Let’s ban the word NIMBY

Krystyn Tully, Waterkeeper.ca

It finally feels like spring: the sun is out, the crocuses are up, and temperatures are climbing above freezing. It is a time for new life and fresh starts.

This spring, we would like to make a pact with you. Let’s ban the un-word “NIMBY”. If you care about the environment and your neighbours (and we are pretty sure that you do), it’s a good pact to make.

NIMBY, of course, means “Not In My Backyard”. The acronym is usually hurled at someone who does not want something to happen – you guessed it – in his or her neighbourhood. NIMBYs are generally viewed as anti-progress, standing in the way of proposals that will mean jobs or infrastructure to a community. The thing about the NIMBY label is that it can be applied to anyone, in any situation, who opposes any idea, for any reason. Don’t want to live next to an incinerator? You’re a NIMBY. Don’t want the city putting a highway through your backyard? NIMBY. Hate windmills? NIMBY.

A person who raises legitimate, science-based concerns about a development proposal is called a NIMBY. A person who raises heck for political purposes with no legitimate argument is also called a NIMBY. The word has no meaning; it’s just meant to marginalize anyone and everyone who speaks out.

Consider this recent conversation with one of our staff members in the foyer at the Darlington new nuclear hearing:

STRANGER: You’re just a bunch of suits from Toronto coming to our community to tell us that nuclear power is bad.

LOW: Actually, we are from this community as well.

STRANGER: Yeah, well, then you’re just a bunch of NIMBYs!
(dramatic re-enactment)

See? It doesn’t actually matter where you are from. You are either an outsider or a NIMBY. The real issue is that no one wants to hear anything bad about anything ever.

This is a big, big problem, and we need to make a pact to do better.

It is difficult to talk with great certainty about projects that do not yet exist. We try to predict the environmental, social, cultural, and economic impacts. Our predictions are usually educated and well-reasoned, but they are still, at their heart, guesses.

The word NIMBY is used to dismiss criticisms or concerns and promote a pro-development outcome. It is used to try to convince you to bypass the educated and well-reasoned parts of the decision-making process, to ignore sometimes legitimate and important critiques. To embrace all positive predictions and to tune out any negative ones. The word NIMBY is the environmental decision-maker’s equivalent of clamping your hands over your ears and singing at the top of your lungs (“Lah lah lah lah lah!”) so you will not have to hear bad news.

We need to grow up. We need to talk about things, nuanced things, like how big a project will be and where the best place is to site it. We need to move beyond the black and white world of “I love Technology X!” and “I hate Technology Y!” to a really messy, grey world where some technologies are good some of the time, but not so good at other times.

We may love wind turbines, but no one would want to put one smack dab in the middle of an airport runway. We may believe our town needs a new road, but we may choose not to put it through a schoolyard where children are playing. You can love a project, but easily disagree with other people about the best place to put it. “Siting” is often one of the most important parts of an environmental decision and we never, ever talk about it anymore.

So, in the interests of making the best possible decisions about our community’s future, let’s make this springtime pact: no more “NIMBY” slurs. Let’s be smart, rational, and practical, instead. Let’s talk about siting. Let’s be smart, and allow for nuances and criticisms and debate. Legitimate concerns, if heeded, will always make a project better and a community stronger. Illegitimate concerns, the ones not based on science and not delivered in good faith, they will fall by the wayside; like bad project proposals, they can’t withstand scrutiny.

Popular wisdom tells us that the word NIMBY was coined by the American Nuclear Association in 1980. It’s been thirty-one years of name-calling and marginalization. This spring, let’s put it to rest.

45 thoughts on “Let’s ban the word NIMBY

  1. Interesting. It’s unfortunate that this term is used for anyone who has concerned about any issue. I thought it was strictly a “wind term”. A member of our group who spoke to a state representative the other day voice his concerns about safe setbacks and a couple of bills that were coming up. The question was by the polititan well where would you put them. His comment out in the boomdocks away from people. Politicians comment well you’re just a NIMBY then. The member took offence to the term and told him so. Which I guessed surprised the state rep. I guess I’m sick and tired too, of the fact that anyone who “questions” the science of wind, or health effects is basically discounted and the term is used as a put down.
    Bottom line I just don’t think people want to know the facts. “Facts that don’t support the wind company and government side are lies”, It’s their facts or nothing. People become victims.

