Hiking is a political act. It’s a statement: “The hills are ours. The land is ours. We are free. We can walk when and where we please.”
Few of us think of it this way, because most of us live in countries where swaths of wild or at least undeveloped land are held in public trust as “national forest,” “national park,” “state park,” “crown land,” or “provincial park.” We assume hiking is, and will remain, our right.
But will it?
It’s easy to imagine circumstances in which the sanctity of public lands is undermined, the integrity of wildlife habitat is increasingly violated, and our freedom to hike is curtailed.
Consider that peak oil and climate change are colliding. What scarcities will result? How will society withstand them? Will we maintain the collective will not to plunder every resource-rich crevice on Earth?
We do know this: The freedoms we exercise are the ones we’re least likely to lose.
So it’s in our shared interest to remember that hiking, like voting, is a political act; to remind others of this; and to inspire them to come hiking with us.