On Earth Day 1999, two of the world’s leading recording artists/social activists, Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez, climbed high into the canopy of what is perhaps the world’s most famous redwood to honor Julia Butterfly Hill. Julia has been keeping a 180′ tree-top vigil on a plywood platform to stop MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company from cutting down the well over 1000 year old redwood tree renamed Luna. The redwood grove she is trying to protect along with tens of thousands of acres of other critical redwood habitat was not saved in the recently signed and much-criticized Headwaters agreement between the government and Charles Hurwitz’s MAXXAM Corporation.
Julia has not touched the ground since she ascended the ancient tree Luna on December 10, 1997. On Saturday April 24, her vigil reached 500 days. Her treesit is next to a massive mudslide caused by a MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber clearcut that destroyed and damaged over 30 homes in the town of Stafford, CA.
Raitt and Baez decided to lend their support to Butterfly’s vigil by climbing the steep two mile mountain in Stafford, CA (250 miles north of San Francisco), and then used a pulley system to get up the tree onto one of the two plywood perches in the branches of Luna. The pulley system was installed by local environmental activists together with the United Steelworkers of America, who are currently locked out of their jobs by another one of MAXXAM’s affiliates, Kaiser Aluminum.
The Steelworkers have joined with Headwaters Forest activists in a struggle against a common foe–MAXXAM. “It’s incredible to see labor unions and environmentalists getting together to stop the corporate mentality that destroys both jobs and the environment,” said Raitt.
At the California Music Awards (the BAMMIES) held in San Francisco this past March, Raitt was given the Arthur M. Sohcot Award which recognizes a group or individual who through dedicated public service and/or professional activity has contributed to the betterment of the community. The Award was presented by two other activists/musicians – Tracy Chapman and Joan Baez.
Raitt announced that night that she would take the award to Julia Butterfly in the tree and present it to her for her courage. Raitt, a long time Headwaters activist, invited Baez to make the pilgrimage with her over Earth Day weekend.
“Visiting Julia Butterfly was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life,” said Baez.
Raitt added, “To experience Julia’s commitment and love for these forests in person was a life changing event. She was literally shining.”
Answer by Julia Butterfly to the commonly asked question why she is still up there:
“With the last minute passing of the Headwater’s Forest Agreement between Federal and State authorities and the Pacific Lumber, MAXXAM Corporation, mant people have been led to believe that the forest issues here on the Northcoast is over. Others are trying to figure out exactly what to believe; seperating truth from fiction and so-called science from actual biological needs for forest and watershed survival and integrity. In the midst of it all, I am still being asked, “Why am I still up here?”
The Luna tree-sit and I continue as do many other activists because the Headwater’s Forest Agreement is based on politics and profit instead of the true needs of all interconnected species. Steep slopes and streams still lack necessary protection, Luna and this hillside along with thousands of other acres just as magnificent and vital are marked to be destroyed, and devestating clear-cutting and subsequent herbicide spraying practices are locked into place for the next 50 years under this deal. There is also a 700 acre parcel within the Headwater’s Forest that was given to Pacific Lumber to log which seriously jeopordizes the health of the forest and the species that recquire it intact in order to survive. On top of all of this, the local communities are continuing to suffer devestation of water quality, air quality, and property value by our governments refusal to include their serious needs in the final agreement. Obviously, we still have much work to do.
We are continuing to call upon our legislative leaders to enact laws that will provide for the true sustainability of life for all species as well as to implement emergency rules for the areas that have been seriously impacted by the continuous and blatant destructive logging practices here on the north coast.
Please get involved NOW! We have the power to change our world because it is not an issue of can we make a difference, rather it is we do make a difference. Everything we do, say, and think shapes our reality. It is time that we join our bodies, minds, hearts, spirits, and voices and call for peace on the Earth and peace with the Earth. Please get involved in whatever ways you can, but please, do it now. The legacy of all life depends on it. Thank you. Love and Light, Julia Butterfly.”