Lit | Nature

Rewilding the City

A new collection of essays argues for a land ethic for the city

Readers expecting a detailed account of urban coyotes may be surprised by Gavin Van Horn’s new book. The Way of Coyote blends memoir and ecological research in a work of creative non-fiction that explores Chicago’s wilderness and how we live alongside it. The beauty and wonder of urban nature are treated in much the same style as traditional, wilderness-focused nature writing, and Van Horn acknowledges on the first page that his “Plan A” was to live in a cabin somewhere with no cell reception. That plan fell through, however, and instead of lions or wolves, Van Horn finds beauty in the birds and butterflies that call Chicago home.

Nature | Opinions & Editorials

Scavenging the South Lakefront

A researcher writes about how data is informing the development of the Burnham Wildlife Corridor

La Ronda Parakata (Luke Sironski-White)

On the south lakefront, a series of art installations has transformed open park space into gathering spaces. Through this initiative, Roots and Routes (R&R)—a network of major institutions and South Side community organizations working to break down barriers and connect people, especially communities of color, to local green spaces—hope to open up an opportunity for residents to explore a new form of urban green space.

Nature

Avian Oasis

Restoration at Indian Ridge Marsh has turned a wasteland into an important home for wildlife

Lizzie Smith

Indian Ridge Marsh is not one of the Chicago Park District’s flashiest properties. It doesn’t have a basketball court, a field house, or any of the other features that draw people to parks like Marquette or Calumet. While a small gravel lot provides a few parking spots, no sidewalks lead to the park, and the nearest bus stop is nearly a mile away. Indian Ridge is a new type of park, focused on restoring the natural areas that once covered this part of Chicago.

Development | Nature | Visual Arts

A Study in South Works

A summerlong installation explores the anthropocene in artifacts from South Works

Lewis Page

Early in the afternoon on the day of her installation’s opening, Stella Brown is standing by the end of one of the mammoth concrete walls at the site of U.S. Steel’s former South Works plant, on the lakefront at 87th Street. Two local residents approach by bike; they say they’re frustrated that the park district decided to spend money on an artist—from outside of the neighborhood, no less—rather than on other much-needed facilities, like restrooms. Brown acknowledges the problem, says it’s indicative of bureaucracy, and offers that she tried to get a Porta Potty for the opening event. A temporary fix, though, is not what they want.

Interview Issue 2018 | Nature

Soil and Sovereignty

A Pullman resident uses mushrooms to heal a formerly toxic site in the neighborhood

Viviana Gentry Fernandez-Pellon is a fourth-generation Chicagoan who has taken on an issue they suffer from personally: environmental racism. Co-owner of the Chicago Mushroom Company, Fernandez-Pellon lives in the Pullman neighborhood, a three minute alley-walk away from the community garden they codirect called the Cooperation Operation. It is located on a formerly toxic site that neighbors forced the EPA to remediate (remove contaminants and restore ecological balance) in 1983. That process created public records that Fernandez-Pellon could request to view through the Freedom of Information Act. They did, and used the information to learn the history of the industrial uses—and remediation efforts—within the site. Today, they are using mushrooms, a method of bioremediation—accomplishing remediation through living organismsto heal that soil, which has suffered from decades of industrial contamination. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Development | Environment | Far Southeast Side | Nature

Shoreline Abnormality

An industrial corridor’s past and future, as seen from the waters of the Calumet

Piles of salt on city-owned land on the Calumet River (Courtesy Ders Anderson)

Down the Calumet River from a former petcoke storage site, several acres of early growth trees rustle gently in the breeze. It’s one of a few areas with sustained natural growth on the northern part of the river, which snakes through the Southeast Side’s industrial corridor. Tom Shepherd, an environmental activist and longtime Southeast Side resident—and, on a recent overcast morning, the guide of a boat tour down the river—singles that parcel out as we pass by. “It’s really amazing on that property to see how nature makes its comeback,” he says.

Nature | Stage & Screen | Visual Arts

Sites for Leisure, Sites of Danger

Artists and activists discuss reclaiming parkland as a public space

Courtesy South Side Home Movie Project

When L. Anton Seals, Jr. was growing up in South Shore, he and his family would often spend weekend nights camped out in Chicago’s public parks. Back then, he said, his family and friends took the Chicago Park District’s 11pm closing time as a suggestion, not a rule: “[We were like], how the park gon’ close at 11 o’clock?… Who gives you the right to close the earth?”

Nature | Visual Arts

Growing Neighborhoods

An art exhibit connects local goals and larger climate problems

Courtesy of Jenny Kendler

Garden for a Changing Climate,” the traveling public art project by artist Jenny Kendler, has grown as organically as one of its mobile planters.

Lit | Nature

Leisure at a Price

A new history showcases Black Chicagoans’ complex relationship with nature

Brian McCammack wants to push against the idea that the history of African Americans’ use of public space in and around Chicago can be summed up simply.