A few years ago a neighborhood group stopped by my house to solicit my signature for a petition. The cause? They wanted to derail a planned housing development a few hundred yards away. I declined to sign. To do so would have been hypocrisy of the highest order. After all, Phoenix and I live in a neighborhood that three decades ago was the howling wilderness. Okay, I exaggerate, but there wasn’t a single house here twenty-five years ago. In fact, there wasn’t even a road--just trails blazed by deer and the occasional hunters who stalked them.
Exhibit A: Wealthy Nantucket residents continue to battle plans to develop an offshore wind farm project, though they won few friends by complaining how the aesthetics of it would ruin their view and devalue their multi-million-dollar properties. It looks as if, at long last, they’re going to lose that struggle and the windmills will be built, but one wonders why these folks weren’t leading the effort to build, not stop the project. Shouldn’t people with resources be the ones to pave the alternative energy highway?
Exhibit B: The latest NIMBY protest is unfolding in Amherst, a city allegedly so liberal that it was once dubbed “the only town in America with its own foreign policy.” The University of Massachusetts unveiled a plan to erect a 2-megawatt solar array on university property. This galvanized the liberals across the street (and behind a screen of trees, by the way) into action that some of them haven’t seen since roughly 1968. They accused the university of seeking to ruin their neighborhood, dubbed the project “the dragon,” and succeeded in forcing it to be relocated. (It will go to neighboring Hadley. If there is any justice, it’s that Amherst won’t get any potential revenue from the sale of future energy.)
What a Bunch of NIMBY Numskulls! Look, folks, it’s this simple: the days of cheap energy are over. Oil is going to run out. We need new sources of energy, even if it means you have to look at solar panels when you walk your Pomeranian. Those of us who have been blessed with good fortune simply can’t adopt an “I’ve-got-mine-let’s-stop” attitude. I don’t advocate destruction, but I’d shed no tears if a few Amherst Volvos with “Go Solar” bumper stickers got vandalized. And “Boo! Hiss!” to UMass for caving in. The university should have done what Governor Deval Patrick did on Nantucket: tell the locals to suck it in and adjust.