Part of an effort to empower residents in their Chicago neighborhood, long time friends Jeff Munie and Bill Vassilakis conceptualized a mobile, participatory research center that will capture the stories, opinions, and suggestions of the public. Combining their skills as an urban planner and industrial designer, they conceptualized “The Community Voice Box”; a trailer that will be manned by students, educators and environmental experts to collect ethnographic data accessible on a website. The mission is to allow political decision makers to facilitate change based on the insights gathered from the local residents in a community that also happens to be home to an air polluting coal-fired power plant.
Munie and Vassilakis believe that “local environmental health issues are not solely a result of point source emissions, but a combination of political, economic and environmental issues, which combine to create overall inequalities in environmental health and morbidity.” Evidence of this message cannot go unnoticed as the view from their Pilsen apartment looks directly at the white clouds formed by the Fisk coal-fired power plant.
The Community Voice Box will build on the efforts of other local groups fighting against the plant’s pollution like P.E.R.R.O. (Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization). That group pressured the Illinois EPA to install an airborne lead monitors as part of a state wide program.