NIMBY (not in my back yard) (20TH CENTURY)

Phrase attributed to Walton Rodger and widely linked to British Conservative politician and minister Nicholas Ridley (1929-1993).

There are always those who attempt to exclude themselves from the consequences of policies which in general they support. A house owner might advocate new motorways, but not at the bottom of his or her own back-garden.

NIMBY, as an observation about the behavior of both individual citizens and their parliamentary representatives, was gleefully applied to many public figures.

Claimed rationale

Developments likely to attract local objections include:

  • Infrastructure development, such as new roads and motorway service areas, light rail and metro lines, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, airports, power plants, retail developments, sales of public assets, electrical transmission lines, wastewater treatment plants, landfills, sewage outfalls and prisons;
  • The extraction of mineral resources including ore, aggregates and hydrocarbons from mines, quarries and oil wells or gas wells, respectively;
  • Renewable energy generators, such as wind farms and solar panels;
  • Businesses trading in goods perceived as immoral, such as adult video, liquor stores, and medical cannabis dispensaries;
  • Accommodations perceived as primarily benefiting disadvantaged people, such as subsidized housing for the financially disadvantaged, supportive housing for the mentally ill, halfway houses for drug addicts and criminals, and homeless shelters for those with no fixed address;
  • Services catering to certain stigmatized groups (for example, injection drug users), such as methadone clinics, syringe exchange programmes, drug detoxification facilities, supervised injection site;
  • Large-scale developments of all kinds, such as big-box stores and housing subdivisions.

The claimed reasons against these developments vary, and some are given below.

  • Increased traffic: more jobs, more housing or more stores correlates to increased traffic on local streets and greater demand for parking spots. Industrial facilities such as warehouses, factories, or landfills often increase the volume of truck traffic.
  • Harm to locally owned small businesses : the development of a big box store may provide too much competition to a locally owned store; similarly, the construction of a new road may make the older road less traveled, leading to a loss of business for property owners. This can lead to excessive relocation costs, or to loss of respected local businesses.
  • Loss of residential property value: homes near an undesirable development may be less desirable for potential buyers. The lost revenue from property taxes may, or may not, be offset by increased revenue from the project.
  • Environmental pollution of land, air, and water: power plants, factories, chemical facilities, crematoriums, sewage treatment facilities, airports, and similar projects may, or may be claimed to, contaminate the land, air, or water around them. Especially facilities assumed to smell might cause objections.
  • Light pollution : projects that operate at night, or that include security lighting (such as street lights in a parking lot), may be accused of causing light pollution.
  • Noise pollution : in addition to the noise of traffic, a project may inherently be noisy. This is a common objection to wind power, airports, roads, and many industrial facilities, but also stadiums, festivals, and nightclubs which are particularly noisy at night when locals want to sleep.[16]
  • Visual blight and failure to “blend in” with the surrounding architecture: the proposed project might be ugly or particularly large, or cast a shadow over an area due to its height.[17]
  • Loss of a community’s small-town feel : proposals that might result in new people moving into the community, such as a plan to build many new houses, are often claimed to change the community’s character.
  • Strain of public resources and schools: this reason is given for any increase in the local area’s population, as additional school facilities might be needed for the additional children, but particularly to projects that might result in certain kinds of people joining the community, such as a group home for people with disabilities, or immigrants.
  • Disproportionate benefit to non-locals: the project appears to benefit distant people, such as investors (in the case of commercial projects like factories or big-box stores) or people from neighboring areas (in the case of regional government projects, such as airports, highways, sewage treatment, or landfills).
  • Increases in crime: this is usually applied to projects that are perceived as attracting or employing low-skill workers or racial minorities, as well as projects that cater to people who are thought to often commit crimes, such as the mentally ill, the poor, and drug addicts. Additionally, certain types of projects, such as pubs or medical marijuana dispensaries, might be perceived as directly increasing the amount of crime in the area.
  • Risk of an (environmental) disaster, such as with drilling operations, chemical industry, dams,[18] or nuclear power plants.
  • Historic areas: the affected area is on a heritage register, because of its many older properties that are being preserved as such.

