How wind farms turned me into a nimby
Sara Maitland considers the term ‘nimby’ – and admits that a glut of windfarms has turned her into one.
Nimby – the famous and rather cunning acronym for “not in my back yard” – is one of those terms that’s always pejorative. You are a nimby; I, however, am a conservationist/ naturalist/ traditionalist.
I say “cunning” because it’s both a clever, even witty, neologism and it sounds fabulously sneering. It goes very nicely with nambypamby, wimpy, sissy and other nursery-school abuse.
It applies to people who supposedly want developments such as clean power, improved infrastructure and affordable homes, but who want them at no cost to their own sensibilities. They want the power stations, transport links and more housing, but somewhere else, in someone else’s back yard.
Well, I have encountered my own inner nimby and it was wind farms that did it for me.
MORE PROPS POPPING UP
When I came to live in Dumfries and Galloway 10 years ago, there was one wind farm about eight miles away that had nine turbines. I did some research and there were no plans for any more. But now there are over 100 turbines, all within a mile of my house.
There is nowhere in my garden that offers a view free from turbines and at least another 28 are due to be built in the next couple of years. It feels like too many, frankly, even though I continue to believe in windgenerated power. It seems I have become an unashamed nimby.
Most of these turbines have been contested by the locals and increasingly rejected by the regional council. The would-be developer then appeals to the Scottish Government, which overrules both the council planning office and the local communities. So people who may never have been in this valley, or even in this region, who may never have seen a wind farm in their lives, get to decide what I should have to see.
This situation is unnecessary. When the Scottish Parliament made its bold decision to generate 100% of Scotland’s electricity using fossil-free technologies by 2020, it could have required specific production quotas from each region and left the questions of where and how to generate the power to local management.
The real problem, however, is the total failure of central government to have any political vision for the countryside. About 17% of the UK population lives in rural areas, which is quite a lot of people to ignore.
A NIMBY’S NEEDS
Statistically, people in the countryside tend to be older, less well paid and less serviced than urban residents. Who in a city would tolerate having no refuse collection; no broadband; minimal, if any, public transport; and primary schools that are literally hours away? Also, people in rural areas pay extra for fuel despite needing it more. And too many houses in too many communities are empty most nights because the people who own them don’t live in them permanently. Far from being “overcrowded” or “swamped by immigrants”, we are underpopulated.
None of these issues were mentioned during the general election. Everyone claims to love the British countryside, but if it were a child, most UK citizens would be in court for neglect. People who live in the countryside have specific issues that the political machine doesn’t seem to address, so is it any wonder that we tend to be nimbies? We are trying to protect what we have, while being ignored, unsupported and undermined.
Sara Maitland is a writer who lives in Dumfries and Galloway. Her works include A Book of Silence and Gossip from the Forest.