By Sami J. Anteroinen
This article was published in NORDICUM 2/2010
If someone wants to build a homeless shelter or a nuclear power plant, he can count on two things. First, the local community will not be thrilled. Second, the “local community” is very large indeed.
This phenomenon was labelled NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) already a long time ago, and it plays with the old fears of the people and the resentment one feels being blindsided by change. Ironically enough, “community” has little to do with the core idea of nimbyism, for it is a very individualistic ideology.
Still, it appears that a new era is dawning. The YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) movement is taking its first tentative steps. Spurred on by social media, likeminded people are getting together and inviting, say, a wind farm to their neighbourhood.
The fight against Climate Change makes people more willing to unfurl their banners in defence of the common good. Nevertheless, a wind farm or a biomass plant is still more likely to attract would-be-neighbours than a waste incineration plant. I talked with a CEO of a waste management company a few years ago and he said that all their waste plant plans are routinely objected no matter where they are. – The Finns are very protective of their backyards, and their backyards stretch farther than one would think, he said.
Nuclear power, on the other hand, seems to be riding the turning tides rather successfully. Finland is busy building a new generation nuclear power plant and thinking about adding more – one, two or even three. A number of communities are interested in landing the gig, since the boost for the local economy is viewed to outweigh the potential image problems.
In Sweden, the yimbies have gone even further it seems. SKB, the Swedish nuclear fuel and waste management company, conducted a poll last summer in Oskarshamn and Östhammar, two municipalities where SKB has performed site investigations for the final repository of nuclear fuel. Both municipalities were about 80% ‘yes’ on the subject. Nationally, however, the acceptance rate was only 41%.
Interesting enough, more than 80 percent – of those who participated in the national survey as well as those from the two municipalities – said that they want the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel to be solved by those who are alive today and not be left to future generations.
It appears that the good citizens of Oskarshamn and Östhammar are more keen on acting on their beliefs than the rest of the country. Next stop? YIMFY (Yes In My Front Yard)!■