How Ancient Trees Created America
Americans are taught that the Boston Tea Party ignited the American Revolutionary War because the colonists found the British tea tax tea intolerable. That’s part of the story, but it misses the pivotal turning point of our history — one we need to understand now before we destroy the planet.
Eastern White Pine – the Tree Rooted in American History explains the central role of the Eastern White Pine tree in the founding and building of America, its logging history, and its current importance to wildlife and humans. The king of England prized these huge, straight White Pines as masts for ships and founded New England to provide a reliable source of pines for masts. A mast 36-inches in diameter was valued in the 1700s at $25,000 in today’s currency.
Lumbering was THE economic powerhouse. The White Pine had led to the establishment of the New England colonies. However, contention over ownership of the pine gave rise to the American Revolution! In 1775, the first American flag displayed a White Pine Tree. By 1776, the American colonies had declared their independence from Britain! By 1830, Bangor, Maine was the world’s lumber capital. By the close of the 19th century, Maine had shipped more than 18 billion board feet. Logging dramatically increased in the 20th century.
American History Is Rooted in Eastern White Pine Tree
The St. Croix River Valley on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin supplied pine lumber that built St. Louis, Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City, and other prairie towns. The advent of the railroads increased the demand for lumber for tracks and fuel. The video points out, “It would not be an overstatement to say that the White Pine is the tree that built the United States of America!”
The trees can live to be 200-400 years old. The White Pine is the preferred home for bear cubs and other animals as well as eagles and other birds. The wonderful piney fragrance is caused by terpenes, chemicals in the tree which provide health benefits for a variety of conditions including cancer, neurological conditions, lowering blood pressure, and boosting the immune system.
The video shows that Bob Leverett, co-founder of Native Tree Society, is working to preserve the old growth forests. He describes them as “forest cathedrals” and speaks of the spiritual ambience they provide.
The Native Tree Society site says:
“The Native Tree Society was originally established in 1996 as the Eastern Native Tree Society to accurately measure and record the tallest trees, historical trees, and ancient forests of Eastern North America. As the organization grew over the years we gained members from western North America and elsewhere around the world. As the membership has expanded, the original scope of the group has also expanded to include trees and forests around the globe.
In July of 2011 the overall organization changed its name to the Native Tree Society to reflect a broader geographic membership and was restructured to reflect this conceptual change. We have two formal chapters within the broader organization, the Eastern Native Tree Society (ENTS) focused on eastern North America, the Western Native Tree Society (WNTS) focused on western North America. Members from elsewhere in the world are considered to be members at large to the NTS. We hope to establish ties with tree interest groups in other continents and countries and to share our passion for trees and to promote the usage of our measurement standards and scientific goals in these areas.”
Restoring The Lost Forests of New England
The Lost Forests of New England – Eastern Old Growth tells the story of New England’s ancient, old growth forests… what they once were, what changes have taken place across central New England since European settlers arrived, and what our remnant old growth stands look like today.
When Europeans arrived, 80-90% of the landscape in Massachusetts was old growth forests with Hemlocks that could live 600 years, as well as Beech, Sugar Maples, and White Pines. Today, the old growth forests are less than one tenth of one percent of Massachusetts forests!
The video explains that these forests are important “carbon sinks”.
It’s not just the White Pines that have been under attack. The old-growth redwoods of Northern California are among the oldest living organisms in the world. It’s also the magnificent Redwoods.
Restoration of Redwood Forests
One Man’s Mission to Revive the Last Redwood Forests explains that David Milarch’s near-death experience inspired his quest bring the redwood forests back from the brink of death before they are lost to humanity forever. It explains that in the US, 98% of the old growth forests have been cut down. These trees have been on the planet for millions of years. Some trees are 2,000-4,000 years old.
These ancient cathedrals were sacrificed for profit — to be turned into tables and chairs, floors, and ships. However, that was extremely short-sighted because apart from being majestic and awe-inspiring, they hold the key to our own survival because of their absorption of carbon and provision of oxygen.
Milarch decided to archive the genetics of the world’s largest trees before they’re gone. This short film documents his effort to save the redwood champions of Northern California from the effects of climate change. He is engaged in what he calls “assisted migration” which involved cloning the best trees, reproducing exact copies in the lab, and planting them in the cooler regions of Oregon in a climate the trees are accustomed to since California is going through a 1,000-year drought. California is the only native home of the redwoods and 96% of them were cut down.
Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is a non-profit organization that collects, propagates, archives, and replants the genetics of ancient and iconic trees to restore the natural filter system to our water and air. These trees have the ability to clean our water, and stack carbon from our atmosphere to reduce the effects of climate change like no other species. Find out more at http://www.ancienttreearchive.org
“CNN International profiled Archangel Ancient Tree Archive and its co-founder, David Milarch. He explains the reasons behind the nonprofit’s urgent mission to collect, propagate, the largest and oldest #ancienttrees, and restore the world’s #oldgrowth forests. We’re working to protect future generations from #climatechange. LEARN MORE: https://ancienttreearchive.org.”
Tree Sitting To Save A Redwood
Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill: The Modern Day Lorax provides the backstory of why Julia “Butterfly” Hill lived at the top of a Redwood tree for two years in 1998. Julia’s story is particularly important today because it transcends even the important work of saving old growth forests. The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods is by Julia.
The Amazon description says:
“On December 18, 1999, Julia Butterfly Hill’s feet touched the ground for the first time in over two years, as she descended from ‘Luna,’ a thousand year-old redwood in Humboldt County, California. Hill had climbed 180 feet up into the tree high on a mountain on December 10, 1997, for what she thought would be a two- to three-week-long ‘tree-sit.’ The action was intended to stop Pacific Lumber, a division of the Maxxam Corporation, from the environmentally destructive process of clear-cutting the ancient redwood and the trees around it. The area immediately next to Luna had already been stripped and, because, as many believed, nothing was left to hold the soil to the mountain, a huge part of the hill had slid into the town of Stafford, wiping out many homes.
