All posts by AL Aunio

About AL Aunio

Born in Boston and raised in working-class New Jersey, Anna-Liisa Aunio was awarded the Jon Bon Jovi “Dare to Dream” scholarship in 1992. She was 18. She had big hair. And it was the high point of her life. Been downhill ever since. But seriously, Anna-Liisa restlessly fled the lawns and picket fences of her youth first chance she got. Initially to New York City, where she traded on Wall Street (by day), whilst living like Carrie Bradshaw (by night); then to Baltimore, where she managed a national drop-out prevention program (by day), whilst living like Rick James (by night); and, most recently, to Montreal, where she teaches sociology at Dawson College (by day), whilst living like Claire Dunphy (by night). Along the way, she's picked up a few degrees—a BA from Rutgers, an MA from Johns Hopkins, a PhD from McGill—and a husband. But she'd prefer to talk about her kids.

Anatomy of a Kellyanne Conway Interview

alternative-factsConfused about the breathless turns and twists that leave you wondering which way is up when reporters try to ask Kellyanne Conway critical (any) questions about Trump?  We’re here to help.  Consider this your guide to the Conway spin machine:

Interviewer:  Welcome, congratulations, you are something amazing/gender related and unprecedented.

Kellyanne (smiling): Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here BUT more importantly to be part of something so awesome related to how awesome Trump is and how unprecedented/history-defining he is.

Interviewer:  Yes, well let’s get to that since you mentioned it.  Today, Trump tweeted this outrageous/untrue thing that clearly contradicts the real world, as proven by these facts [insert inauguration crowd size and other popularity related threats or payment for the wall and other policy promise threats here].  Is this shit real?

Kellyanne:  Yes, let’s talk about that.  And yes, he’s our President, his shit is real.  But let me tell what it really signifies and what’s really going on here and why it’s so annoying that you are asking me that question……..Obama!   And Hillary!   And the Democrats!  And did I mention how he is so popular….

Interviewer:  Yes, but….

Kellyanne:  No, no, no….because this is what we need to talk about—how popular he is and how everyone loves him and how everyone hates the Democrats and Obama and all the terrible things they did…..

Interviewer:  AHEM, yes but that’s not what I asked.  That’s got nothing to do with it—that’s not what I asked, what I want to know is….

Kellyanne:  Of course it is!  It’s exactly what this is all about.   It’s all about how unfair you [the press] have been to him…

Interviewer:  But he said….

Kellyanne:  Yes, I know he said, but what he means is something glorious and wonderful for the American people.  All of the American people.  He is going to make America [insert good feeling adjective here] again.  But YOU don’t want to talk about what’s in his heart or what he really meant when he said untrue/outrageous thing and you don’t want to tell the REAL story of that because you are all biased against him.  The real problem here is the media and your obsession with the facts. Why do you keep asking about them when you can just tell the story of how awesome he is?

Interviewer:  Well, you still haven’t answered….

Kellyanne:  Yes, yes, I have, you just keep wanted to dwell on it, when YOU (the media) have said this untrue thing/this inaccurate thing and reported on this unflattering thing when you should be talking about this other issue with these other facts and this other issue with these other facts and this other issue with these other facts and how you didn’t cover this thing and this other thing and how you didn’t even ask the Democrats or Chuck Schumer about this—who are, by the way, being really unfair to Trump.  The media have been so unfair and should be better about respecting how popular and awesome and amazing he is; I mean, you should all just get out of the way and show more deference to him, considering how much he gets the people and how much you are all a bunch of elite snobs who are so obsessed with truth and facts and this and that and latest outrageous thing he has said instead of covering ALLLLLLL of the issues I mentioned, plus…….

Interviewer: Okay, well I did cover that and we did talk about that and we did report on this issue you mentioned….

Kellyanne:  Yeah?  No, I didn’t hear about it.  You are all just so biased and are out to get him and this obsession with fact-checking and this and that twitter feud/thing he said and asking about this issue when he says “believe me”, like you want details or something.  The details will come—you should just shut up and believe him.  Because did I mention yet how you were all wrong about Hillary?  And, Obama!  And the Democrats! Why don’t you ask the Democrats who suck and are so unfair too and are getting in the way, why don’t you talk to them and ask them why they won’t let him get his way on absolutely everything?

