These words are demagogic slogans, designed to cloud analysis of public issues. One recent letter writer in The Berkshire Eagle on April 19 characterizes abutters to the Lowry/ Burbank site as displaying "a NIMBY attitude," being out-of-date in their "elitism," which word is based, the letter implies, with those residents who built "big houses along Stratton Road."
The letter writer is verging close to starting, what some like to call in our national elections, class warfare. Let’s start with the words themselves. We are to understand that "NIMBY" (not in my backyard) is a bad word, implying selfishness and lack of community feeling. But it’s much more illuminating to call it an out-of-date word that has been less than useful as an argument.
When it comes to environmental questions, the land, water and air know nothing about our man-made boundaries that mark out neighborhoods. In a town our size, the residents’ "backyard" is the whole town.
This is true not only because building on any site affects the water, soil and air beyond the boundaries of that one site, but also because the Lowry and Burbank properties are hayed to feed our local farmers’ stock, which provides food for the town, which we prize to stay healthy.
In addition, these properties are the whole town’s backyard because they provide to all the most centralized open space, clean air and relationship to wild flowers, trees, wild animals and views of mountains of any site.
What about "abutter" as an accusation? Are we to understand that residents who live in the Stratton Road neighborhood should have no say about proposals to develop that neighborhood? Those who reside adjacent to the legally designated town conservation land of Lowry and Burbank (since 1987) have a right to expect the site will continue to serve as conservation land. That’s called the Rule of Law.
What’s more, the claim that most of those trying to protect Lowry and Burbank are abutters is plain wrong. Just count the more than 300 names and addresses on the citizens petition that set up the special town meeting to vote on conserving Lowry and Burbank -- over half live outside the Stratton Road neighborhood.
Those of us wanting to keep Lowry and Burbank as permanent conservation land want to preserve this natural site. We want to keep the land producing and open for our admiration, for our own and our children’s sakes. We believe that the whole local community, the whole town, is connected, as farming is connected to nature, and food to farming, and good health to good food.
It’s those connections that we all want to preserve, permanently. It is important that we do so now, by voting for it, at the April 24 special town meeting.