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by Felisa Finn
Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 12:52 PM
TREE GIRL BOOK REVIEW: The Legacy of Luna
The Legacy of Luna
by Julia Butterfly Hill
On her twenty-fourth birthday Julia Butterfly Hill was living alone in a giant, 1000 year-old redwood tree, 180 feet up in the sky. She spent over two years on a tiny platform wrapped in tarps. She never touched ground. The tree is named Luna. Her tree-sit saved Luna from loggers and breathed new life into the war to save the environment.
And most of it wasn't pretty.
"Cut the tree down. If she dies, that's life," said a man-on-the-street being interviewed for television.
Bonnie Raitt said Julia Hill is proof that one person can make a difference.
Her story, "The Legacy of Luna," is a detailed account of terror and spirit, of surviving lightening storms, frostbite, attacks by an angry lumber corporation, loneliness and undeniable strength.
Many have criticized her as a wacko terrorist. Others call her the Rosa Parks of the environmental movement. The book is her story of becoming the accidental protester.
This may be one of the more passionate and truthful sagas of its kind because through it all, Hill's voice remains naively honest and ethically pure. She didn't intend to become remarkable. She didn't plan to be on the "Today Show" or one of People magazine's "25 Most Intriguing People of the Year." There was no master plan by an environmental organization.
She imagined the possibility of falling and dying though.
"If I had seen what the Luna tree-sit had in store when I first got involved, I would have run screaming in the opposite direction," Hill writes.
The book is a page-turner and by all accounts, a fascinating tale of the madness of the times, as well as the blooming of a young woman.
It begins when Hill, having barely survived a car wreck decides to travel to find meaning in her life. She takes the reader by the hand, gently nudging us towards a roller coaster ride- to the smell of moss and rain in Northern California. As she yanks herself up a muddy slope, then up a rope, and up into a tree, the hard facts of life begin.
Hill admits she had a lot to learn about what the heck she is doing but as her knowledge grows, so does ours. She discusses the Headwaters Agreement, the Endangered Species Act and the death of fellow activist David Gypsy Chain. (Chain was killed by a felled tree during a skirmish with loggers.) This makes traveling with her very personal and though the journey is painful, we don't have to endure a relentless wind, freezing temperatures or Pacific Lumber's helicopters. She does it for us.
"One of the best ways to find balance is to go to extremes," Hill states. Her self-discovery into the land of environmental activism and the clarity of a soul driven to the breaking point are spoken from the heart, simply, as she lived it. Hill clicks into a rhythm, discovering the bare-root life of her actions snowballing into something amazing. This escapade- from mind altering desolation and a numbing of the body by the elements- to the vivid sickness of corporations and government, the intimate squabbling of activists and the good and ugly of media- all magnificently cradled by a lush forest and a relationship to a tree.
The fact that Hill survived and conquered, became a public figure who thus far, hasn't "sold-out" is huge. Her book is printed with soy ink on recycled fiber and all profits go to a foundation created for the preservation of
nature. A good read for anyone who thinks one person can't make a difference. (And for the curious- how did she last without hot showers and caffe lattes! Did she have a cell phone? Where did she pee?) Hill tells all. She includes a list of resources as an addendum.
"Visiting Julia Butterfly was on of the most remarkable experiences of my life," writes Joan Baez, who along with Bonnie Raitt, climbed Luna to visit
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