If Not Your Backyard, Then Whose?

There are a multitude of things people don’t want in their backyards, and for good reason…chemical plants, coal fired power plants, nuclear waste facilities, incinerators, wind turbines, solar farms…

Sustainable Sunflowers

Wait, what?

Let’s back up a minute.

Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) is a movement that gained serious momentum in the 1980’s and represents strong community oriented opposition to certain types of development.

This morning I read an article about NIMBY movements going global, and how most of these movements were strongly opposed to the industrial projects (power plants, chemical plants, landfills etc.), and to my great surprise, the renewable energy industry.  The article went on to describe that ‘young’, ‘controversial’ industries are more subject to NIMBY resistance than traditional businesses.

I read this sentence not once, but three times. The way this sentence reads to me is that people would rather have “traditional” forms of energy–like coal–in their backyards instead of this newfangled energy we like to call wind and solar.

In theory, NIMBY a good system. No neighborhood should be subjected to the negative consequences of industry–air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution–so close to their homes and families.

No neighborhood. 

The fact of the matter is, this isn’t the case. Chemical plants, coal fired power plants, nuclear waste facilities, and incinerators do go in someone’s backyard, and that backyard usually belongs to minority neighborhoods with low socioeconomic statuses, and little political clout.

Environmental racism, policies that disproportionately heave environmental hazards on minority communities, is a large part of the NIMBY movement, and at the root of environmental disparities.

If communities are shouting, “Not in my backyard!” to wind and solar projects, will that mean these projects will move to low income neighborhoods? If wind and solar energy is sidled off to low income neighborhoods, is that preferable to a power plant polluting poorer communities despite the mechanisms behind it?

Will large scale wind and solar projects even end up in low income neighborhoods? Does this mean dirty energy will continue to prevail as we are accustomed to it as our main energy sustenance?

I realize people might think wind and solar farms are an eyesore. I personally find them mesmerizing and beautiful, though it’s not my opinion that matters at this moment. The fact is, we need to obtain energy some how and if we’re not developing and progressing in the energy sector, we’re at a dirty standstill–one that puts minorities and low income neighborhoods at a disproportionate risk to environmental hazards–to power our iPhones and Macbooks.

Not In My Backyard is a powerful movement, one that is important to protecting communities from harmful environmental risks. If you’re opposing wind and solar farms in your neighborhood, that is, of course, your choice, but you could do a lot worse. Your opposition could mean that these projects are being sidled off onto poor communities–and that’s practically a good scenario–in comparison to what could happen which is dirty “traditional” energy continuing to ravish the energy sector and communities not being able to resist it being in their backyard.

Thanks to this environmental justice article for supplying a good read and valuable information.