The introduction or presence of chemical, nuclear, and other industrial facilities can spark “not in my back yard” (NIMBY) and “locally unwanted land use” (LULU) responses in communities.

These responses are often highly charged, and it is important to understand why they occur.

What Is the Source of Anger?

Residents in communities often become outraged about industrial facilities if they believe government and industry officials

• have excluded them from meaningful participation in the decision-making process.

• have denied them resources to evaluate or monitor health, safety, or environmental risks.

• have denied them the opportunity to give their “informed consent” to management decisions that affect their lives or property.

• have imposed or want to impose upon them facilities that provide few local economic benefits.

• have imposed or want to impose upon them facilities that entail high costs to the community (for example, adverse health, safety, wildlife, recreational, tourism, property value, traffic, noise, odor, scenic view, and quality-of-life effects).

• have imposed or want to impose on them facilities that provide most of the benefits to those outside the community.

• have dismissed their opinions, fears, and concerns as irrational and irrelevant.

What’s the Next Step?

To resolve NIMBY, LULU, and related risk-related controversies, you must first recognize the following:

• A fairly distributed risk is more acceptable than an unfairly distributed one.

• A risk entailing significant benefits to the parties at risk is more acceptable than a risk with no such benefits.

• A risk for which there are no alternatives is more acceptable than a risk that could be eliminated by using an alternative technology.

• A risk that the parties have control over is more acceptable than a risk that is beyond their control.

• A risk that parties assess and decide voluntarily to accept is more acceptable than a risk imposed upon them.

Pathway Prompt: What is something that has angered you in your community? Did any of the above sources of anger come into play? How could the powers that be have better communicated information about your concern?

Communicating Effectively When Feelings, Fears, and Facts Collide

More information about risk, high-concern, and crisis communication can be found in Dr. Covello’s video-based course Pathway to Risk, High-Concern, and Crisis Communication.

This master class introduces communicators to the tools and techniques for communicating effectively—while providing greater insight into why audiences react the way they do during times of stress.

The course comprises nine video lectures and accompanying text modules, plus supplemental materials for putting valuable lessons into practice. More information about the course, including group rates and partnering opportunities, can be found by emailing

Dr. Vincent Covello

Dr. Vincent Covello, director of the Center for Risk Communication, is one of the world’s leading experts and practitioners on risk, high-concern, and crisis communication. He is the author of more than 150 articles in scientific journals and the author/editor of more than 20 books.


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