Facts often support NIMBYism

By Bronwyn Eyre, The Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty recently vowed that NIMBYism — about biofuel plants, solar panel fields and wind turbines — “would not prevail.”

NIMBY is the resurrected acronym for Not In My Back Yard, aka “grouchy neighbourhood opposition to everything.” And accusing someone of NIMBY-ism — about group foster homes, say, or wind turbines — is a handy new way of stifling debate.

According to Randy Grauer, manager of Saskatoon city planning, “We’re not trying to force things on people. It’s about making sure we have the public debate on factual information rather than a decision built on fear, emotion or lack of information.”

Ah yes, if only everyone would stick to the “facts,” there would be no fear or emotion or lack of information. But try that on climate change, the economy, abortion — let alone on how to hang wallpaper — and see how far you get.

The problem with most “facts” is they’re almost always debatable.

Take youth group homes.

In a recent report, the city cites “academic studies” that find property values aren’t affected by youth homes moving into neighbourhoods.

According to councillor Charlie Clark, “The fear over these homes is greater than the reality. People really don’t know they’re there.” They’re a “neighbour like any other,” says Don Meikle at EGADZ . “If you take the emotion out of it, then people are going to look at things with common sense.”

The report did acknowledge youth homes result in an increase in police calls, but most are for “internal matters such as breaking of the house curfew.”

But things got a little more serious than curfew-breaking in Edmonton last year, when two 14-year-old boys, who fled a group home, were charged with the murders of a 68-year-old-man and his wife. According to a very fact-based report, 245 troubled teens not only broke curfew. They simply walked away from the same group home over a five-year period.

Do I understand why people might go NIMBY-ist over the building of such a home in their backyard? Yes. But hey, maybe that’s just my “fear and emotion” talking.

And then there are wind turbines. In Saskatoon, a meteorological tower has been installed at the landfill to measure wind speeds and direction with an eventual view to installing an 80-metre-tall wind turbine at the site.

If approved by the city, other wind turbines could be coming to a neighbourhood near you. But if you protest them — let alone question their broader environmental benefits — expect to be labelled a NIMBY nut.

So, let’s get to the cold, hard facts.

When it comes to turbines, the European experience is instructive.

Flemming Nissen, head of development at the Danish utility Elsam, said in 2004: “Increased development of wind turbines does not reduce CO2 emissions.”

The UK has spent billions of pounds on installing some 2,000 wind turbines — many amid the most beautiful stretches of British countryside — which contribute barely one per cent of all required electricity.

At that rate, the turbine at the landfill might just manage to power the weigh scale — and that’s on a windy day.

More facts: Wind speeds around Britain are continually changing and often provide no power at all — so the electricity being generated represents only between a quarter and a third of their nominal capacity.

Last year, Paul Golby, CEO of the German-owned E.ON electricity company admitted the back-up power needed for most wind turbines would amount to 90 per cent of their capacity — which means more gas- and coal-fired power plants have to be built to guarantee supply.

In Germany, utilities are forced to buy renewable energy at sometimes more than 20 times the cost of conventional power.

And when all’s said and done, the combined output of all the 2,000 turbines in the UK put together is less than that of a single, medium-sized conventional power station.

The Brits, in particular, have tried to fight windfarms — which can lead to mental anguish, even illness, from the endless, thumping sound and perpetual shadows that emanate from them. In fact, the former Labour government met with so much hostility, it repeatedly had to bend planning rules in order to force them through.

Isn’t that always the way?

Memo to the no-NIMBYist crowd: Scratch the “stay calm” and “focus on facts” talk. Because citizens have a right to voice their opposition, whether emotionally or not.

15 thoughts on “Facts often support NIMBYism

  1. We are not NIMBYs….we are NIABYS! They shouldn’t be put in anyones back yard until the proper health studies are completed!

  2. As I sit at the computer trying to find words to describe the buzzing of the neurons in my brain, I have to admit, I’m at a loss.

    In a few moments, I will gratefully leave the house I built 5 years ago to “age in place” before the IWT’s came, so I can drive the 16 km to my son’s trailer and the couch he offers to get a restorative sleep because my house does not afford that absolutely critical human need!

    And, yes Health Studies are absolutely essential before any more IWT’s are approved or erected!

