They say those who stand for nothing will fall for anything. Taking a stand for what you believe in forms a person and creates change that ripples across society. For environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill, the moment to take a stand came in December 1997. The then-23-year-old activist was road-tripping across California when she encountered a group of eco-warriors rotating through “tree sits” among Humboldt County's magnificent redwoods. Volunteering to go up for a week stint, Hill ended up spending over two years—738 days—living in the lofty branches of a magnificent, 200-foot-tall tree. Her actions, and those of her fellow activists, saved the tree from destruction by loggers.
The tree was in danger of being cut down by the Pacific Lumber Company. The tree itself was 1,000 years old and alive despite a past lightning strike. Activists named it Luna, after the Moon. Hill was recruited for a short stay on a six-by-four-foot platform made of reclaimed wood, but as we know, it was much longer than that.
The residency was not an easy one. Volunteers, including the radical environmental group Earth First!, passed up supplies in a bucket pully system. Hill cooked on a single-burner propane stove and slept in a tightly wrapped sleeping bag. Freezing temperatures and 40-mile-per-hour winds created danger. Helicopters circled, angry loggers harassed her, and the logging company laid siege to the tree for ten days trying to remove the activist.
During her tenure, Hill gave interviews and drew a great deal of attention (via solar-powered phones). She only came down once a resolution was reached with the logging company to preserve Luna and other trees within a 200-foot radius. Hill then went on to take more radical stands for the environment and to become a proponent of tax redirection (not paying one's taxes to the government, but directly donating to causes one believes deserve the funds).
As brave as Hill's stance in the tree was, beautiful young white women tend to get the kind of news coverage and praise other climate and Earth activists don't. For example, indigenous protesters at Standing Rock who were resisting the desecration of their lands by the Dakota Access Pipeline faced brutal resistance and harsh weather. Women and even the elderly in Appalachia have led the way in a series of tree sits to protect biodiversity and prevent pipelines. Meanwhile, indigenous peoples in the Amazon fight to preserve our Earth's lungs.
People with privilege can choose to take a stand, but many others have no choice but to preserve their lives and livelihoods. Not everyone can sit in a tree for two years, but we can all take a stand for the Earth in our daily lives. How will you take your stand?
An eco-activist named Julia Butterfly Hill lived in the canopy of a California redwood tree for two years between 1997 and 1999.
Her stand saved the ancient tree from destruction by a lumber company.
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