Symposium: The Great Central Valley: Heartland in Transition
Michael Black was an academic, an environmentalist, and a writer. He resided in Pacifica California the last decade of his life.
Born in Seattle, Washington in 1949, Michael spent most of his youth in Portland, Oregon where his father was a fisheries biologist who worked in the effort to preserve wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest. He grew up in a loving extended family where a rich array of experiences shaped him: hiking, music, boy’s choir, community pursuits, languages, science and many other activities that contributed to his remarkable love for and passion to engage people, nature and ideas. Michael completed his undergraduate studies in political science at the University of Oregon and went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a doctorate at the University of Oregon in the same field. Over the years he taught on environmental issues and the role of science in society at a number of institutions, among them: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, State University of New York at both the Albany and Plattsburgh campuses; New Jersey Institute of Technology; Mills College in Oakland, California; and Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College in Claremont, California.
While at SUNY Albany in a one year visiting faculty position, students selected Michael for an award given to the best advisor among the faculty. His research ranged from environmental issues to the politics of conversion from a military to a peace-time economy at the end of the Cold War. Much of it was dedicated to ethical and policy analyses of preserving wild salmon that drew extensively on scientific literature in the field and his own observations. This work was cited for excellence by the Pacific Historical Association.
Michael was active in a wide array of community and academic organizations, including the New York Academy of Sciences, the California Studies Association, the Bay Institute (San Francisco) and the Pacifica Land Trust.
During the last decade of his life Michael concentrated on writing poetry, yoga, and a deep inquiry into mind and body that led to a long spiritual exploration. As he might have put it, this journey saw connections between life, energy, earth and the cosmos, that created opportunities for understanding and healing that he found quite profound. He was nearly finished with a book expressing many of these ideas.
Mike was an avid hiker and a committed environmentalist, determined to make a difference while he was here. Through his writing, his teaching and his lifelong environmental work, he influenced many people.
Michael died on Wednesday February 27, 2013 when he was struck by a vehicle while walking along a road in Santa Rosa, California. He had spent the day with dear friends in spiritual healing and alone contemplating the beauty of the natural world near Santa Rosa immediately prior to the accident.
He is survived by an astonishing array of friends and family including his son, who was his greatest joy in his joyous life.