  2. It is usually the people that are NIMBYers that refer to others as NIMBYers.
    I am proud to be a NIMBYer.
    I certainly don’t want windturbines in MBY.
    They can go where people want them and accept them in their BY
    I wear this badge proudly!….NIMBY!

  3. This is a great article, however the promotion of open debate is always tainted by the cognitive dissonance known to be rampant with the promoters of wind and other renewables. These people continually prevent feedback from the reality of their ideas. Despite free speech and mass media, the prevailing vision of those who promote renewables seal themselves off from any opposing vision and label us as negative, non progressive and in the end NIMBY’s. Even when these issues are discussed, the conclusions are always predetermined. We need to insist that scientific methodology be used backed by real world empirical evidence in a format that is easily understood by the public and shaped in positive terms. This is not happening. We have in large part a PR problem.

  4. This article is a vaccuous piece of crap.
    I do not want an IWT in my back yard or
    in anyone else’s, so I could care less what
    someone might label me as. The issues/concerns
    cannot be mitigated, whereby an IWT project
    will be better and/or the community stronger.
    Give me a break.

  5. LOL!..
    I hear you.
    The power would be going to the cities…and they don’t want them there. LOL!
    NIMBYer…and proud of it!
    Heck I don’t even want them in McGuinty’s backyard.
    They would be best , all 4000 windturbines 10 miles off shore , 1000 ft. on the lake bottom.

  6. I just want to provide a quote here to support the “experiment wording”…

    Councillor Shelley Carroll, who chairs the fund, said it operates at arm’s length from the city and is able to make investments that council couldn’t touch.

    “The difference is, the city is and must be risk-averse,” Carroll said. “The Toronto Atmospheric Fund, once they’ve taken it through the science experts, can take some risks.”

    The Georgina Island venture, to be completed in about a year, may provide valuable lessons on how to set up a similar facility closer to the city, Carroll said.

    “We may get to the point where we have to use wind energy much closer to cities, such as they do in Europe. You want to be able to say you’ve studied all the things in a remote area that may be a concern in a less remote area.”


    You see the Lake Simcoe project in My Back Yard is “remote”. …and yes it is — it is “remote from them”. It is not in their back yard. So I am dealing with a bunch of NIMBY’s . Self-serving, righteous, ignorant, science deprived, neighbor hating NIMBY’s — and now I don’t like it!


  7. NIMBY’s original meaning has been lost. Way back when it started, it meant don’t put whatever in my back yard, but it’s ok to put it in someone else’s back yard. I don’t recall ever hearing a wind turbine opponent saying such a thing. I think we opponents are unanimous – don’t put them in anyone’s back yard.

    Many of us go further and say they are so useless that we ought not build them at all.

  8. I sent of a letter to the Director of Education in our area a while ago.
    I indicated that it was irresponsible for a public education system to adopt energy programs to brainwash our children with propangada information supplied to the board by the very people who stand to profit if embraced.
    I suggested that education should be to help children think and question. Not to train children to be sheep folowing without question. To be leaders.
    I posed this:
    Ontario has an Energy Crisis
    Then suggested they investigate this to see if this was indeed a factual statement.
    I also suggested that they go beyong Gov’t and Suzuki sites for information.
    To go from extreme pros and cons to the very groups that stand to benefit from people blindly accepting a statement because it came from a place they felt was trustworthy. Because the groups such as the Suzuki foundation, is any but nonbiased.

  9. Wayne:

    I beg to differ…

    I think we opponents are unanimous – don’t put them in anyone’s back yard.

    I agree that we should not build IWTs at all. I said so.

    However, if we must build IWTs, I say put them in Dalton McGuinty’s back yard. Put them in the backyard of every MPP that voted for the GEA. Put them on the front lawn of every wind company executive. If they belong anywhere, they belong there.

    If we must install IWT’s — then put them on the front lawn of every Federal Liberal and ecery Federal NDP memebr — they support Alternative Energy — from a NIMBY point of vie!. They have asked for Alternative Energy to be increased fourfold — no sweat! Let them have it.

    It’s not unanimous.

    Just my $0.02

  10. If you reasearch the Waterkeeper group you will find minor players in the passage of the Ontario Green Energy Act.

    So use a group not directly involved and let them put out the propaganda. The major players have lost their creditability. Nice try but this won’t work either.

