Redwood lovers take stage to plead case
By Alan Scher Zagier
CARRBORO - Some of rock and rap music's biggest names have graced the stage of the Cat's Cradle nightclub: Nirvana, Public Enemy, Screaming Trees.
On Wednesday, a tree named Luna topped the marquee. But this was no mere band.
No, we're talking about a massive Sequoia that for the past year has been home to an environmental protester called Butterfly.
Butterfly - a k a Julia Hill - climbed the 180-foot redwood in December 1997 to protest clear-cutting by the Pacific Lumber Co. in northern California. Three thousand miles away, Hill's publicity-savvy allies have taken their cause on the road, with stops in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina.
Cell phone in hand, Hill spoke to a crowd of about 50 UNC-CH students and local supporters huddled around a speaker phone propped on the Cradle's bar near its pool table. She described an unwavering commitment born of a spiritual bond to the forest.
"Everything in life is connected, from the living microorganisms in the soil to the stars in the heavens to everything in between," said Hill, a 24-year-old Arkansan. "'Alien part of that connection is destroyed, it destroys a part of ourselves." She belongs to "Earth First!", a group of environmental activists who rely on confrontational tactics to spread their message.
Hill's cause, which includes protests against Gap clothing stores because their owners log old-growth forests, has attracted international media attention.
From her perch on a 6-by-8-foot platform, she gives up to 12 interviews a day. In her spare time, she writes poems and letters - on recycled paper, of course.
"There are simple sacrifices we can make to bring about great change," she told the crowd, which included college students from throughout the mid-Atlantic in town for a meeting of the Student Environmental Action Coalition, an advocacy group founded a decade ago at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Hill vowed to stay above ground until the lumber company agrees to spare Luna. Pacific Lumber officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday night, but company leaders have rejected her terms.
"It would be like me sitting on your porch and refusing to allow you into your house and then saying, 'If you let me stay on this side of the porch, I'll let you into the house,' a company spokeswoman told The Los Angeles Times.
Before the conversation with Hill, tour coordinator and fellow Earth First! activist Mary Rose Kaczorowski - her friends call her "Redwood Mary" - gave a crash course in the long-standing battles between activists and - logging companies in northern California and Oregon. The presentation included a Video narrated by film director Sydney Pollack.
Hill wasn't afraid to trade on her newfound celebrity, either. When a UNC-CH student asked for help with an effort to get the university to use more recycled paper, Hill promised to seek support from actor and environmentalist Woody Harrelson. In the true spirit of activism, 1990s style, Kaczorowski urged the crowd to visit Hill's Web site to learn more about the struggle (www.lunatree.org).
The tour continues today at Elon College in Alamance County.
Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at 932-2012 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Rose Kaczorowski shows Cat's Cradle audience a tape of Julia Hill, who is sitting in a redwood tree to save it from loggers.
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