In 1997, twenty-three-year-old Julia Butterfly Hill climbed into a 1,500 year old redwood tree to protest the clear-cut foresting that eventually left a mere three percent of the original redwoods standing in California. When she climbed down again in 1999, the world knew her name.
Julia, who chose the name Butterfly as a little girl after a butterfly landed on her hand and stayed for seven hours, had her outlook changed forever by a nearly fatal car crash in her early twenties. Her head injury required a year of difficult rehab for her to be able to speak and walk normally again. This brush with mortality opened her to the idea that we are all part of an interconnected whole.
With this new perspective and strong sense of purpose, she resolved to make a difference in the world. A timely trip to California, just two weeks after she was released by her doctors, opened an opportunity to support a forest under siege by continuing a “tree-sit” in a redwood affectionately named Luna. Once up the tree, she vowed not to come down until she had made a difference and saved the tree. She learned to live on a wooden platform and used Luna’s branches for exercise while supported with food and necessities from a ground crew. She stayed on the platform for two years and eight days, living high in the forest canopy through two severe winters and overcoming dangerous scare tactics performed by the logging company. She climbed down only after Pacific Lumber agreed to spare Luna and the trees in a buffer zone of company-owned land for perpetuity.
During a particularly fierce winter storm, Julia feared being blown out of the tree and wondered how she could possibly make it through. She had consistently noticed that the stiff branches of the trees in the forest were the ones that splintered and snapped during storms. Branches that were flexible ended up bending and bowing but never breaking in response to harsh winds. Realizing the parallel truth for humans, she credits her own survival while in Luna to being in non-resistance and being open to whatever transpired.
Julia’s two years in Luna woke up the world to an individual’s ability to take a stand against profit-driven irresponsibility. She received hundreds of letters of public reaction and support, to which she responded from her perch high above the forest floor.
After Julia returned to the ground on December 18, 1999, she formed an environmental non-profit group called The Circle of Life which promoted sustainability, restoration, and preservation of life by providing resources and avenues of action. The following years were filled with speaking engagements and campaigning for causes. She used the platform of her non-profit to spread the word about her journey and to help others recognize their own power as individuals to effect change.
In addition to writing a bestselling book, The Legacy of Luna, Hill also penned an environmental handbook, One Makes the Difference. Her most recent publication is available online: A COURSE IN COURAGE – Living a Life of Purpose, Passion and Power. It beautifully teaches that by opening up and living in a heart-based way, we can realize an optimal life.
Julia Butterfly is currently a public speaker and life coach, and continues to do what she can to support trees and all beings on the planet. She says, “By standing together in unity, solidarity and love we will heal the wounds in the earth and in each other. We can make a positive difference through our actions.”
Uttama Anderson is an environmentalist, art therapist and an avid tree hugger living in Toronto, Ontario. Her passion and focus is on creating the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary to keep the planet healthy.