Thoughts on NIMBY or NIMBYism

nimby protest
Not all protests are bad. But not all dissenting opinions are good ones…

Thoughts on NIMBY or NIMBYism

The term NIMBY is something I hadn’t really heard until a couple years ago. I was watching a talk by an investor and heard it mentioned, piquing my interest. After looking it up, I learned it’s an acronym for Not In My Back Yard. As in, “I agree we need more wind turbines for renewable energy! Just not where they can be seen from my property.” Or, “we need more immigrants – just not in my neighbourhood.”

I thought this was so interesting, since everywhere in the media and in every town where I’ve ever lived, there seems to be no shortage of staunch opposition to nearly everything. The more I read about it, the more it seemed to be not just something experienced here in my own country, but in nations the world over. In the UK, they even have another possibly-more hilarious term: BANANA (or Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything).

I should note, however, from my reading it seems to be mostly rich, Western nations and communities that are so afflicted with this problem. The people and elite desire these changes – as long as there’s no cost to them or their bottom line. After reading a recent article on the possible (and ridiculously political) cancellation of Enbridge’s Line 5 Pipeline, I felt this was a topic I needed to explore.

“One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.” – Robert F. Kennedy

This is not TMX, but it is a pipeline.

Pipelines in Canada

Whoa?! Did you just mention the “P” word? Prepare for incoming protest.

So, I live in Canada. We have a weird thing here where we kind of live a double life. For instance, we have (or desire to have) a strong sense of culture that we absolutely MUST protect. Part of it is our strange english/french history and language, and some of it is our love of Tim Hortons and poutine. A lot of it is also a desire to try and be different than the United States – at any cost. Lest we be anything like our grotesquely different (read: nearly identical) neighbours to the south.

Canadian Oil & Gas Pipelines

Let’s talk about oil and gas in Canada. It’s estimated Oil & Gas contributes more than 10% to the GDP of our country, only behind real estate & manufacturing in terms of economic might. 23% of Canadian exports in 2019 were oil and gas, primarily to the United States.

Now, I am 100% for a transition to renewable energy and completely agree we need to rethink our fossil fuel usage where it makes sense. What I am not for, however, is insane opposition to the whiff of any oil and gas project – especially when it comes to pipelines. And especially OLD pipelines!

Trans Mountain Expansion

Take the Trans Mountain Pipeline for example. This pipeline was first commissioned in 1951 and has been operating safely for decades, supplying Alberta oil products to the West Coast. Over its lifetime, it’s been expanded upon several times as the global appetite for oil has grown.

Its most recent expansion, however, became an insane flashpoint of media and activist attention. After years of useless fighting and money lost, our own government – reportedly anti-pipeline – bought Trans Mountain. It seems the only way to beat a vocal minority, foreign interests, and suspect land claims to gain approval under your own system is to nationalize the damn thing.

What kills me, is the blind “NO” that a portion of the public – who drives cars, flies airplanes, uses plastics and metals – screams at these projects. A portion of the public who benefits immensely from the financial and technological advances from natural resources.

It’s not like they planned to dynamite the remaining Canadian glaciers to gush oil onto the beaches of the Pacific.

At its current capacity, this pipeline moves as much oil as 1400 tanker trucks or 441 rail cars daily. You would have to be a fool to think this isn’t the best way to perform a necessary movement of essential fuel. Fuel to heat million-dollar parental homes and fund trips to protests and chic destinations, alike. The monied elite in their Mercedes & Porsche SUVs wouldn’t imagine changing their driving habits or downsizing their mega-mansions – as long as the do the right thing and oppose any expansion except that of their own empire.

Canada has this strange desire to live a double-life, where we profit immensely off of and fanatically use our natural resources. But we also desire to bend to the will of the vocal opposition, who fail to understand how to truly get from A to B without skipping a whole lot of steps in between.

Would prefer to not have trains filled with oil in these parts, thank you.

A Small Mountain Town that Hates Itself

I live in a small mountain town, complete with snow-capped peaks, stunning rivers and gorgeous wildlife. Its the kind of place where people come to visit from all over the world and Canada, and many choose to stay forever.

The history here began with a coal mining (hilarious given our current town image and my writings about this country above). When the mine closed in the 1970s, the massive swathe of land it occupied was bought and sold a few times by different investor groups. The plan seems to have always been to develop it into homes and businesses and expand the community.

Flash forward to today, where the hot topic in any mountain town is the shortage of housing. Given our finite space, and desirability as a place to live, it only makes sense that prices will rise and home inventories will stretch to their limits. The old mine land, which represents something like 70% of the developable-land left in our community, is slated to be developed into new housing projects.

Guess how the community feels about it?

Not In My Back Yard – NIMBY

Despite years of planing, consultations and accommodations, plans are in jeopardy. Signs have been made. Websites built. This proposed development will destroy our community and everything we hold dear. The population will DOUBLE overnight and ruin our culture. “STOP Development X” signs litter the front lawns of mansions whose property values have 10x’d in 20 years, and dot the windows of dingy over-priced rental suites everywhere.

Not for us. Not in our town.

We don’t want the housing that makes sense, we don’t want the new opportunities for our citizens. We don’t want new businesses or satellite university campuses. The door must slam shut once we have arrived. Development = bad. Period.

In a way, my mountain town is much like Canada. It’s been forged in reality and bathed in the golden profits of exploitation. But in today’s world, it’s hard to get something done – even if it makes perfect sense.

Instead, both seem ready to masochistically self-flagellate into oblivion rather than do the simple thing that makes sense.

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