t have that as a start, I don’t know how we can join one another in a democratic society.
      Our global interconnection to me seems undeniable and I find hope in the care of many young people that I meet.
      Your comment indicates the other fact that our attitudes toward food are too often distorted in this country, in terms of waste and our sense of where our food comes from–and over-consumption on the part of some and starvation on the part of others.

    • I completely agree with you michael that the up and coming generation needs to get a more realistic view towards society and nature. But one thing you have to understand is that this viewpoint towards the world was taught and learned from a previous generation, it is not something that they developed on their own. I think that their is a more apparent note of apathy and powerlessness to this next generation, but this main ideal of NIMBY has been around for generations.

      • It is true that a larger ethical perspective is something that older generations must indeed model and teach other generations, Justin. In this sense, the generations need to support one another to get beyond the apathy and powerlessness you point out.

  206. A couple years ago I watched a very disturbing documentary on Darfur, it sickened my that I had no idea such a thing was even taking place. The U.S. has raised me to be a NIMBY. So often are we only taught about the things that directly affects us here in the U.S. or in our State. After watching that doc., I promised myself that I would end the NIMBY mentality inside my head. I purchased a Save Darfur T-shirt and a bumper sticker. I recommend the movie to everyone I know. Not only do we need to educate children about what is happening here but also on foreign soil as well. The idea that what happens in Iceland, Thailand, or Iraq doesn’t affect us is just plain stupid. The trash swirling around in the great pacific garbage patch affects us daily whether we see the effects or not.

    • Thank you for sharing your global compassion, Kiley– and for acting on this. That is one good thing that can come of modern media– bringing us to a more intimate sense of connection with those across the world from us.

  207. The idea of the “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) philosophy/ideal makes my body and mind hurt to the core. I have always thought about the people that think this way and wonder how it is possible for them to not consider the consequences for having this kind of philosophy driving their day to day lives. I know that i too have been raised in a NIMBY fashion simply because of being born and raised in the United States, but I would like to think that I act and think more globally than that. It is this state of mind that have lead to such things as trash islands and genocides in country such as Darfur and Rwanda. It amazes me daily how many people live with ideal of NIMBY and out of sight out of mind

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and obviously compassionate response, Justin. It would be wonderful if our love of our own place was used as a model to extend our care to others rather than to hide the consequences of our actions from ourselves.

    • Hey Justin,

      I totally agree with you. People that live the NIMBY way make me very irritated. I think we need to use all our social media resources and TELL EVERYONE the “In My Backyard” message. Once this “In My Backyard” message is the normal thing “Norm” to do the masses will follow.

      The none believers will soon understand “Everything we create winds up in our most intimate backyard—our own bodies.” There are many examples of societies polluting their water’s, which then magnifies up the food chain. A great example of this is in the documentary “The Cove.” The cove is documents the horrific Dolphin slaughter that happens every year in Japan. They have found high levels of mercury in the dolphin meat and it is still served in every school in Japan. This is wrong on so many levels starting with polluting in the ocean, slaughtering thousands of dolphins and poisoning children.

      The first step to stopping this is opening people’s eyes to the incidents happening all over the world. Hopefully more people will stand up and speak against all the issues that effect this fragile world we live in.

  208. I think that the NIMBY idea in this article is a falsehood. If people that followed the NIMBY idea could look outside of the idea, then they would find out what is really going on in this world and realize that everything is not fine. I am disturbed by how some people could live by the NIMBY idea because they are naive to know of the consequences that follow the NIMBY idea. This is why I agree with the idea that people should have an “in my backyard” attitude, so that we can be aware of the actions we do and determine if it will negatively affect the environment.

    • Thanks for your response here, Maileen. Caring for that which is close to us–and using that as a model for connecting with the rest of the world and understanding the consequences of our actions there is both a moral and pragmatic strategy.

  209. I agree that NIMBY is a pretty stupid and outright ignorant worldview of life, however, it is not the sole worldview luckily. Generally speaking, the human organism has evolved in such a way to cast aside any self-responsibility and to perceive the “world” as a separate thing. In reality, the world is within us because we are the world. It takes many individuals to create a society. Individuals as a group create the world and the world in turn affects us.

    Many industrialized cultures have educated successive generations to accept the idea that problems happen to you. They hardly ever teach that we are the root of our problems and their circumstances. Our culture has psychologically conditioned individuals that in order to “progress” we must place all trust in an outside entity, thus we give up responsibility. We “trust” technology, government, corporations, religion, etc. to solve our problems and end our suffering. This is a false reality in that there can be no individual security when we surrender our ability to provide it for ourselves.

    However, we do see selfless acts of compassion and kindness within the human species. This evolutionary exception to the rule may be the one saving grace for the majority of humanity living in a world of illusion and irresponsibility.

    • Dwayne, this is obviously on issue to which you have given some thought. How would you place your own idea about the “human organism” in the context of the millions of years it took us to become human, in which humans lived largely in cooperative societies in which personal responsibility was paramount–and derived from our intimate relationship to all life? Besides the essays, “Indigenous Peoples” and “We Can’t Blame it on Nature” on this site, you might be interested in reading Dorothy Lee’s essay on the Lakota in her Freedom and Culture, in which she examines the cultural linking of freedom, responsibility and relationship.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • I think that what I refer to as the “human organism” is more of an idea about the nature of thought and consciousness than of a biological entity. I should have defined what I meant by this term. Granted, humans did live in interdependent groups where individuals had great responsibility to one another and nature, however, I don’t believe everyone would have been like that. And if they were, perhaps we have missed something in our “modern” age.

        A better view of the human condition might be from the idea of education over different segments of history. Recently, the education of the Industrial Society has created individuals who crave commodities and accumulate “things.” This is what I mean by the “human organism.” I admit is a biased and condition view though.

