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They are not NIMBY!

Dr Karen Parkhill explains why the term 'NIMBY' isn't helpful.
A common label applied to people who live close to a proposed energy site and strongly oppose them is NIMBY. This stands for Not In My Back Yard. In fact, it is only one of many associated acronyms including LULUs which stands for Locally Unwanted Land Uses. But my favourite has to be BANANA - meaning Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone! Whilst some of these acronyms have an undercurrent of humour, energy researchers now resist using the likes of NIMBY because of what such terms imply about those who object to energy developments; namely that an individual is being emotional, irrational or indeed selfish. In fact, Dr van der Horst stated that NIMBYism implies a “geographical catchment area for selfish behaviour”.
Perhaps most worryingly, the label of NIMBY can be used, as Dr Wolsink noted, as “the ultimate legitimization for not considering the arguments that are put forward” by objectors and as a way to dismiss their concerns. Yet is it really irrational to in general accept a development, but be more concerned about the same sort of development when it is nearby? It is well documented that for many energy developments, the risks are geographically concentrated and benefits are often far more dispersed. Take for example a wind turbine. Some people perceive wind turbines as damaging the aesthetics of the area - here the risk is localised. Yet the benefits, such as reducing Co2 in the atmosphere helps everyone.
Furthermore, research into objections has shown that they are not overly emotional, nor irrational and there is little evidence that such concerns are selfish or parochial. Instead, negative perceptions are rooted in concerns for the local area and connect with people’s self-identity and how people view their area - aspects which some people may feel is threatened by the development. Indeed, negative perceptions both real and imagined, including those held or believed to be held by people outside of the local area, can have a powerful influence on how people may feel about energy developments. For example, some technologies may be stigmatised due to being perceived as dangerous or risky, and this stigma can transfer from one object to another, including to people and places.
Stigmatisation is a very real issue. Whilst I’ve explained here why we energy researchers no longer use the term NIMBY to categorise those who are against energy developments, it is vital that I’m clear that this does not necessarily mean we agree with all the specific objections raised. Instead what we advocate for is not simply dismissing objectors. Indeed, research has outlined the importance of the process by which people are engaged, with regards to a development - a theme I will return to in later steps.

In this video, Dr Karen Parkhill discusses why the tern ‘NIMBY’ is problematic and why we shouldn’t dismiss local objections as ‘just nimbyism’.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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