“Not in my backyard,” — the rallying cry for all those people across America trying to stop the latest pipeline, fracking operation, water contamination project, cutting of a valuable forest, or any one of the myriad actions being taken lately to horribly transform the environment.
For far too many of us, shouting “NIMBY,” is too much like screaming “you can’t take my child” as she is being transported away after a kidnapping. We seem to arrive minutes too late and with the wrong tools.
This is my first column after returning from 9 months in Tucson, AZ, where I tried to keep tabs on the constant unsuccessful attempts at building a wall sufficiently large and foreboding enough to keep brown-skinned people at bay. I watched with many of you as parts of the wall were built and then blew over in a “big wind.” I watched as big business tried unsuccessfully to limit the range of Mexican Grey Wolves and Cougars in order to make a killing on taxpayer land with the permission of President Donald Trump’s administration. I drove to the border repeatedly to look at the monstrosity that cuts through the center of Nogales effectively separating the haves from the have-nots. I drove along that southern border in sight of the wall — paying close attention to the scrub desert habitat that was home to so much wildlife that depended on resources on both sides of the border to survive. No amount of “NIMBY” thought and action has done much to keep this terrible, racist eyesore from sliding across our southern border, our southern backyard.
In years past, I often wondered why it was your backyard that was too important to be polluted or to be dug up or to be fouled in some unspeakable way. After all, I didn’t own or have access to that piece of real estate; it literally was not “in my backyard.” For that reason, I told myself it was not my problem, it was yours, or whoever stood to be affected the most. If the pipeline weren’t running through my farm, fouling my stream, leaking into my water supply, then it was bad — but, not my problem. It soon became apparent to me that this was a problem so big it affected every living creature on the planet.
One evening I was talking to a dear friend and was lamenting that there was not an acronym that implied that it stood for all of us. “NIMBY” was a very personalized way of saying something bad is about to happen, and it can’t happen here. We talked and thought of what a movement’s acronym might be if it pertained to every one of us. Not just here in Augusta County, or Virginia or the United States, but to every living being on this planet. My friend immediately said it should be called NOPE, “Not on Planet Earth.” I realized that was the kind of acronym I was looking for. I can get behind that movement. It is bigger than my backyard, it takes in all the creatures that call this planet their home. It binds us with the plants and animals in ways that almost nothing else does. It allows us all to be part of the problem and as importantly, have a stake in the solution. It is our movement.
For most of my adult life I have heard that it only takes one vote, or that the most important step towards any goal is that first step. Well, I believe that, but I also believe that Mother Earth is not so patiently waiting for humans to move past platitudes and begin the process of healing. We must now be taking strides, 10 or more steps at a time, if we are going to give the next generations a viable place to live. It will take many generations to terraform Mars to our liking. The Earth will continue to die while we talk about what we should do next.
I say N.O.P.E. The greedy cannot have this planet.