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Are You a NIMBY, YIMBY or BANANA? � Chef�s Choice Eleven God must kick back in his La-Z-Boy chair occasionally and laugh out loud at the arrogance and vanity of his human creations. Other times, I�m sure, he just sits there and cries. Mostly, though, I picture him, beer in hand, bowl of popcorn on his ample lap, splitting a gut over the NIMBY war, for instance, raging in my rustic seaside community on Washington�s Long Beach Peninsula.

You�re familiar with the acronym (Not In My Back Yard) that originated in the self-centered yuppy decade of the 1980s, implying the attitude that all bad things should not be put near you, regardless of their benefit to others, but should be put near someone else -- anyone else, just not near you. Land-use planners bemoan the fact that we�ve gone from NIMBY to BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone).

What�s needed, instead, are more YIMBYs (Yes, In My Back Yard), those few bright and shining individuals who selflessly accede to the greater good: �I don�t like it, it�s going to hurt, but I�ll sacrifice my personal benefit for the benefit of others.� I�m afraid, though, that most of us -- I reluctantly include myself in the mix -- are NIMBYs. In a NIMBY world, when the going gets tough, the tough look out for themselves, which, after all, is the American way.

In the case of the NIMBYs of Surfside, however, the preoccupation isn�t with beating man to a standstill but Mother Nature herself. Which is why God is up there in his La-Z-Boy, chortling at our monumental egos and our compulsion to micromanage nature in order to indulge our lifestyle choices.

In this coastal resort community of some 900 residences, populated mostly by snowbirds who flee south before the first frigid blasts of winter, there are the dune dwellers, the ridge dwellers and the canal dwellers. There are also the golf course dwellers and the forest dwellers, situated further inland, but it�s the first three groups you can readily tell by their environmental concerns.

If it�s the level of the dunes, the only impediment to an untrammeled view of sea and sand from their beachfront residences that preoccupy them, they probably live on �G� Street, closest thoroughfare to the ocean. With a dune modification permit from the county, these individuals are permitted to bulldoze and shave the dunes in their backyards for an unrestricted view of the Pacific from their own La-Z-Boys.

If it�s the height of the trees that mars their distant but elevated panorama of the blue Pacific, they probably live on �J� Place, which traverses the community�s ridge line. The right to this view is assured to perpetuity by homeowner association covenants, which limit the height of trees to the level of the adjacent rooftops in order not to compromise the seaside vistas of the residents above them. This is the only place in Pacific County, I�ve found, where such are restrictions are in force. I suspect it�s the only place in the entire tree-hugging Northwest.

And if it�s the purity of the 17-acre canal that traverses their backyards, their address is probably �H� Street, �H� Place, �G� Place or �I� Street. I�m a canal dweller myself, which is why I woke up one morning in August to find I�d fallen victim to the environmental priority of the ridge dwellers -- the height of the trees below them, whose pristine but soaring growth, left unimpeded, might one day compromise their lofty seascapes.

So when the squeal of chainsaws finally dwindled into silence, virtually every tree in the double-lot of my neighbor to the south, an occasional visitor to his beach home adjoining mine, had been leveled. The demolition crew he�d hired barely paused until they�d tumbled all the leafy, green walls that had enveloped and buffered the adjoining homes from the winter winds and driving rain, ensuring our mutual privacy while preserving the restorative sense of solitude and spirituality that only natural beauty seems able to provide. In one fell swoop -- along with the trees -- they were gone forever.

In my lingering shock and dismay, what I�ve been able to gather is that my neighbor, in the style of other absentee landlords served with homeowners association complaints about the height of the trees on their property, chose to destroy rather than to top them -- simply because it costs less to do so. Obviously, too, removing the trees precludes having to top them again in another two to three years.

�Well, they weren�t your trees,� a ridge dweller pointed out to me. �If you�d wanted to preserve them, you should have bought the lots around you.�

No argument, there, pal. Money can do that for you. Unfortunately, I didn�t have enough of it when I bought my home eight years ago � only my faith in the kindness, consideration and environmental reverence of my neighbors. Turns out that wasn�t enough. But that�s neither here nor there now � for a few dollars less, the trees are gone.

Now I�m sure that God in his infinite tolerance and mercy loves NIMBYs and YIMBYs equally. Still, I wonder occasionally why he makes so many of one and so few of the other.

Lionel Fisher is the author of Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude (Beyond Words Publishing, 2001). Reach him at beachauthor@lycos.com to share your thoughts on magnificent aloneness.