Generally, many NIMBY objections are guessed or feared, because objections are more likely to be successful before construction starts. It is often too late to object to the project after its completion, since new additions are unlikely to be reversed. As hinted by the list, protests can occur for opposite reasons. A new road or shopping center can cause increased traffic and work opportunities for some, and decreased traffic for others, harming local businesses.

People in an area affected by plans sometimes form an organization which can collect money and organize the objection activities. NIMBYists can hire a lawyer to do formal appeals, and contact media to gain public support for their case.

Origin and history

The phrase and word appears extensively in the science fiction book “Enemy of the State” by F. Paul Wilson which was published in 2005.

The word appears in a June 1980 newspaper article from Virginia, with the origin of the phrase explained thus:

Some call it the Nimby Syndrome. That’s Nimby, as in “Not-in-my-back-yard”[19]

The phrase ‘”not in my back yard” syndrome’, without the acronym, is found from February of the same year.[20] The Oxford English Dictionary earliest citation is a Christian Science Monitor article from November 1980, although even there the author indicates the term is already used in the hazardous waste industry.[21][22]

The concept behind the term, that of locally organized resistance to unwanted land uses, is likely to have originated earlier. One suggestion is it emerged in the 1950s.[23]

In the 1980s, the term was popularized by British politician Nicholas Ridley, who was Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment.[24] Comedian George Carlin used the term in a comedy skit, implying that people had already heard of it.[25]

The NIMBY acronym has also been used by social scientists since the early 1980s to describe the resistance of communities to the siting of controversial facilities and land use.[26]


NIMBY and its derivative terms NIMBYismNIMBYs, and NIMBYists, refer implicitly to debates of development generally or to a specific case. As such, their use is inherently contentious. The term is usually applied to opponents of a development, implying that they have narrow, selfish, or myopic views. Its use is often pejorative.[27]

Not in my neighborhood

The term Not in my neighborhood, or NIMN, is also frequently used.[28] “NIMN” additionally refers to legislative actions or private agreements made with the sole purpose of maintaining racial identity within a particular neighborhood or residential area by forcefully keeping members of other races from moving into the area.[29] In that regard, “Not in My Neighborhood,” by author and journalist Antero Pietila, describes the toll NIMN politics had on housing conditions in Baltimore throughout the 20th century and the systemic, racially based citywide separation it caused.[30]


NAMBI (“not against my business or industry”) is used as a label for any business concern that expresses umbrage with actions or policy that threaten that business, whereby they are believed to be complaining about the principle of the action or policy only for their interests alone and not for all similar business concerns who would equally suffer from the actions or policies.[31] The term serves as a criticism of the kind of outrage that business expresses when disingenuously portraying its protest to be for the benefit of all other businesses. Such a labelling would occur, for example, when opposition expressed by a business involved in urban development is challenged by activists – causing the business to in turn protest and appealing for support from fellow businesses lest they also find themselves challenged where they seek urban development. This term also serves as a rhetorical counter to NIMBY. Seen as an equivalent to NIMBY by those opposing the business or industry in question.


BANANA is an acronym for “build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything” (or “anyone”).[32][33] The term is most often used to criticize the ongoing opposition of certain advocacy groups to land development.[34] The apparent opposition of some activists to every instance of proposed development suggests that they seek a complete absence of new growth. The term is commonly used within the context of planning in the United Kingdom. The Sunderland City Council lists the term in their online dictionary of jargon.[35]

In the United States, the related phenomenon “CAVE people” or “CAVE dwellers” serves as an acronym for “citizens against virtually everything.”[36][37]


PIBBY is an acronym for “place in blacks’ back yard.” This principle indicates that the people with perceived social, racial, and economic privileges object to a development in their own back yards, and if the objectionable item must be built, then it should be built so that its perceived harms disproportionately affect poor, socially disadvantaged people. Economically disadvantaged people might not be willing or able to hire a lawyer to appeal the right way, or might have more immediate troubles than a new nearby construction project. The environmental justice movement has pointed out Nimbyism leads to environmental racism. Robert D. Bullard, Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, has argued that official responses to NIMBY phenomena have led to the PIBBY principle.[38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45]


SOBBY is an acronym for “some other bugger’s back yard” and refers to the state of mind which agrees that a particular project may be desirable and perhaps necessary but only if it is placed elsewhere than someone’s neighborhood or district.

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