Not in My Backyard!

"Prisons have to be built somewhere. Everybody just prefers that it's in NIMBY - Not In My Backyard thanks."

There are many things in life whose existence is desirable, or even essential to the society we live in, but that people generally don't want to live too close to. They might be noisy, smelly, polluting, dangerous, or just ugly. However as any SimCity player will tell you, not everything can be in the middle of nowhere - for people to have cheap and convenient access to them, they have to be near to civilization.

Fair enough. Just... Not In My Backyard, OK?

While it might be rather selfish to want the benefits of such amenities while declaring the downsides to not be their problem, it can be justified - there is little to no reward for living nearby, and often the decrease in housing prices actually punishes the neighbours on top of the lowered quality of life. It's not necessarily hypocritical except in Zero-sum situations where they want the good without the bad.

The phenomenon is a major part of many Simulation Games, where the player must balance necessary or lucrative buildings against residents' quality of life.

Also known as NIMBY. There is apparently a more extreme version that does believe that everything noisy, smelly, polluting, dangerous or ugly should be built in the middle of nowhere, dubbed "BANANAs" - "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone", which is a viable option... in some video games.

For the webcomic of the same name, go here.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • Emerging: The Department of Virology, located in the National Institute for Infectious Diseases has the potential to operate as a BSL-4 (which is required to deal with deadly diseases such as Ebola and the unknown disease ravaging Tokyo), however it only operates at as a BSL-3 due to opposition from local residents and communities. This is an example of Truth in Television for the real life National Institute for Infectious Diseases located in Kanto, Japan.

    Comic Strips 

  • Erin Brockovich shows why most people have a NIMBY reaction: in the movie's case, toxic substances are leeching into the water supply.
  • Australian film The Castle is an inversion of this trope. The Kerrigans live a few hundred metres from an airport runway. Massive power lines pass right over their backyard. And the Kerrigans love it that way. They only get upset when a planned airport expansion means that they would have to move.

     Live Action TV 
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit often run into cases where they have to deal with former child molesters who face this problem when they get out of prison.
  • The trope name is the title of an early Blue Heelers episode, with a protest against a prison being built near Mt. Thomas.
  • An episode of Boston Legal focused on this problem, with some townspeople employing the firm to stop the production of a nuclear power plant in their area. Opposing counsel actually points out the use of this trope and rhetorically asks where they're meant to put the plant, as they'd already thought they'd chosen a perfectly remote location before the ruckus started.
  • This is the title of Midsomer Murders episode in which an unpopular real estate development planned for a small village results in murder.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, taking Not In My Backyard to its logical extreme, the Malon are a race that never bothered to develop clean ways of disposing of waste, because they simply shipped it all off to somewhere else, a long way away.
  • In Desperate Housewives, the neighborhood holds a protest rally after plans for moving convicts into their street start going ahead. It ends badly. For everyone.
  • Johnny and the Sprites: In "The Sprites Save Grotto's Grove," a super-annoying real-estate developer shows up with exciting plans to build a hotel. It sounds great at first, until Johnny and the Sprites realize that it would require the complete destruction of Grotto's Grove, not to mention most of Johnny's literal backyard.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Hordes of the Things compares the average fantasy world peasant's attitude to magic to the average modern person's attitude to nuclear energy: "I have no direct experience with it, it is sometimes reputedly beneficial, certainly often very nasty, and the further it is from my back yard the better!"
  • In Suburbia, placing certain types of tiles (e.g. heavy industry, airports) adjacent to residential tiles causes your city to suffer a reputation penalty, reducing your ability to increase its population and score points.

  • From musical RENT's number "Over the Moon": "Not in my backyard, utensils! Go back to China!"

     Video Games 
  • Present in the SimCity series, and SimCity 3000 even uses the term by name. Makes sense, as you're playing a city planner.
    • This ranges to many things, from the obvious toxic waste dumps, incinerators, and casinos, to more subtle things like landfills, industrial areas, and commercial zones (more so in Sim City 4, where traffic noise becomes a factor to how desirable a zone is). Naturally, anything that humans wouldn't want sitting in their backyard in Real Life, Sims wouldn't want either.
    • The inverse of this is called YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard), which includes things like parks, schools, hospitals and police stations. A good strategy is to balance out the NIMBY with YIMBY. (Sure you're living next to a pollution factory, but look at the nice trees!)
  • Present in Dwarf Fortress. Obviously it is a bad idea to leave rotting meat in an indoor refuse pile near a place dwarves will frequently have to pass through, as the miasma it gives off will disgust nearby fortress dwellers. More subtly, it is a bad idea to create bedrooms near frequently used crafting workshops, next to areas under current excavation, or just next to rooms in which dwarves are hauling around and placing furniture. Doing so will result in any dwarves sleeping in said rooms having an unhappy through at their uneasy sleep due to the noise.
  • Constructor: High-level tenants are conscious of their neighbors, especially if you group Nerds together with noisy Hippies on the same estate. They also tend to demand more costly fences. The most expensive one is the Insurmountable Monolith, which more closely resembles the Berlin Wall. Only Yuppies want to live next to this monstrosity, which they dub "Art Deco".
  • In Pharaoh, there are many buildings that produce various entertainers and service providers required to keep your citizens happy. Unfortunately, while the walkers are welcome, the buildings themselves are not. Reasons range from the sensible (industrial buildings are ugly, noisy and smelly) to Fridge Logic (people coming and going from the dance school)note . Most cities end up with a few zones of highly-developped housing, requiring vast slums of workers to keep the rich society's services running correctly.
    • This game also has its own form of YIMBY: gardens, plazas, and statues. It's okay to built a circuit for industrial employers to find workers, as long as there is a statue between the industries and the workers' residential block. The maximum YIMBYs would be temple complexes, city palace, and your dynasty house.
    • No amount of YIMBY can negate the effect of Forts. Just like Real Life! (See: Okinawa.)

