A friend of mine said he wanted to get into activism, and he wondered how I got into it and what motivates me. He said the reply was good, so I thought I’d share it.
Where does your motivation and passion for YIMBY activism come from? Like for me it’s something I conceptually understand and believe in and support, but I’ve been finding actually mustering the motivation to… well do the activism is really hard.
As for where I get this from… I started off being furious about my rent. Most people get radicalized by something; in my case, it was seeing friends have to move to Las Vegas because of the rent.
I lost a friend to Buffalo this year — partly due to personal reasons, but partly from the rent. I have two more, both working middle-class professionals, struggling to afford the rent and considering moving back in with their parents or the like.
I guess for me it works on a lot of levels. It’s stupid, and that offends me. It hurts people I care about. It touches on nearly every other issue I care about.
When I went to Japan and I could walk everywhere and things were so close together and an apartment downtown is $700 a month, I had this firm sense that a better world really is possible, and we just decide not to do it, and that infuriated me. That a small cabal of wealthy rentseekers are bleeding the rest of us. That something as boring as parking requirements is so damned vital.
(Also, someone hitting me with their car radicalized me on walkability and pedestrian safety.)
Seeing tents on my walk home helped with that. I’ve started to take tent cities and homeless people very personally.
And I’d add… there are few clear wins. Everything is complicated, and difficult, and unclear. But this is a rare place where current policy is really, really stupid, it’s hurting a lot of people, and the fixes aren’t that complicated. It’s a damned good leverage point.
Oh! And I’d add that I come from a depressed mill town where the key industries are garbage and heroin, and the trash plant burned down last year. People saying that California is full are saying I should go back there and decay along with it.
It’s a small shadow of what my grandparents experienced, or my childhood neighbors. But they were refugees, and I can’t help but take it personally when someone would rather have an empty backyard than a neighbor, and backs that up with the force of law.
Sign up at yimbyaction.org/join; there’s a lot to do, and we could use all the help we can get.