        Thank you for pointing out that things change over time and that we can still have personal responsibility to ourselves, each other and the planet even today. People weren’t always the way they are right now.

        • And there are even many who do not see consumerism and competition as primary virtues even given the socialization of industrial values, they have found another path. I find this very hopeful in the potentials for the vision expressed in your last line here.

  210. I don’t agree that the NIMBY statement is based on a falsehood. It does exist and people live by it. NIMBY is an idea of ignorance. To think that it’s alright to do badly in someone else’s backyard and not in their own is wrong. Yet everyone contributes to this idea in the modern world. It’s almost impossible not to contribute to NIMBY, in some form. For example if electricity is used in a home, which is generated by a dam which blocks a river to a communities once abundant food source. Most homes use electricity, and the way it is generated effects someone’s backyard. Another example is when we buy gas for our cars it may support global warming, which would affect people’s backyard on a global scale. Also drilling for oil to provide gas for our cars can ruin ecosystems. These are a few simple examples I thought up real quick but the list goes on. So I argue that most people contribute to NIMBY and don’t think about it. Most people don’t realize it because their actions are not affecting them directly.

    • Thanks for the balance in your response, Zach. Since we are, as you indicate, tied into modern systems that bring up our electricity and transportation, it seems to me all the most important to be sensitive to the far ranging results of our actions.

      • I agree that most people don’t realize they are taking a NIMBY attitude about many things, ecological, economical, social … and many people who do realize it go along with it in one way or another (myself included) because in our modern culture we don’t have much of a choice. We’re tied into this grid system in one way or another, and for a wide variety of reasons. And some people go along with it because frankly, they agree with it. They’re really ok with NIMBY. They isolate themselves and their kin in carefully crafted neighborhoods and never look over the brick wall because they know that what’s out there would terrify them.

        • It is true that we are tied into the modern “grid” with its multiple interlinkings, Neyssa. But I don’t think this means we have no choice– thus that honoring our authentic values may take a bit more work and discipline– and because of those same interlinkings, may have much more effect than we realize.

  211. I feel the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) worldview is used to often all over the world. We need to find a way to change this attitude. This article sums it up best “Even as we try to divide up the world into good parts where we live and bad parts where we don’t, earthly cycles and global dynamics are busy mixing it all up… Everything we create winds up in our most intimate backyard—our own bodies.” Lets say it came to picking between two locations to raise a family Love Canal or New York City. Back in 1953 Hooker chemical had been using Love Canal as a burying site for 21,000 tons of toxic waste. Which city would you pick? I think all of us would be lying if we said that we didn’t have some sort of a NIMBY worldview.

    If people come together and started thinking about their actions and how they affect the earth, we can stop more damage from happening. Like this article states people need to have a “In My Backyard” worldview all the time. If we use Love Canal as another example the dumpsite was discovered and investigated by the Niagara Falls Gazette, from 1976 through the evacuation in 1978. If people don’t have a NIMBY worldview then how come it took 2 years of Love Canal residents getting really sick or dying before the town was evacuated.

    We can’t fix all the damage that has been done in the past, but we can stop more from happening by getting everybody to stop, think, and work together.

    • It is certainly true that most of us want the best (cleanest and safest) places to live for ourselves and our families, Chris–and also true that those with relatively less economic power and social status don’t have so many choices in this regard as do others.
      Perhaps the most tragic thing about your example of Love Canal is how long it took for those living there is become aware how hazardous this residency was to the health of their families: in fact, one of the reasons information on Love Canal came out was that some brave and perceptive local families became suspicious about the high rates of disease clusters in the local area–and pushed until they got information on the chemical dump– sadly, after some serious health effects were suffered by local children.

  212. NIMBY is convenient for those in power with money to spare and inconvenient for those generations yet to be born. Today’s generations outside the US are seeing more and more jobs come to them, because they will work for less money and not ask for benefits. The US sanctions how much toxins can be admitted into the air annually, where as China admits far more tons of toxins. And where do a lot of our house hold and everyday goods come from? Out of this country, majority coming from overseas. We love our computers and cell phones and cars and steal ect…. Moreover where do these items go when we move on to something new? Either to our land fills away from our personal back yard or to third world countries away from our national back yard. Imagine if “indians” said NIMBY, just goes to show it doesn’t matter if you want a better future for your children. All that matters is ones power and money for people to earn.

    • Also from the reading cheap labor and destruction of natural resources in other countries is an external cost, but an internal benefit is our consumer goods at the lowest price we can purchase them.

    • I think your first line sums it up in a pointed and articulate way, Wil– this worldview that internalizes benefits and externalizes costs is “convenient for those in power and inconvenient for those generations yet to be born.”
      As you note, however, it all eventually comes back home to us– a key issue is how soon we become conscious of these–and do something about global justice in this interdependent world.

  213. Many of the current economic issues we’re having today stem from this idea. One of the reasons corporations were able to move their companies to China, etc is that we, as a society, deemed it ok to purchase the plastics as long as they weren’t made in our backyards. Had we simply said we weren’t going to purchase them, that instead we would buy products that were made here with quality materials we would have more jobs, and China wouldn’t be facing being the world’s pollution disaster area. Maybe we would have fewer trinkets, but at least what we did have would be worth paying for, and maybe we’d be able to pay for them because we’d all be employed.
    It is estimated that there is more plastic in our oceans than kelp! And plastic has only been around for 80, 90 years? What’s next?

    • Fewer trinkets and employment in our communities: seems like a decent trade off to me. Seems like we certainly don’t need any more plastic until we learn how to better recycle what we have! Thanks for your comment.

    • I agree Neyssa, we vote with our purchasing. Items will only be made if their is a demand for it.