  11. Before anyone could discredit NIMBYs they’d have to first listen to the AIMBYs (Already In My Back Yard).

    “Health studies before (more) wind turbines!”

  12. Bette,

    You will have to Google this:

    “Applications of Renewable energy Approval (REA)-Draft SotyhPoint Wind,” Feb,2010. Proposed Offshore Project, see pages 37-38.

    The ratio of 1/10 still holds for number of full time post construction jobs for wind farms. One job for every 10 turbines installed.

    So ~ $ 20 million dollars has to be spent on wind turbines to create one full time post construction job to run the turbines.

    Perhaps you could ask your representatives if they think this is smart use of financial resources?

    Would any private company using only their own capital do such a foolish thing? But if you have government money then this is a different matter?

  13. I’ve read the Liberal cabinet actually refers to us opponents contemptuously, but more accurately, as BANANAS
    Build Absolutely None Anywhere Near Anybody

    I like BANANAs – I don’t have much use for NIMBYs.

    The ownership of the yard is irrelevant – the contraptions are worse than useless.

  14. Ah, David, you are vindictive. In this case you might well be justified.

    It is a common ploy to accuse your opponents of being what you are, trying to divert. The real nimby’s are the proponents, mostly living in cities.

    I forgot to mention the many of us who, along with not building them in anyone’s back yard, would also not build them in environmentally sensitive areas, like IBA’s.

  15. So now we are debating “name calling”?…..here’s some names you may want to focus on: Don’t be a “McGuinty” or a “Duguid” or a “Wilkinson”?…………..Geez………..let’s get all “revved” up over stupid names………….I think we have “bigger fish to fry” here………….like destruction of our Homes, Health, Communities and Democracy!…….to even quote anything written by “Waterkeeper” is a red flag at best…they are part of the Green Gang and they should be included in name calling…….”don’t be a Waterkeeper” is more like it.

  16. Barbara, That is a good one to put the rep. It’ is unfortunate, but here, it seems, if you aren’t a lobbyist you just don’t have the weight.

    A for instance of strangeness, from our group a person has been talking about the problems with wind projects, etc. so he asked if he could do a program (they said it was ok if it was not bias). So he did include about the taxes the county would receive and temp construction jobs (though coming from afar) Any way he included the problems noise, etc and the costs. Afterwards people came up to say “you mean these are only at best 30% efficient (industry) and we’re giving them all this stimulus money?” yes, duh… He had told them previously, but it never soaked in. Maybe some people from that civic group will now “have a clue”. I personally think our biggest problems are
    1. We don’t have lobbyist for the ordinary people
    2. And, we need some good PR — no local media in our area ever picks us anything that’s not “pro-wind”. If we give them anything they don’t print.
    3. And, those 10 jobs… I think that’s the high side…Actual people working on those finished projects we in the states have no accurate accounting, nor any requirements for accounting.

  17. I am proud to be a Banana..they are very good for you…hmmmm?
    The Banana Republic..yeah I know.
    We could wave our Bananas High!

  18. Let’s add another word to the list…

    “Delusion” — read all about it…


    Although this model is good for the purpose of profit, it is destroying our planet. A few examples include the food industry with their practices of GMOs, genetically engineered foods and other harmful ways of profit farming and fishing, the continuous use of nuclear/coal/oil, which destroy and pollute our ancient forests and our precious water and air.

    Where does he talk about wind turbines which destroy our people and suck our resources in the Big Green Hole? (Much worse than a Black Hole)

  19. Bette,

    We have to use the figures we have as this is published information.

    You may have to find which of your state representatives pushed the renewable laws in your state and then follow their connections if any back to NGOs that are spewed this crap to begin with.

    One Michigan state representative,not in office now, bragged in Canada about introducing and pushing the renewable energy crap in Michigan. This former rep. is a Suzuki “groupie”.

  20. Has anyone seen the new Friends of Wind website launched today? I don’t understand how they can be so short sighted, surely they must have some concerns about their neighbours too.


  21. Thanks for the fiends of wind url. It certainly is just another CanWEA site.I thought it was actually pretty funny, that they have a “Submit A Story” page so I sent them this:

    “I have always been interested in alternative energy and cutting back on fossil fuels. Once I heard that Industrial Wind Turbines were being proposed for my neighbourhood I had mixed feelings. Now, having done some research I can honestly say I am very skeptical and downright scared. I spoke with two people in the west end of Norfolk who have been living with Industrial Turbines for 3 years now and have had to sleep away from there homes because something is making them sick.

