The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods

The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods

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by Julia Butterfly Hill

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On December 18, 1999, Julia Butterfly Hill's feet touched the ground for the first time in over two years, as she descended from "Luna," a thousandyear-old redwood in Humboldt County, California.

Hill had climbed 180 feet up into the tree high on a mountain on December 10, 1997, for what she thought would be a two- to three-week-long "tree-sit." The action


On December 18, 1999, Julia Butterfly Hill's feet touched the ground for the first time in over two years, as she descended from "Luna," a thousandyear-old redwood in Humboldt County, California.

Hill had climbed 180 feet up into the tree high on a mountain on December 10, 1997, for what she thought would be a two- to three-week-long "tree-sit." The action was intended to stop Pacific Lumber, a division of the Maxxam Corporation, from the environmentally destructive process of clear-cutting the ancient redwood and the trees around it. The area immediately next to Luna had already been stripped and, because, as many believed, nothing was left to hold the soil to the mountain, a huge part of the hill had slid into the town of Stafford, wiping out many homes.

Over the course of what turned into an historic civil action, Hill endured El Nino storms, helicopter harassment, a ten-day siege by company security guards, and the tremendous sorrow brought about by an old-growth forest's destruction. This story--written while she lived on a tiny platform eighteen stories off the ground--is one that only she can tell.

Twenty-five-year-old Julia Butterfly Hill never planned to become what some have called her--the Rosa Parks of the environmental movement. Shenever expected to be honored as one of Good Housekeeping's "Most Admired Women of 1998" and George magazine's "20 Most Interesting Women in Politics," to be featured in People magazine's "25 Most Intriguing People of the Year" issue, or to receive hundreds of letters weekly from young people around the world. Indeed, when she first climbed into Luna, she had no way of knowing the harrowing weather conditions and the attacks on her and her cause. She had no idea of the loneliness she would face or that her feet wouldn't touch ground for more than two years. She couldn't predict the pain of being an eyewitness to the attempted destruction of one of the last ancient redwood forests in the world, nor could she anticipate the immeasurable strength she would gain or the life lessons she would learn from Luna. Although her brave vigil and indomitable spirit have made her a heroine in the eyes of many, Julia's story is a simple, heartening tale of love, conviction, and the profound courage she has summoned to fight for our earth's legacy.

Editorial Reviews Review review

It often happens that people who face death tend to feel very different about their lives afterward. Some people may lose hope, and others feel a renewed passion for life in which they want to make a difference. The latter is what happened to Julia "Butterfly" Hill when she survived a near-fatal car wreck one night in August 1996. The daughter of an itinerant preacher, Julia and her family spent many years traveling the country -- living simply and sharing the message of Jesus Christ. By the time she was in high school they had settled down in Arkansas, and she felt like your average teenager -- hanging out, having fun, and looking forward to living on her own soon. Then the car wreck happened.

After undergoing a year of intensive alternative therapy, she had mostly recovered. "When your life is threatened, nothing is ever the same. I realized that I had always been looking ahead and planning instead of making sure that every moment counted for something. I also saw that had I not come through the way I did, I would have been very disappointed with my empty life." She decided to go on a trip out West with her next-door neighbors for some spiritual nourishment and guidance. When they got to Humboldt County, California, to check out the redwood forest, she was enraptured. A passion and love for the ancient beauty around her - what was now left of it - inspired and guided her. She prayed. She was ready for the answer, and that answer came to lead her to live in a tree, named Luna, for more than two years.

She had no idea when she climbed up Luna that first time that she would eventually become a long-term resident. She went up because they needed someone to tree-sit for a few days. "Tree-sits have three purposes: to protect the tree and hopefully a few around it, to slow down the logging while the people who work within the legal system do their work, and to bring about broad-based public awareness." After seeing how much work it took to coordinate someone being up there all the time, Julia volunteered to stay up for a month -- it turned out to be more than two years.

