by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
August 16, 2005
THE NIMBY FACTOR
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- For a country founded on such a wide open door policy, it seems unfaithful to that premise when we turn around and say "Not in my backyard." But, we do. And we extend our property lines on the deeds to now include the air above us and the waters around us.
As long ago as when I was a child, there would be someone complaining or getting up a petition to have something stopped. In my young world it was roller skating on the street. It was a side street, 35th Avenue, and it only went between 108th and 109th Streets in Corona, a neighborhood in Queens, N.Y.
Granted, there might have been 10 or 12 of us on a given summer night, and, yes, those steel wheels on the skates could have been noisy - especially those whose skates were old and had boxed wheels. But, we were kids and it was summer.
The police were called by the typical neighborhood grouch and when the officer spoke with her, he sided with us while understanding her complaint. "Ma'am, suppose they skate until 8:00 p.m. and then leave the street." Well, she would have no part of it.
"No loud skating in my backyard," she sniped. "I expect peace and quiet."
So we hung up our skates and played catch or stickball until last light. And we learned the lesson that in our land of the free, we are free only as far as our activities do not violate other's rights to freely follow their own pursuits.
In the case of the skating kids, the neighborhood grouch, with windows open against the sweltering summer heat, was unable to hear her radio, a very viable pursuit of happiness in 1944.
She had her rights and she exercised them. She was the first Nimby I ever knew.
Not in My Back Yard, defined as "a term for a person who resists unwanted development, such as manufacturing plants, prisons, power companies, or chemical companies, in his or her own neighborhood or town." Although not mentioned in this encyclopedic definition, noise pollution would qualify and in the woman's filed complaint, it certainly did.
In today's vernacular, Nimbyism is usually spoken of in the same sentence as "outsourcing," a perfectly legitimate way to conduct business in this global economy. A big hullabaloo is raised when a plant closes and the manufacture of the products continues off shore. It's good for the company (cheaper labor), good for the country outsourced to (employment opportunities) and good for the consumer who continues getting the goods. It's not good for the former employees of the plant but, although we are big on compassion, their rights are not being violated.
None of us has the right to assume that five years from now we will be doing exactly what we are doing - anymore than a former employer could ever assume the worker would still be in place at the plant.
Although initially resisting any contact with outsourced business dealings, I have learned to accept it. It all balances out. I usually fly Delta Airline and it was getting difficult to deal with what their cutbacks were doing to the passengers in the way of delays, intermediate stops, long lines at the airport and long waits for a reservation clerk.
However, Delta did it right. They outsourced call centers and created new positions here at home. In 2003, 1,000 call center jobs held by Delta staff in India, saved the company $25 million. This allowed Delta to put 1,200 sales and reservation positions in place here in the United States. I not only accept this new wave of productivity, I appreciate it.
My first brush with telephone representatives speaking from lands far away was actually with Delta. While waiting for a slow computer to liven up at the representatives end, I chatted, as usual.
"Where are you as we speak?" I said in a chipper, offhand way.
"Indiana," I thought he said.
"Oh, Indiana, I have a daughter in Indiana, and... ."
"Ma'am, Excuse me for interrupting you, but, no. I am in India. Bombay, India."
"Oh, Oh. Innnndeeeeuh. Oh, wow. What time is it there?"
"6:04 pm." he answered.
It was 7:34 am of the same day for me in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. The computer screen came up for him and we completed our transaction. I was still amazed. First, because my voice was blurting out into the air in Bombay, India; and, second, because the transaction was efficiently completed to my satisfaction.
Back-office operations in India began a dozen or so years ago. No one noticed or, if they did, they didn't care. The jobs leaving this country were far fewer than an increasing number of jobs being created in the United States Economy. In writing about outsourcing, I don't see rights of the workers being infringed upon since the rights of the employers to direct their companies is every bit as fundamental a right
Plants and pollution are still problems for us but the Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on infringements daily. We spent many years of carelessness and neglecting our stewardship of the environment. However, neighborhood blight is being turned into neighborhood pride. And, on August 4, tanker owners were fined a million dollars for dumping sludge and oily bilge waste into international waters. The also have to donate a half-million dollars to Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Our "backyard" has grown exponentially to include those international waters and the Nimby Factor is working.
Bringing the Nimby factor into place has not changed one bit since old Mrs. Grouch couldn't hear her radio with the screeching metal wheels sounding though her windows. She called the police. And, today, when something is denying you the rights inherently your own, you do the same.
Oh, as they did with the woman in Corona, they will offer a compromise. They will try to dissuade you until they see your firm stance and hear your strong voice as you say, "Not in my back yard, you don't."