Hiking and the Common Good

Hiking as a way to relate to the Common Good

Thoughts, text and drawings by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

As hikers we are both visiting and connecting to the landscapes in different ways from the way people who have the ownership to an area do. Hiking might be more about connecting like the nomads used to do. But The Common Good seems to be much more than that… today I’ve been drawing up ways to look at The Common Good, ways to look at sharing, and at wealth…

The Common Good as Defense structure against the unknown

Most communities traditionally had some kind of frame or defense structure protecting them, that worked as a membrane between the community and the surrounding environment. The ancient gigantic defense walls of some European, Asian or South American Castle cities are just a few examples. The whole community went together to build and maintain these structures, sometimes over centuries.

Drawing of a common good defense wall, a small city and gigantic waves of a storm surge
The Common Good might be seen as a defense wall and protective frame around a community –  Here against the monster of climate change

And it was much more than only a defense structure, it was also an identity barrier, defining the locals as Bourgeoisie, – people inside the castle or walls of the city, as separate from the outsiders.

Today such defense structures against other tribes has become obsolete, but a new kind of Common Good structures are becoming more and more urgent. The defense structures defending coastal cities and communities from climate change. Cities like Shanghai in China, Amsterdam or New York are designing even larger defense structures at the moment. The need to protect the Common Good is as urgent as ever.

The Common Good as foundation for rules and competion

Drawings of two sports-teams playing on the foundation of the Common Good
The Common Good as foundation for debate, competition and sports

The Common Good might also be seen as the structures that makes rules possible, frame competition and makes anything from Sportsgames to Parliaments, debate and discussions possible, by creating a shared foundation for all.

Sharing and securing the flow of resources from the Common Good

Drawing of a water dam above a small city. with the text Common Good on it.
The Common Good as control with shared resources

Shared resources and how to prioritize, maintain and optimize them has also traditionally been a part of the Common Good. All citizens had a mutual interest in securing clean water, electricity and other resources. The hydro-dam high above the small city, securing a regular supply of water throughout the year, to be used for different purposes was very important, especially before the invention of fossil fuel driven machines.

Balancing the many different needs of the Common Good

Drawing of a beaver wanting to put down a tree with an owl family in it.
The Common Good challenge of prioritizing between different interests and uses has always been difficult.

How to use and maintain the Common Good has been a challenge to most communities, throughout history. Some uses would make other uses more difficult. And most Commons are balanced between a lot of different individual and community interests, from food growing, to defense, to leisure, to climate buffer zones.

Free-riders and the Common Good

Drawing of a masked figure sneaking in to tap resources from the planet
Free-riders and unauthorized use and exploration of the Common Good is still a huge challenge

Resources are more often than not limited. Even resources we used to think was unlimited, literally as plentiful as fish in the ocean, are collapsing really fast today.

At the same time free-riders, not paying tax or giving anything back to the society is finding still more sophisticated ways to secure their own profit, using things like tax avoidance schemes, sending money forth and back to small far-away islands with the help of corrupt government officials, large banks and huge consultancy companies.

The planet’s resources are finite and we humans might face one of our most difficult challenges ever in the next few years, as we already today are using much more than the planet can supply. But how to regulate and secure global resources of the Common Good has been almost impossible for us up till now.

The Common Good and the growing gap between the Super Rich and the poor

Illustration of a golden air balloon with a few very rich people, flying high over the craving crowd
The gab between the Common Good and the privilege of the few, to fly higher and be out of reach, is seen all over the world today.

The 1% of the richest people in the world owns more than half of the resources of the planet today, and their share is only getting larger every day, according to the estimates from the last around 30 years or so. This gap between who owns what might be seen as a collapse of the Common Good into billions of very poor people on the ground and less than a hundred very, very rich people, in control of most of the technology, resources, land and values. People that has risen above any national and international law, almost like they where living in the clouds.


The long hoped for drip-down effect to the poor is not often seen

Drawing of a businessman with a tied up golden cloud over his umbrella, raining down money, dripping out to the poor
The Drip-down effect of economics is not very well documented, but used a lot. The challenge is that not only the channel, but even the clouds are today controlled by a few

there has been a lot of hope attached to the theory that the wealth of the few Super-rich would somehow drip down to the rest of the world. And in this way their wealth could benefit the Common Good. Unfortunately there is not much data supporting that this is what is happening today.

It seems like the theory is relying on “free clouds”, but today the clouds are anything but.

The concept of a Common Good Market

Drawing of businessmen checking out goods of the Common Good
The Common Good Market is a new concept, where the logic of monetary transactions is viewed as the underlying solid foundation, more than the interest and shared needs of a community of people

One huge change that has made the shift of ownership to the few possible, is that today the Common Good seems more to be understood as to be about how to liberate money transactions and the flow of stocks and bonds, than to be about the classic material and land-based resources, that are more stable in weight and value.

Monetary transactions and estimates fluctuate wildly in value and are also much more easy to manipulate on a global scale, especially by huge, international companies and other heavy players. The digitization of value might even have accelerated this tendency more, as huge amounts of goods and stocks can be traded around the globe in seconds today, no papers signed, humans involved or permissions needed.

Deciding who should benefit or contribute to the Common Good is difficult

Drawing of a beggar asking for money from a many headed community figure with a tall hat
As the Common Good gets more fractured it becomes harder to figure out who should benefit from it, and who should not

A traditional community will take care of its citizens and its members, but today in a globalized, digital reality, it is getting more and more difficult to define who is who in a community or society. And also who should benefit and – or contribute to the Common Good.

The Common Good when structures and knowledge become digital

Drawing of a man burning books about how to make fire, to keep warm, while a man in a library looks on from a distance
Burning the books and traditional understandings in a new digital based reality

The structures, books and logic that has kept our civilization on a steady, but maybe not optimal course for centuries, are  today being replaced by new, non-material, bits-based structures, with their own ability to think and create both their own reality, overview and priorities. All this is so new and the speed it is happening in so fast that nobody today has any clear idea what all this will mean. Either to us, to the planet or to the Common Good.

Can Hiking be a compass for re-connecting us to the Common Good?

For hundred of thousand of years we have been living together in small communities,  telling stories and wandering the planet. Hiking has not changed very much, it still has the appeal and timeless feel of connecting through being together and walking together under the stars on a small planet, flowing through deep space.  We are hard wired to live here and to make our understandings as good as we can, as we move through the landscapes.

Drawing of hikers meeting at a small shelter out in the woods.
Hiking as a compass of what it means to be human

Hiking can be a compass, re-connecting us to this reality and helping us to what being human can mean, human beyond and outside our new digital, screen-based reality. A life in a backpack is a less materialistic life, where hikers only bring the most essential for their well-being.

And it is actually a bit of a strange paradox, that the same digital revolution, that can now take care of so much, from connecting us along satellites, to updating our every breath to social media, to monitoring our well-being, and securing our health, should we fall or get lost. The same digital tools just might help us rid ourselves of the lock-down, non-nomadic lifestyles we have been forced to live since we started farming a few thousand years ago, and stopped wandering. Robots, self-driving machines and GPS controlled harvesters can now farm much better than us.

Maybe, just maybe, our smart technology, can be more than a path to a new virtual screen-based reality.

Maybe it can be a way to better help us reconnect to each other and to the planet again through a more minimalistic, nomadic lifestyle, inspired by hiking.

Story, text, drawings by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org


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