Bright Side

A Woman Saved an Ancient Tree by Living in It for 2 Years, and It Changed the World for the Better

Meet Julia Hill, an environmental activist who left her footstep in history by saving old-growth trees via... living in one for more than 2 years. You know a person did something huge when they inspired an episode of The Simpsons, which in turn brought so much visibility to ecological issues.

So, Bright Side wants to tell you the story of a woman, a tree, and how one person can make a difference.

Julia Hill was born on February 18, 1974, in Missouri, into the family of a traveling preacher. At the age of 23, she joined a group of environmental activists in northern California who were protesting the clear-cut logging of giant ancient redwoods by the Pacific Lumber Company. Their method of protest was eloquent and simple: they just sat in trees that were about to be cut.

“Tree-sitters” stayed on guard in rotation for a couple of days at a time, but their leaders wanted someone to stay on “tree duty” for one week. Nobody else volunteered, so Julia agreed to bite the bullet. Only instead of a week, she stayed atop the tree for more than 2 years. Julia vowed to not come down until she had made a difference.

For 738 days Julia lived 180 feet above the ground on a pair of platforms in a 1000-year-old redwood tree that was fondly nicknamed Luna. During her vigil, Julia fought off harassment from helicopters, cold, torrential rains, winter winds, illness, and even a 10-day siege by security guards and loggers hired by Pacific Lumber.

Julia survived some impossible conditions: she walked barefoot, received supplies from the ground crew by rope, cooked on a tiny stove, and kept warm by staying in a sleeping bag. She communicated with the world via a solar-powered cell phone, and jokingly calling herself an “in-tree” correspondent.

Julia succeeded in her quest: In 1999, the Pacific Lumber finally gave up and agreed to the permanent protection of a 200-foot buffer zone around Luna and other ancient redwood trees. Only after that, Julia left Luna and returned back to solid soil, barefoot and wobbly.

Her endeavor drew media attention to the environmental problem. She informed the public that only 3% of the ancient forests remain and they need adequate protection and care.

Despite this victory, a year later, Luna was vandalized with a chainsaw, which left a 3-foot deep gash across half of the tree’s trunk. But thanks to the dedication of arborists who stabilized it with special steel cables, Luna’s life was saved. First-aid steel brackets for Luna were designed, manufactured, and installed in just one day.

When Julia learned about the incident, she admitted that it felt like a chainsaw had cut through her instead of the tree. Luckily now, 20 years later, Luna still is still green and strong and continues growing with every passing year.

But tree-sitting with Luna was just the beginning of Julia’s activism. She protested an oil pipeline in Ecuador that threatened the forests of the Andes, co-founded the non-profit social activism group, Engage Network, and published several books, including her memoir, The Legacy of Luna.

The world recognized Julia Hill, a girl from a poor family in her early twenties, as a heroine. Her tenacity and determination sent a message of hope, empowerment, love, and respect for nature and all life, which has inspired many people worldwide. So in the end, Julia proved that one person can indeed make a difference.

Can you imagine yourself in Julia’s place? Could you have managed to survive for 2 years in such harsh conditions?

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