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A longtime writer and editor for National Geographic, Don Belt is an award-winning journalist, an educator and public speaker, and an experienced communications strategist working on behalf of worthwhile causes and organizations. He brings a global and humanistic perspective to every project, ranging from editing the first-ever National Geographic retrospective on Islam (above) to exploring the frontiers of journalism in the digital age. Favorite speaking topics include Lawrence of Arabia and the making of the modern Middle East, the geopolitics of Water, Slow Journalism, the Out of Eden Walk project, and his three decades covering the world for National Geographic.


SPOTLIGHT: SYRIA

One of Don’s most popular speaking topics, SYRIA today is in the throes of a brutal civil war that was years in the making. For an in-depth look at the modern history of Syria, including an interview with President Bashar al-Assad, see Don’s story in the November 2009 issue of National Geographic, with photographs by Ed Kashi.

For further insights on Syria and foreign affairs in general, Follow Don on Twitter: @dbelt50.


July 2017

On July 19 and 20, Don will join several colleagues from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to present the Out of Eden Walk to some 50,000 Boy Scouts at the BSA’s annual National Jubilee. West Virginia

March 2017

In March Don lectured at a number of universities in California. At San Diego State, he presented his Pulitzer Center/Out of Eden Walk on Campus workshop to San Diego educators, followed by a lecture on Slow Journalism to students and faculty. He also spoke to graduate students in Journalism at UC Berkeley, and presented the Out of Eden Walk to dozens of students of anthropology and geography at UC Santa Cruz. While in San Francisco, Don also delivered his lecture, “Crossing Invisible Borders,” to the executives and staff of Delta Dental Corporation. California

October-November 2016

In October and November 2016, Don lectured on a National Geographic Expeditions trip to destinations around the world, including Peru, Easter Island, Samoa, Australia, Cambodia, Nepal, China, India, Tanzania, Jordan, and Morocco. Planet Earth

September 2016

On September 23-24, Don appeared at Syracuse University to speak to students about his career as a National Geographic writer, and also to share the work of Paul Salopek on the Out of Eden Walk project. The next day, he conducted his Pulitzer Center/Out of Eden Walk on Campus workshop for faculty at the Newhouse School. Syracuse, NY

On September 20 Don and Jeff South, Associate Professor of Journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University, presented a six-hour Out of Eden Walk workshop at Excellence in Journalism 2016, the annual convention of the Society of Professional Journalists. New Orleans, LA

August 2016

On August 4 Don appeared as a panelist at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) in Minneapolis. Devoted to the subject of “Slow Journalism and Why it Matters in an Age of Instant Information,” the program will be moderated by Michael Longinow of Biola University. Minneapolis, MN

June 2016

On June 19 Don and National Geographic photographer Ed Kashi delivered an illustrated presentation, “Syria Before the Storm,” as the closing lecture of LOOK3, the international festival of arts and photography held each year in Charlottesville, VA.  Ed’s photographs of Syria were exhibited from June 3 to July 10 at nearby Les Yeux du Monde Gallery, a local sponsor of the Festival. Charlottesville, VA

On June 2 Don delivered an illustrated presentation, “Syria and Sykes-Picot: A Recipe for Scrambled Eggs,” to an audience at Harvard Law School that included law school faculty and the Leadership Summit of LCLD, a non-profit organization working to build a more diverse and inclusive legal profession. Cambridge, MA

April 2016

On April 8 Don addressed the International Education Conference at the University of Chicago, delivering a keynote on the value of global citizenship followed by a workshop for university and secondary school educators on using the Out of Eden Walk in the classroom. Chicago, IL

On April 25 Don appeared as a panelist at “Religion in the Public Sphere,” a symposium hosted by Washington University and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, with support from the Henry Luce Foundation. St. Louis, MO

October 2015

On October 30, Don conducted his Walk on Campus workshop in Chicago, sharing his Out of Eden Walk “slow journalism” curriculum with more than a dozen university professors from the midwest at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. The workshop was presented in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

On October 23 Don delivered the Marshall Center Lecture on T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) to the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond.

