Julia Butterfly Hill – Every One Can Make a Difference

Julia Butterfly HillOn December 18th, 1999 Julia Butterfly Hill descended from the Stafford Giant, a Redwood Tree named Luna,  in the Headwaters Forest of Northern California.  Julia ascended the tree on December 8th, 1997 not knowing she was beginning the longest American tree sit on record to protect Luna and the surrounding forest from Pacific Lumber Company’s clear-cut logging.

Julia did not travel to California seeking to protect the redwoods, she more or less stumbled upon it during a road trip with her friends.  When they made a brief stop at the Redwoods, she told her friends to leave her bag at the ranger station.  She was here to stay.  After learning about a mudslide in the small, nearby town of Stafford, caused by the clearcutting of the Redwood forest, she knew she had to do something.  She joined the growing band of Earth’s First Activists, poised to protect the forest surrounding the Stafford giant.

Redwood trees are considered one of the oldest living beings on Earth.  (Luna is estimated to be 1500 years old).  They are also the tallest tree on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet and 30 feet in diameter.  The trees once covered 2.1 million acres of forest along Northern California and southern Oregon.  Today it can be difficult to determine how many of these old growth forest remain with estimates ranging from 30% to only 2%.  Trees as large as Luna are indeed the minority.

Julia Butterfly Hill - Luna the RedwoodLuna received her name in honor of the full moon.  Pacific Lumber owned the land the tree was on, and it was illegal to tree sit there.  Building a tree stand during the day would be nearly impossible.  The light of the full moon, however, allowed the activists to sneak over to the tree, raise the stand, and disappear without being seen.  The next morning, the lumber company discovered a person sitting in the tree.  A rotation began where activists would take turns living in the tree.  As pressure began to build, changing places became challenging, enter Julia.

Julia, who later took on the name Butterfly to describe her transformation, climbed the tree intending to stay for at least two weeks.  That two weeks became two years and ten days.  Braving one of the worst El Nino winters in decades, bringing freezing winds, rain, and snow, Julia also stood firm to the harassment of the lumber company including fly-bys from helicopters, jeers from loggers, periods where fog-horns were blown to disturb her sleep, and a ten-day period where the company attempted to starve Julia out of the tree.  Julia Butterfly did not succumb.  Instead, the harassment seemed to feed her determination.  She withstood and remained in the tree until it’s protection was bought.  Hill and partners raised $50,000 to pay Pacific Lumber Company to save the tree and the surrounding area.  Julia Butterfly could then descend from the tree, knowing its safety was ensured.

Julia Butterfly Hill FarmNearly twenty years later, Julia Butterfly Hill has continued her record of direct action activism taking part in movements in the US and South America.  She protested a pipeline in Ecuador that threatened a virgin Andean Cloud Forest.  She conducted a 38 day hunger fast to protect South Central Farm, one of the last-remaining large farms in Los Angeles from developers.  The farm was lost but her courage continued.  She was also instrumental in the stand against the Keystone XL Pipeline in the southern US.

Julia Butterfly continues to encourage activism in her motivating talks which highlight spiritual activism.  She has published several books including Becoming: Pictures, Poems, and Stories, The Legacy of Luna, One Makes the Difference, and an audio book of one of her presentations, Spiritual Activation, Why Each of Us Does Make a Difference.  She contributed to essays in Mindfulness in the Marketplace: Compassionate Responses to Consumerism. and wrote the forward to Heritage Salvage: Reclaimed Stories  She is also the subject of a children’s book, Luna and Me by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.

The reason I am writing this post is because I recently had the chance to get to know Julia and was pleased to find she is the most genuine person I’ve ever met.  She made me feel it feel was as much a pleasure for her to meet me as it was for me to meet her.  Over one hour of coffee, I learned what a phenomenal person she is, empowered by her sincerity and her unwavering beliefs.  She is a role model.  Not only for past generations but for generations of children, activists, and environmentalists to come, letting us know that every one person can make a difference.

Julia Butterfly Hill

Want to learn more about Julia Butterfly Hill?  Watch the videos below.  Also check out her website Julia Butterfly and her event calendar for an opportunity to hear her speak.  Her next event is the Wild and Scenic Film festival in the Grass Valley, California area.  She’ll be at the Center for Performing Arts next Sunday, January 17th, 2016 from 1:30 to 3:30.




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