Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Let’s hear it for the NIMBY’s and the Do-Gooders…

In Around Mendo Island on December 9, 2013 at 9:19 am

Redwood Valley

The ‘Right To Industry’ bullshit and Slaughterhouse plans 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.

Wendell Berry:

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 misguided leaders in our community try to impose their will on local citizens, 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.

  1. Yo Dave,

    My gastrointestinal “Curse of the Gods” has now made me an obligate carnivore, an involuntary Dr. Atkins victim. I mostly used to be interested in vegetable production and consumption, now I am developing a keen interest in eating my fellow animals. The Universe is perverse. Thanks for at least trying to stimulate discussion on the slaughter issue. We obligate carnivores really want healthy affordable meat.

    That said, actual debate is pretty rare in my expereince here. At first glance we seem to live in a place where actual debate rarely occurs, but looking closer one realizes that “debate” is going on in a strange style unique to our habitat. Ya got ta love the debate style one encounters here in the Mendocino Solar System. The natives seem fond of staking out diametrically opposed positions on almost any issue, the less fact involved the better, build up a nice crescendo of bald assertion reminiscent of Bolero, then, as a finale make a show of mutual antagonism ending in bilaterally symmetrical dramatic exits. Being mostly housebound this last year I really miss watching this ethnic performance here on Planet Boonville, especially those witnessed outside the Saloon across the street from me, where the performances sometimes became full contact, and at Boontberry where the whole process is creatively morphed into weird stuff, sometimes including hugging. This ceremony seems to assert the underlying mythical belief, and local core social value, which can be best described as something like, “You are wrong about everything, but I will defend your right to make a fool of yourself. And besides nothing matters enough to force us to cooperate and ruin the fun.” I have seen the phrase Libertarian Progressive used to attempt to label the local dominant value system, but it is a weak attempt at analysis. Much study is needed.

    Years ago the Local Green Party Meeting had the best performances of this ceremony. The Board of Supes try, but they are lousy at it. The Smithsonian should send a team out here to document this and make an exhibit to put in the culture hall next to exhibits on other puzzling indigenous world cultures.

    But what do we expect? People sitting down and listening to each other? Get real. Most of us are overeducated by the fourth grade in attending to authority to decide what to think. The “any authority will do as long as it disagrees with yours” trope is a delightful aspect of local color. Wine, weed and witlessness triumphant.


  2. It occurs to me that I am more comfortable with the slogan “Not in Your Back Yard Either.”

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