Julia Butterfly Hill, an American environmental activist, spent 738 days inside Luna, a large 1500-year-old redwood tree, protesting the logging methods used by Pacific Lumber. She lived in the tree from December 10, 1997, to December 1999. When Pacific Lumber Company decided to preserve the tree and a 200-foot buffer zone surrounding it, her revolutionary work ended. She intended to stop the destruction, draw attention to PL’s environmental carelessness, and educate the public about the value of trees in stabilizing hillsides with her protest, which broke world records for tree sitting.
When Julia was 23 years old, she decided to participate in a “tree sit” protest while attending an eco-friendly event, so she scaled a massive redwood tree. She couldn’t believe someone would use a chainsaw to take down a redwood standing for up to 2000 years. She wasn’t a trained activist.
She also said that she would not have thought she could pull it off. In her early twenties, Julia experienced a horrific car accident and went through a recovery period before realizing her life had become out of balance.
“My passion had grown to include my job, achievement, and material belongings. I became aware of the significance of the moment and the necessity of doing everything in my power to change the path of history due to the catastrophe.
When Julia moved west, she joined a group of “tree sitters” protesting the Pacific Lumber Company’s clear-cut redwood logging on the northern California coast. After learning that only 3% of the once-abundant redwood ecosystem remained, she went to an old-growth forest and was startled by the redwoods’ life and spirituality. She wanted to make things different.
Julia thought she could easily spend a week or two living in a tree because she was an introvert and enjoyed being outside.
“Earth First! needed a person to stay in a redwood tree to prevent loggers from cutting it down, and because no one else volunteered, they had to pick me. They performed tree sits to highlight the importance of protecting old trees. On December 10, 1997, I got on the harness and climbed to the top of Luna, 180 feet up. It took me longer than I expected—two years—to stay in the tree, which I planned to do for three to four weeks. I held off returning down to earth until the corporation assured me that Luna and the community’s grove would be protected.”
Julia has spent over two years on two 6 x 6-foot platforms in the expansive canopy of the tree. She used a solar-powered phone to get the attention of the international media.
Volunteers hiked 2 1/2 kilometers up the mountain to distribute food and supplies. In addition to being harassed by helicopters and threatened by loggers cutting trees nearby, Julia had to endure one of the worst El Nino storms. Even death threats were made against her. She was cold and damp most of the time, but now and again, “discomfort and fear left her sobbing in the fetal position.”
“If I kept debating politics and science and stayed in the mind rather than the heart and the spirit, I knew it would inevitably come down to one side. Apart from that, however, everyone can agree that notions like respect, dignity, and compassion only go so far.”
“But how could I get them to change how they felt about me? Considering that they viewed me as an eco-hippie who embraced trees and ate granola.”
She insisted that the wisdom of the tree had given her courage. There is no disputing the close bond that developed between Julia and Luna. She loved the tree.
She had only planned to stay in the redwood for a week. The rest of the Earth First! team helped pull her onto a wooden plank and into the branches. Water and food were in her travel bag. Everyone assumed Julia would return to the forest floor after the week. But the truth was quite different. After seven days, Julia decided to scale the entire tree and construct a temporary shelter.
Nobody, not even her Earth First! friends, was aware of her intentions when she made camp atop the redwood. Weeks turned into months, and Julia remained atop the tree she had named “Luna.” She stated that she learned a lot about herself while there, with one of the most important lessons being living independently.
Julia endured bitter cold, snowstorms, and torrential downpours that tore at her plywood vantage point. Although she had moments of doubt about her ability to survive, she could ultimately withstand everything that nature could throw at her.
Julia adopted a Zen-like attitude throughout her protest, so she developed a fresh perspective on life and people. She realized that bending with the wind is always better than standing rigidly and facing the risk of breaking.
After 738 days, Julia left her home atop Luna and returned to civilization with a lovely new outlook. Without a doubt, she was a different person. The protest Julia organized was a significant win for the environmental movement. She gave a speech about the importance of social and ecological advocacy after leaving redwood. Her book, The Legacy of Luna, details her two years living on the tree.