Council Declares Day to Honor Activist's Efforts

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For most cities, yesterday was just another Sunday, but in Berkeley, it was Julia Butterfly Hill day.

The Berkeley City Council proclaimed April 2 as a day honoring the 25-year-old woman who lived in a redwood tree in Humboldt County for two years to save it from being cut down.

City officials are now praising Hill's struggle, which began in December 1997 when she set up quarters in the tree she named Luna.

"Most of us run our mouths but then we never do anything like that," said Councilmember Betty Olds, who co-sponsored the proclamation.

The proclamation was initially conceived by Councilmember Diane Woolley, who said she was inspired by Hill's fortitude.

"She's a marvelous example to all of us to take action for what we believe in," Woolley said. "That was a very strong action. It's a lesson in what one person can do."

To observe the day, Woolley was expected to present Hill with the council's proclamation last night at Ashkenaz, a music and dance center in Northwest Berkeley.

The celebration, complete with entertainment and a book signing by Hill, was arranged by Nancy Duff, a Berkeley realtor who conversed with Hill during the period she spent living in Luna.

Duff said she heard Hill criticize The Home Depot, Inc. on the radio for being the country's largest seller of old-growth redwood lumber. Duff then sold her Home Depot stock and sent the profits to Hill.

"A few months later I get this call one stormy night and it's Julia calling me from the tree," Duff said. "I was completely blown away by her."

Duff said the phone calls she received from Hill were "extraordinary," and compared the experience to talking to some of history's most famous personalities.

"She called me from the tree and we had these long conversations," she said. "You could hear the wind blowing in the background and it's freezing. It was like talking to Nelson Mandela or Gandhi or Joan of Arc."

Hill, a minister's daughter originally from Arkansas, came to Northern California and began her advocacy of redwood trees after recovering from a near-fatal automobile accident that impaired her speech and mobile abilities for several months.

She spent more than two years on a six-by-eight-foot platform in Luna's branches to prevent the 1000-year-old tree from being logged by the Pacific Lumber company.

While living in Luna, Hill depended on fellow environmentalists to deliver supplies to her 180-foot-high platform. She used a camping stove to cook vegetarian meals and a bucket in place of a toilet.

"I'd hate to live in a tree that long, living there by yourself through the storms and everything," Olds said. "It's quite amazing."

Hill came down from the tree in December 1999 after Pacific Lumber agreed to leave Luna in place. She has since traveled throughout the country to discuss her experience and promote her new book.

"(Yesterday's celebration was) kind of her last appearance," Duff said. "She's been doing a lot of Bay Area appearances."

But regardless of whether Hill takes a rest from public life, Duff said her legacy has left its mark.

"She taught us that 'do unto others' is not just about people," she said. "Her spiritual connection to Luna and what she's taught us is just amazing."


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