  3. Christopher Booker’s article is a must read as the U.K. energy plan is so similar to the Ontario energy plan.

    Wonder who first wrote this energy political “play book” and how long it will be before the U.K. public wakes up to this energy scam?

  4. Barbara
    Enron wrote the first “play book”………….where are they now?…………..JAIL!

  5. Perhaps it is the all the watching of people being “voted off the island”, a pervasive lack of “land ethic” or just the old urban disregard for all things rural which allows a huge mass of Canadians to sit unmoved by the suffering of their fellow citizens at the rough hands of their government. ‘Tis the season to be jolly about it too with tinsel and lights. To my way of thinking at this point only the heartless and immoral would be unemotional….

    There IS good scientific evidence against IWT but those instruments of torture(FACT: sound is used as such by the military) afflict the government with the same form of deafness which was caused by the tobacco industry decades ago. The author, Bronwyn Eyre, has done a splendid job of illustrating the double standard to which we are treated. We are rationally asking for use of the scientific method to prove that IWT do no harm to the environment while governments appear to have had their brains melted by their sudden panic (after long denial) are running about shouting, “The sky is falling! Climate change is falling!”.

    Eric Jelinski might just have a portable version of his LF speakers. Anyone in the mood for a little quiet caroling for your Liberal MPP?

  6. The wording used in the Ontario energy “play book” is almost identical to that used in the U.K. So this is by no means original thought on the part of Ontario energy planners.

    The Ontario green energy plan is/was just lifted right out of the U.K. political energy plan. Or so it appears. Perhaps follow the money and the connections to the U.K.?

  7. Maybe our Premier would gladly have them in his back yard.Has anyone asked him?

  8. We will see come election time,
    You are fired, The Liberal Party is fired.
    You made bad deals , you didn’t have the guts to backtrack you forge ahead with impossible hydro costs for people , destroying the face of my Ontario .
    You could have purchased cheap hydro from Quebec with 100 year deals.
    Do you think Honda , Ford ,GM will stay with your hydro costs?
    You lied about user fees for healthcare. Families end up paying an extra $3000 a year because of it.
    You have the audacity to go on TV at a foodbank and tell people to give?
    YOU are the reason they are there!
    You put eco fees into things that already have eco fees on them, things which people take for FREE.
    You increase the cost of everything because of the HST!
    It gets better , you can’t give healthcare workers a 2% raise?
    But you spend, borrowed money in the hunbdreds of Millions of $$$ to advertise you alternate energy program that wasn’t even necessary. It is our Ontario.
    You are NIMBY…

  9. We are not NIMBYs….we are NIABYS! They shouldn’t be put in anyones back yard until the proper health studies are completed!

    Health studies?


    What? It they put these things where people aren’t that will somehow make everything OK?

    NO IT WON’T!





  10. Health Studies=Red Herring. Period.
    In my opinion, this needs to be eliminated from the toolbox completely.

  11. Even if wind turbines were installed where nobody lives their costs would still drive up your Hydro bills leading to energy poverty.

    It appears that the Ontario Green Energy Plan originated in the U.K. and was brought to Ontario and imposed on Ontarians.

    The situation in the U.K. with the cold related deaths due to energy poverty needs to be monitored here so Ontario does not end up in the same situation as the U.K. finds itself in.

    Don’t fool yourselves.If the turbines are installed as planned in Ontario the people will have to pay for them in more ways than just skyrocketing Hydro bills.

  12. Barbara, so true, but you say that around here and no one will give you the time of day. ” they are green” “they are good” that is… the mentality in my county and in my town for a good share of the people. It is unfortunate and it’s almost a one on one discussion with people and even then when leaders of your county and town believe the wind company it’s just so slow a process of education. People just don’t seem to want to believe the facts they’d rather believe the smooth talking wind company sales people. I’m not sure why people just aren’t able to look past “it’s green”.

  13. Bette,

    Try showing them the article from “The London Daily News” and explain to them that the situation the U.K. finds itself in is due the skyrocketing electric bills from wind turbine costs. People driven into energy poverty.

    It might be a good idea to send all MPPs a copy of the story just to let them know people here are aware of the cause of the U.K. situation.

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