Not in my back yard

Residents on three large residential estates in Benalmádena have caused a fuss about the construction of a ‘punto limpio’ recycling centre near their homes. The mayor, Víctor Navas, passed a decree to allow the land to be used for that purpose, then promised to try to stop the work under pressure from local residents. Now he has gone right back to square one accusing the residents of being uncharitable, albeit covertly - this isn’t a good time to go throwing votes away, even if they do end up at a recycling point. On social media it’s easy for politicians to flush support down the drain in a flash. Navas has dug up, with caution but questionable tact, the reports written years ago about the fascinating phenomenon of Nimby, an acronym for Not In My Back Yard, the Spanish version of which would be Span (Sí, pero aquí no). This syndrome describes the habitual citizens’ opposition to the organisation of activities or the installation of infrastructure, that could be more or less of a nuisance and more or less necessary, close to their homes.

Hypocrisy pursues us like a second shadow when individual and common interests come into conflict. We want petrol stations and leisure centres far enough away from our homes so as not to disturb us, but not too far; we can’t live without data on our smartphones but we get indignant about a landscape full of aerials; we support the construction of rehabilitation centres for drug addicts but in a neighbourhoods well away from ours, if possible on the other side of town; we back the tourism industry as the winning horse to revive our economy but we want visitors to spend their money quietly and behave as if they were at Ascot. We embrace development and even charity, but so long as the consequences inconvenience others.

These dilemmas are so complex they come with added controversy. And the case of the ‘punto limpio’ in Benalmádena is full of unnecessary nonsense. It would have been enough to gauge the opinion on the street before passing decrees. Now, holding the issue up as a capricious tantrum on the part of a few residents against a facility that is beneficial to everyone only causes conflict among the general public. It’s like thinking that the stability pact signed by five parties on the council to avoid a no-confidence vote puts the personal interests of councillors and advisors above the common good. Perhaps that’s not such a hare-brained theory after all.