Interviewer:  Well, I am going to talk to [insert Democrat here] later and ask them that question, but let’s get back to….

Kellyanne:  Well, good.  Maybe you can ask about how they suck in this way and how they are to blame for everything bad in the world which now Trump is going to fix.  You know, what you don’t want to admit is that this election wasn’t about facts–people don’t care about the facts of what he said and whether their true and what promises he made or about the details, like how that wall is going to get paid for.  They care about how he’s going to make everything great for them again, like their tax returns and their safety and their jobs and everything and he’s already done that in his first week.  Don’t you see how busy he is and how may orders he’s signed and how many pens he’s given away?

Interviewer:  Well, there have been massive protests and the President of Mexico cancelled his trip…

Kellyanne:  No, no, so much just isn’t true because you covered it this way and didn’t cover these other awesome events and you didn’t pay attention to twitter, so he’s just not getting the benefit the doubt with the people because of you which is, you know, demoralizing and making it difficult for him to enjoy signing all of those executive orders and being President and…

Interviewer:  Well, I guess we are out of time and will have to leave it there.  Thanks, Kellyanne.

Kellyanne (smiling):  Why, thank you.  See you next time.

—Anna-Liisa Aunio

How Unpopular Can a Candidate Who Wins the Popular Vote Be?

“HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE! The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don’t. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College.”—Michael Moore

1dw1f3So, at the end of the day in this election, it looks like Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College (Trump: 59,690,923 vs. Clinton: 59,916,416). The last time this happened was in 2000, when Al Gore lost to W. And before that? 1888. Please tell me, all chattering classes, how this is good for democracy? And please tell me, as well, how the overriding narrative of this election is supposed to be about Hillary not being to ‘rally’ women / minorities / millennials / (insert other category here)—perhaps because she’s a ‘nasty woman’—rather than the historically unprecedented interference on the part of James Comey, Russian hacking of the Democratic party’s emails and timed Wikileaks releases of selected batches of emails in order to, in Assange’s words, influence the U.S. election (not to mention the polls that indicated she was strongly favored before election day, thus possibly affecting both turnout and protest/third part voting). Or tell me how the narrative is supposed to be about Trump somehow pulling off unprecedented / new voting blocks and turnout for Republican votes when, in fact, the numbers were comparable / the same as in the past several elections. So, the upshot is that Republicans turned in comparable numbers to previous years, but Democrats turned in far lower numbers—a depressed Democratic turnout—which, of course, members of both parties decried as the most likely and problematic consequence of Comey’s unprecedented move on October 28th.

Of course, I’m sure this was because Hillary was just not likable enough to win, right? Oh, but wait, she is winning and is clearly forecast to win the popular vote, meaning that more people in the country on election day will have voted for her over Donald Trump, even with a depressed (by a substantial margin) Democratic turnout. Anything you or I would like to presume to know, in this election, is not what we expected. What haunts me most right now, however, is the thought that if the tables were turned—that is, if Donald Trump won the popular vote but lost the election in the electoral college, or if his party’s emails had been hacked and details of his activities / correspondence / emails been leaked by someone who clearly said that they were doing so to keep him out of office (as just one example)—would he have accepted the results? Would he have called for unity, as HRC did? Or would he have talked about it as evidence that the system was rigged against him and all the more reason to tear that system down? But please, let’s all just talk about how this election was a referendum on elitism in American politics, which resulted in the revolutionary election of a billionaire elite insider to the White House.

The idea that Trump somehow won the White House based on the fact that people just don’t ‘like’ Hillary Clinton, and Trump is upending all politics and conventions because he won the Presidency, is manifestly problematic because she won more votes overall from the people who voted in the election. Like it or not, more people who registered and showed up to vote in the U.S. voted for her. In 2000 (Gore/Bush), this was ‘unprecedented’ in recent history (1888 was the last time it happened). All kinds of calls for electoral reform ensued, largely because people fundamentally thought it strange / unfair and a function of an antiquated system (for all kinds of reasons) to render the office of the Presidency to someone who won less votes; ultimately Florida overshadowed all of this. But it is interesting to consider that everyone who is saying that ‘democracy has spoken’ or that these results are emblematic of some fundamental statement about Trump’s worthiness and, correspondingly, Hillary’s failure, would perhaps be articulating very different positions if Trump won the popular vote. I daresay we would be having a conversation about democratic reform. Why? Because isn’t the value that the person who stands for election and wins the most votes should win the election? And yes, I get the whole logic of the electoral system and the ‘fairness’ of it even though it has become increasingly unfair in actually representing the democratic vote because of internal migration. Let’s just pause for a moment in all of this to appreciate the fact that people voted for the President yesterday and, even though most who went to the polls voted for Hillary Clinton, Trump will be our next President. Let’s dwell, for a minute, on what that says about our democracy. And let’s be clear about what we call rigged when speaking about democracy.

—Anna-Liisa Aunio

The Real Legacy of Rudy Giuliani

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Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Rudy Giuliani, he has been all over the news media of late as the go-to Trump surrogate on terrorism.  Perhaps he is hoping to cement his legacy as the sympathetic New York City mayor touring the destruction at Ground Zero turned proponent of the ‘tough-on-terrorism’ stance of the Trump campaign.  Perhaps he envisions that appointment to the Director of Homeland Security in a Trump White House.  And perhaps even if you disagree with his defense of the Trump campaign, you might buy into this version of Giuliani as terrorist/security politician legacy.  But if it’s a legacy predicated on the risk of violence and death to American citizens on American soil upon which Giuliani’s credentials and hopes are pinned, that legacy has already been firmly established.  And it has nothing to do with radical Islamic terrorism.

If you want to see Giuliani’s real legacy on full display, simply read the recent Justice department’s report on the Baltimore Police department’s pattern of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests, and excessive use of force perpetrated against the black community in Baltimore City.  It is born of and popularized by the ‘tough-on-crime’ mayor Rudy Giuliani from the mid-90s that shaped the lives of a entire generation of police training and policy across the United States based on ‘zero-tolerance’.  Zero tolerance normalized aggressive policing.  It also normalized police brutality.

Continue reading The Real Legacy of Rudy Giuliani

Fellow Americans: No Representation Without Participation

Remember your history class and the rallying cry of the American Revolution: ‘No taxation without representation’?  We obviously need a new revolution, and not of the Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders sort, whose rallying cry is ‘no representation without participation’.

Thanks so much to the New York Times for laying it out so clearly–only 9 percent of the U.S. population voted for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.  Only 60 million votes were cast overall in the primaries.  Are you a disaffected voter in this election?  Are you unhappy with both candidates?

But wait….did you vote in the primaries?

Or do you just sit on the sidelines and complain? Maybe it’s time to stop substituting the word ‘disaffected’ for complacent.

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Enough said.

On Voting in America

338143_10150513817942683_457116294_oWhen I was in high school, I was selected as a representative to Girls’ State, a week-long summer program which teaches young women about the political system by guiding them through simulated local, municipal, state, and federal elections. In short, we learn about politics by running for office. I ended up running as a candidate for Senator to Girls Nation, inspired by the then radical idea of improving democratic participation through motor-voter registration (which, as an aside, I lost to another young woman who boasted the far more exciting platform of multicultural education). Over the next decade, states implemented, to varying degrees, their own policies to accord with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (signed by Bill Clinton) that required states to adopt motor-voter registration. While it wasn’t particularly exciting politically, the simple logic of increasing voter participation by easing access—by registering someone to vote automatically when they registered for a license–became an agreed upon standard for registration and proxy for voter participation across the U.S. I couldn’t help but be reminded of this in the past week, as the federal appeals court struck down parts of North Carolina’s 2013 voting law which required, among other provisions, residents to present a valid photo ID at their polling station in order to vote—of which, a valid driver’s license was the most commonly accepted ID.

While the appeals court provided evidence that the law was racially-motivated and discriminatory, the language and provisions limiting early voting, out of precinct voting, same day registration and, in particular, a valid photo ID, on the face of it seemed (especially to Republicans) altogether reasonable. How difficult, after all, is it to get a photo ID, to register before election day, or show up to the right precinct to vote? These seem reasonable to ensure the sanctity of the democratic process, right? Not really, as it turns out. And the truth is that, even in the process of liberalizing registration laws to make registration easier for many—like motor-voter registration—we have increasingly taken voting rights for granted at the same time that we fail to recognize privilege and inequality in our ability to freely exercise our vote.

