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Natural Awakenings Indianapolis

Environmentalist Julia Butterfly Hill: Infusing Activism With Joy And Love

Sep 30, 2011 03:43AM ● By Beth Ann Krier


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When Julia Butterfly Hill climbed 180 feet into an ancient California redwood tree back in 1997, to protest the clear-cutting of one of the world’s oldest remaining forests, she thought she’d live in the tree perhaps three weeks. Four at the most.

Two years later, she came down. Hill had not only saved the approximately 1000-year-old tree and a three-acre buffer zone around it, she had also won the hearts and minds of international audiences who joined her in bringing attention to the ways in which Mother Earth was being ravaged and becoming increasingly out of balance.

But Hill didn’t merely create storms of public opinion on the other side of the world. She began to inspire them pretty much wherever she went, whether it was lobbying Congress, writing a national bestseller (The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods) or working as an environmental activist in conjunction with groups and causes throughout the world.

This month, Hill sees the release of her latest book, Becoming: Pictures, Poems and Stories. She also visits Indianapolis to provide one of her sought-after keynote speeches.

In an interview with Natural Awakenings’ Indianapolis edition, she reflected on the messages she currently brings to groups.

“I always weave in the personal with the communal and the planetary.  I also talk about love and consciousness guiding our choices versus anger and judgment,” she said. “I am an introvert by nature so being public is hard for me.  I continue to do it though because I want people to see that even though I have done very big things with my life, I am not a super hero.

“I am just a person like everyone else.  All extraordinary people are just extra-ordinary; they just don’t happen to let their ordinariness stop them.”

Hill has purposefully reduced her number of talks she gives each year from about 250 to a less-superhuman 50. “250 was too much for me,” she explained. “I had to bring my life into balance, so I lessened the events.  I do a lot more than just talk though.  I help numerous organizations on everything from strategic planning to fundraising. I do volunteer work where I live in Belize. I do life coaching with people who are looking to overcome and transform the things in their lives that hold them back from reaching their highest potential, and I lead and co-lead workshops to support people in making a positive and healthy difference in their own life and in the world.”

She also shares her thoughts and recommendations regularly on her website, (, on her blog (, and on her Facebook page. In addition, she helped to launch a project called What’s Your Tree ( to help people to uncover and clarify their purpose, passion and power, then turn their inspiration into action. Proceeds from Becoming will be used to support What’s Your Tree.

Wherever that new book and other projects may take her, you can bet that storms of awareness and influence will ensue—and that they will be grounded in love and joy. As Hill said, “My commitment is to continuously learn and grow and offer my life in loving, joyous service, whether that is in direct action or fundraising or coaching individuals and non-profits or giving talks to swimming in the sea and walking in the woods.”

Julia Butterfly Hill is making a special guest appearance at the Women Like Us Foundation Afternoon Tea on October 20, 2011.
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