From DAVE SMITH
June 7, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California
The blight of Monster Mall dumb growth, and the horror of mass mammal slaughter by Navy war games are forcing themselves on Mendocino communities. Some will shrug their shoulders in passive resignation, others will nod in welcome to a colonial economy; some will smile in anticipation of self-interested benefit, others will nod off in a non-caring stupor.
There’s a lot of scorn now toward people who say, “Not in my backyard,” but the not-in-my-backyard sentiment is one of the most valuable that we have. If enough people said, “Not in my backyard,” these bad innovations wouldn’t be in anybody’s backyard. It’s your own backyard you’re required to protect because in doing so you’re defending everybody’s backyard. It is altogether healthy and salutary.
The environmental movement was founded and built by so-called NIMBYs, and Do-Gooders. They responded to the poisoning and destruction of our shared natural environment, first revealed by Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring, by opposing it in their own backyards, neighborhoods, watersheds, and communities. They took personal responsibility, as good citizens and their elected representatives do in a democracy. I say good for them, good for us. If we don’t take responsibility for our own backyards and communities, who will? There are some things that should not be in any one’s backyard or neighborhood, and those who are most motivated to stop them are those who are immediately and locally affected. And when someone says that government should just get out of the way, they are saying democracy should just get out of the way.
Citizens throughout America are mourning the loss of uniqueness, identity, and community in the places they live. A “sense of place” is built on cultural and economic diversity with appropriate and sustainable scale and technologies. When huge and powerful forces like national mall builders and the U.S. Navy try to impose their will on local communities, who is there to challenge them? Without strong local voices opposing the harmful out-dated practices of the past, we wouldn’t have the many positive alternatives available to us now.
Admittedly, NIMBYs and Do-Gooders are not always right, and sometimes can do harm. But for me they are most often honorable local heroes. They volunteer their own precious time for positive, creative steps that help steer us from what is best for a few to what is best for the many and for the future. We’ve learned what not to do from the ugly, impersonal sprawls to the south of us, and the continuing loss of nature’s vast diversity to chemical poisons. Strong regulations and strong local government, which are built upon our Constitution by a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, protect the community. Continuing the fight for our rights is the only way to honor those who have come before.
And that is what hope is built on.