Treetop Blogging Protests Logging

By Amit Asaravala, Wired, 02:00 AM Dec. 12, 2002

EUREKA, California-Unlike most people her age, 27-year-old “Remedy” hasn’t checked her e-mail in over eight months. That’s because she’s been living in a 200-foot-tall redwood since March 21, when she climbed the tree to protest timber harvesting by Pacific Lumber Company.

Now, thanks to an anonymous group of tech activists, Remedy’s Spartan lifestyle-she perches 130 feet up on a 4-by-8-foot platform with just


few blankets, cooking utensils and personal items-is about to change.

For the past four weeks, the group of self-described geeks has been work ing on a plan to provide tree-sitters in the Headwaters Forest region of Nort hern California with access to an 802.11b wireless network.

“It’s awesome,” said Remedy, who, like the other activists trespassing on Pacific Lumber property, declined to give her full name. “I miss being on the Internet. But, of course, e-mail is just a fringe benefit. I want to use the Internet to spread the word about what’s going on out here.”

Headwaters has been the scene of numerous clashes between Earth First environmentalists and Pacific Lumber ever since the company was acquired by Maxxam Corporation in a 1986 hostile takeover. Over the past year, more t han 15 protestors at a time have occupied various trees on Pacific Lumber property, preventing loggers from completing their work.

While some tree-sitters, like the now-famous Julia Butterfly Hill , have attracted the attention of major media outlets, the tech activists hope t heir wireless network will encourage sitters to post independent weblogs.

“This is partially to make a personal stand in protection of the earth,” said “Rabble,” one of the project’s organizers who also declined to give his f ull name. “And it’s partially about having the story personalized in a way th e media can spin a story around.”

The group of five young activists, from the San Francisco Bay Area’s Independent Media Center and regional wireless user groups, has already provided Remedy with a Linux-based laptop and a panel antenna. A car batt ery recharger powers the equipment, which will connect to an 802.11b access p oint 5.5 miles away in Eureka.

The activists have also set up a weblog for Remedy. Her first two message s were posted to the site with the help of supporters on the ground who car ried disks from the tree to a computer in the city. She looks forward to being online soon so she can publish on her own.

“It’s going to be overwhelming to be online again,” said Remedy. “People tell me my inbox is full. I’m not even sure if I remember all my account information anymore.”

Setting up the network hasn’t been easy. Because the Headwaters tree-sits take place on private property, many supporters are wary of being pressed with felony conspiracy charges or named in strategic lawsuits.

Mary Bullwinkle, a Pacific Lumber representative, acknowledged that the company had filed such a suit in 2001. “These protestors are on private property,” she said. “We believe they are breaking the law.”

The activists also face a problem in Eureka: A tree behind the house wher e they have mounted their 802.11b access point threatens to block the neces sary line of sight to Remedy’s antenna if it shifts in the wind or grows more leaves.

“We should just cut the tree down,” joked one member before getting serio us about the tree’s water content and how much of the signal it might block.

The group may decide it needs to move the access point to a different loc ation on the property, or find another house.

“We’ll go door-to-door if we have to,” said Rabble. “Getting the tree-sit s online will not only be cool, it will be a way to use recycled technology and free software to empower people fighting to save the planet.”

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