raison d’être

My work is about our interpretation of, and relationship to, nature. The Radical Natural History blog is a consideration of contemporary issues regarding the environment. Generally True Patterns is a non-fiction work in systems philosophy showing that actions have consequences. The Prairie Suite is a novel set in the future about the dire outcome of our denial that, in our interaction with the natural environment, what we do and how we are in the world really matters.

The impetus for all three (they are intended as parts of a larger whole) and for other means of messaging I am developing, is recognition of the arrival of the “Anthropocene” era. This new geologic and biologic era created by us is marked by the certainty of coming catastrophe unless our behavior changes. Massive oceanic and terrestrial habitat destruction, a nearly unprecedented rate of species extinction, and intentional alternations in the atmospheric and hydrologic forms that nurtured our civilization (and wild nature) are leading to a shift in air composition, water distribution, and a reduction in overall bio-carrying capacity of the living earth (“Gaia”) even as our population spirals out of control. The belief that we are separate from nature and thus immune to the laws of physics and biology is demonstratively ably wrong.

The outcome of my efforts and those of thousands of others to save ourselves from ourselves is unknowable. I am well aware that these efforts may not succeed and the post-apocalyptic world of The Prairie Suite may well come about. Nonetheless, those of us who have identified these issues have a moral obligation to accept the dictum of Socrates that the only life worth living is the examined one. The dictum of the naturalist is that it is not just the individual life, but the life of the planet that we must examine and fight to preserve in whatever way we can.


about the author

David L. Witt, June 2014. From an original image by Cathy Aragon

Writer, art historian, museum curator, and life-long naturalist David L. Witt has been a part of the environmental movement since subscribing to the Time-Life nature book series in the mid-1960s. His first major address on the subject was during his senior year in high school when he spoke to an all-student assembly (2000 students) who were grateful to him for getting them out of their regular classes.

His first museum assignment at the nature lodge of a local Boy Scout camp—caring for the poisonous reptile collection—provided him with the experience later needed to make his way in the art world. He has held senior curatorial positions in art at two institutions: The Harwood Museum of Art (Taos, New Mexico 1979-2005) and The Academy for the Love of Learning (Santa Fe, New Mexico, beginning 2005). At the former museum he became known for his exhibitions on post-war modernist art; in his current job he leads research and exhibitions on artist/naturalist/environmentalist Ernest Thompson Seton. Along the way he founded the New Mexico Art History Conference (1986) which hosts an annual meeting focusing on the art and artists of New Mexico and the American West.

He is the author of two books on the Taos Moderns, co-author of a book on the New Mexico sculptor Patrociño Barela, and creator of a major exhibition and book on Ernest Thompson Seton. All of the books received literary awards. His academic background is in political science and systems philosophy, resulting in degrees from Kansas State University and the University of Oklahoma.

As a naturalist he has taken special interest in alpine and tundra botany, including participation as Photographer and Naturalist, Baffin Island Arctic Botany Expedition, organized through the University of Texas, El Paso, in 2009.

Text and Photographs Copyright David L. Witt

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