Aaron Mair’s story starts out all too familiar to people of color who have encountered any of the big green groups: He asked one for help dealing with an issue of critical importance to the health of his family and community — and was turned away.

This was back in the 1990s, when — as has been well-documented — large environmental organizations were mostly run by well-off white people concerned about conserving critters and our country’s natural beauty, not the health and welfare of its people.

After his initial setback, Mair became one of the leaders in an effort to change that paradigm. (Spoiler: It’s been a slow process.) His story started with a choice between raising his daughters in the suburbs of Albany, New York, or in the city, and his decision to go with the latter — while building his house next to an urban nature preserve. He thought he had gotten the best of both worlds.