It's been years since I first met Julia Butterfly Hill, yet I remember it with great clarity. A couple dozen of us were invited to Keep Indianapolis Beautiful for lunch to meet with Hill, perhaps best known for her two years living in a tree in the California Redwoods to prevent it — and others — from being cut down.
I think about her visit often, as its impact was significant. It's not just Hill's myriad of social justice activities (see below), it's simply the way she lives, with a deep commitment, coupled with a light footprint upon the earth.
Hill is the keynote speaker at the upcoming Serendipity Festival, April 26-28, a three-day festival that includes music, yoga and other spiritual and consciousness-raising actions. We exchanged emails recently that resulted in the following conversation.
NUVO: In a non-fiction book just released, called The Pipeline and The Paradigm, there's a chapter set in Winnsboro, Texas, where activists had erected elaborate platforms in trees to delay or derail the placing of the Keystone XL pipeline. Did you visit these activists?
HILL: I did go and I helped with a very big action in solidarity, helping generate a large amount of media and funding to support the direct action resistance movement. The efforts of everyone there on the front-lines and all over the world are vital in playing a role on the team to try to stop the destruction of our planet and world as well as to transform our relationship with the Earth, with each other and with all living beings.
NUVO: Obama may very well have made the KXL decision by the time this story runs, but still, I'd like to get your perspective on it and why you think Keystone XL is such a pivotal issue.
HILL: The Keystone XL Pipeline issue is really at the crossroads of so many issues facing our human family. It impacts water, global climate change, the rights of people who own land and are trying to care for it and steward it, the health quality of future generations, tax subsidies and how they are allocated and to whom, Native Sovereignty and Spirituality issues, and so much more. With the recent horrors of the spill in Arkansas and the not-so-distant spill in the Gulf, we see time and time again that we must shift our behaviors around energy consumption as well as where we source our energy from.
NUVO: In general, what do you think it will take for enough people to awaken to the harm we've exacted upon nature and thus upon ourselves?
HILL: People change with information, inspiration and/or crisis. That is the only way people change. I have committed my life to doing everything I can to live my life in integrity with the beliefs and vision I espouse; and to follow that up with working to educate and inspire people to shift their relationship with the Earth and all its beings.
No matter what, we are going to HAVE TO CHANGE. Our current way of living is highly destructive and therefore completely unsustainable — which means it will eventually fall apart and we will be forced to find another way of living and being. My prayer is that more and more of us will shift our behaviors and choices out of inspiration steeped in a deep reverence and care for all life.
NUVO: What are you working now that you that continues your mission for environmental and social justice?
HILL: I work with so many incredible organizations and efforts working for a healthy, sacred, and beautiful world and planet. It is my joy to be in service — it fuels me and fills me with such gratitude. People can find out about some of the projects I have an ongoing working partnership with by going to my website www.juliabutterfly.com
NUVO: Are there any organizations or people you'd particularly like to point out as exemplary in their work?
HILL: The Reciprocity Foundation http://www.reciprocityfoundation.org/ is working to help transform the lives of homeless youth through a very powerful, profound and holistic approach that includes helping heal communities and the planet.
The Lower East Side Girl's Club http://www.girlsclub.org/ is doing an AMAZING job of modeling what it means to be in service and integrity through empowering young women.
The City of Peace in Italy http://www.whatsyourtree.it/the-city-of-peace.html
The City of Joy in the Congo http://drc.vday.org/city-of-joy
Off the Mat Into the World http://offthematintotheworld.org/ is calling forth spirit and heart based service from the Yoga community in really incredible ways.
So, so, so many more, but I will stop there.
NUVO: When you get discouraged in your work, how do you inspire yourself to keep at it?
HILL: I am probably one of the world's biggest cynics. I just don't happen to let it stop me. My love calls me every day to be bigger than I know myself to be. It calls me to be bigger than my cynicism, deep grief, anger, frustration and overwhelm. It is also very important to have a healthy mind, body, heart and spirit practice.
We have each been given a unique vessel with which to live this life and be in service. The more we care for all levels of the vessel, the better we are able to be in service in a healthy way and bring our best selves to the work instead of our depleted selves. All of life is Sacred, including the life we have been given. When we treat our own beings as Sacred, we are better at living lives that honor the Sacred all around usÉ even when and especially when it is difficult.