Aaron Mair receives Fitzwater Medallion

Aaron Mair at Brant Lake (Provided photo — Nancie Battaglia)

RINDGE, N.H. — Aaron Mair, director of the Adirondack Council’s Forever Adirondacks Campaign, has received Franklin Pierce University’s Marlin Fitzwater Medallion for Leadership in Public Communication at a ceremony on the University’s Rindge Campus in honor of his career as a conservation advocate and a pioneer in the environmental justice movement.

“I am grateful to the students, faculty and trustees of Franklin Pierce University for using the Fitzwater Medallion to assist in the fight to curb climate change and promote environmental justice,” said Mair. “I hope their example encourages other leaders at institutions of higher education to embrace the need for climate action and social equity. I thank them for recognizing my humble contribution to those noble causes and inviting me to share the afternoon with them, discussing the future.”

The university honored Mair for his “pioneering work in environmental justice,” as well as public health, voting rights and electoral racial disparities. Mair’s four-decade career began as an activist in his hometown and led him on a path to become the first Black man to serve as president of the Sierra Club. His career as a cartographic expert for the New York state Department of Health sharpened skills he used to defeat racially biased voting district maps in court and win back equal representation for Black voters in Albany.

“The Fitzwater Center Medallion honors those who have demonstrated … a profound commitment to providing citizens with the information and tools they need to raise their voices in the public discourse that is the essential to our futures,” said Kristen Nevious, Ph.D., director of the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication in her letter urging Mair to accept the award. “Our students, faculty and Board of Trustees salute you with this Medallion.”

“We cannot ignore the growing and desperate cacophony of those — disproportionately from communities of color and challenged economies — crying for help,” Nevious continued, “… as Arctic ice melts and water sources dry up, as swaths of the world suffer through record heat and are facing a future of weeks of 100-degree days. Earth is … facing a tipping point. You have been telling us this for decades, and if we haven’t already, we all need to stop and listen.”

She cited Mair’s battle to close a state-owned trash incinerator that was polluting his Arbor Hill neighborhood in Albany as a fight to overcome the injustice of a plant that provided cheap energy to state buildings while polluting the air in a majority-Black community.

“Then you made others’ fights your own: among them, cleaning up PCBs on the Hudson River, the Adirondack Green New Deal efforts, and stemming the leaking of oil into the Hudson from the failing Indian Point nuclear power plant,” she wrote. “Franklin Pierce University shares your priority on community service.”


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