Also, on October 7 he appeared as featured speaker at the quarterly meeting of Beer+Design, an organization of Virginia Architects, at Studio 23 in Scott’s Addition. Richmond VA

September 2015

Don appeared in the Global Environment Speaker Series at the University of Richmond, delivering a lecture sponsored by the Environmental Studies, International Studies, and Journalism departments. Richmond, VA

June 2015

Don delivered an evening lecture on the Out of Eden Walk project at Harvard Law School, to a leadership summit of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. Special guests included Liz Dawes Duraisingh of Project Zero (Harvard Graduate School of Education), and Jeff Blossom of Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis. Cambridge, MA.

May 2015

Don conducted a day-long Pulitzer Center Workshop for university journalism educators, sharing his curriculum based on Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk and its potential as a teaching tool for professors of journalism, geography, anthropology, environmental science, and international studies. Ann Peters of the Pulitzer Center wrote an article about the Workshop hereWashington, D.C.

April 2015

As part of the Richmond Writers Series, Don delivered a lecture on foreign affairs at the Richmond Public Library, at 7:00 pm on Friday, April 10. Title: “From Lawrence of Arabia to the Arab Spring: 100 Years of Middle East History in 30 Minutes.” Richmond VA

February 2015

Belt.Lawrence.DeloitteDon delivered a lecture on the leadership style of T.E. Lawrence to the Board of Directors of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity at Deloitte University. Dallas Texas

November 2014

Don lectured on a variety of topics to 80 travelers on National Geographic Expeditions “Around the World by Private Jet” trip, with stops in Peru, Easter Island, Samoa, Australia, Cambodia, China, Tibet, India, Tanzania, Jordan, and Morocco. For more on the trip, including a photo gallery, click here. Planet Earth

October 2014

Don delivered the Berglund Lecture on international affairs at the Honors College of Virginia Commonwealth University. Richmond, Virginia

May 2014

Don addressed the graduating class at the International School of Indiana, one of the nation’s most progressive secondary schools for foreign languages, global citizenship, and preparing students for the International Baccaulaureate degree. Indianapolis, Indiana

April 2014

Title Slide Crossing BordersDon delivered a lecture at the University of San Diego on “Crossing Invisible Borders”: lessons learned from 25 years of guerrilla diplomacy on the road for National Geographic, including advice on working in foreign settings and building rapport with ordinary people across cultural divides. The evening lecture was hosted by the Masters in Global Leadership program and the Masters in International Relations. To learn more about Don as a public speaker, click here. San Diego, California

December 2013

Don delivered the Commencement address to graduating seniors at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Mass Communications. Richmond, Virginia

May 2013

Don delivered an address on Water Issues at the Cape May Forum. Cape May, NJ

April 2013

Don was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of FameRichmond, VA

March 2013

March 6 and 7: Lecturing and teaching at Hood College Frederick, Maryland

March 8-19: Lecturing on a National Geographic Expedition to the Holy Land Israel and the West Bank

August 2012

Don lectured on the Trans Siberian Railroad from Beijing to Moscow for National Geographic Expeditions. Along the way, the group stopped off in Mongolia, subject of Don’s October 2011 Geographic story on Ulaanbaatar, and at Russia’s Lake Baikal, which he wrote about in the magazine’s June 1992 cover story, “The World’s Great Lake.” Beijing to Moscow

July 2012

Don lecturing squareIn July, Don delivered a keynote address on the geopolitics of water at the Chautauqua Institution during “Water Matters,” a week-long National Geographic lecture series on our most precious natural resource. Here’s the Chautauqua Daily‘s article about his lecture. He also taught a workshop on environmental writing based on articles about the Jordan River (April 2010) and Bangladesh (May 2011). And on July 24, during “Pakistan Week” at Chautauqua, Don taught a master class in writing based on his reportage for the magazine’s September 2007 cover story on Pakistan. To download free ebooks for both classes, click here. Chautauqua, NY

Please watch this space for updates.

