Given the many benefits of walks in nature, the suggestion by Jason Mark, the editor of Sierra Magazine, that “The Paris climate negotiators should go take a hike” isn’t half bad:

The Vexin Français Regional Nature Park is a scant 30 miles from the conference center, and the negotiators could get there and back in a day. The park, northwest of the city, is a 175,000-acre preserve of fields, forests, meadows and marshlands. The place served as an inspiration for painters such as Van Gogh and Cézanne, and perhaps the landscape would inspire the climate diplomats, as well.

Mark points out that during the talks that established the United Nations, participants spent a day in Muir Woods at a service honoring the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was about three weeks into the conference (on May 19th, after an April 25 start), and was a day that had been suggested (while FDR was still alive) by Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. As Ickes had explained to FDR in February 1945:

Not only would this focus attention upon this nation’s interest in preserving these mighty trees for posterity, but here in such a ‘temple of peace’ the delegates would gain a perspective and sense of time that could be obtained nowhere in America better than in a forest. Muir Woods is a cathedral, the pillars of which have stood through much of recorded human history. Many of these trees were standing when Magna Carta was written. The outermost of their growth rings are contemporary with World War II and the Atlantic Charter.

Likewise, Mark argues, time on a hike would help the Paris negotiators get some perspective on their work:

Political scientists and environmental activists often point out that the problem with global climate change is that it’s too big. We’re hard-wired to respond to immediate threats, and since global warming is so large — and most of its worst effects are in the future — we have a hard time wrapping our minds around it. All of the science can seem abstract. And even as the weather gets increasingly weird and unsettling, it can be difficult to separate the signal from the noise and to understand exactly which wild weather phenomena are connected to our reckless emissions.

What better way to ground — really, ground — the negotiators [at the Paris talks] than for them to take a hike?

In my book, I have a chapter about the benefits of walks for clearing one’s head and stimulating new ideas, and why many Nobel laureates, great composers, writers, CEOs, and famous doctors were avid hikers and mountain-climbers. A single walk might not spark a breakthrough, but it can’t but help the Paris talks.