Warmer: Would you be happy about news of a construction project that will make your life, and others around you, easier? Is there any particular construction you would like to see built – a new road, supermarket, swimming pool, thousands of new homes? Would you be happy for them to be built near you? Why/why not?
Now read the text below, answering the questions that follow.
Nimbyism – the common good or individual rights?
Adapted from various articles with additional material by Roger Hartopp
Imagine this situation. Poland accepts several thousand migrants from abroad, but needs to house them. Men, women and children. For many, this is only humane. But then, what if there is an announcement that some recently built property has been commandeered (to take charge of something already owned by someone) by the government to house three hundred of these migrants, but these properties are less than five minutes walking distance – or even one minute – from where you live? Would you then be so happy? Would it be fair to call you a Nimby?
But what exactly is a Nimby? These are campaigners who proclaim Not In My Back Yard, and they raise big questions about which is more important: the common good or individual rights. The word itself was invented in 1980, and was popularized by then controversial British politician Nicholas Ridley after he opposed a low-cost housing development near his own property.
Nimbys – the word is used in a derogative way – are residents who oppose any proposal for new developments because it is close to them, believing that while these developments are needed, they should be further away from where they live. They are called Nimbys and their state of mind is called Nimbyism. Examples of projects likely to be opposed include any kind of building development, shelters, wells, chemical plants, industrial parks, military bases, pubs, adult entertainment clubs, mobile phone masts, electricity pylons, shopping malls, roads, airports and so on. For many it is a belief that the protesters are putting their own interests ahead of the needs of society, and that their objections are selfish rather than principled.
Imagine this scenario. You want to sell your property. Off-street parking, big garden, pleasant residential area close to local amenities. And it also happens that in the next five years, it’s going to have a rubbish-disposal plant built nearby… oh dear, that’s the value of the property already gone down and any potential interest.
Any self-respecting player of Property Price Poker is, for sure, going to make it part of their duties to be interested in what is happening locally or what is going to happen in the area in the future when thinking about buying property and what impact it might have on their lifestyle: a new rubbish-disposal plant is probably going to turn away many potential buyers. It doesn’t matter whether it is a new dual carriageway (completion of the Krakow ring road), a new waste disposal site (Krakow Olszanica), or a planned nuclear power station (the Baltic Coast west of the Hel Peninsula), or even anything substantial built in the Podhale area, householders can be among the toughest opponents of planning proposals, particularly if it’s going to have a negative effect on the value of their property and, in their minds, the quality of their lives.
But consider those – or any other – protesters for a moment. Are they ordinary people who are just standing up for themselves the same way anyone else would? Or are they Nimbys, a group accused of preciousness, self-interest, hypocrisy and vanity?
Mike Haslam of the Royal Town Planning Institute maintains that Nimbyism is in no-one's interest. The reason property is expensive now in the UK, he says, is because people have opposed the building of new houses in the past. Nimbyism has cost everyone thousands. But environmental lawyer Professor Peter Kunzlik says the instinct to be a Nimby can be valuable. "One of the slogans that came after the Rio Summit was Think Globally, Act Locally. Governments claim to want everybody to do that, and so far as the environment is concerned, where do you experience it? It's where you live. So if you're going to take issues seriously, you do so locally, otherwise it becomes a bit hypothetical."
Balancing collective and individual interests is the job of politics. In France, the common good is held up as a sufficient reason to ensure that big development projects such as airports and railway lines go ahead. However, if a house is compulsorily purchased in France, the owner will get 125% of its value. Money can talk.
The word/acronym NIMBY and its derivative terms NIMBYism, NIMBYs, and NIMBYists, refer to those usually applied to opponents of a development, implying that they have narrow and selfish views. Other terms often used are NIMN (Not In My Neighbourhood); NIABY (Not In Anyone's BackYard – the building of nuclear power plants, for example, is often subject to NIABY concerns); NAMBI (Not Against My Business or Industry – actions or policy that threaten business); BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything [or Anyone], opposition to every instance of proposed development); FRUIT (Fear of Revitalization Urban-Infill and Towers); and SOBBY (Some Other Bugger's Back Yard – agrees that a particular project may be desirable and perhaps necessary, but only if it is placed somewhere else, preferably next to some stupid or annoying people). And no, I haven’t made any of these up.
So back to a similar scenario as discussed earlier: thanks to events in Eastern Ukraine, Poland suddenly gets an influx of 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Now I’m not going to ask you this question, but what if the government acquired a newly-built block of flats to house a few hundred of them for humanitarian needs? How do you think local residents would feel?
1. What does the acronym NIMBY stand for? What is a NIMBY?
2. Is the word used in a positive or negative way?
3. What kind of things would a NIMBY be against?
4. What examples in Poland are given as regards possible NIMBY activity? Do you know of any others?
5. What side-effect has Nimbyism caused in the UK, according to Mike Haslam of the Royal Town Planning Institute? Do you think this same effect could happen in Poland?
6. Why does there seem to be fewer problems getting things built in France? What is the situation in Poland?
7. What other acronyms are used to describe such individuals?
8. Would you describe yourself as a NIMBY? Why/why not?
humane/humanitarian – to act in a kind, sympathetic way towards other people and animals, and try to do them as little harm as possible. It’s more humane to take a stray dog to an animal refuge centre than to put it down.
to proclaim – to formally tell something to the public. He proclaimed himself president even though there were no elections.
derogative – an adjective meaning to make something less desirable or negative. You shouldn’t make derogative comments about your boss.
connotation – the ideas or qualities of a particular word name which it makes you think of. There are a lot of negative connotations with being obese – extremely fat.
well – here, a hole or shaft that is made into the earth so as to get a supply of water, oil, gas, etc. My grandparents have got a well in the garden where they can get water.
selfish – when a person only thinks of themselves and not the effects on others. Don’t be selfish and give a piece of your chocolate to your little brother.
amenities – things such as shopping centres or sports facilities that are provided for people's convenience, enjoyment, or comfort. We live just a few metres from local amenities in the shopping centre.
rubbish-disposal plant – a place where people’s rubbish is taken to be sorted. I don’t want to live next door to a rubbish-disposal plant because it’ll be noisy and smelly.
dual carriageway – two roads divided by a barrier with each road carrying two or more lanes of traffic going in one direction, and the other road with traffic going the opposite direction; most motorways are dual carriageways. They’re planning to make the new bypass a dual carriageway.
preciousness – a noun meaning you regard this thing as important and do not want to lose it. She just didn’t appreciate the preciousness of these toys and books from his childhood and wanted to throw them all out.
vanity/to be vain – someone who, in your opinion, pays too much attention to their appearance or abilities, and you disapprove of this. For a man so vain about his face, why is he happy to show his fat belly?
hypothetical – something based on possible ideas or situations rather than actual ones. They focus on what’s practical and not what’s hypothetical.
compulsory purchase – the buying of a house or land or other property from its owner by a local authority or government department for public use or development, and that the owner has no choice but to sell. There is a compulsory purchase order on your home as it’s on the line of the new ring road.
revitalisation – the process of making something active or healthy again after losing this. The city is going to spend several million zlotys on revitalisation of the market square.
bugger – here, a rude word to describe a person who has done something annoying or stupid. Don’t listen to him, he’s just a grumpy old bugger.
influx – people or things arriving into a place in large numbers. An influx of migrants entering the country.