Published on Sustainable Cities

What Does the Fox Say? Top Ten Ideas From City Fox

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ImageChances are by now you’ve seen the video ‘What Does the Fox Say?’ The Ylvis brothers developed a catchy music video starting in Norway and spreading like a wild fire across the planet, jumping from city to city. In less than a week 15 million people watched the fox dance and try to make his case
Videos and other social media are emerging as one of the most powerful forces shaping countries and cities. For example, Oscar Morales and his Facebook campaign to ban FARC in Colombia, the Arab Spring, and Toronto’s recent police shootings and earlier G20 beatings (video taped and shared widely – police charged and convicted).
Many of us may think of the more urban mammals like a cow or two, raccoons, squirrels, rats, feral dogs and cats, but when it comes to cities, the fox has a lot to say. Here are a few of his likely comments on cities.

  1. Foxes are inter-connected – mainly through cities (check out how the video went viral as it got picked up through cities like Trondheim, Bergen, Seoul, London, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, New York and Toronto).
  2. The fox is not an urban or rural animal. For example, in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’ the fox wanted to be tamed so as to be ‘unique and special’ and then needed by the little prince.  However in every fox and in every prince and in every city, a little wild will always remain: That’s not always bad.
  3. Foxes can’t do it alone – a video, forest, and city is a team effort (e.g., the bear and wolf were just on the sidelines of the video).
  4. Smile you’re on camera – police, politicians, foxes too – we are all more and more on camera, and this is quickly changing how cities (and forest and oceans) are managed.
  5. Most of the foxhunters in the UK are city-folk; ditto deer and duck hunters in the States. Not a surprise perhaps, but a good indication of why the fox would need a mashup to make a video to help sway public attitudes (if he wants to stop the foxhunt). It’s not for nothing that factory farms are trying to ban filming of their operations (‘dolphin friendly’ tuna is largely a result from a stowaway filming the killing of dolphin by-catch on a tuna fishing boat).
  6. Fox videos may be ‘silly’, but they can quickly become fox news, and almost as quickly, they can fundamentally change ‘the game’ (there is enormous opportunity, and responsibility, in the ability to mobilize some 15 million people in a week).
  7. Life in the city can be a zoo, everyone has a voice; it sounds like a cliché but listening well is the best way to build a better city.
  8. Watch for the ‘millennials’ as they change their cities through videos, create new jobs, and soon – as the old boys catch up – push new ways of governing.
  9. When a couple musicians from Norway can create a video that’s watched by twice as many people in a week as there are Norwegians, you know that things have changed. Cities give voice to everyone, even foxes.
  10. Elephants may toot but they’re now out of the dark rooms and walking the bright city streets in full view.  They know that if you want to save the elephants, the best place to start is convincing your mayor.  (Same with tigers and tuna.)
City Fox is data driven and thinks and acts globally. But City Fox is also a local fox: mice, Mrs. Fox, dancing partners, conversations with horse; are all sourced locally. Urban fox, forest fox, global fox, and local fox: they are all the same fox. Who knew he could sing and dance as well?

Photo: Red fox. Credit: Rodney Campbell,


Dan Hoornweg

Professor and Jeff Boyce Research Chair, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

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