Friday, October 1, 2010


During the years that I was Director of the Erie County Commission on Homelessness, I often ran into opposition to the siting of services. The cry of "Not in my backyard" was heard so often that some of us coined two additional acronyms: NOTE - not over there either; and BANANA - build absolutely nothing at or near anything.

NIMBY arguments have been heard here in Massachusetts recently in the debates over wind power. An opponent of a plan to build turbines near the Cape Cod Canal said that they shouldn't be built in anyone's backyard. Of course, no one was proposing to build them in her backyard at all, but only on some land nearby. I don't  whether or not there are the health risks that she and other opponents cite as the reason for their opposition. What I do know is that there are health risks for all of us if we continue to use fossil fuels as much as we do. And I know that there are very serious health problems for people, especially children, who live close to  coal-fired power plants and other polluters. These are facilities that should never have been built at or near anything.

The NIMBY arguments, whether about wind turbines or social service agencies, are entirely myopic. If wind turbines or social service agencies serve the common good, why shouldn't they be located near where I live, not in my backyard, which isn't big enough, but in my neighborhood? One of the costs of living in community is being willing to set aside personal interests for the good of the community.

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