  214. NIMBY is an idea that has been instilled into our entire culture and it is one that needs to be gotten rid of. It is very much true that even if we try and not have it in our backyard, it eventually comes back. A lot of times we don’t even realize that the waste we create comes back to us. We have dumped so much toxic chemicals into the ocean and yet we eat from the sea, those toxins don’t just disappear. We haven’t used DDT in decades but yet we can still find traces of it in our own bodies, even in the bodies of people who were born 40 years later. The chemicals, fertilizers, and birth control we all use on a daily bases makes it back into our drinking water.

    This kind of attitude is exactly what we’ve been reading about. The fact that we understand the cycle and understand that what we put in is what we get out, and even if it’s not in “our backyard” eventually we are going to see it again. All of this understanding still does not have an impact on behaviors. We get it but since we have taken ourselves out of the equation, we have no moral obligations to stop doing what we have been doing.

    • I am more hopeful than you in terms of our understanding of the interdependence of natural cycles, Laura. As we learn more and more about antibiotics and pesticides filtering into our drinking water, there are moves to change this– though I agree with you that these are neither quickly nor thoroughly enough.
      I think the issue is rather that we don’t understand these things in a serious way–that is, take them to heart. If we actually felt the full impact of this understanding, my sense is that we would do more about it.
      “Taking ourselves out of the equation”, as it effects our moral choices, is an interesting dynamic– as in the case of climate change, in which “climate skeptics”– flying in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus, are trying to argue that humans have nothing to do with this–and accordingly have no responsibility to change their behavior. Thank for your comment, Laura.

  215. What if it doesn’t wind up in our backyard? Would it be ok then? I understand the logic being used and the truth behind it, but polluting someone else’s backyard, exploiting someone else’s children is wrong, even if there is no personal repercussion. In Christianity, it’s do the right thing or you’ll burn in eternal damnation. In biology, we’re told to slow down this mass extinction because biodiversity is good for humans. Polluting the planet is bad for you. Not polluting the planet is bad. The dominate society is so selfish. The big question always is: what’s in it for me? How do I benefit? In order to get the majority of people on the ‘preserve the health of our planet’ bandwagon, we need to convince them that it’s in their best interest (and it is) but we have to appeal to them on this ‘immediate gratification’ platform that has completely warped society and the planet. I read some of Wandering on the Way, Taoism, and it talked about how people who really embody Tao cannot sway society because in order to do so, one must step off the path, because that’s how out of whack the world is, so if one wishes to remain Tao, then one must be patient in non-action. I bring this up, not because I am promoting non-action per se, but because I am frustrated with the selfishness of the dominate society and I just long to hear arguments in favor of preserving the natural world for the sake of the natural world. And to see movements with large populations of people being selfless and kind for the sake of being selfless and kind without being screwed or canonized.
    I think that this idea is part of our class, presenting world views where the self isn’t central to all things around it, but simply one of many, infinite, interconnected, equal, different, worthy brethren.

    • Thoughtful point for consideration, Amy. There is the logical/scientific reality and then there is the moral issue of responsibility deriving from living in an interdependent world. I would say that ethics demands we be responsible for the results of our actions wherever they wind up–and whomever they effect. The problem with the isolation stance is that it hides the results of our actions from ourselves– and thus denies our responsibility for them.
      I appreciate the vision you long to see– and I encourage you to put it out there in whatever way there is for you to do this, since it seems to be an authentic and important part of who you are. . As we progress with this class, you will see that there are such movements as you long to see– and you are not alone in your values and concerns.

    • Amy,

      As Dr. Holden stated below you are definitely not alone in your plight. It is SO frustrating that the industrialized society seems to be rationalizing the cost-benefit-analysis. “Well if the costs are worth the benefit (to me) than it’s worth it!” What about the costs to the natural world, and eventually people? I believe that many people are trying to find a delicate balance with nature and progress, but it is very difficult to do. Selfishness in humans seems ingrained now, unlike what history shows us, with some indigenous peoples and older cultures being excellent examples of UN-selfish and respectful people living in harmony with the environment because that was just the way it was, the only benefit to them was a happy and healthy co-existence. I can only hope that eventually as a whole, people will behave this way again (before it’s too late). Take care.

      • Before it is too late, indeed, Nick. I appreciate the personal care you express for the world that sustains us–and the support you give one another. This is where I find a good deal of my personal sense of hope.

  216. This concept is something that I have heard about on numerous occasions, especially recently with the growing awareness imparted by the nature of the courses I am enrolled in, and the growing concern that makes it a more common topic of news coverage than it used to be.

    One area of my personal life that I am most familiar with the concept is that of chemicals and food. There are numerous chemicals that have been banned in the United States but are still used on food products imported from other countries. In my opinion, if something is so potentially dangerous to human or other species’ health that it has been banned in one country (and not due solely to one bizarre reaction or circumstance), it seems wrong to not promote that same awareness among other producers. The short term benefits such as increased yields might seem superior, but the long term health problems are likely to be more costly overall. If importing nations were to pay a higher price for their goods, the difference could be used to foster a healthier environment and better education for the growers, such as what we are seeing in many sectors of the coffee and cacao industries. This is especially true of small-scale merchants, and the concept would benefit many if it were adopted by larger industries.

    I don’t think that anyone should find it acceptable to push hazardous conditions off onto another person, community, or country because they want to save money and/or don’t want to have those conditions “at home” and close by. Even if it is only looked at from a self-preservation standpoint, there is every chance that those hazardous materials could make it back to the same area they have been exiled from, and that seems reason enough to forgo their use as a standard.

    • Indeed, Adrienne– chemicals in food are a very large issue– and also, fortunately, an arena in which each of us can register our values– since each of us eat– choosing what to eat and where it came from and our relationship to that food each time we do.
      Another essential point you bring up here is the crossing between ethics (and doing no harm to others by spreading the results of our bad choices to them) and that of self-care. In an interdependent world, these wind up being intertwined– if in no other way, perhaps, that acting our values is a kind of self-care of self-respect. Thanks for your comment.