Latest from @dbelt50

"Like a human baton, I am passed from stranger to stranger across continents." @PaulSalopek on Xenophilia nyti.ms/2ryGAEA

About 2 days ago from Don Belt's Twitter via Twitter for iPhone

Out of Eden Walk on Campus

In partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, I’m pleased to offer a half-day Walk on Campus Workshop based on the multimedia reporting of Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Salopek on his Out of Eden Walk project, a 7-year, 22,000-mile walk across the world in the pathways of early human migration, from the earliest Homo sapiens site in East Africa […]

On Slow Journalism

January 13, 2015—At the Newseum in Washington, D.C., hundreds of journalists gathered to discuss the theory and practice of “slow” journalism, and to hear from one of its most skillful practitioners: Paul Salopek, a National Geographic Fellow who skyped into the event from his current location near Tbilisi, capital of the Republic of Georgia. Paul’s project, the Out of […]

Recent Geographic Stories

On Campus: Exploring the Frontiers of Slow Journalism

May 11, 2017

An Out of Eden Walk essay on how I teach the theory and practice of Slow Journalism at the University of Richmond, and to educators around the U.S.

The Wild Heart of Sweden

October 2015

Trekking north of the Arctic Circle through Europe’s largest wilderness, travelers are on their own.

The Urban Clan of Genghis Khan

October 2011

An influx of nomads has turned Mongolia’s capital upside down.

The Coming Storm: Bangladesh

May 2011

The people of Bangladesh have much to teach us about how a crowded planet can best adapt to rising sea levels. For them, that future is now.

Parting the Waters: the Jordan River

April 2010

A source of conflict between Israel and its neighbors for decades, the Jordan River is now depleted by drought, pollution, and overuse. Could the fight to save it forge a path toward peace?

The Holy Land Today

December 2009

Geographic overview of a land still in turmoil.

Reinventing Syria

November 2009

Poised to play a pivotal new role in the Middle East, Syria struggles to escape its dark past.

The Forgotten Faithful

June 2009

Followers of Jesus for nearly 2,000 years, Arab Christians today are disappearing from the land where their faith was born.

India’s Fast Lane to the Future

October 2008

A new superhighway linking its four major ciites is bringing old and new India into jarring proximity.

Struggle for the Soul of Pakistan

September 2007

Sixty years after its founding as a homeland for India’s Muslims, Pakistan straddles the fault line between moderate and militant Islam. Its dilemma is a cautionary tale for the post-9/11 world.

A Geographic Life

August 2006

Some people dream of exotic adventures with National Geographic. Thomas J. Abercrombie lived that dream.

For more of Don’s past articles for National Geographic, including two downloadable e-books and award-winning features on Lawrence of Arabia and Lake Baikal, visit his Journalism page.

Geographic Special Issues

Jesus and The Apostles
April 2014

jesus coverDon authored “Life in the Time of Jesus,” the lead essay in this collection of articles about Jesus and the rise of Christianity. “Like billions of other human beings,” he writes, “Jesus of Nazareth, the man, passed through history like a campfire spark, a pinpoint of light here for an instant and then no more. Yet the short life and violent death of this obscure Jew soon took on a meaning that eclipsed the blank pages of his years on Earth. The religion that grew around him—Christianity—would alter the course of history and become the world’s dominant faith.”

Notorious Villains
October 2013

Don authored “The Mad Tsar: Ivan the Terrible” in this special issue of the Exploring History series. Villains coverRussia’s first tsar united the nation, built the splendid St. Basil’s cathedral that graces the capital—and tortured and killed untold thousands of innocents, including his own son. Looking for clues to the tsar’s cruel and bizarre behavior, historians trace at least part of his madness to a deeply traumatized childhood.

Sacred Journeys
December 2011

Don authored “Searching for Miracles,” the lead essay in this collection of articles about religious Sacred Journeys bigpilgrimages around the world. Every year, some 300 million pilgrims set out on some form of religious pilgrimage every year. Countless others embark on private journeys of the spirit, abandoning the comforts of home and the familiar in their quest for peace and enlightenment. Archaeologists have determined that this impulse, this movement in search of the divine, dates back to the earliest human cultures; anthropologists tell us that it is a defining characteristic of the human race. Pilgrimage, it seems, is written into our DNA.

The Holy Land
December 2009

For this Special Edition of National Geographic, subtitled Crossroads of Faith and Conflict, Don authored “A Land Still in Holy Land coverTurmoil,” an essay about the Holy Land’s volatile recent history. In the wake of the 20th century’s two World Wars, the complex political ambitions of powerful European countries dramatically reshaped the geopolitical landscape, stoking Arab-Israeli hostility that continues to this day. Full text available.