Illinois River Project



SUMMARY: We are creating a system that reroutes four economies to benefit each: we will employ individuals who have been discriminated from gainful employment due to his or her criminal background to catch invasive fish that will be composted and later used to remediate soil of lead poisoning in impoverished communities.

PROBLEM SPACE: Overall, our initiative seeks to make processes in distinct economies more effective and ecological. In terms of penology, our initiative seeks to break the legislative, institutionalized barriers that often racially marginalized individuals face after paying their debt to society, barriers which we believe further disenfranchise individuals and promote recidivism and the causes of socioeconomic inequality that leads to the conditions in which breaking the law may have been explicable. By employing these individuals to address the problem of an invasive fish, we are posing a brute force approach to the problem that marine biologist are unable to apply. The shortage of funds and manpower means that methods of stopping invasive fish have primarily been built structures, chemical and bureaucratic and ineffective. The creation of high-quality compost offers both an improved fertilizer for growing crops but also a potential product that can finance the Illinois River Project in both directions, meaning the monies generated from compost of fish-waste can pay for employing individuals to continue to fish as well as pay for the distribution of the bone byproduct of the fish, which is a known phosphorous that has been used remediate soil that is contaminated with lead.

SOLUTION: Through the employment of individuals who are otherwise barred from participating in the economy due to “the box” (“Have you ever been convicted”?) we will teach them how to build boats that easily catch an invasive fish, the bighead and silver carp, which are known to jump from the water when startled by sound. The boats that are designed are inexpensive and building them teaches useful problem-solving skills, basic construction and the joy of fishing which will be therapeutic while giving individuals roles of leadership in the families and communities. The limitless captured fish will give these individuals a means to live and be independent, productive members of society. In winter, basic composting and building will engage participants. The fish will be processed so that the meat of the fish will be made into a high-protein compost additive (as described by Cornell’s Joe Regenstein, Professor of food waste management and food law. The additive will be priced below market. The bones of the fish will be dried and ground and used to clean soil of lead pollution, which will improve the health of individuals who come in contact with the soil, particularly children, in quantities that are available for both private and public use. Lead has been found to be the most common toxin in the soil in the U.S. and linked to many negative side effects including learning disorders and violent behavior. One current method to treat soil also uses fish bones but is aimed at city-scale application so impoverished, post industrial neighborhoods are often neglected. The poetic element of this project is that it is the marginalized individuals who are creating the means to improve the lives and communities that are also often the most marginalized.

CONTACT: [email protected]