July 8th, 2011 FULHAM PALACE, LONDON
England-based forest activists held a vegan picnic at the site of an ancient Holm Oak in London’s picturesque Fulham Palace gardens, whose settlements go back to Neolithic times, in order to welcome internationally renowned forest defender Julia Butterfly Hill, on the London leg of her European tour, and discuss with her the necessity of globalizing the forest protection movement. Ms. Butterfly’s gracefully handled battle with the clear-cutting Maxxam Corporation a decade ago is the stuff of post-modern legend and is widely credited with forcing front pages of newspapers around the globe into giving column inches to her warning: namely, that unbridled free-market capitalism drives unsustainable exploitation of non-renewables; meanwhile casually destroying irreplaceable natural legacies that were millennia-in-the-making.
This media coup was accomplished by the impossibility of ignoring Julia’s headline-grabbing, and world record-shattering, tree-sit in the California redwood forests; a life-changing experience which forms the core of the best-selling book she later wrote, The Legacy of Luna (published on recycled paper) so called due to her pet-name for the Giant Sequoia that was her home between 1997 and 1999. Her unprecedented act of civil disobedience combined with her resistance to being overly identified with any one particular political group or mission has resulted in Julia’s name and word continuing to be relevant to a myriad of today’s urgent campaigns, with her public support invariably lending a certain undeniable gravitas that affirms the integrity of the cause.
Julia’s main work these days is lending her support to other worthy issues that stand to gain a boost from her involvement as well as training fellow “change agents” in various methods and techniques, from the practical to the spiritual, that will enhance their effectiveness. As part of her European tour this year, she was able to visit Italy, Germany and England where she heard about the situation in Khimki Forest, just outside Moscow. Julia was only too happy to add her voice to those protesting the corrupt resource-exploitation activities taking place there. Indeed, it is all too easy to draw the parallels between Charles Hurwitz’s ruthless exploitation of ancient forests in California and the motives of the mysterious oligarchs behind the Northwest Concession Company, widely believed to be a financial front that won its bid under dubious conditions that meant it had no competitors.
Meeting with Julia in London were: international lawyer Polly Higgins, founder of Trees Have Rights Too whose bid to have the crime of “Ecocide” become the 5th internationally recognized law (the other 4 having to do exclusively with human rights) will be heard before the UN at next year’s June 2012, eco-summit; Tamsin Omond, founder of direct action collective Climate Rush, who had a key role in this year’s successful campaign to Save England’s Forests from a crass sell-off attempt by Tory elements within the UK coalition government; Misty Oldland critically-acclaimed singer/songwriter of the award-winning ecology-themed funk album “Forest Soul” and author of the forthcoming children’s eco-adventure novel “The Golden Seed”; Alice Howarth-Booth, co-creative co-director of Climate Rush; and picnic hostess Diana Rosalind Trimble who campaigns on behalf of the International Simultaneous Policy which seeks to unite citizens worldwide in devising global solutions to global problems.
Specifically under discussion was the urgent matter of globalizing the forest protection movement by devising enforceable legal instruments deriving from UN-endorsed documents such as the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, proposed by Polly Higgins. After all, this is supposed to be the International Year of the Forest. If Ecocide, which Julia and others have been discussing in the USA for years, were to be made an international crime then it would not be left to individuals of conscience to consider risking their lives in order to assert the planetary rights of ecosystems, as is currently the worrying case at Khimki.
Polly and Julia displayed their solidarity with Khimki by being photographed at the old Oak holding a sign that displayed the slogan of the Russian campaign ХВАТИТ ПИЛИТЬ! which roughly translates to “Stop Sawing!”. However, in Russian there is an implicit double-entendre in that the word “sawing” can also be used as a slang term for taking bribes.
An approximate pun in English was eventually decided upon as “QUIT TAKING CUTS!” with the further clarifications of “SAVE KHIMKI FOREST STOP CORPORATE CORRUPTION” added below, followed by the URL for the Khimki Defenders website.
As a deal that nakedly serves a few private interests while being both unnecessary and enormously destructive, the illogical routing of the proposed road project means that Vinci Corporation has approved a cynical diversion directly through a grove of ancient and rare Oaks, purely to enrich a group of oligarchs running a shell corporation. This makes a mockery of Vinci’s self-hyped endorsement of the UN Global Compact, the toothless document which nevertheless does specifically state that corruption and needless environmental destruction are not to be tolerated. It also raises questions about the difference between the stated aims and actual practices of Vinci in light of the prominent website space given to its Corporate Responsibility department and Sustainable Development division.
Attempts to reach the head of Corporate Responsibility at Vinci UK, so that he may have a chance to make a statement to Julia, Polly, Tamsin, the other UK activists and the defenders of Khimki, explaining how the stated principles of his department were consistent with building a road through Russia’s ancient Oak grove, were unsuccessful; repeated calls to the switchboard resulted in dozens of unanswered rings, transfers to lines that went nowhere and terse refusals by the receptionist to either name anyone working in the relevant department, forward emails to said department, and/or take a telephone message for anyone.
(*It has since emerged that the Head of CR at Vinci UK is a man named Robert McDiarmiad.)
In protest at the threat to these healthy ancient Oaks, which since time immemorial have been a symbol of solid oaths and marked the site of ancient parliaments, the 6-strong group unfurled a hand-quilted banner reading “Trees Have Rights Too”. The sign included gingham scraps from the dresses of original Suffragettes, given to Polly by their descendants. In honour of those brave and mis-behaving women, precursors to all modern advocates of peaceful civil disobedience and the specific inspiration behind Climate Rush, the quilted banner was hung from the trunk of the old Holm Oak at the historic location in South West London.
Interestingly, the most famous former resident of this traditional home to the Bishops of London was the vehement abolitionist Bishop Porteus, who bravely obeyed his conscience by publicly campaigning against slavery at a time, the late 17th Century, when the establishment condoned it
Against the aural backdrop of the chiming church bells, the 6 women present officially signed a scroll dedicated to the principle that Trees Have Rights Too, in hopes that Ecocide will soon be recognized in International Law, so that activists no longer have to risk their lives to stand up for our old friends, the trees. A declaration on hand-made parchment was signed in purple ink with a quill pen made from a turkey feather, then stamped with 6 golden wax seals, in the shape of a star. Some poems and affirmations were shared and the scroll was then tied with a blue ribbon and hung high in the branches of the ancient oak, in the manner that petitions and talismans have been entrusted to these silent giants since before the time of the Druids.
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Diana Rosalind Trimble