Sunday, March 3, 2024

She Lived In a Tree for 738 Days In the ’90s. Now, Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill Has a Message for COP28.


Environmental activist Julia “Butterfly” Hill breaks a decade-long silence ahead of COP28.

Environmentalist Julia “Butterfly” Hill, renowned for her activism against logging in Northern California in the 1990s, has re-emerged ahead of the COP28 conference happening in Dubai this week. Hill, who spent nearly two years living in a thousand-year-old redwood tree to protect it from loggers, is calling on governments to meet their commitment to end deforestation.

Hill, now 49, has worked as a life coach in recent years and has been largely out of the public eye. Hill’s comeback is marked by a powerful message urging governments to fulfill their promises to halt deforestation. Hill’s intervention emphasizes the significant impact that community-centered REDD+ projects can have in this endeavor.

Hill’s legacy as an activist is unrivaled in the environmental movement; she famously lived in the 200-foot-tall redwood tree, named Luna, for 738 days in Humboldt County, California, amid a battle with local loggers. Her historic act of civil disobedience successfully safeguarded Luna and its surrounding grove, earning her global recognition. She detailed her journey in the bestselling 2000 book, “Legacy of Luna.”

Julia Butterfly Hill

Having stepped back from the public eye for the past ten years, Hill is now resurfacing to join the chorus of voices demanding meaningful actions from both governments and corporations to protect forests, a critical tool in combating climate change.

“It is so clear that people around the world are begging and calling out for forests to be protected, for people to care and take action,” Hill said in a statement. “Our leaders, all of us, have to be more than just talking about solutions. We absolutely need to be taking action and living these solutions. I was talking about implementing ideas similar to how REDD+ works almost 25 years ago while I was doing my direct action living in Luna.”

She continued, “Through my experience involved in this and other efforts, I learned it’s important to stand against, but while we do, it’s even more important to stand for something. REDD+ projects do that. They stand for ending deforestation, which is vital for the survival of our species. They stand for reducing emissions into our atmosphere, for protecting wildlife, and for a better life for some of the world’s most disenfranchised communities and for future generations.”

Legacy of Lua
Luna after an attempted logging | Courtesy Stuart Moskowitz

REDD+, a strategy devised by the United Nations, aims to diminish carbon emissions resulting from deforestation. Presently, REDD+ projects safeguard over three million hectares of forest and cut emissions by more than 63 million tons annually.

In addition to her advocacy for REDD+, Hill has partnered with Everland to animate her poem “Where have all the humans gone?” which she wrote during her time in Luna. Reflecting on this, Hill shared, “I was sitting on a branch of Luna just hanging and looking out over everything when it came to me. I grabbed my pad of paper and started furiously scribbling it down because the words were coming to me so fast. The poem is both sad and poignant, and given it was written all those years ago, it’s very foretelling of where we are today.”

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