We just wrapped up a long family vacation in Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is one of those destinations I have been to more years than not: as a child, as a student, as an adult and finally now, as a parent. Each time I visit, I focus upon something different. This year, I noticed all over again the spectacular natural beauty of the place I thought I knew so well, and the surrounding environs. As well as the constant exhortations on every car bumper, street corner and storefront to “Keep Tahoe Blue.”
Who doesn’t try to be environmentally conscious these days? I do my bit too, by composting, growing my own vegetables, buying organic and local mostly, recycling, and attempting to keep our level of materialism at a minimum. (Hence, my policy of buying quality clothing that will last.) We live in the suburbs, and drive to our twins’ school, but Darcy takes public transport more often than not. We try to teach our children that we need to try to leave as gentle a footprint on the earth as possible.
But of course, there are issues. I fly once a year to Europe for the family business. I fly across the country to visit my parents in the South once a year. My brother lives in Austin, I often visit him too. We’re all so far flung. It’s difficult. Darcy flies a lot for work.
I was thinking all of this as we drove through the pristine Tahoe National Forest, then I thought: “Blah, blah, blah.” (As Furby, possibly the most annoying stuffed animal EVER would say, complete with his awful vocal fry).
What would Julia Butterfly Hill have to say?
Do you guys remember Julia Butterfly Hill? She was a cultural touchstone in the late 90s. She decided to protest the then-common practice by the logging industry of “clear cutting” (a horribly destructive logging method of basically torching the thousands of years old fragile ecosystems of redwood forests with oil and fire) by sitting in a really old, really tall redwood tree. For TWO years. By herself. During that time, she was harassed by lumber company employees via helicopters, dealt with El Nino gale-force winds, and all sorts of other physical and mental challenges.
You can argue whether her actions made a difference, but she ultimately did save a portion of the forest she was trying to protect when she finally exited her beloved tree, named Luna by Hill.
I remember her adventures pretty well. We were fairly close in age, and I admired her actions and courage and respected what she was doing. But I also wondered how she could give up prime years in her early twenties. I already had my eye on my career (and also meeting the man of my dreams) at age 22. I had a difficult time understanding how Hill could basically devote her young life to a cause so singularly, so fiercely. It was almost like she joined a nunnery.
I decided to Google Hill today to find out what she’s doing now. And to my surprise, I learned she has a blog. In fact, she posted on it today.
Interestingly, Hill admitted in today’s post that she has difficulty dealing with public interest in her. And that she is constantly asked even today what she’s going to do next. Do NEXT?!? The woman sat in a tree for two years and won the battle for her forest. While the eyes of the world watched. You know, no biggie.
To me, the best part of her big action, her grand gesture so to speak, was to plant the seed in many of us to try to do our best, to make the choices that might not be easy, but are right. I think of Hill when I compost, when I bring my recycled bags to the store, when I walk instead of drive, when I plant my vegetables and use organic soil and old-fashioned remedies to keep pests away. When I preserve and can. When I don’t take non-essential plane rides. When I decided not to buy the more convenient minivan or SUV. These are small actions. But it’s what I can bring to the table.
And I think of her too when I make the wrong choices.
Are there any role models that help you make good choices, who have inspired you with the courage of their conviction? If so, who and why?