National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis

A. Regional Landfill: Exemplar of the "Not In My Back Yard" Phenomenon

This situation is a regional landfill siting problem presented as a generic example of Not In My Back Yard by Helen Couclelis and Mark Monmonier in "Using SUSS to Resolve NIMBY: How Spatial Understanding Support Systems can Help with the 'Not In My Back Yard' Syndrome," Geographical Systems 2:2 (1995), 83-101. The situation is not described in depth in the article; rather, it is assumed to embody characteristic problems which accompany many site proposals. The authors note that not only landfills and toxic waste facilities, but "schools, foster homes, resort hotels, and even upscale residential developments" may trigger NIMBY reactions.

Characteristics of public goals and dialogue:

In this situation, conflictual and cooperative tendencies are exhibited in nearly equal measure: finding a site for this facility is a generally accepted necessity, but wherever it may go, it should be "somewhere else" or NIMBY. The authors attribute failures in siting proposals to traditional approaches which favor "why here" justifications over "why us" considerations (Couclelis and Monmonier, p. 87).

Open questions:

How can the "graphic scripts" put forward by the authors be designed and presented as portraying open-ended possibilities, not seen mainly as justifications for de facto site selections?

Can technologies be designed which emphasize the definition and understanding of the problem ahead of support for decision- making? If so, how?

The graphic script that is given as an example exhibits significant investment in background factfinding and media development. Does this investment increase the planners' stake in their initial siting choices, effectively limiting the range of public input which may be forthcoming?

What other information sources and management tools may be available to supplement the graphic scripts of SUSS in the three essential information domains described by the authors: information integration and management; analysis and modeling; political negotiation and communications?

Continue situations: