Julia Butterfly: on The Legacy of Luna
By Angel McNall
Whether it's risking her life to protect what is left of our old-growth forests, meeting with senators in Washington, speaking at conferences, or fighting social injustices, it's all a day in the life of a "Butterfly". Julia Butterfly at the age of 25, has already accomplished some major victories for the environmental movement, and as Earth Day 2000 approaches, we can all gain inspiration from this amazing woman. On what was supposed to be a very rare day off, Julia took the time to speak to Awareness Magazine about saving Luna, what she's up to now, her new book, and her hopes for the Earth in the coming millennium.
On December 10, 1997, Julia "Butterfly" Hill, climbed 180 feet up a 1000-year-old redwood tree, known as "Luna" to a platform sheltered by tarps. She didn't know how long she would be staying there, but one thing was for certain; she would not budge until the plight of these ancient trees was brought to public attention.
And attention she got, especially from Pacific Lumber, the logging company that "owns" the land were Luna stands. Julia endured floodlights, starve-out patrols, helicopter harassment, and El Nino that first winter.
Supported by a dedicated team of volunteers that hiked through the forest to bring supplies, Julia lived in Luna's branches for a little over two years. She spent most of her time conducting interviews by solar powered cell phone, answering her mail (on used envelopes and food boxes), working to save Luna, and the future of our forests.
She spent the last year in tough negotiations with the lumber company, a process that at times was very frustrating. "The more they threw obstacles in my way, the more it energized my flame of commitment."
During her time in the tree, Julia did everything she could to draw attention to the fact that Luna (formerly known as the Stafford Giant) is one of the last trees of her kind. Logging corporations have greedily cut down 97% of the old-growth redwoods that used to stretch for more than two million gloriously green acres along the West Coast.
The trees aren't the only victims of clear cutting for short-term profits; the complex ecosystems that rely on these giants for their food and shelter have also perished, leaving behind scarred hillsides and stumps. As humans, we too, are affected by environmental irresponsibility. Trees collect rainwater for the earth, their roots help to hold land in place, and they also clean and recycle the air we breathe. (Without them we experience mudslides, water pollution, global warming, and smog!) Seven families lost their homes due to a mud-slide caused by clear cutting just below the slope where Luna stands! Overwhelmed by the beauty and importance of these remaining forests Julia "knew [then] that protecting these trees would become a spiritual quest for me."
Her tree sit which "came to symbolize hope and love in action" was a success and on December 15, 1999. Julia entered into an agreement with the Pacific Lumber Company stating that Luna and 2.9 acres surrounding her will forever be protected and never disturbed. (A complete version of the Luna Preservation Agreement is posted at www.Lunatree.org.) Julia says that one very important thing she learned during her time in the tree is that "everything in life is energy. From our positive feelings to our negative feelings, from the water rushing through the rivers to an automobile and concrete where the Mother (Earth) has now been sealed over, it's all still energy. So I believe that our goal is to transform that energy into as much positive energy as we can and to direct that positive energy to the highest possible good."
So what is Julia directing her energy to these days, now that she has departed, as least physically, from Luna? Well, in the two months between her descent and our interview, she has already traveled to Washington D.C. to talk to Senator Feinstein's office about signing some legislation to protect California's forest, setting a precedent for other states. Julia points out that because of the upcoming elections it is a critical time to get involved. Right now citizens can push for legislative changes and have more potential to get things accomplished. She also spoke at a national conference on civil disobedience and direct action featuring several other prominent environmentalists and animal rights activists. Most recently however she was at Big Mountain in Arizona, helping the Native Americans there resist "relocation". Julia calls the process "dislocation," because of the tremendous pain being inflicted on them.