During that time she endured many hardships. In learning her way around the vast branches of her new home she broke toes and suffered from acute frostbite. She dealt with jeers and mortal threats from Pacific Lumber loggers around the clock. She was also living in Luna when one of the worst storms to hit California, El Niño, came for a visit. "The wind howled. It sounded like wild banshees,rrahhh, while the tarps added to the crazy cacophony of noise, flap, flap, flap, babp, bap, flap, bap! Had I remained tensed for the sixteen hours that the storm raged, I would have snapped. Instead, I grabbed onto Luna, hugging the branch that comes up through the platform, and prayed to her." The answer came to her to let go. So she did. And she found that in doing this -- in bending and swaying with the storm like a tree -- she not only survived, but her heart received a much-needed transfusion of strength, power, courage, and love.

It was on her 24th birthday that the media caught wind of her story. The tree-sit got attention in both Newsweek and People magazines. Julia found herself becoming a public spokesperson. People repeatedly asked her if all that she was doing was worth saving a tree. Wasn't the hillside she was fighting for already a lost cause? "I never understood why they all focused on the negative. Even if Luna had been the only tree left, yes, she would have worth it to me." As time passed she received support from the likes of Mickey Hart, Bonnie Raitt, Woody Harrelson, and Joan Baez. All came to visit her. She also began developing a more personal relationship with John Campbell, the president of Pacific Lumber.

This new dialogue began the push in developing an acceptable agreement for all parties concerning Luna and the surrounding hillside. Oddly enough, it was a striking Kaiser Aluminum steelworker, John Goodman, who helped close the deal. Their discussions entered a public forum, and the support was overwhelming. "On December 18, 1999, a preservation agreement and deed of covenant to protect Luna and create a 20-foot buffer zone into perpetuity was documented and recorded." Julia climbed down from Luna.

Although it was a joyous occasion, Julia was also filled with sorrow -- and some fear. She was going back to the world of cars, money, and more media. She was leaving a best friend, Luna. But what she wasn't leaving behind was her heart. By listening to her heart, she had made a difference. She realized that no matter where she was, if she lived from her heart she would always be home.

---Jen Forman

Los Angeles Times
A page-turner... a book to read and then to lend to others... an inspiring, great, true tale.
People Magazine
Timely and inspiring.
Portland Oregonian
Straightforward, honest, disarming, and a good read.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In December 1997, Hill (who calls herself Julia Butterfly), 23, climbed 180 feet up a redwood tree she dubbed Luna to protest the logging of northern California's ancient redwood forests. She came down two years and eight days later, after negotiating a largely symbolic deal with Pacific Lumber to preserve Luna and surrounding trees. During her "tree-sit," she lived on a makeshift platform, enduring torrential storms, harassment from loggers, doubt and loneliness. Treeborne, she communicated by cell phone, drew major media attention and received visitors like Joan Baez, Bonnie Raitt and Woody Harrelson. Now a hero of the environmental movement, Hill relives her ordeal in a dramatic first-person narrative revealing just how much she saw her protest as a spiritual quest. She prays to the Universal Spirit and preaches unconditional love of all creation. Talking and praying to Luna, she hears the tree's voice speak to her, teaching her to let go, to go with the flow. Her purple-prose epiphanies, mushy New Age ruminations and anthropomorphizing of the tree blunt her story's impact, and her gosh-oh-gee professed reluctance to become a public figure smacks of disingenuousness. Even so, her firsthand exposé of destructive forest practices (only 3% of America's majestic ancient redwood forests remain) is extremely powerful, and her book, a remarkable inspirational document, records a courageous act of civil disobedience that places her squarely in the tradition of Thoreau.

Hill has been named one of George magazine's 10 Most Fascinating People in Politics. All of her proceeds from this book will go to the nonprofit Circle of Life Foundation.

Library Journal
This is Hill's story of how she came to be a "tree-sitter" in Luna, a 200' tall, 1000-year-old redwood tree. The 25-year-old activist most assuredly did not set out to tree-sit, but when it became clear that there was no other way to prevent the Pacific Lumber Company from logging a redwood forest in Humboldt County, CA, she stayed for 738 days. The politics (the multimillion-dollar Headwaters deal), the power (billionaire Charles Hurwitz), and the people (Hill, loggers, and local citizens) make this an undeniably absorbing story. Hill does a good job of providing background on the issues (information that she herself first learned while in the tree) and the complexities and realities of arriving at a resolution to protect this tree and others. Hill was no warm-weather hippie; she endured incredible hardships. Readers, even those who find her "Butterfly" name off-putting, will come to appreciate her endurance, strength, and compassionate worldview. It's extraordinary to learn that Hill needed an appointment book and cell phone to respond to demands for her time while in the tree. Beyond the subject matter, this is a story of commitment and resolve. Recommended for all collections.
Los Angeles Times
A 25-year-old kid, who grew up in a camping trailer, surprises everyone, most of all herself, by not just surviving in a tree for two years but by being in love with it, embodying love.
San Francisco Chronicle
(Julia's) protracted act of civil disobedience not only forced the North Coast's dominant timber firm... to spare her tree but also provided a bully pulpit for global environmental consciousness raising.
Kellia Ramares
…a good read about activism as a transformative experience.
The Progressive

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Fighting Fear with a Fork

Fierce winds ripped huge branches off the thousand-year-old redwood, sending them crashing to the ground two hundred feet below. The upper platform, where I lived, rested in branches about one hundred eighty feet in the air, twenty feet below the very top of the tree, and it was completely exposed to the storm. There was no ridge to shelter it, no trees to protect it. There was nothing.

As the tree branches whipped around, they shredded the tarp that served as my shelter. Sleet and hail sliced through the tattered pieces of what used to be my roof and walls. Every new gust flipped the platform up into the air, threatening to hurl me over the edge.

I was scared. I take that back. I was terrified. As a child, I experienced a tornado. That time I was scared. But that was a walk in the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon compared to this. The awesome power of Mother Nature had reduced me to a groveling half-wit fighting fear with a paper fork.

Rigid with terror, I couldn't imagine how clinging to a tiny wooden platform for dear life could possibly be part of the answer to the prayer I had sent to Creation that day on the Lost Coast. I had asked for guidance on what to do with my life. I had asked for purpose. I had asked to be of service. But I certainly never figured that the revelation I sought would involve taking up residence in a tree that was being torn apart by nature's fury.

Strangely enough, though, that's how it turned out. As I write this at the age of twenty-five, I've been living for more than two years in a two-hundred-foot-tall ancient redwood located on Pacific Lumber property.I have survived storms, harassment, loneliness, and doubt. I have seen the magnificence and the devastation of a forest older than almost any on Earth. I live in a tree called Luna. I am trying to save her life.

Believe me, this is not what I intended to do with my own.

I suppose if I look back (or down, as the case may be), my being here isn't all that accidental. I can see now that the way I was raised and what I was raised to believe probably prepared me for where I am now, high in this tree, with few possessions and plenty of convictions. I couldn't be here without some deep faith that we all are called to do something with our lives—a belief I know comes from directly from my parents, Dale and Kathy—even if that path leads us in a different direction from others.

Even when I was a child, we hardly lived what people would call a normal life. Many of my early memories are full of religion. My father was an itinerant preacher who traveled the country's heartland preaching from town to town and church to church. My parents, my two brothers, Michael and Daniel, and I called a camping trailer home (excellent preparation for living on a tiny platform), and we went wherever my father preached. My parents really lived what they believed; for them, lives of true joy came from putting Jesus first, others second, and your own concerns last.

Not surprisingly, we were very poor, and my parents taught us how to save money and be thrifty. Growing up this way also taught us to appreciate the simple things in life. We paid our own way as much as possible; I got my first job when I was about five years old, helping my brothers with lawn work. We'd make only a buck or so, but to us that was a lot. I had my share of fun, but I definitely grew up knowing what responsible meant. My folks taught me that it was not just taking care of myself but helping others, too. At times, like right now, I have lived hand to mouth. But I knew that sometimes the work of conveying the power of the spirit, the truth as I understood it, was as important as making money. I've always felt that as long as I was able, I was supposed to give all I've got to ensure a healthy and loving legacy for those still to come, and especially for those with no voice. That is what I've done in this tree.

