1. My guess is that you’ve been an activist since birth. What I mean by that is you seem like the type of person who makes up her mind and takes action, regardless of the arena. I remember reading that you had a serious accident that influenced your path, but I’m sure there were other factors too. Thinking back to the time leading up to December of 1997 (or before) please tell me about your decision to act on behalf of the environment?
I was raised with an appreciation and respect for the natural world. Whenever I was afraid or sad, nature is where I would go to find healing and safety. I was not really aware of how much we are destroying the natural world until I was in my teens. I saw an ad for Greenpeace in a magazine and tore it out and hung it on my wall. I helped launch an environmental club in High School called SAFE (Student Activists For Earth.) We started a recycling program on campus, a tree planting program, and walked and rode bikes in our homecoming parade to educate students about reducing our ecological footprint. I also became a vegetarian when I was 14 because I realized eating animals was cruel. Other than that, the only thing I did before the treesit was recycle and try to get others to recycle. That was about the extent of my awareness at the time.
2. The primary tension of praxis, to act or not to act, has several sub-considerations. Please tell me about your personal experience with them?
Pragmatic Considerations— (Time, money, etc.)
When I felt called to help the Redwoods, I also, felt called to sell everything I owned and say goodbye to friends and family. I had no idea what was coming, I was just following a deep, guiding intuition. The reality is that in much of industrialized societies, we are completely addicted to comfort. We are a society of addicts. When confronted with this addiction, we react just like addicts with denial, accusations of others, and often times clinging even more to our addictive behaviors. Time, money, etc… are human-made constructs. They are not real. They are completely made up. We allow myths that we have created to run our lives, and as a result, we often keep ourselves from truly living and experiencing the greatest realms of being a human animal on this wild, amazing, sacred planet.
Assessment of Agency— (Did you think your efforts would be effective? If so, why?)
“Effective” is another human-made construct. It is completely made up in our minds. As a result, what one person thinks is effective, another person thinks is a waste of time. I take the actions I take and live the life I live not based on supposed outcomes, but rather based on asking myself, “How do I best live my life in alignment with the world I want to live in?” I cannot control others. I can only hold myself accountable, and from that place, be a stand for the world I want to live in. I recognize that I and all of us our ancestors of the future. Because no choice happens in a vacuum, every single thought, word, and action changes the world. It is literally impossible to not make a difference. So the question we must ask ourselves is not, “Can I make a difference?” But rather, we must ask ourselves, “What kind of a difference do I want to make?” And this is not a difference based on external circumstances. It is a difference based on how I am showing up every single moment of every day. I am either living in integrity with the world I want to live in, or I am not. I am either living a life committed to peace or I am living violence. I am living a life committed to love or I am living in fear. There are no perfect choices. There is only asking myself every moment of every day, what is the best choice I can make in this moment that is most in alignment with my commitments, beliefs, values, and soul’s song?
Fear as Inhibitor—(Although you seem fearless to me, were there moments leading up to your tree-sit when you had to overcome certain fear(s)? What were they?)
I face fear constantly. Courage does not happen where there is no fear. The root word for courage is
coeur, from the French, which means “heart.” Courage can only happen when we face our fears, overwhelm, grief, anger, and apathy and then choose to take action from our heart anyway. The reality is more of us stop ourselves out of our fear of even being afraid. Instead of running from my fears, I embrace them. I see them as an opportunity for exploration and growth. Every time I transform my fear into love and service, I grow and become even more powerful and joyful than I could ever imagine within the limitations of my mind.
2. The second tension, now or later, involves the decision to take action now, to wait and think through strategies, or to simply wait for a better time to act. What factors influenced your decision to take action now or to wait for a more opportune time?
When we look outside of ourselves for answers, we will often get confused or swayed. Everything external is merely a mirror for what is inside all of us. All we need to know is within our deepest selves. If we are committed to doing the deep work, what is external will merely help illuminate the truth that is within us waiting to be discovered. This does not mean that we do not seek guidance and support from people and the natural world, but rather that we seek that only to help us uncover our own innate truth and wisdom. We also, need to take into consideration how our actions and inactions will affect the world around us. We are not isolated islands. We are a part of an intricate and sacred whole. When I am doing the deep internal work, I just know when it is time to take action and when it is time to rest and wait. This does not mean that I do not make mistakes because I do. I know that if we are not making mistakes, we are not living nearly as big as we are capable of. But when I make a mistake, I look to that mistake for the wisdom it has to offer me, so that even the mistake becomes my teacher.
4. The third tension, means and ends, is meant to illuminate the possibility of 1) activist volunteers who want to help but are then “used” by movement leaders, and 2) resources that are used/exploited for the cause. I once wrote a paper on this topic called “Volunteering Makes You a Tool.” It’s a bit of a play on words, but the idea is that a tool is ABSOLUTLY necessary in one sense, but can easily be objectified and exploited in another sense. Please tell me about how you’ve dealt with this tension.