Continue reading On Voting in America

We’re Getting Better at Communication

15nbi5Canada Revenue Agency: You owe us money.
Me: Why?
Canada Revenue Agency: [Looking at records] Well, it looks like you didn’t pay what you owed in 2010.
Me: Really? that long ago? that’s a surprise—can you tell me what it’s from?
Canada Revenue Agency: [after much ado and a few blind alleys of questions] We reassessed your medical amount and you owe us.
Me: Why?
Canada Revenue Agency: Because we wanted proof of your medical expenses in 2010 and you didn’t send them to us [including, as it turns out, expenses as part of employer insurance clearly ‘proven’ on the T4].
Me: Okay, if I send you that, will that work?
Canada Revenue Agency: Sure.
Me: Good. But, here’s a little catch—I’m not sure if I can get copies of a lot of additional expenses from that far back. Just for my information, can you tell me why it took so long to ask me about this stuff?
Canada Revenue Agency: Yeah. We just updated our computer system. We’re getting better about communicating with people.

—Anna-Liisa Aunio

Be Patient

xuy85Nick Robinson: “So your message really to those non-white actors is:  be patient, it’ll come…”

Michael Caine: “Yeah, be patient…of course, of course it’ll come.  I mean, it took me years to get an Oscar.”

—Interview between Nick Robinson from BBC Today and Michael Caine, in response to the boycott of the Oscar’s for the continued lack of diversity in Hollywood and nominations in the awards (2016)

“Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”—Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963)

Dear Cynic

Dear Cynic:

aw-Alan-20Cumming_20120118111628316010-420x0You write pithy aphorisms which show us, via your use of rich vocabulary, witty insight, and rhythm in word choice just how smart you are. I am particularly impressed with your ability to dissect the nuance and latitude of the human condition in 10 words or less. Many thanks for your most recent quote of the day.

And yet, as amused as I am by your general aptitude for prudence in cutting through our most recent collective bent towards embracing all manner of bullshit, I must say I am also worried about you. And yes, in case you are wondering, worry is actually a meaningful category of emotional distress that can, at times, point in the direction of insight. I worry because I care. And I worry that you do not.

Dr-Gregory-House-dr-gregory-house-31945344-1918-2560Why? Because all manner of cynicism is a worry, I suppose. It is, after all, a rejection of the human condition in our collective desire or ability to do better. But it’s also because your brand of cynicism, with all of its smart edges and brand sensibility, seems so devoid of the messiness and beauty of affirmation without qualification.

You have so much potential, dear brother—why play it so safe? I know what you find boring, and silly, and stultifying, but what excites you? What do you say ‘yes’ to, even if you end up being wrong? Or are you so afraid of being wrong, or saying you made a mistake, of taking a giant leap forward only to possibly take a step back, that cute insight seems the only intelligent path to take?

Please, I implore you, reconsider your next 10 words. Direct them to something slightly more bright, incomplete, partial, and perhaps less frugal in their estimation of things. I implore you for your benefit, and mine. It’s a sad sight, after all, to see so much ability bent toward dissection. But, more importantly, what we need now, more than ever, is people like you trending toward innovation, construction, and compromise if we are ever going to get out of our immediate and long-term mess. For God’s sake, stop selling us short.

—Anna-Liisa Aunio

The Strange Case of Rod Covlin

“Upper West Side Wife-Killer Tried to Pay a Mexican Man to Marry His 13-Year-Old Daughter”—Eric Levitz, New York Magazine (November 10, 2015)

covlin12n-3-webI worked with Rod Covlin at his first job out of college (and mine)—both of us were in an incoming cohort of new traders trained at the same time at a NASDAQ company at the height of the internet bubble. I traded for two years before leaving for graduate school and hung out with a lot of the group I came in with.

Rod was part of all this; he came to more than one party at my place and dated my roommate. He got so drunk one night that he threw up all over himself on our couch in our NYC apartment and we were momentarily worried that if his head hadn’t been tilted to the side, he would have easily choked on his vomit. He also, in the tryst with my roommate, tried to get the two of us to ‘hook up’ for him (didn’t happen) while at the same time extolling the virtues of jdate for his future plans for more committed relationships.

And finally, he was one of the first to leave in a poaching effort by a new company that took on the tones and dimensions of a cult-like ‘industrial espionage’ drama at our work. Strangely, we all wondered, “Rod? Really? He’s a terrible trader. Why did they want him?” A short while after that, I got a dodgy call from him at home asking (opaquely) about my interest in defecting to the new company. And no, I didn’t; I left the job altogether for graduate school.

Sometimes people ask me why I don’t trade anymore. There are lots of people I still keep in touch with and who are good, kind, and even amazing human beings—just like the kind you meet in any other profession. Then there were people like Rod—always looking out for the next sneaky deal to get ahead (often at the expense of everyone else and often because cheating was the only way they could get ahead), obsessed with money and financial largess as the only indicator of success, and filled with an almost superhuman sense of entitlement that drove an insatiable desire for more. Working on Wall Street in a bull market at the height of the internet bubble, combined with the winner-take-all, no questions asked ethic on the job so neatly justified then amplified all of nastiest habits and tendencies that attracted people like him to the job.

No one that I worked with has come close to going as far down this scary road as him (though there has been a tabloid number of financial crimes, settlements, and record fines). However, I couldn’t say that it altogether surprises me that, with his continued failures combined with that outsized sense of entitlement, that he ended up down a road like this.

—Anna-Liisa Aunio

Where the Wild Things Are

10507119_10152224074252683_6351617770361211778_o-001In the annals of childhood storytelling and imaginative play, one of my favorite books is Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Despite being banned by most libraries and receiving universally negative reviews from critics when it was first published in 1963, the book quickly became and has remained one of the most popular and well-loved staples of children’s literature in North America. And like many kids who loved Max and the wild things, I’m sure that at least some of its popularity can be explained by how well it resonated with the imaginary places I constructed in childhood to escape the consequences of being banished to my dull room as punishment for some ill-advised behavior. Yet I’m also convinced, more recently, that the Wild Things and their world are indicative of a far more pervasive and omnipresent part of our culture—one which imagines the wild as a far-off, exotic, and ‘natural’ landscape as a safety valve to escape the pressures of our post-industrial and denatured lives. And while the temptation to envision an unspoiled world in the face of the complex environmental challenges of the 21st century is certainly understandable, responding to them effectively begins with imagining this narrative differently.

Why? Because narratives, stories, and myths matter: they shape the way that we think about one another and the world. They shape the way we, even as children, imagine certain places, spaces and ideas. And when it comes to nature, the environment, and where the wild things are, they have very real consequences for the way we understand, see and act in the world. Let me illustrate this with one example from a setting that is probably familiar to you:  the public park.

Last summer, my husband and I stopped with our two boys at a playground on a break from walking around the much larger public park in our hometown. On the playground, they joined other kids on the gym equipment while we took stock of the area for a place to sit. In the process, we noticed and sat near a huge supply of wild black raspberry bushes with ripe fruit lining the cultivated playground lawn. As we watched other caregivers, parents, and careful folk unpack their Tupperware containers or other brightly colored snack-themed paraphernalia, my husband and I turned around and picked some of those black raspberries for our kids, who then devoured them.  Yet no one else did, even though there was more than enough for everyone, including all of the adults and their friends, to go around. And when the kids were done, we left the gym equipment to explore the paths through and around the trees for salamanders, snakes, butterflies and all manner of bugs. Yet while the playground was full with families and we encountered other adults with the occasional kid on those paths, our boys turned over rocks, climbed trees and scaled logs virtually alone. There was wildlife and wild raspberries aplenty in this very public and very popular park. But no one seemed aware of or interested in them.

IMG_7221-002Of course, it would be a mistake to assume that all of the parents and participants we encountered want to find bugs or chase butterflies or check out the berries with their kids in the park. But it’s a bigger mistake to assume that they don’t value the trees or butterflies or berries either. After all, it is not as if we don’t value nature, or wildlife, just because the kids are at the playground that day. In fact, given all of the ‘new research’ dedicated to extolling the virtues of the forest in fashionable parenting manuals these days, I would venture to guess that most families and parents in attendance at the park that day value the lessons of nature and the wild more than their parents’ generation did. We just don’t tend to look for them in our local park.