  217. NIMBY seems to be incorporated into all our economical, political, and social order. As times goes by it seems like there is so little that has been done to avoid such causations. Everyone knows the harm NIMBY does. Yet some turn their back towards it, while those who acknowledge it can’t do much about it. The NIMBY mindset doesn’t seem to have much opposition because the general public seems quiet passive towards it. It feels as if this NIMBY battle cannot be won because at political level not much is being done to regulate it. I don’t think any religious group support NIMBY. So maybe with increasing problems caused by the NIMBY mentality, incorporating moral lessons into the religious preaching sessions might make the general public somewhat confident to oppose NIMBY.

    • Hello Shallesh, interesting thing how worldview is this way– so that a concept that we find in our economic sphere also winds up enacted in political and social–and environmental– spheres as well.
      Interesting point about moral lessons that religions might teach to counter this attitude; certainly it counters the compassion preached by most such religions.

  218. DR. Holden,
    The NIMBY mindset is so prominent in our society, as you said it seems impossible to get anything accomplished that might actually be environmentally and humanly beneficial. From Wind turbines off the Massachusetts coast, to a better sewage treatment plant here in Hawaii, these things all fall under NIMBY. “Well it’s a great idea, and I too believe in a better world for people and the Earth, but it will look like garbage, so I won’t vote for it.” It’s a sad and common theme. I also like how you related the economics of the world in terms of externalities and internalities to NIMBY. I always thought that you can’t place a price on a natural good, because then you have a biased opinion and thus cost, of what may be important or not. I do think however that in our current capitalistic mindsets, that this would ultimately benefit the environment more than hurt it, which is better than nothing in my opinion. Relating the externalities and internalities to the NIMBY mindset really puts it into perspective. Thank you.

    • And you are quite welcome– thank you for your comment.
      Perhaps we need a shifting idea of aesthetics that parallels that which has changed the concept of “pretty” lawns in urban areas to allow for more wild areas–and more food growing, along with the re-shaping of certain technologies (who said these had to be ugly to work well?)
      The question of beauty is a pointed one. I think of muralist Lily Yeh who spurred the reclamation of the most blighted area in Philadelphia by creating beauty there–and how some pioneers saw “wild” nature as chaos…
      All in all, in the social sphere, I think we somehow need to separate the idea of beauty from privilege so that SOME are privileged to be surrounded by (self-deigned?) loveliness, while others much accept ugliness as their due.

  219. It really seems ridiculous that people would assume that because the power plant or plastics manufacturer isn’t within their neighborhood that they are safe from the negative effects. It is a scary thought that everything we have been doing to this earth since industrialized time is accumulating in our own bodies!

    • That kind of segregation does seem ridiculous, Erin– but then, it derives from a society with a history of segregating peoples (races, genders, ages, cultures) from one another.

  220. I was happy that Madronna Holden brought up how silly it is that the U.S.A is building a wall to try and keep illegal immigrants out. It is silly because if the reward is still there people will do anything to get to it. But it also raises the question “Whats happening in Mexico for Hispanic s to risk coming to the USA. This is a dualistic view because instead of trying to give help to the Hispanics they build a wall to keep them out.

    • Good perspective, Nathan. You bring up a key point in analyzing why Mexican immigrants are so motivated to come here–and US corporations are hardly blameless in this dynamic.

  221. NIMBY blinds us to the consequences. Nuclear energy is considered a viable source of energy, but I have never been a fan. Beyond meltdowns and disasters like Fukushima, nuclear power produces radioactive waste. This is waste that requires long-term monitoring and maintenance. If the containers leak they could potentially poison our soil and groundwater. And it is waste we are having trouble dealing with in the U.S. The Yucca Mountain storage facility has been on hold almost since it was proposed. Nevadans do not want nuclear waste in their backyard. (

    On January 6, 2012 the radio show This American Life aired an episode called “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.” It was a portion of a performance given by Mike Daisey. Mike talks about his love for all things Apple and his subsequent visit to an Apple factory in China to find out who makes all his stuff. After listening to the show, I was left thinking I never wanted to buy another Apple product again (although the company seems to do a better job than most in monitoring its factories). And I was left wondering if there are any companies that I would feel OK purchasing from if I knew their manufacturing trail from start to finish.

    This also calls to mind the recent story about Victoria’s Secret ties to a fair-trade cotton program that used forced child labor. (

    • The report on the Apple factories is horrifying. As Daisey points out, there is no excuse for such a throw-away attitude toward other humans and Apple needs to audit these factories through unannounced visits and severe sanctions on the violators of standards they lay out. Do you know if a transcript of this program is available online anywhere?
      The sad thing about the fair-trade cotton program is that it has the potential to give a bad name to an important global and community-run program (fair trade) that IS succeeding in supporting third world communities, especially in Latin America. I don’t know what happened here, but I hope we learn more details soon.
      Thanks for bringing up these important issues.

    • It is just a big circle of stupidity as to why corporations act the way they do. Congress puts these tax pressures on companies so it forces them to manufacturing over seas because the cost of labor is so cheap. They know they can get away with it because in reality no one will say anything and even if word gets out that the company is doing horrible things to people, their products will still sell and its just pocket change to pay people to keep quiet. The politicians need to all be fired and laws changed to bring everyone together.

  222. I think that if people really knew what was going on in other parts of the world they would be more active in changing things. The media keeps telling people only what they want to hear not what is important. The coal power plants in China are a good example of how things are out of sight out of mind. The burning of coal releases mercury into the air which the rice crops then absorb and we then ingest. The idea of “well it is not here so it does not hurt me” is a lie. The carbon affects everyone on the planet and the mercury affects anyone who ingests the rice. People really need to become more aware of their surroundings and only then will things truly change.