     Western Animation 
  • There's an episode of The Simpsons where a stamp museum is being built directly behind the Simpsons' house. The family aren't best pleased at having a construction site practically in their back garden, and successfully lobby to have it moved - it's shifted onto the site of Springfield Cemetery, which is promptly moved behind the Simpsons' house, giving Lisa nightmares.
    • They then visit the stamp museum and complain about how long the journey took.
  • In the '90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon; Shredder and Baxter were raiding a hidden science testing facility deep in the bad part New York City. When asked why it was here of all places by Baxter, Shredder replies on how it's because "if it blows up the neighborhood, nobody cares."

     Real Life 
  • This is a major obstacle for cell phone companies wanting to put up towers to cover some areas. The fact that nobody wants a big, ugly cell phone tower in their view is one thing keeping Cell Phones Are Useless from becoming a Dead Horse Trope. So companies typically offer deals, or dress up the towers to hide them from view.
  • The phenomenon is an extremely important one in real life, pertaining to basically any real estate development that isn't a park.
    • Nuclear waste disposal is one of the biggest ones. Very few places are willing to take on this sort of waste, whether it be nuclear weapons related or energy production related and most fight tooth and nail to avoid even the mildest radioactive waste, often quoting this exact trope. This has made finding locations for safe and secure disposal extremely difficult.
    • This applies more generally any type of waste disposal facility. When a new landfill is created the people owning the nearby properties will usually be very unhappy about it.
    • Because of historic income disparity paralleling minority areas, many waste facilities and other undesirable but necessary facilities like power plants are disproportionally placed in areas of high minority population, in practice being outright environmental racism. NIMBY is thus one of the biggest drivers of the Environmental justice movement.
    • It doesn't end at industrial sites, in some areas there are rules in regards to anything from whether a building is allowed to be a certain height or design to what renovations and extensions a home owner can have, to keep in line with the heritage of the area for example. Even when there's not the NIMBY go BANANAS and go up in arms over There Should Be a Law.
  • For other forms of energy production: wind turbines. They might be better for the environment than huge power plants but when they're in operation they're very noisy.
    • There are also smaller modern windmills which are practically silent, which nevertheless got this reaction (in, for example, the West of Ireland) for being unsightly, despite generating impressive amounts of clean electricity for their size.
    • Property owners in Cape Cod have gotten the same beef from local property owners for allegedly ruining an ocean view.
  • Highways and freeways. They make things easier for business and tourists, but also bring in a lot of noise and pollution. Residential areas are kept away from these for just these two reasons, and mostly businesses and public service buildings are near them.
  • Airports. They're obviously useful for travel, but few people want to live that close to one or have them open up a new runway/terminal near their house due to the noise and possible pollution.
  • Casinos. They are supposed to solve a tax problem for the whole county or state. (Remember all that lottery money that was supposed to go to education?) The builders tend to put them in places that are conveniently away from most people, but the local residents have to deal with the increased traffic, inconvenience of the construction machines in the area and such. BUT, since the whole county votes on whether or not to grant zone variance(s) to allow the building, the locals are out-voted by the people who won't have to deal with the headaches that are created.
    • On the flip side, they are sometimes noted for boosting local businesses, whether it be shopping or restaurants, which people visit before or after going to the casino.
  • Train tracks. Nobody wants to be woken up by that train that goes through at 3:00 in the morning. Some people also have safety concerns about train tracks; if a freight train derails while transporting toxic or explosive materials, you don't want to be anywhere nearby. This was grimly illustrated by the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.
  • This is a particularly curly issue in the quiet island of Tasmania, with efforts to push out industry and keep the environment serene and untouched. The issue is a long and storied one, with the NIMBY side opposing the pollution of the proposed pulp mill; with some going as far as vowing their blood will stain the wattle before it gets built, and the YIMBY side wanting more progress, development and employment opportunities. Both sides have a valid argument but who is in the right is not something this is the place to discuss.
  • Averted in Reykjavík, where Icelandís oldest prison, Hegningarhúsið, is still in (partial) use.
  • Homeless shelters. The homeless are often seen as imposing many negative effects on the residents and businesses in any area. So the homeless shelter is located in some place that makes it hard for the homeless to have access to any of the good parts of the community.
  • Jails are often treated this way; surely no one wants to live near convicted criminals. Even though, as George Carlin explains, it is a rather irrational response. The criminals are all locked up, inside the jail! And if they ever do escape, they'll get as far away from the jail as they can. Similarly, the first people to feel uncomfortable about being near a jail are those who are criminally inclined but not in jail; surely they will often be deterred from living in such an area.
  • The inversion of this trope can also be problematic. Say you want to build a new hyperfast train line, to link - well I don't know maybe the fourth largest city and a major banking center of your country - of course you would want it to stop only very rarely or not at all between either terminus. But to get the whole thing built, you have to get the agreement of local politicians. Who of course want to have a stop in their district. Cue two stops twenty kilometers apart, which are - even in the German Wikipedia entry - said to be a result of political blackmail in so many words. note 
  • Big infrastructure projects are very prone to this and NIMBY s are one of the main reasons why many a project has spent decades in Development Hell, even if it was approved in a ballot measure by supermajorities or basically all political parties agree it to be the best thing since sliced bread. On the other hand, NIMBY concerns have on occasion kept cities from making disastrous decisions and some politicians are even able to admit that the NIMBYs were right, decades after the fact.