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Renaming, Reclaiming BE-ing ness.
Julia 'Butterfly' Hill interview
On December 10th, 1997, 23 year old Julia
Butterfly Hill climbed 180 feet up an ancient redwood called Luna
and did not come down for three years. In the good old tradition of
civil disobedience she conducted her courageous vigil on behalf of
one of the last wild places left in the USA, the remaining 3% of
those magnificent old growth trees.
Carrying on in a tradition began decades earlier in Northern
California's redwood forests, Butterfly exemplifies the central role
of women in today's environmental movement – combining a strong
understanding of the current political aspects of the forest
controversy with a deep spiritual connection to the forest and the
tree she has called home.
What's more Butterfly's plight represented for many people the
archetype of a giant battle taking place between good versus evil –
nothing short of a David and Goliath situation playing itself out on
the world's stage. One of the questions that Julia has brought to
the fore is: Why does humanity persist in fouling it's own nest (the
only species to do so) and refuse to be taken into account for their
actions? Certainly intuitions of the interdependence of all life is
an ancient wisdom and one that she and all eco-liberationists have
made their raison d'ętre.
Interviewed by Claudette Vaughan
Q. Butterfly, your three years on
Luna reminded me of St Simeon who spent a good deal of his
life standing upon a pillar on one foot as a protest against
the gross materialistic values of his times. With
multi-national companies and new technology causing ecological
degradation (and bureaucratic ossification) what do you
foresee for the future of environmentalism?
A. These times compel us all to go deeper, work
harder, be willing to sacrifice and above all else, hold
ourselves accountable for the impact of EVERY choice we make,
including when we choose to do nothing. The future of
environmentalism changes every time a person decides to
reduce, reuse, recycle, respect, rethink, and take action on
any injustice they encounter. The corporations only have power
because we use their stuff.
Q. There's an insidious, almost covert violence
associated with multi-nationalism with subjugated lands being
exploited and the insistent siphoning off of raw materials
coupled with the subsequent senseless vandalism of Luna. I
can't help but wonder if your message of love and peace was
somewhat naive in the cold light of subsequent actions.
A. Well you are welcome to think what you like but
my message is not about winning a popularity contest. My
message is my belief that two wrongs have never made a right
and that I refuse to live my life out of violence. I am
committed to love and respect (which DEMANDS action as a
crucial component!) based on the experiences I have been
through and the lessons I learned as a result.
Q. Gandhi said that the fabric of any society is not
finished. It is always "in becoming". It is on the loom, so to
speak, and is made up of constantly changing relationships. Is
this how you view non-violent direct action?
A. First, I choose words like "peaceful activism"
because I think that it is sad that we use two negative words
to try to articulate a positive message such as "non-violent
action". Ultimately, I came to the understanding of what this
activism is all about and means through facing my own fears,
anger, violence, and frustration while sitting in a tree in an
active logging plan. I did over time, see how changing first
myself grew and reached out and helped others to
Q. Pacific Lumber made promises to you that were
binding enough for you to eventually come down off Luna. Have
they been true to their word?
A. The agreement is a legally binding deed of
covenant, similar to a conservation easement that will be
around long after Maxxam controlled Pacific Lumber and I are
Q. Having stood outside the Shark Bar for one year
as a vigil for two black-tipped reef sharks who were
incarcerated in there, apart from the obvious support you get
from people passing by, direct action in all its forms seems
to evoke a vibe of incredulism, if not out-and-out aggression.
What was your experience?
A. Yes. It is easier to project themselves on to
others rather than take responsibility and action themselves.
Especially as political activists in the public arena, there
is always a myriad of opinions, beliefs, criticisms, etc ...
that get placed upon us.
Q. There seems to be a pattern already built in to a
patriarchal society that detests any kind of diversity and
then makes a demand for uniformity (like a meat-packing
production line). What are your thoughts on this Julia?
A. I think you must be careful using words like
patriarchy. I know many of these characteristics exist within
the lower selves/consciousness of humanity and not just in one
sector. For example, I see in our movement that we often times
beat each other up when we do not agree with each other. We
are then no better than the systems we are trying to change;
we are demanding a monoculture of our movement when we act
Q. The mainstream anything (media, people, out-look)
have no understanding of an alternative – an elemental reality
existing. One that cojoins the earth, people, lands, trees,
moon and stars as one body. What are your hopes and dreams for
the future of the earth, the animals and all living breathing
entities upon it (including the trees)?
A. That all people will accept responsibility for
the impact of their choices and will choose to live in loving,
joyous service to all the inhabitants and aspects of
Q. Pacific Lumber says Luna is "their tree". What
drew you to her originally Julia?
A. Earth First! activists began the tree-sit in in
October of 1997 using the light of the full moon to bring up
supplies, platform, etc.... which is why THEY named the tree
"Luna". Contrary to mainstream media, I did not name the tree.
Tree-sitting was the first thing that came my way that I could
help with. No one wanted to sit in Luna, so the activists had
to pick me even though I had no experience in
Q. Any plans to come to Australia and NZ at all?
A. I hope to some day.
Julia Butterfly Hill's website address is http://www.circleoflifefoundation.org/
Also her new book "The Legacy of Luna" is out in now.