I hate hiking. Hate is a strong word, I know, but it is accurate. Well-meaning friends have invited me on hikes and, trying to be sociable, I have joined them. My primary problem is that I am incredibly clumsy. More than once I have tripped on nothing but air and taken a tumble while walking down the street. So if you ask me to climb up the side of a mountain, with no path or anything to grab on to, I will fall. And not just slip a little—I will face-plant into a thorny bush. I have fallen every single time I have gone hiking, often rolling down the hill I was attempting to scale. If I were a bit more graceful I would try out for the circus, but alas my tumbling is more horrifying than entertaining.

My second issue with hiking is that it takes place in the wilderness. I firmly believe that air conditioning and indoor plumbing is God’s way of showing me that he loves me and wants me to be happy.

Finally, I understand that it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s supposed to be the fun part. But on the rare occasion I have made it to the mountaintop, bruised, scratched and generally miserable, I look around only to see … more trees and hills. Exactly what I just spent the last hours of my life staring at as I huffed and puffed my way up.

Don’t get me wrong—I love nature. When I travel, I go out of my way to see the natural and human-made wonders that location has to offer. But to get me to go through the brush, there needs to be a view for me to see. And when I get there, it better be worth seeing.

You may be surprised, then, that despite my hatred of hiking, I am a big fan of trees. Canada boasts some of the most beautiful forests in the world, and the lumber industry has been important to Canada’s economy for centuries. Lumberjacks are Canadian icons. I, and most of my friends, know the song the Log Driver’s Waltz by heart. Protecting our trees and forests has never been more important—not only for national pride, but for the world. Deforestation, through humans clearing land to raise cattle or crops, or through fires aggravated by climate change, is causing untold havoc to the environment. Many Christians, however, remain conspicuously silent on these issues.

There is something insidious to the idea that “God is in control,” so we should leave everything in his hands. On its own, it’s true. God is in control and there are times when we must trust he will protect and provide for us. But at the same time, we can use this belief to justify our greed and laziness. Just because we believe God is in control does not mean we can continue destroying the planet until Jesus’ return. Climate change brought on by deforestation, fossil fuels and other human causes is causing death and destruction around the globe, disproportionately affecting the poor. We as Christians and Canadians have twice the duty to protect the environment, if only to mitigate the suffering of people. It is possible to believe God is in control and to take active steps to safeguard the world he has given us. God gave us a brain, hands, feet and lungs and expects us to use them. If you are able, consider donating to conservation efforts or volunteering your time planting trees.

I may not be the world’s most avid hiker, but I will sing the virtues of clean air and lush forests until my dying day. One day, I won’t be the only one singing. “Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth” (1 Chronicles 16:33). Trees hold special significance in Christianity, from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, to the burning bush, to the cross. Scripture itself is described as a tree in Proverbs 3:18: “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” I am thankful to the forest for doing its job, but feel no desire to visit any time soon. For now, until they are a voice for themselves, I will continue to be a voice for the trees … at least from a distance.

Darryn Oldford is a senior soldier in Toronto.


On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, Barbara Lyons said:

Thanks for standing up for the trees! I'm totally in agreement with you. You don't have to be a hiker to realize we can't live without them.


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