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In her book Legacy of Luna, Julia Butterfly Hill narrates the two years she spent living at the canopy of a thousand year old redwood named Luna in Stafford, a rustic town on the North of California, to save it from being cut by Pacific Lumber-Maxxam Corporation. Hill’s story is a detailed journal on how her spiritual journey transformation, the different political interests of environmental groups, corporations, policy makers and the public opinion collude to redefine her mission and its final outcome.
Hill is successful at saving Luna and bringing public attention to controversial forestry practices.
The book ends with a pledge based on Hill’s belief; trees must be protected because they are vital for survival of earth’s ecosystem. Overall, modern-day actions of civil disobedience, like Hill’s, are effective if the mission sets well-defined attainable goals able to bring popular sympathy. Hill’s action of civil disobedience obeyed to her mission commitment to be part of the efforts that the environmental group Earth First which was fighting to save the redwoods around Stafford.
In accomplishing her mission, it was clear that tree-sitting was the most logical goal action.
Hill’s initial mission was based on her beliefs and her commitment when “I went into the forest and for the first time I experienced what it means to truly be alive” and “My God, I’m not going to make it up this grueling hill. I’m not. I just can’t do it. I can’t do it” (Hills 21).
Therefore, it was expected that Hill would save the trees because it is a natural response for any living creature to act on self-preservation. In addition, Hill’s actions were also easily understood by the public because they got outraged after learning that saving Luna was an essential to contain at least in part the aggressive deforestation in California.
In general, actions of civil disobedience would have a high chance of affectivity if their mission is able to set well-defined goals. Hill’s action pursued an attainable goal. The goal is to save Luna, and she would be safe as long as someone stays on the tree. At explaining the rationale behind to tree-sitting as particular action of civil disobedience; Hill states that the primary goal is to “protect the tree of being cut down, then to slow down deforestation and create awareness” (86).
If Hill’s only mission was to save Luna, her actions were very successful because it was an attainable goal. She was able to reach an agreement with the corporation that is legally no different from a common business transaction. However, if Hill’s mission was also the establishment of legal protections that could slow down deforestation or even more ambitious goals like creating public support for a radical change to the legal concept of property; Hill failed miserably. Hill is aware that her success is in function on how her mission is defined. I wanted to protect Luna for the thousands of people across the country for whom she had become a symbol of hope, a reminder that we can find peaceful, loving ways to solve our conflicts and that we can take care of our need without destroying those needs to satisfy our greed” (147). She concedes the point that her actions ended in an attainable goal but they were far beyond of her mission of saving the all trees. In general, actions of civil disobedience would be successful in the mission sets attainable goals in which the social structure and public commitment to the cause are determinant factors.
When Hill was later close to succumbing to the storm, she redefined her goal. She reached spiritual apogee as she heard the voice of Luna; therefore her goal becomes more complex. As her mission to save Luna, also become the task to slow down deforestation primarily through legislation and later to convince the public that trees are part of earth’s ecosystem; her goals become unattainable. Hill failed. She was unable to culminate her fight into redefining what constitutes private property.
Since Luna and the forest belong to humanity; the likely solution would be that forest cannot longer be privately owned. Acts of civil disobedience are effective when they can accomplish permissible or attainable goals that do not require substantial changes like the conclusion of saving Luna into a common business agreement. It is obvious, that acts of civil disobedience are successful when the goals are attainable. Neither an agreement to save Luna nor the public outrage Hill was able built is enough to stop deforestation or foster urgent action demands from the public.
Hill’s actions gained public sympathy because people tend to empathize with those fighting in an unfair condition of disadvantage regardless of cause. The lumber company hired people to physically force Hill to come down and contracted helicopters to dangerously maneuver over Luna to scare Hill jeopardizing her well-being. Statements from the loggers like “you’d better get ready for a bad hair day” would only get her more sympathizers to her cause in which the role of emotional support becomes stronger.
News of a tree-sitter casualty outraged even more the public that empowered Hill’s negotiating capacity. Actions of civil disobedience able to create public sympathy are very effective as demonstrated at the terms in which Hill accepted to settle under the conditions stipulated by Mr. Campbell. A clause states that Hill would refrain to tell the negative statements she endured while at the time she stayed on Luna. If the acts of civil disobedience are able to get sympathy from the public regardless of the basis, they are very effective to accomplish the intended mission.
In general, acts of civil disobedience are also effective when find the personality of the actors finds affinity with the public sentiment; this psychological empathy is usually construed by inferences to universal endorsed values like compassion or forgiveness. For instance, Hill stated that after regardless of harassment she got from those hired by the lumber company; she has “that feeling of unconditional love not only for Earth as a planet, but also for humanity – even for those destroying the gift of life right in front of me. Affinity can also be construed by appealing to public common sense like when Hills refers to the confrontation between those working for MAAXAM and environmentalists. She stated why both do not come to work together as “we also shared a common goal: to fight the destructive power of giant corporations. ”
Another ground for affinity is a saleable personality like when Hills responds to the grotesque humor of “Shock Jocks” by saying “Guys, I appreciate your good humor about this but my message of love and respect is not something I hake lightly. Civil disobedience actions are effective when they are found justifiable by the public opinion. According to Julie Hilden, legal commentator for Writ (legal magazine), the justification is found when they obey to morally higher standards that those serving as basis for the rule of law. The public had agreed with Hill that saving Luna was morally the right thing to do because trees are “also part of a complex ecosystem that includes a human community. When there is no any other legal alternative than “sitting in a tree to physically protect it, as Hill did, is a response the legal system’s refusal to see the tree as anything but, again, private property;” an act of civil disobedience becomes a very effective form of protest. In summary, acts of civil disobedience are effective if their goals are clearly stated, attainable, and able to build public sympathy. The public sympathy is based on whether the public agree that these acts are morally justifiable or the actors’ personality affinity.
Hill’s was successful in her mission to save Luna because it was clearly stated as initial goal, and get the owners to agree do not cut Luna under a business transaction agreement was attainable. The message was clear understood by the public as morally superior at saving the trees is saving earth’s ecosystem and Hill’s action as the rightful response to the inability of the legal system to protect Luna. Finally, Hill’s personality was charismatic to the public. Although Hill was successful in creating the message that “standing in unity, solidarity and love will heal the wounds in the earth and reach one of us.
We can make a positive difference through our actions” as her final legacy of her ordeal; she failed to move the public to go forward for an immediate solution to earth’s deforestation. Nevertheless, Hill’s struggle leaves a legacy in which others could continue the fight to save nature. Her book’s message is that by pursuing her cause we could find redemption for our transgression against Mother Nature; and that we could still find save mankind. But as three main goals of tree-sitting are defined as: protect the trees, slow down the cut of trees and create public awareness.
Acts of civil disobedience are successful if the mission is a simple goal like saving Luna. If the mission is more complex like to foster strictly enforceable environmental protection laws; acts of civil disobedience can only create precedent example like Hill’s defiance actions could be analogous to be called the Rosa Parks of the environmental movement. Finally, if the actions of civil disobedience have the mission to foster a revolutionary change in the social system; they would need the help of other actions sharing similar goals.
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