Monday, October 22, 2007

Debunking the Growth Myth, Part 7

Myth Number 7
If you don't like growth, you're a "NIMBY" or an "Anti".

Reality Check: NIMBYs have valid concerns.

The overused NIMBY acronym, "not in my backyard," is supposed to reflect a selfish attitude, an unwillingness to accept some undesirable development in, or near, the neighbourhood. Similar rhetorical labels include "anti's" (people who are against everything), "gatekeepers", "drawbridge raisers", or "I've got mine." There are far too many examples of how these negative labels have been used against concerned citizens to neutralize opposition to growth.

These labels seem to have the primary purpose of invalidating what may be a very legitimate concern about growth and development. A NIMBY is more likely to be someone who cares enough about the future of his or her community to get out and protect it. You can thank all the great NIMBYs of the past for keeping hazardous wastes dumps, major polluters, and other nuisances out of your community. The more people join together to preserve the quality of their "backyards", the better off the world will be.

People who move to a community and then express concerns about growth are sometimes referred to as “pulling up the drawbridge after them”. Again, this is like to be a distortion of the person’s real motives. Often, newcomers to a community move there because they recognize it has some special qualities. They may also have lived in other towns where they’ve watched similar qualities be destroyed by growth. Thus, they may have a keen awareness of how vulnerable their new community’s assets are. This outside experience can be valuable to a community that has not recently experienced the consequences of rapid growth.

People who want slow growth tend to be those who care very much about the future of their community and want to protect what they value for generations to come. They are usually volunteers who are willing to contribute their time generously in a charitable civic capacity to improve the community and the environment. Is it more accurate for the local newspaper to refer to such a person as anti-growth or as pro-community? Negative labeling distorts and marginalizes legitimate viewpoints. It also tends to polarize issues and discourage productive dialogue. Are you an anti-growther or a dedicated civic volunteer concerned about the future of your community?

read more of the argument against Myth 7 here


BBS said...

"productive dialogue" - Key words. We're all good at shouting at each other, whether it be businesses, politicians, developers, home owners etc, but do we really listen to each other? There's a lot to be said for community engagement and not enough of it done. (and I certainly don't mean studies, polls and focus groups).

Chris Holt said...

Amen, Brother!

That's why I treasure those folks around me who become engaged in the process and can envision change.

They're the rarest of all gems.