Newspapers are a rare thing these days, but once, they lay everywhere on benches, waiting areas and doorsteps. I used to thrive on New York Times information, lifted from free public spaces looking for inspiration.
Suddenly she was there one day in 1997…her beautiful face smiling from a tree branch, the girl of my dreams, Julia Butterfly Hill.
The story was popular at the time, it’s level of popularity always measured if the Simpsons covered it…and they did, in… Lisa the Tree hugger, as Lisa climbs the tree and shivers in the cold inspired by Julia.
Yes.. Julia was a tree sitter…saving the Planet by staying aloft. She rose high above the treeline, dangerously living on meager options, to protest tree and forest destruction. A hero of the environmentalist movement.
The Press had a field day with camera and news segments. 60 minutes, Sunday morning news stories and New York times…Julia hit the big time and her story was legendary.
She was an inspiration to me as I bought Earth First journals at Barnes and Noble, read Green Anarchist philosophers and slowly my activism grew while she struggled to survive the cold and El Nino winds. One person was making a difference.
The world forgot for a bit as stories dwindled but in December of 1999 she was down on the ground, becoming the face of a Movement. Her face flashed smiles on talk shows with saturation as the newspaper was already becoming an outdated information source.
She became an idol, a symbol or maybe she always was…Julia the Butterfly…a name with air type quality…floating like a feather.
One person can save the world!!!
Decades later after the book deal, and a YouTube career…I wondered about the Icon.
An activist and tree sitter I know, involved with the Activists scenes remembers the arrival of Julia Hill back in 97. She stood out in conversation not because of strength or leadership but ignorance. She was a novice, and also a willing participant, but completely unprepared for what came during the next 2 years.
My friend laughs that of course the cameras showed up only when the pretty girl was stuck in a tree, but they didn’t mind….those unseen souls doing the “groundwork”. All the attention she got was also giving the Cause a boost of free publicity.
Most of the tree sitters had family, jobs and a life outside the forest but they all returned as often as they could… to the sacred forest they were trying to save. It was a team effort to keep Julia in that tree called Luna. The old hippies really funded the network and all the young eager college students were the engine. Environmental Activism has many faces, many techniques and every one plays their part.
Julia stayed in that tree for her own deep seated reasons, which she explains in her wonderful book, and has stayed true to the message she sent out into the world through that experience.
I heard it said once about Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s…the People are the ones that make the change, the faces we see behind each social action, behind every soul fighting for freedom, behind the conversation that ultimately shifts the tide.
History likes to remember MLK, Malcom X and the Marches. Just a small section of the Millions that made the Civil Rights rights movement ….what it was. The figurehead stood in front of camera and spoke for the universal aspects of the Movement.
The People behind any Cause are united in spirit but are often are fixing “the problem” with many different solutions. Julia did what she could do, and it was a lot, is a lot…as her work continues.
Environmental Activism finds it’s Self …one of the most important topics in the world as of 2020…even more as the “discussion” stands muted by huge overwhelming evidence and little actual success.
That razor line of survival is literally at our doorstep and the projections are coming closer to actual reality.
Yeah, I had a crush on Julia Butterfly Hill, seems the whole world did for a little while, and it was a moment in time that shifted my own efforts towards species survival and environmental awareness, I hope many other felt inspired by her selfless act.
This isn’t actually a article about crushes, but created to explain one single fundamental point.
Environmental Activism is not about the face, the celebrity or historical figure, it’s about the Earth and how we treat it. Questioning the willful destruction, the pollution and the marks…Humanity has made on it’s beautiful surface.
Many humans make tremendous efforts towards repairing and many destroy with equal zest. Politics aside .. it’s an important conversation and we need to have it….very….very…soon.
And if anyone has Julia’s email…I’m a fan and crush…who just wants to honor the legacy of that moment in time, when a girl went up a tree…and woke us all up toward a realization that efforts must be made…no matter the costs.