Bioneers 2012: Julia Butterfly Hill

Keynote speaker lived in a redwood tree for two years

November 09, 2012

Prairie Fire Bioneers 2012: Julia Butterfly Hill

by Laura Pochodylo '14

Julia Butterfly Hill, an environmental activist well-known for living in a redwood tree for more than two years, delivered the keynote address for Knox College's second annual Prairie Fire Bioneers conference October 26-28.

Peter Schwartzman, associate professor of environmental studies and Bioneers organizer, recalled the energy Hill brought to students during a previous visit to Knox. He was glad she was able to return for this year's conference.

"I was so moved by her work and her spirit," Schwartzman said.

Hill lived in a redwood tree named Luna in northern California from 1997 to 1999. In her October 27 remarks at Knox, she recounted her memories of "living on a four-by-six platform" and explained how that experience impacted her life afterwards.

"Every moment becomes so precious because there is nothing else, and no distractions," Hill said.

Hill described how she endured winds as strong as 90 miles per hour while sitting 18 stories above ground in the tree. She grew close with the tree, and it inspired her future environmentalist endeavors.

"Everything in nature has been communicating since the beginning of time; we just forgot how to listen," Hill said. "What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves."

Since her tree-sit, Hill has written two books about her experience and remained active in opposition against logging in northern California. She also has become a motivational speaker.

She stressed the importance of making eco-conscious choices and educating others about environmental issues. Hill encouraged students to embrace activism and "reinvigorate the capacity to care."

"No choice happens in a vacuum. It is scientifically impossible to make no difference," Hill said. "We are crazy powerful, and we have to start acting like it."