The Coastal Post - July 1999

"How Can You Not Do Something?" Saving The Ancient Redwoods

By Julia Butterfly

Julia Butterfly Hill is an activist who occupies a thousand-year-old redwood tree near the Headwaters Forest as an act of nonviolent resistance against the clearcutting of ancient redwoods by Maxxam Corporation She spoke to Bioneers '98 via cell phone.

I climbed up this amazing, incredible, ancient 1,000-year-old redwood tree for the last time on December 10, 1997. I climbed up here because I found that these majestic, ancient forests that are irreplaceable and priceless were being turned into miles upon miles of clearcuts and landslides by Pacific Lumber Maxxam Corporation.

I was so overwhelmed that I felt like I was losing a piece of myself. These forests have been here since the time of Jesus. This tree that I call Luna is estimated to be 1,000 years old. And we're cutting them down because of people's greed.

We're destroying the things that we need - clean air, water and land - because of things that people want. These incredible ancient trees are prized lumber because they're resistant to fire and disease. So these magnificent, irreplaceable ancient groves are being turned into decks, hot tubs and siding.

I felt compelled to do something. A series of events led me up this tree where I've been living for close to a year now. I live on a six-by-eight salvaged-wood platform that's hung from the branches with ropes. There's a four-by-eight platform on the other side that holds my supplies, and the whole thing is covered in tarps, and I'm 180 feet up in this tree that's about 200 feet tall.

I spend my days writing letters in response to all the letters written to me. I write anywhere from five to fifteen letters a day. I do two to four interviews a day and then I'm blessed occasionally to do wonderful events like this one where I get to talk to people by cell phone about what's happening.

The destruction of these ancient forests is not isolated to this area. I am in northern Humboldt County, northern California. But in southern California where they've already destroyed all of the original ancient groves, people there are fighting for the second growth, resisting the plans of companies such as the Gap Corporation, which is trying to clearcut it.

These incredible ancient groves that lined the coasts from southern California all the way to Alaska used to form a continuous body of temperate rainforest. Temperate rainforests exist only in two other spots on our entire planet and they're tiny little fragments. What we're fighting for here in this country is our last remaining fragment of temperate rainforest.

A forest is far more than trees. A forest is an ecosystem from the very top canopy of the trees all the way down to the micro-organisms under the soil. These forests are an intricate web, just as surely as our whole life is an intricate web. By ripping the strands of the web out indiscriminately, we're destroying the web's ability to give us life. We're destroying its balance and its strength.

This destruction is happening because corporations are interested only in dollars. They're not interested in what we need as a species to survive. Here, I am right next to a mudslide that originated in the Pacific Lumber Maxxam Corporation clearcut and logging road that went washing down the hillside and destroyed seven families' homes in the town of Stafford below me. Almost killing a nine-year-old boy.

The local coho salmon are going extinct as a result of the landslides caused by this company's logging practices. The marbled murrelet, which is a bird that comes in to nest only in old growth forests, is going extinct because this corporation cares only about money. So habitat for humans and wildlife alike is indiscriminately being destroyed. Pacific Lumber Maxxam corporation has been shown to have violated logging laws over 270 times in three years, and is continuing to get away with it.

Our government just agreed to pay this company half a billion dollars in an agreement that's going to make it legal for this company to destroy 20,000 acres of old-growth redwoods and Douglas fir.

Many people have said, "Julia, how can you make it through this experience? How can you have made it through the worst winter storms in recorded California history? How can you make it through a twin-propeller helicopter hovering above your head trying to rip off your tarps and scare you down? How could you make it through a security siege during which they cut off your supplies, blew airhorns all night to cause sleep deprivation, and tried to starve you down? How can you make it through this? How can you do this action?"

I tell each and every one of them, "Look at what's happening to the Earth. Recognize that all of life is connected: humans, air, water, land. Everything that exists on this planet is connected. And realize the destruction that's happening to our Earth is a direct reflection of the destruction of our lives, and tell me how you can not do something?" Not every person has to climb a tree and spend a year going through what I've gone through, but everyone has got to do something.

One of the most amazing things I've learned up here is the power of love. No matter how violently this company acts against the Earth and against people, if we continue to take a stand for life, in love and in respect, we will make a difference. Despite all of our government's corruption, the one thing they cannot destroy is our love and our commitment to the Earth. And with love, all things are possible.

For more information go to:
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