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Julia Hill and Luna the redwood tree
Out on a Limb. Julia Hill and Luna the redwood tree. What was supposed to be a two-week, publicity stunt turned into a harrowing two years. Julia became a world-renowned, super-activist. Credit: Shaun Walker of OtterMedia.

The Legacy of Julia Hill

“Yes, One Person Can Make a Difference. But it’s Going to Take All of Us.”

By Julia Hill with Elz Cuya.

In December of 1997, Julia Butterfly Hill climbed 180 feet (18 stories) up a thousand-year-old redwood tree to protest the clear-cutting of this endangered ecosystem. What was supposed to be a two-week tree-sit turned into a harrowing two years, and this young woman became a world-renowned, super-activist, and “Luna,” the tree that was her home, was saved from the sawmills.

But don’t call Julia a super-hero to her face. Julia often has to remind people that she is simply a human being. “When I share my experience of the tree-sit with people, I help them understand just how human I am. I’m not a superhero, I’m not a stereotype, I’m just a human being who followed my passion and my beliefs in making the world a better place. And that’s something each and every one of us can do.”

Certainly, not everyone would agree with that. For two years Julia — remarkably –withstood the forces of nature, including El Nino. “I was under tremendous assault by nature. There were times when I was frightened out of my mind. Nature is a wild force, and as we humans do more and more to harm it, nature grows even wilder, trying to balance itself out.

And nature wasn’t the only thing Julia had to contend with. There was also Pacific Lumber Company, a society of consumers who’ve grown numb, and she was even disappointed by those who were supposed to be supporting her. But in those troubling times, Julia found strength through prayer.

“It’s during moments of such despair, when I think, ‘Why should I even care?’ That’s when I turn to prayer. Whenever I feel like there’s no hope, that’s when I challenge myself to do more, that’s when I know I have to keep going. When I see a struggle, I see an opportunity for transformation.”

But doesn’t it take extraordinary strength to embody that kind of determination? Julia doesn’t think so. She believes everyone IS that strong. “It’s just a matter of being willing to accept what comes along with that strength. The hero and the destroyer lie within each and every one of us. Are you willing to accept the challenge of becoming your own hero? That’s what it’s about. We are all that strong and we are all that weak. Do we choose to hide our heads in the sand, or do we choose to face the challenge and become stronger and more compassionate people as the result? We choose.”

Luckily for Luna, and for us, Julia chose to be strong and she reaffirms that choice every day. What lies next for Julia? “The tree-sit experience taught me that my purpose in life is not about making and spending money which society has tried to teach us. My purpose is being a steward of this gift called life. To learn, grow, share, protect, love and honor.”

Today, she shares her mission with the world. “Yes, one person can make a difference. But it’s going to take all of us. We can start in our daily lives through our personal choices. By reducing the consumption on this planet, reusing what we’ve already taken, and recycling what’s left. How do we then take that into our community, and then the community of our country, and then the community of our world?”

And just how far would Julia go to protect and honor? “I will do anything and go as far as I have to, as long as it is out of love. I will not strike out or come from a place of anger. I will even give my life, out of love.”

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