Friday, March 19, 2010
NIMBY--and Damned Proud of It!
When I decided to enter the campaign to save Maine’s ancient and iconic mountains from development, I had a huge dread. That dread was the fear of being seen as a ‘Nimby’ (Not in my backyard). I didn’t want to be perceived as someone who was not interested in current events unless they directly affected me. I saw the acronym ‘Nimby’ as a form of slur… and no one likes to be insulted.
Several months have passed since I entered the fray. My education has been equivalent to the school of hard knocks. Trial by wind, per se. I knew nothing about how to mount a battle to change the policy of a government and administration which I strongly disagreed with. I had no idea how to work to defeat a proposal designed by a wealthy industry and supported by people in positions of power. In fact, I’m still learning. Every single day I make a mistake. Most often, I learn from it, thankfully. But occasionally, I repeat it.
Occasionally, I repeat it.
As I researched the phenomenon of mountaintop industrial wind, I discovered many surprising facts. I began this process with an instinctual aversion to the plan to develop our wild peaks. My instincts rarely lead me astray, if ever. But I was lacking a lot of the details about the plan to place wind turbines along more than 300 miles of pristine summits. All I knew was that it couldn’t be a good thing; that the proposal that was being thrust upon us–one we were not consulted about and about which we have no control–did not seem to be a reasonable one. There were too many obvious ‘down’ sides.
By now, I’ve established what many of those negative impacts will be. I’ve also come to the conclusion that a Nimby is exactly what I want to be.
We human beings have a lot on our plates. We have families to raise, jobs to go to, homes to build and buy and improve and maintain. We have to pay for those homes, and those kids, and for the vehicles to get us to those jobs which pay those bills. We have parents and siblings and other relatives who need us. We have friends to lend a helping hand to. We have schools to support and a civic duty to our town. Life is busy and–more often than not–life is a struggle.
We simply cannot devote ourselves to every battle that needs fighting. We do not have the capacity to throw ourselves into the mix every time a task needs doing or a wrong needs righting. What we do, most often, is depend on others with the same values and common sense to take up their swords and defend their own territories, their own homes, their own families and ways of life. That’s what ‘home rule’ is. That’s one of the most fundamental precepts–not only of America as a country, but more elementally, it’s instinctual in almost all living creatures. We defend our turf, or die trying.
Whether human or wild, the animal kingdom is made up of communities. The primary and most significant of these is the family; parents and children first, and then it extends outward to grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. Next in importance is our neighborhood and then the larger village which these neighborhoods combine to create; those people upon whom we depend, but to a lesser degree than we rely on our kin. When this country was founded, America’s strength rested in the small communities scattered across this vast and wild land. Men who provided for and took care of their families were called to action to defend from home the larger community; the rest of these colonies which would later become the United States of America. Our Minutemen and militias defended their home turf successfully and defeated a larger, more organized and better funded campaign.
I think that is the heart of the matter. Yes, I care about what happens across the country and around the world. But I simply cannot make every battle a cause that I must wholeheartedly throw myself into. None of us would survive if we took on every single struggle that we believed in. Yes, we try to do our part to help when issues of importance are made known to us. But we have to keep something in reserve. We have to save ourselves for the conflicts that affect us directly, because we know that our distant neighbors will only be able to aid us on the periphery, just as we do when they need our support.
So, no. I no longer have an aversion to the title ‘Nimby’. Nimby is synonymous with home rule and home defense, and that is something in which to take the utmost pride. I am a Nimby, and damned proud of it! And if my family and my friends and my neighbors are successful in protecting our home front, then we will set the standard for other Nimbys… our fellow Americans who are doing the same. We will be helping other Americans who have the courage to stand up and say ‘Not in my backyard!’
Top photo from Peaked Hill, Lexington Township, Maine, copyright by John and Joan Hassam
Bottom photo taken from Bigelow Mountain by Franklin Sargent, Highland Plantation, Maine