    I have to ask myself why you people and the Ontario Government won’t even acknowledge the fact that maybe we should at least do proper Health Studies before we put even more Turbines 550 metres from our homes.

    Since I have written to CanWEA, Capital Power the provincial government et all and not gotten any acknowledgement that the issue even warrants further study I can assume you have no interest in the health of people next door to them and are only interested in making some money while the big subsidy trough is still there.

    I hope someone comes to their senses soon.

    I am sure you will just delete my “Story” and ignore my concerns like the rest of the greedy proponents. That’s okay, I have come to expect that.”

    Do you think they actually think they are going to get happy stories about friggin Turbines being installed? Maybe something like ” Yes, we are very happy about the $13,000 a Turbine lease payment we are getting. Too bad our neighbours hate our guts and that bit of Tinitus I have developed, but other than that these things are great!

    Wouldn’t surprise me if they just start writing happy stories themselves, the lying S.O.B.’s

    Dave Simspon

  22. Lots of info available (ha!)

    Domain name: friendsofwind.ca
    Domain status: registered
    Creation date: 2010/11/13
    Expiry date: 2015/11/13
    Updated date: 2011/03/10

    Name: DomainsAtCost Corp.
    Number: 45

    Name servers:

    Here are the servers…

    OrgName: SingleHop, Inc.
    OrgId: SINGL-8
    Address: 621 W. Randolph St.
    Address: 3rd Floor
    City: Chicago
    StateProv: IL
    PostalCode: 60661
    Country: US
    RegDate: 2007-03-07
    Updated: 2010-03-23


    Whoever it is is real shy!

  23. Whats comical is how this windie website is desperately trying to start a grassroots campaign out of support that is mostly in it for the money!
    I had a good laugh reading the Spread The Word section which gives advice to would be letter to the editor writers such as “Sit on it for a day – and edit again for errors in reasoning, acidic tone, jargon, etc.” and “Don’t attack. Keep the tone friendly.”
    Yes, good advice, except their letter example #1 by Don Chrisholm is a very acidic non friendly attack against baby boomers in which he brings out the NIMBY slur three times. Oh well, conveying friendly intentions can be hard to attain on the first try. Especially when you don’t truly believe them in your heart.

  24. Dan:

    Even better — the site is anonymous in case you did not pick up on that.

    Why would you have an anonymous site for industrial wind power? What could possibly be so bad that you have to hide it? Is it that it is an American Company trying to interfere in Canadian Elections?

    Is it a company that is desperately trying to garner support for a new venture?

    Is it CANWEA trying to influence the two Canadian Election campaigns in play?

    Is it the Provincial Liberals?

    Could it be Mike Crawley trying to correct the error of our ways?

    Is it a Canadian Green Group that is ashamed to support useless, bird chopping, bat smothering, health damaging wind turbines — so they hide behind anonymity? Maybe that’s it!

  25. So if you go to the Join the Friends link, you receive these instructions:

    “Please add the domain ‘canwea.ca’ to you safe sender list, so the Friends of Wind eLetter does not end up in your spam folder.”

    Does this give us a clue as to sponsorship?

  26. Typical of conversations with pro-windies, it appears that the conversation is all one sided. There is no where I can find to post comments!

  27. If you think that website’s bad, check out this one:


    Turbine leaseholders in Norfolk have put up lawn signs advertising this website. Yes, this is the same IWT development that has forced several families out of their homes because of health effects, which was built and operated by Mike Crawley’s AIMPowerGen, now known as International Power Canada.

  28. This might be a hint too.

    So why are they hiding in Chicago — home of Obama…. ???? Is this significant? Surely there is a conspiracy here. 😉

    Is it simply too expensive to do business in Ontario? Is the power in Ontario too expensive to run the servers? …probably! Wonder why! Must be another one of those conspiracies — wind companies conspiring to raise the power rates… nah not believable!

  29. David, it’s more likely they just had some free servers left over in Chicago following the collapse of the carbon trading market there.
    Instead of spamming, the hardware is designed for scamming.

