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Healing the Urban Wild

Healing the Urban Wild

(p.145) 15 Healing the Urban Wild
Gavin Van Horn
University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores negative and positive connotations for the term wildness through conversations with crew members from Greencorps Chicago, a program of the City of Chicago that specializes in contractual landscaping and ecological restoration work and whose participants are typically ex-offenders from the South and West Sides of Chicago. In conservation circles, wild is a kind of shorthand for healthy. For people in Greencorps Chicago, the word wild suggests lawless humans, as well as the chaos and disorder of life on the streets of Chicago. While wildness carries these negative connotations for many Greencorps participants, their work in and increasing familiarity with the forest preserves often leads them to regard these natural areas as places of peace, serenity, relief, fascination, and clarity of mind—places that are safe not wild. This chapter explores these divergent views as well as themes of mutual restoration between people and place, and suggests that a more inclusive form of wildness can be cultivated as attention is given to the land’s needs amidst, alongside, and with human enterprise.

Keywords:   Greencorps Chicago, forest preserves, ecological restoration, urban nature, Gary Snyder, wildness, urban wild, Eggers Woods, Hegewisch Marsh

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