11.23 a.m. ET (1623 GMT) December 14, 1998
Activist Plants Herself Firmly in Tree, and on Web
By Nora Isaacs
SAN FRANCISCO (Wired) - Julia Butterfly Hill, environmental activist and
alleged technological neophyte, will not attend her own anniversary bash.
She's stuck in a tree.
Well, not exactly stuck, more like voluntarily planted there.
Exactly one year ago Thursday, Hill, 24, scaled an ancient redwood tree in
Northern California's Humboldt County to protest the cutting down of
redwoods by the Pacific Lumber Company.
She hasn't budged since, and there really doesn't seem to be any reason why
she should. Along with necessities like a propane stove and a hefty
sleeping bag, this Earth First activist's survival kit includes a stash of
technology better suited for a Silicon Valley cubicle.
While remaining regally perched from her 180-foot high platform, the simple
rabble-rouser has used solar power, a laptop computer, a cell phone, and
other gadgets to morph herself into a one-woman multimedia enterprise.
And she's single-handedly whipping up a frenzy down below.
"We are very surprised at the volume of support," said Robert Parker,
Hill's support coordinator. "Right now, the phone does not stop ringing,
from 9 in the morning to 7 at night."
Hill remains an ethereal presence, heard but rarely seen. During the
events, which include two press conferences and a sold-out benefit concert
featuring rockers Mickey Hart and Bob Weir, she will deliver her message of
determination, love, and respect. If the sound system works.
"Essentially, we are able to coordinate it so we call her up on the cell
phone with an external speaker, put it up to the microphone, and she can
reach pretty large audiences that way," said Parker. Thursday's blitzkrieg
marks the beginning of a Hill-inspired weekend, including a rally and an
"It's not just a bunch of hippies running around in front of a bonfire,"
said Scott Schmidt, a 32-year-old emergency room physician who plans to
attend the event. "It's a symbol that people need to honor things in the
Hill had planned to spend her solitary days swinging around barefoot on a
rope for exercise and writing poetry, a la Thoreau.
"I have become one with this tree and with nature in a way I would never
have thought possible," she said.
A cell phone, walkie-talkie, pager, and crank-operated radio, however, make
this no Walden Pond. With her phone attached to her ear like an extra
appendage, Julia gives about a half dozen interviews daily.
She runs two solar panel battery rechargers, but the lack of direct
sunlight causes the phone to occasionally conk out, cutting off her rapt
audiences in mid-sentence.
"I laugh when technology breaks down," she said, "because it leads us to
believe that we are infallible. Technology will only go so far. The only
way we will sustain ourselves is by respecting the Earth."
As the days go by, her accomplishments grow. In addition to now holding the
record for the longest stretch of time spent tree-sitting in the United
States, Hill also conducted the first-ever live Internet chat from a tree,
which was quickly followed by a second online debate with the Pacific
Hill's official site, Luna Media, named after her timber digs, allows
followers to order still or video images, view a lengthy slide show, read
snippets of poetry, buy a new 20-minute documentary, or sign up for
automated e-mail updates. The site also has her address and features
alternating inspirational quotes, which she calls in monthly.
"It's kind of a personal platform for Julia," said John Goodman, who owns
Goodman Graphic and maintains the Luna site. "It's good not to have a
third-person story about her, plus it's available to the world 24 hours a
Armed with the modern-day technological accouterments of tree life, her
crunchy gospel has, paradoxically, seeped into the mainstream. Hill says
she won't come down until she has done everything in her power to make the
world aware of the logging issue.
"We can use technology to help spread the message of respect and balance in
our lives," she said. "If we use it for that purpose, then we are using it
as a magnificent tool. But it is also technology that has made seven-foot
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