I learned early on that the media was a tool that wanted to use me as much as I wanted to use it. The lesson was to learn how to be strategic so that I did my best with the media to get the message out that I wanted. It is an often frustrating process, but it does no good to pretend that these tensions don’t exist in our work and in our world. For myself, I can only hope that at the end of my life, whenever that time comes, that I have been used up completely in service to life. The value in my life lies only in how well I allowed myself to be a tool used for service. We can’t take anything with us when we go. Our legacy lies in what kind of a world do we leave behind? How did our lives contribute to leaving the world better than now we received it? Everything else is just ego. And as we don’t get to take that with us either when we go, why waste time on the myth of ego when there is so much more beautiful and profound things to give our energy to. May I be so Blessed as to be completely used up at the end of my life in service to the miraculous gift called life.
5. The fourth tension, tensions between worldviews, serves a cradle for all of the other tensions. When worldviews don’t match up, conflict will exist. Elsewhere, I’ve attempted oland?
to identify a major worldview difference between how you’ve approached trees/forests and how, for instance, MAXXAM approached trees (No big shock there, right?). Do you identify yourself with one of the five perspectives listed above? Or do you have a different way to explain your worldview? If so, how would you explain it?
My worldview is that we are all connected. All that ever has been, all that is, and all that ever will be is all connected. Separation is an illusion, and a very painful one at that. The only place “other” exists is in our minds. We are living with the Disease of Disconnect – what I call Separation Syndrome. When you rip a plant’s roots out from its connection to life, it begins to die. So, too, as we have ripped out our roots of connected consciousness, we and our beautiful world are beginning to die.
The tension lies in being committed to remaining connected – especially when it is difficult. There are huge forces of destruction and violence at work in our world. This calls for us to grow and step up in ways we never could have imagined. To remain connected in the heat of violence, fear, apathy, and cynicism is to be the healing in the midst of the disease.
6. When worldviews differ, what can be done to settle the conflict?
The greatest change happens when we are more committed to being connected than to being right.
It is impossible to find common ground when there must be a right and a wrong, a winner and a loser. We do not always get what we so deeply long for. When we can find the place to balance within the tension of standing completely in what we are committed to, without falling into the trap of judgment, therein lies the only possibility for true conflict resolution. To make someone wrong and bad is to create a conflict. It is not possible to both create and solve a conflict at the same time.
There is no perfect guidebook for this, although there are many tools like Compassionate Comunication (also known as Non-Violent Communication,) Landmark Education, the work of Eckhart Tolle, His Holiness the Dali Lama, the life and actual teachings of Jesus (not to be confused with the teachings of his followers,) Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, Ram Dass, Gandhi, and many other great teachers from many different spiritual traditions.
7. Can you think of any other tensions of praxis that environmental activists must deal with?
We are all dealing with the Disease of Disconnect. We need to look at how we run ourselves and our health into the ground while trying to work for a healthier world. We need to look at how we fall into the disposability mentality of paper napkins, paper towels, plastic to-go containers, plastic bags, paper cups with plastic lids, the list goes on of how we trash our world. We need to look at how we treat one another and those with opposing world views. We need to get that it is not possible to have a free and beautiful planet, if the animals and people are oppressed and vice versa. We nred to take hard looks at issues like race, class, and gender and how these points of tension are pivitol in transforming the dialog of what constitutes “environment.”
8. Is there anything else you think we should understand about your praxis (thought-action relationship) with environmental activism?
My activism is my spiritual life practice.
9. With regard to your environmental activism, how did your thinking affect your actions and how have your actions affected your thinking?
It is a symbiotic relationship.
10. What advice would you give to would-be movement volunteers concerning activism?/
Believe in your Dreams and your Power to charge the world. Play BIG. Play full out. Don’t let fear Stop you. Trust your intuition. Be as BIG as you can be and at the same time remain humble. We are made up of the same material as stars and the sane material as dirt. Be willing to give your life over to something greater than yourself, and see just how great your life can become! Choose to live life as an exploration. Choose to be a truth seeker, instead of a truth know it all. Make a commitment to remain more committed to being connected than to being right. Laugh a lot – especially at yourself. Stop and smell the flowers. Enjoy the absolute magic of this gift called life – the miracle of every breath. Become a joyous vegan – our forks are weapons of mass destruction or tools of mass compassion depending on the choices we make. Remember to CELEBRATE! Even if it is celebrating the miracle that you chose to wake up another day and have the courage to keep caring in a time that it would be a lot less painful to choose not to care. Look for the miracles in the Small things like a blade of grass pushing through the concrete. Celebrate it! Cry when you need to. And don’t apologize for it, Never apologize for having the courage to care. Build community in everything you do and look for ways to always extend the concepts of what community looks like. Dance, Sing, make art, be creative. And look for ways to enjoy this profound miracle called life as we know it. You are the ancestor of the future. Start living that way.