Over the course of what turned into an historic civil action, Hill endured El Nino storms, helicopter harassment, a ten-day siege by company security guards, and the tremendous sorrow brought about by an old-growth forest’s destruction. This story — written while she lived on a tiny platform eighteen stories off the ground — is one that only she can tell.
Twenty-five-year-old Julia Butterfly Hill never planned to become what some have called her — the Rosa Parks of the environmental movement. She never expected to be honored as one of Good Housekeeping’s ‘Most Admired Women of 1998′ and George magazine’s ’20 Most Interesting Women in Politics,’ to be featured in People magazine’s ’25 Most Intriguing People of the Year’ issue, or to receive hundreds of letters weekly from young people around the world.
Indeed, when she first climbed into Luna, she had no way of knowing the harrowing weather conditions and the attacks on her and her cause. She had no idea of the loneliness she would face or that her feet wouldn’t touch ground for more than two years. She couldn’t predict the pain of being an eyewitness to the attempted destruction of one of the last ancient redwood forests in the world, nor could she anticipate the immeasurable strength she would gain or the life lessons she would learn from Luna. Although her brave vigil and indomitable spirit have made her a heroine in the eyes of many, Julia’s story is a simple, heartening tale of love, conviction, and the profound courage she has summoned to fight for our earth’s legacy”.
The public-shaming genius made international headlines and inspired a generation of eco-crusaders.
“Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill poses in her tree-top shelter nearly 200 feet above the ground in December 1998, one year into her standoff with the Pacific Lumber Company in Humboldt County, California. (Yann Gamblin/Paris Match via Getty Images)
On December 10, 1997, the barefoot environmental activist Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill climbed up a 600-year-old, 200-foot-tall redwood tree in a remote corner of Northern California, and stayed there for 738 days. A native of Arkansas, Hill had teamed up with Earth First!, a group of by-any-means-necessary, redneck-hippie eco-warriors best known for its legally dubious ‘monkey-wrenching’ protest tactics.
Hill, however, brought a Zen-like mysticism to the movement, and her motivation for occupying the tree, dubbed ‘Luna’ (‘anyone that would climb this high is a lunatic,’ she later explained), was as much about spirituality as it was politics. ‘There’s no way to be in the presence of these ancient beings and not be affected,’ the exhausted 24-year-old told a group of reporters after descending the tree in December, 1999. ‘There’s something more than profit, and that’s life.’
People had been tree sitting before Julia Butterfly came along. But Hill ushered in a new sense of urgency and determination, the likes of which were completely irresistible to the press. Between riding out torrential El Niño storms and freezing winds from her precarious 8-by-8-foot plywood perch, she conducted radio interviews via solar-powered cell phone, and hosted reporters and photographers willing to make the two-hour climb to her rustic penthouse. On Earth Day in 1999, Joan Baez and Bonnie Raitt even dropped by. Baez called the visit ‘one of the most remarkable experiences of my life.’
Her protest worked: Luna was spared the chainsaw (though nearby redwoods continue to be cut). When Hill finally came down, wobbly kneed and ecstatic, she said ‘it was so cold and wet this morning, I had to laugh, because I was so thankful that I don’t have to sit through another winter.’”
In Julia in the Storm, Julia explained in 2010 how she conquered her fears in the tree.
Importance of Disagreeing Agreeably
Julia is not just an activist. She is also a profound philosopher and a healer who is important to listen to now as the country faces such sharp divisions over a variety of issues that many foresee a Civil War. In this video, Julia calls for unity even with those who see us as an “enemy”. For example, even as loggers initially labeled her derisively, she refused to label them. She says it’s important to disagree agreeably.
Julia Butterfly Hill is known for climbing a 1,000 year-old redwood tree in 1997 when she was 23 years old, and remaining there without touching the ground for two years, as part of a successful effort to call worldwide attention to the destruction of California’s ancient redwoods. Since then, she has addressed the U.N., lobbied Congress, and continued to stand on the front lines of environmental and social justice issues all over the world. She is the author of The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods and One Makes the Difference: Inspiring Actions That Change Our World.
The 6 R’s Julia advocates are “Respect, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink, and Rejoice!”
Healing The Disease of Disconnect
“Julia Butterfly Hill ascended Luna—a giant 1,500-year-old redwood tree near Stafford, California—in December 1997. She lived in Luna for 738 days, until finally descending in December 1999 when an agreement was made with Pacific Lumber Company that protected Luna and a 200-foot buffer zone surrounding the tree.
Julia Butterfly Hill was interviewed on June 23, 2021 by Trees Foundation’s Director of Development and Outreach, Kerry Reynolds. The transcription has been edited for length. You can watch the full 27 minute interview at https://youtu.be/WPnwqKtjLgs….
“While I was in Luna, I learned that every issue we’re facing is the symptom, and the disease is the disease of disconnect. When we’re disconnected from the Earth and we’re disconnecting from each other, we make choices and don’t realize how it’s truly impacting all of us, and that means all the beings, everything, and the future generations. I wanted to try and help weave that together for people, that if…we’re working on the symptoms, if we don’t work also at the disease, we’ll never be able to get to the healing that our world and our planet needs…. If the disease is the disease of disconnect, then the healing is all the ways that we can, and do, connect.”
About the Author
Neenah Payne writes for Activist Post and Natural Blaze