    • I agree the media does not always tell the truth and you have these large mining corporations that don’t want the facts that they are polluting the environment out in the press. I think that a lot of the ideas on the media are miss leading. The reason these large mining corporations are mining in other countries is because we have environmental laws and a lot of the others countries don’t or they are not as strict.

    • Stephen, I agree that if people had a better idea about what was going on around the world that they may be more inclined to change it. However, I am not so sure the media is at fault here. There are plenty of opportunities to get information about what’s going on throughout the world from websites, documentaries and other sources. We are presented with ample amounts of opportunities for information to be derived but some choose not to use it.

      • It is important to think critically and dig our own information– would you also agree that media that has access to millions of viewers and manipulates things for the corporate gain of their owners is at fault for manipulating their audiences?

    • I agree the media has an inordinate amount of power, but who gives it to them? Yep! We do. Having worked in the media most of my life, I know there is no agenda behind the wings, but it is about money, so it’s about the number of people who listen/watch to them–it’s just sensationalizing what is out there so you and I will will watch/listen to the “sexiest” broadcast. Example: A snow storm in Oregon! ;0)

      • Good insights with the addition that there is definitely an “agenda behind the wings” among certain media moguls who specifically work to foster agendas that support particular corporate agendas. There are meeting minutes to prove it in some cases.

  223. The thought of the NIMBY is just terrible because the pollutants we put into the air and water even though it is not in our back yard will end up polluting our bodies and children’s bodies. I know a lot of people who have the same mind set out of sight out of mind. Because of the NIMBY idea the mining companies are going to different countries and that don’t have laws to protect their ecosystems from the toxic wastes that these mining companies are putting into streams and rivers. Not the mention the toxic dust that comes from dried up tailing ponds. Oh and if some wants to say well this is not happening in our country they are wrong. There are over 500,000 abandoned mines and there waste pilings are still polluting the streams and soils nearby; not to mention they are dangerous to wildlife and humans. All of these pollutants end up in the water we drink or the foods we eat. Hopefully by educating our children we can change the current mindset of NIMBY and start saving our environment.

    • Hi Christi,
      I remember seeing the multi-colored waters of streams in southeast Ohio (former coal mining area) for my first time and not believing that this was really allowed to happen. Then I moved to the Rocky Mountains and was hiking outside of Silverton where the green, yellow and read tailings streamed down the mountainside into the Animas River. No cleanup operation in sight. Both of these areas were “out of sight” and in very few people’s backyards but really, these lands are our lands and so they are our backyards.
      I’ve seen pictures of much worse outside of the U.S. but as you say, it is happening right here in our own backyards and we better wakeup as a society and recognize what we are actually doing to our own planet. I don’t see Mars as a viable alternate for humans to live anytime soon but if we keep up this pace, Earth may begin to resemble the red planet.

      • It is sad that the water we so badly need (in fact, all live needs) to sustain us can be polluted when “out of sight.” I like what folks like the Riverkeepers do– monitoring their rivers, so they never go “out of sight”.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christi. I would hope that we are able to educate our children in part by modeling better behavior on our part. The cases you list indicate how compassion for others is also pragmatic for ourselves.

      • Yes the more that we can educated our children the better shape the world will be in time to come. If we keep ignoring what we are doing to the world we won’t have one left to save.

        • Yes, and the opposite is fortunately also true, I think– if we change in the right direction, we have a whole world– and our children’s whole future– to reclaim.

  224. The Nimbly concept certainly seems to have stemmed from ignorance and closed mindedness. It is astonishing that some people don’t realize that their backyard extends further than the twenty feet of grass behind their homes. We should think of our backyard as all the land we can see around us and beyond. We should think of our backyard as earth in its entirety. Though we may not use fire retardants and pesticides immediately behind our homes these chemicals are still ending up on our food and in our water supply. Though we are not small dicing plastic and adding it to our salads we still end up ingesting it. Until we truly understand the scope of our backyard we will be forced to endure the environmental consequences of others choices.

    • It is indeed “astonishing” to fail to realize that our backyards extend beyond our fence lines. On the other hand, we have a worldview that partitions the world in order to manage it (and even know it, as in the case of scientific specialization)– so it is perhaps so surprise that we are good at doing this.

  225. Professor Holden, I can certainly hear the emotion and passion in your essay and I agree. The question at the end asking, “How might we change our decisions if we realized our backyards cannot ultimately be separated from anyone else’s?” contains the answer—that is—We can, should and will change our decisions because we realize our backyards cannot ultimately be separated from anyone else’s. This idea aligns very well with the belief of Indigenous Peoples. When the pioneers took their land, it was inconceivable that anyone could “own” the land. To them, it was not mankind’s decision to make. After all, the Earth was the authority. It seems to me we are learning the lesson of what happens when mankind thinks he can become the authority and dominate and control the Earth. It just doesn’t work. We aren’t smart enough. No question.

    • Yeah. Maybe you are right. The answer is shown in “how might we change our decision if…….” I think that some people actually have never thought about what results we will recieve because they only care about own stuff and own life. Or just they did not want to take “responsibility” or “deal” with any negative matters, so they ignored….

      • Thoughtful points– and then we might want to ask, what is it about modern society that allows some folks never to see the results of their actions so they don’t even think about them?

    • Important points to ponder both on the interdependence of all lives in natural systems and earth’s “authority” Thanks for your comment!

