What Does "NIMBY" Mean?

A coal plant may be an example of something that residents do not want in their "backyard".
A coal plant may be an example of something that residents do not want in their "backyard".

Whenever the acronym NIMBY appears in a discussion either online or elsewhere, it is often at the center of a heated debate. NIMBY, which stands for “Not In My Back Yard”,  is an expression used to describe the attitude of people who are opposed to development or change in their local area. Usually, people are only opposed to the project or development simply because it is close to them, and otherwise would support it if it was built farther away. Classic examples of NIMBY-ism include opposition to the building of a new correctional facility in the neighborhood, or the construction of high rise towers in the area. Today, the phrase NIMBY is often used in a derogatory way to mock or ridicule the attitudes of others – one does not usually use the term "NIMBY" to describe themselves. 

Origin And History

Although the origin of the word NIMBY is not 100% certain, it first appeared a newspaper article from Virginia in June 1980. The phrase “not in my back yard” without the acronym appeared in February of the same year. The concept behind the phrase originated before 1980. Some sources suggest that it originated in the 1950s. However, it was popularized in the 1980s by Nicholas Ridley, a British politician and Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment. The term was also used in comedy skits by George Carlin. Social scientists have also used the acronym NIMBY since the 1980s to describe a community’s resistance to building controversial facilities and land use.

Derivative Terms

“Not Against My Business or Industry” (NAMBI) is used by businesses and industry to express their concerns against a policy or an action that threatens their businesses. BANANA or "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything” is used, especially in the UK to criticize opposition of advocacy groups to development projects in an area. 

Support And Criticism

The concept of NIMBY-ism gathers both support and criticism. It has been used to dismiss groups as ill-informed and self-centered. Those who favor development in an area argue that such developments would generate employment, increase tax revenue, and promote safety. They often accuse the locals of being unrealistic, egocentric, and racist. Those who are labeled as NIMBY more often have varied motivation and are only united by their opposition to a particular project. Some “nimbies” may oppose a project regardless of its purpose if it is seen as being imposed by outsiders. Others projects may be objected because of their nature. For instance, coal plant may be opposed because of fear of pollution.


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