Fullscreen capture 2015-06-014It is also probably safe to say that many, or even most, of the adults we encountered would probably not recognize the fruit on those bushes as black raspberries, or, if they did, would not be willing to pick and eat them directly from those branches. And many or most who might have been interested in the wildlife probably did not know how or where to find a red-backed salamander. So our separation from the natural world, including a basic knowledge of how to recognize food, plants or wildlife that are native to the park and everyday surroundings is certainly part of the equation. And sure, my husband and I have some experience in recognizing black raspberry bushes, so perhaps this makes sense.

Fullscreen capture 2015-06-012But lack of knowledge doesn’t explain the undeniable fact that  it wasn’t because the adults at the park on that hot summer day ignored or dismissed or distrusted the wild black raspberries at the edge of the playground that they went uneaten. It was, rather, because they literally didn’t see what was right behind them, didn’t notice the bushes and trees that surrounded the playground—that, in short, the raspberries went uneaten because because they were invisible. My husband and I were the only adults, in fact, to approach the bushes in close enough proximity to either recognize or contemplate whether the fruit we saw on them was edible.

So I suppose it would be useful to here entertain the sociological explanations for parental tunnel vision, including lack of time, busy schedules, helicopter parenting and a host of other pressures that keep us from spending time in or noticing the more unstructured aspects of park play.  But, again, that only gets us so far, because busy schedules get cleared for nature and wildlife, if even only on occasion.

IMG_4846-003So this leaves us with the final and most important question: if we value nature, and wildlife, and/or the natural environment, or if we value hobbies and past times because they enable us to get out into ‘nature’, and/or if we make sure to spend time going camping, hiking, or ‘getting away’ from urban or suburban life to greener pastures and trees when possible, why do we neglect the wild side of our local public parks?

Fullscreen capture 2015-05-25 113720 PMThe answer takes us back to Sendak: wildlife, wild things, and ‘nature’ are not found in the urban or suburban park, but away from human life, in camp grounds and on hiking trails, in the ‘country’, and, most importantly, removed from everyday human life and experience. We ‘escape’ to nature where it is valued for its capacity to be unspoiled—that is, untouched or unmarked by human habitation. And the more unspoiled, the more fantastic, and the more exotic, the more we value the ‘wild’ of it all, the more we think of it as a cure for what’s wrong in our lives, and the more we feel the need to protect it and the parts of ourselves that find refuge there.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

The problem with this, of course, as the 19th century conservationists eventually realized, is that the ‘environment’ and what is ‘natural’ is not a some destination merely to be set aside for future enjoyment. Downwind or downstream pollution do not respect either political or social boundaries, and we ignore the impact of these, as well as the issues of sanitation, air quality, and job safety—that is, human problems—that directly shape their intensity and direction, at our peril. But we also rob ourselves of the opportunity to wonder about, and in, the beauty and refuge of experiencing wildlife and nature in our everyday lives. In our park, all we needed to do was pay attention to the trees, bushes, and the entirety of the green space and park landscape surrounding us that day to find it. And all one ever needs to do is slow down, get off the bike, treat the path as the destination rather than the route to get there, and explore. And what happens if you do so? You find that there is a wild side, even in the center of a post-industrial city, not just rife with wild black (and red) raspberries, but of snakes and salamanders, of toads and butterflies that settle on and under your feet, and of trees or logs or bogs that can be crossed, or climbed, or tested at will.

IMG_4010-001

But the deeper and more meaningful implications of this—of fully recognizing and exploring your neighborhood, park and everyday life as part of the natural world—are far more radical. Recognizing where the wild things are at the edges of the playground, on the path to the gym equipment, and in the everyday environments of our daily lives inheres deeper, more meaningful lessons concerning the role of knowledge, the significance of humility, and the place of natural limits on our world than any weekend camping expedition. Because paying attention to what is wild in our everyday lives ultimately makes us responsible for making sure what we find, whether they are bees or blueberry bushes, will be valued and protected as well.

I still love Sendak and the thought of escaping to far off places with the Wild Things. And I don’t think we should stop valuing the beauty and power of the natural landscapes and places to transform us. But we do need stories that enable us to imagine and thus see the wild spaces all around us to help us understand that we are, in fact, connected to and part of those landscapes. Perhaps in doing so, we can begin thinking differently about how to achieve a more sustainable world.

—Anna-Liisa Aunio