  30. I’m not sure I completely agree with stay away from prowind sites. When I first realized that wind companies were planning to put “IWF” in our county I started to research and what came up first was “pro-wind” sites, when I kept reading about no noise problems (and there is one site that editorized (spins the story), but provides a link for the actual story, and if you read it you see the spin. When I kept reading about noise (at that one point I knew nothing) I began to wonder if there wasn’t a problem with noise, why there were all these complaints and why they kept calling them NIMBY — so I continue to look further to find the truth. I sometimes will find stories that I might never have found.
    I find it a good idea to keep an eye on the prowind groups.

  31. What a giant tangled wind-power web this is and all for ineffective, collosal, air-sucking tin pinwheels.

    THIS is what we pay taxes for? Thank goodness we’ve worked so hard for 40 years to pay off our land only to have our land suddenly worth much less because the government wants to appear environmentally conscious while lining the pockets of big wind bags.

    Please, please make it stop!

  32. Shocked and Disgusted,

    Putting up those signs may have been demaned by the wind developer. Sometimes promoting wind turbines is in some contracts. People may be afraid of what will happen if they don’t do as the wind developers tells them to do.

    All the same signs? Then paid for by the developer or taken out of peoples cheques?

  33. Barbara, I agree the leaseholder who has an option and/or firm lease my understanding from people who were offered a lease it includes something “will support the project”. In the written testimony here of letters they were typed on various type styles with almost same wording, paragraph one is paragraph 2 in another letter, etc.they all had written signature, but were typed. The company rallied the people. They gave them a template to follow.
    It was interesting to note when the major company backed out (it was a co-deal with developer and another company). At the next “hearing” to keep turbines outside a town in the county — none of the leaseholders showed up to speak. Which meant to me that without proding they weren’t going to hearings, speaking for the wind turbines.

  34. bette,

    But it’s crunch time now!

    With all that has happend at Thunder Bay with the IWT issues some people still don’t get what really happed there.

    Wind developers can and will impose their will on the people. So do as they say or you will get taken to the financial cleaners.

  35. I believe “sense” will eventually win out, but unfortunately there will be many hurt in the meantime. We do what we can, but a lot of people want to put their head in the sand. Then they will wake up and say “where did all these ugly giants come from?” Leaseholders and government officials are blinded by lease payments and taxes/jobs that don’t exist…

  36. All the money that is being spent on useless IWTs that only work ~25-30% of the time and cost huge amounts of money that coulde be spent on something useful.Spend the money on something that will creat some jobs.

    People wonder why the US stimulus money didn’t produce jobs. It went into wind developers pockets. The Senate majority leader is one of the people who greatly helped the wind industry to get rich off this scam.

    Bette you will just have to keep telling people that spending ~$20 million dollars on obsolete machinery won’t work. Show them the figures. If you can ,shove the figures right in the faces of your representatives.

    Same thing needs to be done in Ontario.

  37. Or as Melodie Burkett has so neatly phrased it:

    Next It Might Be You

    N I M B Y

  38. I suggest we instead EMBRACE the term NIMBY — because it is not “science-based” objections to corporate assaults that we need to raise within our communities (our “back yards”). Rather it is the assertion of our RIGHT to make local governing decisions to protect the health, safety, welfare, quality of life, natural environment, and future generations RIGHT WHERE WE LIVE. Rather than taking the defensive stance of “banning” the term NIMBY (will those who accuse us of it go along with the ban?), we should embrace it and answer “damn right, not in my back yard!And not in any community where the people assert their inalienable right to self-government in the place where they live by prohibiting corporations to violate the rights of members of the community. And that goes for corporations “permitted” by the state to violate the rights of members of our community. The state acts illegitimately in empowering state-chartered corporations to violate our rights. We have the legitimate authority to say “Not in My Back Yard!”

  39. Interesting, the term actually totally inaccurate since the thing causing the “problem” is in my neighbor’s back yard. Depending on the setback from proeprty line or home he or the industry has “taken” part of land to “oount” towards “his” setback requirement.

  40. Is it not striking that the term NIMBY is almost always used by city-dwellers complaining about us rural rubes not wanting to put up with their garbage , their slaughterhouses, rendering and composting facilities, power-lines, generating stations and whatnot? The noise, the stench,the ugliness and the health problems are ours to keep, free of charge. So feel free to call me a NIMBY. Only an idiot would not defend his home against all the above-mentioned assaults.

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