No one wants “unpleasantness” in his or her backyard. For nearly as long as Europeans have lived in the Americas, the wealthy have tried to separate themselves from industry, people, and environments they consider uncouth. What has moved Americans to escape undesirables has changed over time. Wealthy Spanish colonists tried to avoid living near the massive pollution of Potosí’s silver mines. Mid-nineteenth century New Yorkers moved north in order to flee neighborhoods clogged with immigrants and garbage-strewn streets. Growing African-American migration to northern cities combined with racism to encourage all-white suburbs after World War II. Not In My Backyard ideologies help explain much of American history.
While one can certainly understand this line of thinking, it also has real and negative consequences. Continue reading