  226. I agree that the NIMBY concept doesn’t work. The nuclear power plants are a good example for me because it’s something I’ve always felt strongly about. It was disappointed to hear about current administrations contemplating the idea of building a new one in the United States.
    That was before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown. I haven’t heard discussions since that major environmental disaster. The deadly radioactive material that was released from Fukushima isn’t going to stay in Japans back yard either. I watched a video recently of the inside of the power plant taken from a robot camera, chilling. Doesn’t look like a place any creature on earth could inhabit. It doesn’t look like a place I would want to live near and I’m sure the 1% of wealthiest individuals, whose business’s usually creates these disasters, is going to live as far away from Fukushima as possible. Problem is the radiation spreads. It gets in the water and soil and before you know it, radiation is in your back yard as well.
    Seriously, it’s time to wake up. Nuclear power isn’t even an efficient way to make energy compared to other more environmentally friendly ways like solar, hydro, and plants such as switch grass and hemp are more efficient forms of energy. The only people who would benefit from a new power plant would be the company building it and the wealthy investors and shareholders making a profit off subsidies that are damaging to the environment.
    It is time to think environmentally aware and local, so we have an incentive to keep the areas we live in clean. We need to let elected officials know through voting, emails and getting involved. People want to support a healthier way of living and if subsidies were given to small local farmers and business’s, instead of huge corporations, in the long run it will benefit everyone.

    • At least people have started to realize that the quick gain of energy isn’t necessarily worth the risk of a power plant. The spread of pollutants or radiation is an easy thing. Industrialization created problems that we still deal with today. Water connects everything and most pollutants end up in our water supply. It’s no wonder that so many organisms living within streams and lakes are at all time population lows. We really need to get out of the mindset that it doesn’t matter if it’s not in our “backyard.”

    • Congressman Peter DeFazio has a great outline of what is wrong with nuclear power, both economically and environmentally. Check out our “choice points” page on blackboard for this reading. To other readers, it is not on this site, but his points are outlined in the short interview here:
      And as you indicate, Joy, nothing quite so much shows us our interdependence than the spread of nuclear radiation. And in fact, this type of energy production, for all its costs and risks, does not even save us anything on carbon emissions.

      • Thanks for that web-link Dr. Holden! I appreciate Congressman Peter DeFazio for being honest about the reasons for building nuclear power plants. Shame on the Obama Administration for their moment of weakness in 2005.

        • You are quite welcome, Joy. It wasn’t Obama in 2005– he wasn’t in office then. That was Bush. The Obama thing came a couple of months ago, but now we have heightened air pollution standards (at least with regards to mercury release, which Obama has been consistently good in working to curtail). I do worry about Obama’s support of fracking for natural gas, since what data I have seen does not indicate there is a way to do that without rather disastrous environmental effects.

  227. I believe that armed with factual knowledge and understanding that our western consumer lifestyles are enslaving and destroying the environment of others, some will rise to action and begin to boycott and stop supporting companies that do not follow ethical business practices. Maybe people would change their habits and lead others by example. One of the big problems I am seeing is our current culture’s fickle behavior with technology. There is this insane race to make it smaller, faster, and cheaper to get it in more homes, more hands thus perpetuating the cycle of consumerism when after all, most if this stuff really isn’t necessary for living. These electronic gadgets are almost exclusively manufactured outside the U.S. and thus the by products from manufacture (not to mention the upfront raw materials) go into or come out of other nations. Check out (it works best in Firefox). Be sure to adjust take some time and adjust the details on the left side option on each section. I’m embarrassed with my results. The U.S. lost a lot of manufacturing jobs over the past several decades, thus really almost everything we consume (foods included) are happening outside our country so we don’t really feel the real impact. It all starts with yourself (myself) and the choices you (I) make to clean up the backyard and help restore its health.

    • Thanks for the link, Scott! This info is something to consider working into my “Do not Buy List” here. One good side to all this is that since it is many of our corporations that are literally enslaving others, changing our choices can have an important effect!
      And actually, I tried this and could not get it to work for me, guess I will tinker a bit more some other time.

  228. Otherwise enviornmentally conscience people forget that if something is not in their backyard it is in someone elses. We oppose drilling for oil in the Artic and the Gulf of Mexico despite the fact that we use 25% of the world’s oil, are better equipped than probably any other country in the world to clean up a spill, and the possess the tightest regulations to prevent a spill in the first place. We buy almost all of our goods from China, which constructs 2 coal powered factories per week, operates huge factories almost like slave camps and puts additives in products that have poisoned our pets, kids and buidling material. The power I use in Tampa, Florida is from coal removed by mountaintop mining. It is hard to avoid participating in this, precisely because we are unaware how much damage is being done throughout the world to feed our materialistic desires. ANothe rthing that is not often thought about is our retirement pensions and 401Ks, which both invest in companies and projects we might not be too proud to be tied to if we knew.

    • Well said, Mary: “what is not in one’s own backyard is in someone else’s”.
      Retirement investments bring up an important point alongside your other examples: socially responsible investing (you might need to check the “screens” used by different groups to see if they reflect your values) are important to consider, whereas others are using the leverage of owning stock to show up at corporate board meetings and pressure for change.

    • Mary you are so right. We are one of the riches nations, but yet environmentally we sometimes act like a 3rd world country. We need to put politicians into office that care and not be persuaded by big corporate money. You are so right about our retirement funds and we need to educate ourselves about where are money is going. Thanks

      • In fact, we sometimes act worse than a Third World country; US oil companies have polluted vast areas of the Amazon and it is left to nations like Ecuador to try to stop them and then clean up the mess they have left behind.

  229. I agree that the NIMBY idea is very interesting concept. People usually do not care what they do because they do not see the results of their action (ignorance). Often, people see the results when they get old. Those results directly affect the lives of their children. I wonder if people who does ignore, develop the way of thinking that you presented, how different the results would be made for their children. I also think that people could think more deeply before they ignore things. It seems more like…they choose not to take responsibility or deal with any negative matters.