By the time I was in high school in Arkansas, life settled down for us, and I lived the life of an average teenager, working hard and playing hard. I knew how to have fun, and I enjoyed myself and the time I spent with my friends. I was a bit aimless, volunteering for a teen hot line here, modeling a bit there, saving money to move out on my own. I suppose I had the regular dreams of a regular person.

All that changed forever, though, that night in August 1996 when the Honda hatchback I was driving was rear-ended by a Ford Bronco. The impact folded the little car like an accordion, shoving the back end of the car almost into the back of my seat. The force was so great that the stereo burst out of its console and bent the stick shift. Though I was wearing a seat belt, which prevented me from being thrown through the windshield, my head snapped back into the seat, then slammed forward onto the steering wheel, jamming my right eye into my skull. The next morning when I woke up, everything hurt. "I feel like I've been hit by a truck," I said out loud, and then I started to laugh. "Wait a minute, I was hit by a truck! "

Although the symptoms didn't surface immediately, it turned out that I had suffered some brain damage. It took almost a. . .

What People are saying about this

Patch Adams
Julia gives such special shine to the word possible. I think better and with sweeter resolve knowing such as she dances in the trees...Julia answers the question: "Can one person make a difference?"...Here are some recipes for the human community to inspire anyone to action towards peace and justice.
Joan Baez
Visiting Julia Butterfly was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life.

Meet the Author

Julia Butterfly Hill, twenty-six, is a writer, a poet, and an activist. She helped found the Circle of Life Foundation to promote the sustainability, restoration, and preservation of life. The foundation is sponsored by the nonprofit Trees Foundation, which works toward the conservation and preservation of forest ecosystems. Hill has been the recipient of many honors and awards, and is a frequent speaker for environmental conferences around the world.

