NIMBY: Not in My Backyard. What had been an acronym Merriam-Webster has ordained a word meaning “opposition to the locating of something considered undesirable (such as a prison or incinerator) in one’s neighborhood.”
Prison or incinerator. How about an oil rig? Would it be just to accuse the hundreds of thousands living atop the Denver-Julesburg Basin of nimbyism for resisting something that poses an imminent danger to their homes, families, and schools?
How about opposition to a certain group in a community? How about immigrants? Non-Christians? Gender minorities? Married same-sex couples?
How about economic status? Capitalism, our global religion, is the practice of wealth accumulation under the guise of personal freedom. It creates and maintains class based on economic status, which serves as a measurement of how one accesses living in a neighborhood. As such, the market—capitalism—does a most effective job of keeping riff-raff out.
Arguably, then, capitalism is not only a great discriminator but also that after amassing fortune, discrimination—separating haves from have-nots and to keep have-nots in their place—is its primary purpose. Thus, money plays a double role: It serves as one’s ticket into paradise, despite what Jesus of Nazareth said, and gives better-than-thou humans cover to practice nimbyism.
Nimbyism, therefore, covers objects and people. What about limiting access to fragile places? Mount Bierstadt, for example. Can environmentalists and others seeking to protect fragile eco-systems be guilty of nimbyism? Or attitudes such as elitism?
The Town of Aspen, like other legal nimby-hoods, does a superb job of keeping the riff-raff out through obscenely priced housing and property value assessment. Suppose you win the lottery for a paltry ten million dollars. After taxes, you are left a few million with which to play. You chuck it down on your Aspen dream home but failed to keep enough in reserve or have the income to pay the property taxes. Foreclosure awaits, and you’re back to where you started. Out.
But Aspenites, like every town and business, unless a fundamentalist-owned bakery and faced with a same-sex couple that would love to order one of your magnificent creations for their wedding, are most welcoming of folks on a short-term basis for good reason: They want their money. Simply put, profit causes colorblindness.
The Forest Service and the Town of Aspen have for years worked to limit access to the Maroon Bells area because human traffic is, to put it nicely, degrading that eco-system. More bluntly, its killing it. That’s true across the land. We’re loving our national parks and outdoor places to death. Given that, can Aspenites be accused of nimbyism for their efforts to protect the Maroon Bells?
Then there is the issue of elitism. One reader suggested I was “running into the same pretentiousness that most people do, which prevents us from solving societies real issues.” He said the numbers of hikers on Mount Bierstadt and vehicles on I-70 aren’t having some “huge detrimental effect on the environment.”
But Mount Bierstadt hikers and I-70 drivers are impacting the eco-system greatly. For example, the disturbed, fragile tundra taking decades and centuries to be restored might be not appreciated by casual, urbanites traipsing along the mountain as they might through a city park. And explain how the world is a better place environmentally with the automobile.
Averring there are “real ways to address” transportation and other issues is code for justifying present behavior and avoiding alternatives that would upset the applecart.
It’s time to upset the apple cart. Each time we cave and accommodate more in which enough is unintelligible, we feed more’s voracious appetite. We can never build enough lanes or parking lots. Nor can we cram enough people into an arena, stadium, or mall. People used to crowds develop a tolerance for them, even where they go to get away from it all. They complain, but fail to appreciate the irony of them being part of the problem.
The real way to address the great issues of our time begins with accepting the old thinking ways no longer suffice in the 21st century. Frederick Jackson Turner posited in 1890 the geographical frontier is gone. While that is true, what is also true is the frontier of imagination is unlimited. If we only would dare.
High Country News article: “Forest Service confronts a popular hot springs’ overuse”