NIMBY, or why most green efforts will fail

Six months ago sixty-one percent of Peninsula, California, residents voted to support a statewide measure to pledge $9.95 billion for a high-speed rail system. It would ultimately provide high-speed rail travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco making the trip in two hours and 40 minutes. The proposed project is estimated to carry some 94 million passengers by the year 2030.

Part of the green movement is the idea of using massive wind and solar farms located in areas outside of large cities. These farms are estimated, depending on who you talk to, to provide up to 40 percent of needed electrical power in the short term.

The problem is that these efforts to make our cities and society more environmentally responsible are facing some serious roadblocks. It isn’t anything to do with the technology as in many cases we already have the abilities to pull off such projects. The biggest roadblock, once the initial flush of ‘doing the right thing’ has worn off is that old bugaboo – Not In My Backyard, otherwise known as NIMBY.

This is one of the biggest problems facing wind and solar farms. While the actual farms are in outlying areas where they are able to collect all that renewable energy without bothering most people the problem comes in trying to get that energy to its destination point – the cities. To do this means putting up transmission lines and nobody wants these monstrosities anywhere near their homes, which at some point they will have to.

Now we come to the high-speed rail project in California and find that this NIMBY attitude is starting to show its head as people start worrying about the effect the rail system will have on their property values. The people involved try and cover up much of the rhetoric with phrases like ” … no socio-geographic distinction to being on one side of the tracks.” and where the residents were given enough information before the vote.

But when push comes to shove the underlying principal behind NIMBY is an economic one as pointed out by Martin Engel in an San Francisco Examiner post by Will Reisman

“Our home values will absolutely plummet with the prospect of 200 trains a day going by outside,” he said.

The reality is that going ‘green’ isn’t going to be cheap. What is in question though is if a better environmental future is something we really have the stomach to reach for even if it means having to be in your backyard. As it stands right now we mouth the words about how important it is to go green but when it comes down to it costing us personally that all changes. It’s okay to be green as long as it is someone else’s backyard that they need to use but the moment it is your backyard, or wallet, going green suddenly needs more consultation and expensive reviews.

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