Fighting for Environmental Justice in Massachusetts

Kate Rafey (Jewish Organizing Fellow ‘12-’13) interviewed Joel Wool (Jewish Organizing Fellow ‘12-’13) and wrote this story.

Joel Wool (Jewish Organizing Fellow‘12-’13) may work in the environmental movement to change policies and impact state governance, but he stays for the stories of resiliency and strength. What keeps Joel going are the people; what ignited his passion for organizing was anger. Using an environmental lens, he tackles interconnected social justice issues.

“The environmental movement is people taking care of their community, ensuring people are safe where they live, work and play,” Joel said. “It’s the story of a grandma cancer survivor fighting in her community, it’s the Latina committed to protecting the earth. It’s the immigrants caring about community, whether we’re talking about the earth or their town.”

Joel has been working at Clean Water Action since 2011. His hope is to see more clean energy distributed. One of his many current projects is with Massachusetts Power Forward, where Joel serves as Campaign Co-Coordinator. He organizes people to ensure that our state invests in clean energy resources.

Joel’s sense of community comes from his own experience. “I came into this [work] from being rooted in a neighborhood in Dorchester. Looking at [these issues] from a community-oriented perspective keeps me rooted,” he said.

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JOIN Fellowship alumni Joel Wool (left) and Kate Rafey (right)

While Joel has participated in different community organizing trainings in the past, JOIN for Justice taught him about relationship building and storytelling. He was involved and active in community organizing before the fellowship began but it took some time for him to process each session to connect with his coalition building.

JOIN’s intentional cultivation of leaders enabled deeper ties for Joel with individuals. Now, he uses storytelling all the time with people he’s meeting for the first time. In doing so, he has been lucky enough to engage with and support the amazing people fighting back against the fossil fuel industry.

One of Joel’s current organizing projects focuses in central Massachusetts with a population often neglected. Dismas House in Worcester, a home for healthy reentry for former prisoners through community work and support, is currently facing its own setback from the legislature as they fight for solar power and green weatherization. Other organizations in Worcester are interested as well, but the State favors utility companies. “We have to consider the bigger picture and choose the right path or there are going to be problems,” Joel said.

As a Jewish organizer, structural injustice and inequality resound with him. Many of the environmental injustices he approaches involve low income and minorities in these communities being, as Joel describes it, “boxed out” or kept from the decision- For him, Tikkun Olam is reality. “We are literally trying to repair the world, physically trying to build and rebuild communities into something better,” he said.

Joel plans on continuing his work in Massachusetts as an organizer for the foreseeable future, working on economic and racial issues with an environmental lens. “I am where I want to be at this point,” he said, “My goal right now is movement building.” Many people use him as a resource for empowering their own state actions. His work at the individual level will elevate movement building and take it to a different level. Currently, Joel is working on a Masters in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University.

For people who are concerned about the future of environmental justice in Massachusetts, Joel urges you to take action now. “The energy decisions we make in Massachusetts will affect the rest of the country. We need to start acting now,” he said.

If you would like to get involved with Joel’s work, please contact him: jwool@cleanwater.org

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