True story: A small college in the Midwest wanted to put up a wind turbine on their campus. The school, being on top of a hill in the middle of the prairie, had enough wind to produce upwards of 3/4 of their needed electricity, so the project made good sense. But when it came time to talk to the people living nearby, the school ran into some opposition. In particular, from a farmer who thought the noise and appearance of the wind turbine would lower property values.
The punchline: He was a pig farmer.*
The point here is not that irony is funny. (Although, it totally is.) Instead, this is about the cultural role that farmer represents. NIMBY--Not In My Backyard--is traditionally defined as what happens when people are, generally, in favor of something, but don't want the necessary infrastructure built anywhere they can see it. Bacon is delicious, but you don't want to live next door to a pig farm. Sustainable energy is great, but you don't want a wind turbine mucking up your views.
It's really easy to write off any opposition that gets labeled as NIMBY. After all, infrastructure has to be built somewhere, and everywhere is somebody's backyard. Therefore, NIMBYists are selfish twits who can't see beyond their own nose. But the truth, as per usual, is more complicated. Thanks to wind power projects, and the supposedly NIMBY reactions against them, political and social scientists are learning what we really talk about when we talk about NIMBY. Their discoveries could have wide-reaching implications, both for how we understand public opposition to infrastructure projects--and for how we respond to it and get what needs to be built built.
Note for city dwellers and others who don't get the joke: Large pig farms are generally smelly, considered unattractive, and tend to lower property values.
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