The planet is everyone’s backyard, and we should care about what’s happening in every single corner of it
The “not in my backyard” or NIMBY movement started as an environmentally positive term, first heard in the late 1970s when residents would battle against environmental dangers near their communities. People would protest dumpsites and nuclear power plants being placed near their homes and were often successful in derailing the development of these projects. As glass-half-full as this seems, the movement was actually causing more harm than good.
While folks shouted, “not in my backyard”, many of these toxic landfills and power stations ended up being built in someone else's backyard. So just because the environmental destruction didn’t happen within their sight, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen elsewhere.
Landfills are still used, and are typically filled by wealthy folks
Those who can cry "NIMBY" generally have the financial ability to move out of a space if something toxic is being built. However, students, low-income families and people of colour wind up being left behind in these areas because they’re “affordable”. They’re only affordable because of their undesirable surrounding environment, which is also toxic to people’s health and well-being. Not only that, wealthy folks are the ones who spend the most money on splurge items, which end up in the very landfills that pollute the environment and people’s health.
People want to eat the food, but don’t want to see it harvested
Whether it's eating eggs, but not wanting to deal with backyard chickens, or enjoying a salad, but balking at neighbours’ edible landscaping occupying the front lawn, NIMBYism is prevalent in the food industry more than ever. People will gladly go to Costco to purchase a perfect head of broccoli, but sneer at a little bug crawling on a homegrown one. But those lusciously red apples and lean chicken breasts flooding the aisles at supermarkets have taken gallons of pesticides and hormones to produce to perfection, all because we’ve traded a productive lawn for a manicured one. The same goes for the factory-farmed meats and faux meats, and GMO vegetables that line the shelves: it doesn’t happen in our backyards, so we have no control over the growing process.Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash
We’ve become disconnected
Which makes it easier to live in a NIMBY state. In fact, most of us do! Many of us purchase fast fashion, but wouldn’t ever work for the wages of the people who produce it; many of us use garbage disposal, yet don’t want to live near a landfill; we like to fly, yet don’t want to live near airports. It’s a common mentality, but that doesn’t mean it should be. We shouldn’t be disconnected from what happens to our garbage, because if we could see what was happening every day, we would care more about how our landfills are managed. We wouldn’t buy fast food if we saw the conditions the animals were suffering in. We wouldn’t eat processed foods if we knew what was being put in them.
So what can we do?
We reconnect; we learn; we do better; we demand better. That means creating less waste, growing more of our own food, and encouraging and educating those around us about edible landscapes, slow fashion and intersectional environmentalism. It means writing to our representatives repeatedly and letting them know that this shouldn’t be happening in anyone’s backyard.