In December, 1997, Julia 'Butterfly' Hill went out to Northern California to get involved with the efforts of Earth First!, which was attempting to save the redwood forests from the Pacific Lumber Company. When she arrived, the activists were decamping for the winter, and nothing much seemed to be happening. Then, as she told a Mother Jones reporter, she heard someone walking around asking for a volunteer to climb "Luna," a 200-foot redwood tree in imminent danger of being felled by PL. On December 10, Hill climbed Luna.
Hill thought she might stay up there a month. But the month turned into a year, and the year doubled and high in the tree something of a Swiss Family Robinson story unfolded before the eyes of the world.
Her home was a 6-by-8-foot tree house, 180 feet up. For two years she wrote poetry, gave interviews and climbed branches. She slept, cooked and weathered violent storms in the tree, which the activists had named "Luna." Volunteers visited Hill nightly, sending up supplies in a bucket, sometimes climbing up for a visit. Hill spent her days writing in her journal. She also wrote poetry:
A man's pride swells
as the latest giant smashes to the ground
its thunderous crash
the applause he will forever hear ringing in his ears
It's a conquest to him
his chainsaw victory over the defenseless victims
another trophy to decorate his imaginary wall
She was interviewed on CNN and featured in Time magazine. She claimed that she spent two to eight hours a day giving interviews on her cell phone. For two years, the question loomed: Who would win, the tree sitter or the corporation?
It ended as quietly as it began. On December 17, 1999, the various logging companies (collectively known as PALCO) and Hill reached an agreement. The company got $50,000 dollars and Luna was given another thousand years and a 600 foot buffer zone. And on that note, Julia Hill was belayed down her giant friend. Down she rode, absurdly tiny in the gathering fog, to touch the ground after two years. She fell down and wept amidst the roots of a being that was born long ago into a world that wasn't quite so concerned with owning and cutting as ours is.
"I understand to some people, I'm just a dirty, tree-hugging hippie," she said that day. "But I can't imagine being able to take a chainsaw to something like this."