Does religion influence hiking trail ethics? Mary Katherine Osborn, Victoria A. McLain, Richard A. Hudiburg, and Larry W. Bates, University of North Alabama, Florence, AL
Why do people hike?Little research has been conducted on why people hike.Goldenberg, Hill, and Feidt (2008) found several reasons why people participate in hiking (i.e., self-reliance, self-fulfillment, trail relationships, enjoyment). These reports are anecdotal. There is need for empirical research to determine the reasons why people hike and to what the hiking experience is associated.Anecdotal data suggest that experiences with nature (while hiking) are mystical. Some long-distant hikers have an ethos that is near religious adherence to trail ethics.The Leave No Trace program emphasizes that people minimize their impact on the environment while engaging in activities like hiking.
Religion and experiences with natureOne of the experiences with nature has been described in terms of awe-inspiring.Ladd and Ladd (2011) found that persons high in religious fundamentalism tend to focus more on close-up photographs while low religious fundamentalists tend to enjoy wide-angle shots.Hikers tend to take many photographs during hikes and Hull and Stewart (1995) have examined what photographs are more pleasurable.
Experiencing nature and ethicsStuessy, Hardy, and Anderson (2009) have studied the ethics of nature in a sample of mountain climbers. They developed a measure of different dimensions of environmental ethics: Practical, Metaphysical-Holistic, and Religiously Inspired.There have been several lists of ethical behaviors developed by various organizations as guides to participants in natural settings (i.e., Leave No Trace, Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club). None of these lists have been systematically developed as measures of theoretical constructs of ethical behaviors in nature.
Purpose of Current ResearchTo study hikers aspects of religious beliefs, environmental ethics, trail ethical behavior and to what degree religious beliefs affect these ethics and appreciation for various aspects of nature photography.
Research MethodologyMeasurement Instruments:Post Critical Beliefs Scale measures transcendence and literalness in religion (Duriez, Soenens, & Hutsbaut, 2005)Quest Scale measures existential questioning versus that of an established and unchanging faith belief (Batson & Schoenrade, 1991a, 1991b)Environmental Ethics Scale measures three dimension of environmental ethics (Stuessy, et al., 2009)Hiking Trail Ethics Questionnaire measures ethical behavior on hiking trails (to be developed)Photographs 18 photographs to be rated on several variables including inspiring and pleasantnessDemographic Questionnaire data for basic demographic information from research participants such as age, religious affiliation, hiking experience, etc.
Research MethodologyResearch participantsStudy sample of current hikers and hikers who have hiked long distances in the pastControl sample of college studentsData collection sitesSouthern terminus of Appalachian Trail, Springer Mountain, GANorthern terminus of Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin, MEHarpers Ferry, WV - the midpoint of Appalachian TrailOther points on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee and North CarolinaPosted announcements on hiking forums (i.e., White Blaze)
Data CollectionPotential hiker participants will be invited to participate in the study and will be given a carabineer to visit a website. This website will provide for anonymous responses to rate the photographs, complete the various measurement instruments.Potential college students will be solicited at the University of North Alabama and given directions to complete the ratings of photographs and measurement instruments.
Expected OutcomesH1: Hikers with more fundamentalist religious views will be more detailed orientated and will be more repsective of trail ethics.H2: Hikers more in search of spiritual experiences from nature experience will have greater respect for trail ethics.
ReferencesBatson, C. D., & Schoenrade, P. (1991a). Measuring religion as quest: 1. Validity concerns. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 30, 416-429.Batson, C. D., & Schoenrade, P. (1991b). Measuring religion as quest 2: Reliability concerns. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 30, 430-447.Duriez, B., Soenens, B., & Hutsebaut, D. (2005). Introducing the shortened Post-Critical Belief Scale. Personality & Individual Differences, 38(4), 851-857.Goldenberg, M., Hill, E., Freidt, B. (2008). Why individuals hike the Appalachian Trail; A qualitative approach to benefits. Journal of Experiential Education, 30 (3), 277-281.Hull, R., & Stewart, W. P. (1995). The landscape encountered and experienced while hiking. Environment and Behavior, 27(3), 404-426.Ladd, K. L., & Ladd, M. L. (2011, October). Prayer vision: How prayer styles and seeing the physical world align. Paper presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Milwaukee, WI.Stuessy, T., Harding, J., & Anderson, J. (2009). Environmental ethics of rock climbers in the Adirondacks. Journal of Outdoor Recreations, Education, and Leadership, 1(1), 76-96
AcknowledgementsThis research is partially supported by a research grant from the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of North Alabama.Mary Catherine Osborn, Victoria McLain, and Benjamin Tate will contact hiker participants at the northern and southern termini and mid-point of the Appalachian TrailLarry Bates and Richard Hudiburg will contact hiker participants on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee.