Opinion: A Defence of Nimbyism

At the Politics Society Question Time, held on the 24th of October of this year, comprising all of Exeter’s different political societies, both in the crowd and on the panel of society representatives; the ‘issue’ of nimbyism (not in my back yard (ism)) came up. However this ‘issue’ was not raised by a typical source, indeed the source came from a conventionally surprising origin, that being the Exeter University Conservative Association (EUCA) representatives on the panel.

I say conventionally surprising because the image of the Conservative party as having no love for climate/green policy, though held by many frenzied journalists in the media, is not an accurate depiction, and the modern parliamentary Conservative party is more than happy to join the hunt for this ‘new threat from within’ known as nimbyism. A cynical person like myself thinks that this is primarily because the Tories receive a sufficiently large amount of funding from housing developers, who are also displeased with nimbyism, and wish, without a shadow of a doubt, to cover the rolling hills of England with tower blocks from which they can rack up an extortionate profit – but hey, what do I know? Nimbyists are accused of the greatest of all sins you see, for they are accused of valuing their aesthetic pleasure over the great march of progress into a green new age. Resisting a new dam or windfarm to be built near your authentic countryside village is just selfish, opposers say, for in the fight against climate change, your view outside your window is hardly even a speck in comparison to the foretold doom and destruction that will be brought about if we don’t transition quickly. 

I find this line of argument to not be very compelling, for indeed there is an obvious truth buried here: if there had been a much deeper nimbyistic attitude towards the construction of vast, ugly coal-powered power stations in areas up and down this country during the industrial revolution, perhaps the disastrous carbon emissions that have been emitted could have been diminished. Furthermore, nimbyism isn’t just about protesting new green infrastructure projects but also any fracking rigs that go up. I think the current discourse promotes the ridiculous idea that nimbyists would be happy with a concrete monster and column of smog if it was coming from a coal power plant, but are just being picky when it comes to green projects. Fracking is a more contemporary example of this – I doubt if I asked any rural folk if they would like to have a natural gas rig next door to them that they would say yes, and then say that they wouldn’t want a wind turbine; such a position is not held by anyone. 

Additionally, why must the shires pay for the ravenous consumerist habits of the urban population when they, more than nearly anyone else in this country, live some of the most sustainable lives possible in modern Britain today. The urban population are typically those most against “nimbyism” because of a somewhat telling truth: these vast infrastructure projects aren’t being built next to their home or tower block. Urbanised population centres act as a boundary, where within it, it is perfectly meaningless to oppose nimbyism because really they have no back garden in which things can be built. To oppose nimbyism as an urban-dwelling person is to be perfectly shielded from any pertinent realities of the thing that is being proposed, and to singularly benefit from some restored good feelings of backing some noble cause. To a Londoner it is perfectly plausible that it would be fine to them if every inch of countryside were covered in concrete and tar, because at least it will be done in the noble cause of fighting climate destruction while never disrupting their daily lives in the slightest. 

This is not to say that combating climate change isn’t a priority, but I do think the solutions lay less in forcing massive development projects on rural areas, and instead asking the city folk to actually participate in sustainable living. The imposing nature of climate change shouldn’t be used as a pretext to destroy, uglify, and concretise the very environment that rural people feel is worth protecting – such a conservative motive is one of the strong forces in the fight against climate change. To transfer the penalties of the excessive Western market consumption onto these traditional historic villages and areas of Britain who have done little to deserve this disturbance, is to engage in the same kind of rampant disregard for the environment and communities that has led us to this point, where we thoughtlessly exploit the world’s resources. The priorities advanced by the anti-nimbyist position are not those for the people, nor of the sustainable life supposedly advocated for, but for the mindless consumer culture which is using these projects to shield itself from the consequences of the climate change that it has caused. 

In conclusion, we unfairly export the costs of our city-dwelling consumer decisions to the very traditional communities who have maintained the historic environment of this country for generations. And so, while the Tory party may be happy to join in on the destruction of our countryside, just like they destroyed the railways which could of been our sustainable alternative to personal vehicles, they will now seek to crush the nimbyists who hold no real power, but for whose defeat is called for, based on the increasing need within our elite to evade responsibility for the problems they cause. 

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