“Not in my back yard!” is the protest heard when waste dumping is being negotiated. This concept, abbreviated NIMBY, is easily illustrated by the Central Interstate Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact that was established in 1985. The states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska agreed to decide on the best site to store the low level radioactive wastes generated in medical and other activities. But when the “best” site ended up being in Nebraska, that site went to court and ended up being removed from the pact in 2004.
A similar NIMBY occurred nationwide when the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada was found to be the best deep geological repository storage facility for highly radioactive wastes. This agreement was designated by the NWPA Amendments in 1987 and approved by Congress in 2002. But again, NIMBY protests by Nevada, the site of Yucca Mountain, brought that effort to an end.
That does not mean that our national need went away. Just last year, a U.S. Department of Energy commission stressed the urgent need to find an equivalent geological repository. But the requirement that it must have the input and approval from the citizens around it ensures that our “not in my back yard” attitude will prevent any U.S. radioactive waste repositories.
The other side of the coin is the IMBY principle where everyone wants resources and “goods” in our back yard.
In Kansas, we had the Brownback plan, approved by our Legislature, that waived state income taxes for five years for anyone moving from outside Kansas to any of 50 rural counties.
Far more egregious has been Texas Governor Rick Perry’s highly publicized aggressive efforts to steal jobs from other states. This “in my back yard” strategy may appear to be good politics in Texas, but Governor Perry can kiss goodby to running for United States President again. Both Democratic and Republican governors are protesting his efforts that make his state richer by making their states poorer.
A real statesman looks at the whole picture—for the benefit of all.
Finally, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has called for a moratorium to the Kansas-versus-Missouri tug-of-war. Each state has been trying to attract business to cross to their side of our common border, to the detriment of the other state.
At the international level, we want to import rare earths we do not have in order to manufacture our new media electronics, from cell phones to laptops. A few years or even months later, they wear out and we ship these devices with hazardous components to some impoverished African country. We want the goods of the world brought to our back yards, but we then dump them as wastes in other’s back yards.
There is something missing in our educational system when such selfishness is considered legitimate. Virtually every culture has some version of the golden rule: if you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others.
Whether it is Kansas-versus-Missouri, Texas-versus-the-rest-of-the-U.S., or the U.S.-versus-the-world, it is time we learn that for both resources and wastes, everyone’s back yard is our back yard.