The elders of the Sovereign Dinéé Nation are the victims of a campaign started by Senator John McCain, Peabody Coal, and other major energy companies. It seems the reservation the Dinéé and Hopi tribes were forced onto centuries ago, is not just a barren dessert, it has real monetary value because of the large deposits of minerals now known to exist there. With the help of corporate lawyers, the interested parties have created a mythical Hopi-Dinéé territorial dispute. The two formerly peaceful tribes and the land they once shared are now being divided in such a way that the Dinéé Nation is now "illegally" trespassing on their own land. A council of some non-traditional Hopi was set up, and paid to go along with, a process which allowed them to keep their part of the reservation and gave them part ownership in the Dinéé land as well. Needless to say, the best interests of the Dinéé Nation and the environment are not being looked after.
Julia Butterfly has gone to Big Mountain (at the request of the traditional Dinéé) and witnessed the open uranium mines, that are leaking radiation into the environment and the thick black coal dust that is making many of the Native people very ill. (Members of the tribe now have to travel up to 80 miles for drinkable water.) Of the 14,000 people that have already been "dislocated," 25% died within the first six years due to sickness, stress, and other relocation-related illnesses.
A Federal Eviction Notice has now been served and the Dinéé elders, most of them elderly women, have refused to leave. A barricade was set up by the government to keep people out and protesters, including Julia, marched onto the land in a show of solidarity for human rights.
Unfortunately, most of what they need to survive (food, clean water, their livestock, etc.) has been taken from them, and it is now up to people on the outside to hear their cry for help and to respond. I asked Julia what she thought is the best strategy for people who want to get involved, and she replied that writing a letter to the editor of your paper is an effective way to get the word out. (The majority of the news media accepts money from corporate sponsors and is not willing to lose their advertising dollars; an editorial however is viewed as the opinion of the writer and not the paper itself.)
While praying underneath the stars in Luna's branches, Julia says an answer came to her in a formula which is:
She was searching for a way to express what she had learned from her time in the tree. She wants to share her inspiration, and knowledge with the world. "What better than a 1,000 year old redwood to inspire you?" You will be able to share Julia's amazing experience at the end of March when her book, "The Legacy of Luna" hits the stands.
True to her heart, her beliefs, and most importantly the Earth, she has done a tremendous amount of research on how to publish an affordable, environmentally- conscious book. She had originally wanted to go with tree-free paper, however it wouldn't have been affordable for the average consumer, the person Julia most wants to reach with this information.
After much prayer, tears, and investigation she came to a solution. The book will be made of 30% post-consumer waste, and 70% smart wood certified paper. Smart wood is taken from a real forest (not a tree farm), where there are all different aged trees, there is an entire ecosystem present; no clear cutting is done, and no chemicals are used. This particular forest is in Canada, and has been operating under these guidelines for 100 years. The paper itself has not been bleached, so no chemicals were released into the environment as a result of its processing, and her words are printed in soy-based inks.
100% of her proceeds are going to the Circle of Life Foundation, created by Julia to ensure that money and energy go directly to the environmental and social causes that are close to her heart. This book, with over 32 hours of transcribed conversations, excerpts from her journal, poetry, and information about the plight of our Earth is sure to be incredible.
If you are inspired by Julia's story and by the information presented here, please go to Julia's web site to learn more about what you can do to get involved. You will find it at www.circleoflifefoundation.org.
You can also find tips on being environmentally friendly in your everyday actions at www.earthkindkitchen.com.
Julia read some thoughts from her journal during our interview and her words really sum up what Earth Day, and every day should be about for us, if life on our planet is to survive in the next millennium. She wrote, "I will do my best to live the rest of my life in honor of her (Luna), and this experience. Offering myself is the only gift I have to give. It is my prayer and my hope that I will always and only be an offering."
Empower yourself with information, get active and make yourself an offering, don't let your unique gifts go to waste!
Angel McNall is a freelance writer and owner of Angel's EarthKind Kitchen. For more information about the environment, other related articles, Angel’s Vegan Cooking Classes, Angel’s Non-Dairy Cheese products, and other great products please go to: www.EarthKindKitchen.com or call (818)625-8521.
Return to the March/April Index page