    • Hi Tomo
      I think its true that people only try to change something after they have been affected by it personally. It comes back to responsibility. If you are sick from something released into the environment or someone you know gets sick or your child you will do everything to help that person. but if there is no connection its like a tree falling in the forest.

      • So perhaps we ought to try for a society in which we encourage as much empathy for others as possible– storytelling anciently let audiences experience the situations of others, and I think we are missing that dynamic in our society today.

    • Wouldn’t it be great if we saw the results of our actions before they effected the lives of our children? Thanks for your comment.

  230. I think to some level the NIMBY idea is strong especially when politics or natural disasters are concerned. The commercials that pop on your TV at 3am asking for donations for starving children. Is it over exposure to these or are we numb to their plight?
    Over the summer I did an exercise with a group in a political science class about what we thought of Mexico building a bad nuclear reactor so close to the boarder. The consensus; they can build the reactor close to us only if they allow American engineers to help operate it or they can build it further into their country away from the boarder. They didn’t account for how many products are manufactured in Mexico or how much food we get from there. All these would be affected by the radiation and contaminates leaking from the reactor in turn affecting us. overall NIMBY just needs to go.

    • Pointed example of partitioned thinking, Kayli. I hope your classmates and teacher in this “experiment” were able to bring out the larger issues– such as how US agricultural corporations in Mexico are causing local peoples to lose their lands and livelihoods.

  231. I’ve known that people not caring about anything unless it directly affects them was an issue. However, I have never heard it put so well as Not in my Backyard. With the rise of capitalist governments, we have moved from communal caring for land to everyone is out for themselves. I know I’ve been guilty of it from time to time, I recycle, but sometimes I get a slightly lax about separating every single item. I think another idea that needs to be overcome is the idea that one person can’t change anything. I know that I occasionally pass by my ideals because I think that nothing I can do can effect a change. we live in a society where we are all in constant competition. The dumping of toxins in someone else’s backyard does not change the fact that at some point, it will adversely affect your own backyard. Not to mention, most chemicals end up in streams. We need clean water. Many fish in streams can’t even be eaten because of high toxin levels located within the fish.

    • Perhaps the most important point to remember is that we are related to one another in the same way that the water systems we so need are interconnected? It is not possible to use pesticides on our lawns without their entering our water table– especially those specifically engineered not to break down…as you note, we need clean water.

    • I think we all (myself included) in this modern society are guilty of actions that are not the best choices to support other lives on this planet.
      Here is where pragmatics and compassion come together–in the way natural systems ultimately connect us. And yes, we certainly do need clean water.

  232. I think it’s really bold to use the Mexican border as an example against NIMBY. There are so many other factors included in border protection other than immigrants looking for work. I consider myself a compassionate person. I may not directly know how it feels to be so desperate for work that I illegally cross a border, but I know people who have. Many of my friends are Mexican and either have family still in Mexico or came across years ago, and I feel for them. Our country was founded by immigrants and prides itself on diversity. However, I am not in favor of drugs being smuggled into our country, or the extremely high crime rate among the illegal immigrant population. I think safety should be our number one priority. Maybe we should ask the citizens of Texas or Arizona, whose backyard is literally on the border of Mexico, and see how they feel. Of course they don’t want those illegal activities going on in their own backyard. The idea of NIMBY brings up an excellent point. We shouldn’t be selfish about our environment, or lazy about taking care of our planet by pushing the problem on to someone else. As an example, the deadly pollution from “recycled” electronics that are being exported form the United States to small cities in Asia. That is something that needs to be taken care of. Its wrong to send our problems elsewhere, and its wrong for other countries to bring there problems here.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal response, Shanna. I am not sure what you mean by this being a “bold” example. I am not for the drug cartels and the violence they entail in Mexico or anywhere. I understand that women in Mexico (three cheers for their bravery) are facing down some of this violence as I write.
      You are absolutely right about sending our problems elsewhere. More than that, I would also like to consider the effects of the economic choices of US corporations (or multi-nationals the US has a hand in) that then come back to us. The displacement of small family farms along the borders with large strawberry farms (grown to export north) has caused great poverty–and I wonder what I would do if my children were starving and the US, portrayed as a land (rightly or wrongly) of such riches were across the border.
      You might also be interested in this view of an Oregon student who grew up working with migrant workers here:

      • Yeah, after I posted this, I realized “bold” wasn’t a very good choice of words. I just meant I didn’t think it was the best example since there are so many other reasons for protection at the border. Thank you for the link. I will look into it. I too wonder what I would do if I was actually in that position, which I think is why this topic is so controversial. There are a variety of angles and perspectives to look in to.

  233. I really liked how the author used the walls to describe how this way of thinking does nothing to stop or change the situation. Its like putting up a blinder; out of sight, out of mind. We all know how well this doesn’t work.

    This type of thinking is something that becomes very apparent when you are trying to have a conversation with someone, or a group of people, regarding environmental concerns. It amazes me how many people still feel this way and have the NIMBY mentality. I think what is more frustrating is that many know about it, have seen it in action (say oils/gas/coolant on top of water going down a storm drain) but they still refuse to take action and change their ways. Perhaps when everyone starts to respect the environment ALL around them, then we can move towards a massive change and make some real progress towards protecting our world. Every action has a reaction and this is no different for how we treat our environment, regardless of the being a few feet away from each other or thousands of miles.

    • I like your take on the ways walls (set up as blinders) fail to serve us, Brandie. I wonder if that conversation that seems so difficult would be able to proceed any better if those in conversation with you understood how their own self-interest is intertwined with others in an interdependent world?

    • I agree I have had conversations with people and they might agree with what I have to say but they won’t change what they do. But I do hope that if we educate our children and others than maybe we can change this whole NIMBY idea around and save our world.