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Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once I heard about this story I was immediately interested in reading this book. I'm not one to pick up a book and read it very often, but after reading this book, I understood why Julia Butterfly sat in that tree for 2 years. On the other hand, this book left me speechless. Although I don't personally believe in doing what Julia did, I believe that she demonstrated passion and commitment far beyond what many people would've done today. If more people would live their lives and back up their beliefs as she did, this world may have a better place today. This is not only an amazing novel to read, but one that can change the way you live your life. This book could change your whole outlook one life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first started reading the book I was not into it. But, after a few pages I started to enjoy the book. It's amazing how one person can change so much. How if you just stand up for something you believe in you can change it. I loved reading about her battles with talk show people and with the company workers. Plus, you really learn what is happening to our forests around the world not just in California. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in enviromental issues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Legacy of Luna is a book everyone living on this planet should take the time to read. It's important for all of us to learn about the destructive nature of corporations and the negative impact they have on the environment and the living beings dwelling in it. Julia Butterfly Hill was the voice for Luna when Luna had none. She was not only a protector of just this ancient and sacred redwood, but also of the surrounding forest and its wildlife. She shouldn't have had to stay up in a tree for as long as she did to raise awareness about the injustices that have gone on for far too long. But because of her faith, spirit, and love for this beautiful Earth, she was able to stay strong and persevere and have a positive influence. This book had me hooked and I literally could not put it down!
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bmwriter More than 1 year ago
Julia Butterfly Hill's personal account of a tree sit details the harsh world of a tree sit. She shows how much we need our Earth and how much we are letting it down. Hill talks about how companies such as Pacific Lumber think only short term and how actions greatly affect our future. In this I realized that many people think the same way, only focusing on the present. The writing is a little weak at times but Hill makes up for this with as much emotion she puts into other parts. This is a very interesting read for all, both environmentalists and not.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A lot could be said. After you read the book, you would understand why. On the other hand, after reading it, you're speechless. Although I don't agree completely with her beliefs, Julia Butterfly demonstrated passion and committment far beyond many in today's world. If more would live their lives with the action to back up their beliefs as she did and does, we would be better off. This is not only an amazing story to be read, but one that can change the way and reason you are living. Of course, the Bible can do that as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is about a young woman who takes it upon herself to help defend a part of Mother Nature that nobody really wanted to defend. She goes into depth about living in the tree for 2 years. And she isn't living in a tree house in the backyard 10 feet off the ground either. She lives 180 feet up in the air. Don't think I could do that. She endures winters and summers, springs and falls. She also talks about the mistreatment that she suffers from the loggers. She brings in new light as to what our great country needs to see. She even goes into her day-to-day routine, climbing, eating, bathing and bathroom time. How many people would live in a tree, 180 feet up in the air for 2 years? Not many. It takes a very special person to do that, and Butterfly is that. This a very sincere, emotional and straight from the heart book. I recommend to anybody, whether you like to read or not and whether you care for the environment or not. Read this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was great. I could barely put it down and was finding myself recommending to other people before I was finished. It's an easy read and very inspirational. This book gives me hope that maybe someday the world will start to take care the environment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I followed the story of Julia Hill since I first heard she was in the tree, and when I found out about this book, I had to have it. It was one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. Whoever said that one person couldn't make a difference was wrong. I couldn't put it down, I read it in 3 days. Julia writes wonderfully, with passion, grace, and feel like you are right there with her. This book will inspire anyone who reads it...guaranteed! You will look at the world differently, and you will look at trees differently for the rest of your life. I recommend it for everyone out there, it's one of the best books ever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With all the physics-related book right now on the science/nature top tens, its good to see this title. I'm one of those persons who had a bit of a problem with the 'new age' tone and anthropomorphic tendencies in this book, but I've come to the conclusion that there are many worthy fronts right now in the conservation/biodiversity battle and certain Ms. Butterfly's must be considered one of them. If one considers other heartistic books about the value of preservation-- like Goodall's Reason for Hope or Johnson and Coates Nabokov's Blues (no pun intended with the 'butterfly' here)-- one realizes that mainline scientists and activists, no matter how different in spirit and language, still share this heartistic drive to save what is left of natural environments. I think if one read Legacy of Luna with an open mind one can actually come away with a convincing experience and perhaps learn something too, if one has been too used to reading the arguments for conservation only from experts, scientists or celebrities. Give it a go.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
If one thrives on the prosaic beauty, intricate plot structure and character development which permeate the works of Tom Wolfe or John Irving, Julia Butterfly Hill's memoir will unabashedly and humbly cleanse these addictions with a more gripping, simple fashion of storytelling. Her style is straightforward, and her story involves extraordinary characters (including the tree, which through her writing becomes not human, but as irreplaceable as a loved one) and the conflicts they endure. Her inner conflicts are revealed as well, offering to the reader not only the sense of being in the tree with her, but in her self with her. Sprinkled with poetry and photographs, the book makes a powerful case for the interconnectedness of all life, for the strength and beauty of womanhood, and of our modern tendency to unconsciously ignore human existence as integral to something much greater than ourselves, physically and spiritually. A preacher's daughter, Hill turns bible-thumping on its head by finding her own spiritual destiny at the top of a tree; and her inner journey, manifested in a media-stopping event which she never asked for nor could have predicted, takes the reader to places within where inexplicable yearnings have existed all along. In the end, some passages found in this book are graced with beauty unequaled by any writer who has not lived in a tree for two years. Thoreau would be proud, if not awed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only does Ms. Hill's book move the adult reader, but I would also recommend it as a gift for adolescent readers. Girls could especially benefit from learning about the powerful actions and words of a female role model. I am sending a copy to the young adults I know today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Julia's story of struggle and survival is an inspiration to us all. She shows that one person can make a difference.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Guest More than 1 year ago
Julia Butterfly has done a wonderful job of telling her tale about her time in the loving boughs of Luna. Her fight to save the Redwood trees should be an inspiration to us all to do our part in saving our world. There is no try....Do or do not. But then do not complain if you do not do anything to affect change. Julia Butterfly shows how we can each make our own differences, great and small.