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The Alphabet Series 2000: N is for NIMBY
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
June 21, 2000
[With this article, Bob requested that his tagline in the paper be changed to: Robert Nanninga, a freelance writer, producer, and environmental journalist. A native of Vista living in Leucadia, he Chairs San Diego ZPG, as well as representing coastal North County on the Green County Council.]
"NIMBY; Acronym for "not in my back yard," a term of recent origin, now commonly used to refer to people who refuse to have something possibly or potentially environmentally harmful close to their home."
On record, I would like to state that I am not a NIMBY. I am a NOMP. NIMBY is a derisive term used to denounce individuals who care about their home environment. If working as designed, NIMBY is not a compliment. Property rights enthusiasts like to label other people Nimby as way of masking there own destructive egocentrism. It's so obvious. Most of the Nimby's I know are quite proud of that distinction. As they should be.
NOMP, on the other hand, is an acronym for "Not On My Planet!" I am a NOMP. Much wider in scope, not only do I want people to stop building in my neighborhood, I want them to stop building. No more roads, no more hotels, no more strip malls, no more multiplexes, and no more golf courses. And in coastal North County, no more homes. Then again, I am rather extreme.
For the most part, all of the Nimbys I have worked with are caring, committed people, who still believe in the American dream. Doctors, lawyers, building inspectors, teachers, and seamstresses, all working within the system to protect a quality of life that includes a healthy environment. It's safe to say Nimbys have been a part of western civilization since Thomas Robert Malthus sounded the alarm in 1798.
In his essay, the Principle of Population, Malthus contended that poverty and distress are unavoidable because population increases faster than the means of subsistence. If I didn't know better I would think Mr. Malthus spent time sitting in the gridlock of Interstate 5. How many more people can call the San Diego region home before it's too much? 5 million? Six? The signs of distress are everywhere, can poverty be far behind?
The question is, can our communities continue to thrive at the current rate of development? We are now at the point where there are no "outskirts" in which to build the greed factories that line the pockets of the haves, while have-nots learn to live with less of everything. At a time when water scarcity is being forecasted, ecosystems collapsing, and increasing pollution, it makes no sense to continue adding more to the mix.
In Oceanside, Nimbys are fighting to stop a massive resort complex from being built on public land. In Carlsbad, Nimbys struggle to preserve what little open space remains. For Del Mar residents the backyards in question are bluffs and the North County Transit District's right of way. Encinitas, a hot spot of NIMBY activity, has a network of citizen activists doing battle with an entrenched political structure long fueled by flower power.
Last week this NOMP and a few Nimbys filed an appeal with the California Coastal Commission to prevent the City of Encinitas from developing land adjacent to the San Elijo Lagoon. Not because we wish to deny kids sports fields, but because we believe it is in the communities best interest to protect the the lagoon, the ecological reserve, and it's remaining watershed. Soccer fields can go anywhere, wetlands can not.
Recently a new front has opened in Encinitas over the Caltras Co. proposal to place a 10 acre genetic engineering research facility, across the street from the YMCA. Tired of growing "old world" flowers, the folks at the Paul Ecke Ranch want to take agriculture off the land into the laboratory, making Encinitas the Frankenflower capital of the world. Not only will local Nimbys take issue with this, I'm sure quite a few Nomps will make their displeasure known. The Biotic Brigade is probably already planning future actions. As we all know labs are meant to be raided.
As far as I am concerned Nimbys are the new revolutionaries. After putting in a full day of work, anyone who can still spend long hours fighting the developers at City Hall, to protect their neighborhood, deserves the respect of their community, not the contempt of those who would destroy it. Call me a NIMBY or call me a NOMP, it doesn't matter because I see such terms as affirmation of the work I am doing to slow the Growth Machine.