  234. All backyards seem to be intertwined with each other and the whole NIMBY thought has really hit us as Americans and the whole Earth. I look at the cancers people are getting. More and more people have and know someone with cancer due to past and current pollutions or the way of life. If we want cheaper products, they come from foreign countries with relaxed regulations. Or what about out of season fruits and vegetable, a year around supply that has to be imported to meet demands. I am so sick of Made in China broken down already Christmas toys and toxins in my rice. We have a choice to be ignorant with our blinders on, or do some research and just don’t buy items you know are toxic or just not Made in America. I have made it my choice for awhile to stop buying stuff at the Dollartree store as the whole store seems to be a Made in China store.

    This NIMBY belief doesn’t mean the US does not have its problems too. Living in the Pacific NW, I don’t always know what happens on the other half of the country. This last week in another class I learned that coal mining in the US is still going strong and half of the electricity used in the U.S. today still comes from coal. A video I just watched, called Coal Slurry, talked about the coal slurry bi-products being pumped underground and contaminating household wells in West Virginia. This has been going on for years and the government is just now deciding to ban the underground pumping. Where has the EPA been, NIMBY? We have a Choice to make a difference, but I think it starts in everyones backyard or maybe start with the front yard for everyone to see.

    • Thanks for sharing your reasons for making particular purchasing choices, Debbie. I appreciate the links as well. Sometimes a video can bring home something that seems otherwise distant to us.
      I really think it is essential that we are vote with our dollars.
      And as for the EPA, it is doing some work, but the EPA was virtually dismantled by Reagan–and Bush’s administration followed suit. Further, the EPA can only enforce the laws the nation makes for them to enforce– though I must appreciate Lisa Jackson in exerting her leadership role in suggesting safer laws that protect human and environmental health.

      • I agree. A lot of what we buy is from other countries. It’s sad that we don’t care if we hurt people far away. However, once it hits home we get all teared up and make a fuss. I shop at the dollar store too. After reading your I might re-consider. Thanks for sharing!

    • Debbie;
      Good points you brought up and good video, thank you. What you said about not knowing of the coal use and affects, the lack of knowing is a problem that I’m sure we all fall short of. When I speak to people about environmental issues it is not always that they do not want it in their back yard, but also that they our sure the government would not allow such things to go on. In my studies I keep hearing a repeating aspect and that is we need more knowledge.

      • It is unfortunate that we cannot rely on our government NOT to allow such things, Colinda, but the profit motive is reigning there as well–it is about time for that government to come through on the things so many rely on it for. But in the meantime, we have to do a bit of personal scrambling to work for citizen health and environmental protection.

  235. First off I agree with the wall on the Mexican border and it has nothing to do with environmental issues as it is specifically for economical purposes(unemployment). Within the past 20 years New York city produced so much waste that they were storing the garbage on Staten Island. The island was so packed with garbage that the population was at risks of inhaling the potent air pollution it caused and the people were outraged. The state of New York cut a deal with another state (I think Maryland) to ship their garbage their for a fee. As more and more of the garbage floated to the state via boat the people of Maryland became outraged. This is just an example of pushing their problems on to other people and different areas. New York ended up fixing the garbage problem on the island by creating underground waste sites which have air, soil, and groundwater monitoring and the population began to increase again. We need to use alternative technologies in the future. Whether incineration or burying the garbage is the solution, I don’t know. I think if we could incinerate the garbage and use a air purifying stack at the top to clean the smoke before it is emitted into the air we would see the most success but the garbage will become a massive problem. I have also been to a waste facility in Ohio where they take liquid waste and inject it hundreds of feet underground to the bedrock. Since there is nothing to do with the liquid waste but store it somewhere, they decided to inject it deep into the earth where is harmless. Technology only provides us with placing waste in our backyard in the present time and it needs to change soon.

    • And you did here that natural gas “fracking” in Ohio has been linked to a series of earthquakes there? Evidently it disturbed the plate tectonics. We might be clever, but we need to be careful as well.
      Ecological designer William McDonough says that we need to follow the pattern of the natural world in which the waste to some is food for others. This is what compost is and why composting works within natural cycles. You should like this: McDonough says our ecological crisis is in large part a crisis of design and what we need to do is design things differently: instead of toxic wastes or wastes like plastic that go nowhere after perhaps one downgrading recycle, chemists (he co-authored Cradle to Cradle with a chemist) should only design products that other lives recognize and utilize as food.

    • How about what happened in Japan recently. The government hasn’t seemed to care about the radiation that hurts lots of living organisms. What are we doing about that? Are we 100% sure this won’t have a lasting affect on humans maybe a hundred years from now? I don’t necessarily agree with your comment about the Mexican border. Humans are apart of the environment as well. We not only oppress nature, but we oppress ourselves as well.

      • I think we might also look at the radiation releases (and the large number of corporate abuses– see “trouble with progress” here in this country, yes?
        Thoughtful response on the Mexican border: the wall is opposed by environmentalists because it cuts off movement and connected habitat for certain endangered species as well as being opposed on the grounds of justice by others.

    • Wow, I had no idea that NYC was burying waste in Staten Island, that is gross. Agreed, we do need solutions/alternatives to burning and burying waste. I have learnt that it is more practical and less expensive to exercise preventative measures, than trying to make pollution “disappear.” The fact is pollution doesn’t disappear. It may go unnoticed, if it is injected into bedrock beneath the ground, but it will eventually seep out. Pollution prevention and alternatives to polluting manufacturing are really the only viable options. Although, I hope we are successful in figuring out what to do with the waste we already do have and are currently mass producing.

      • Indeed, Rose, the word “waste” gives us the connotation that we can simply make it disappear– but as you point out, that does not happen– which is why we need to stop producing wastes that are not (as in nature’s cycle) food for others lives.