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June/July 2005
Butterfly Back from the Bus Tour


Julia and the crew in front of the Planet Bus.
Photo by Alissa Hauser.

Julia Butterfly Hill spent this spring touring the country in the Circle of Life eco-friendly “We the Planet Tour” bus that ran on recycled vegetable oil, used solar panels for on-board energy use, and incorporated water and waste conservation measures. After getting back from this road trip, Julia Butterfly Hill shared with Satya readers her thoughts on solution-based activism.

Your “We The Planet Tour” was launched as a result of your asking, “Why is everything that is good for our bodies, communities, world, and planet called the ‘alternative’?” What are a few ways we can change this perception?
We need to remind ourselves and others that what is good for us should not be the “alternative.” In other words, we need to become more vocal about our conscious choices and why we choose them. We also need to think about creative, fun, beautiful ways to express these choices. We need to remember to communicate with others based on how they actually listen versus how we want or try to demand that they listen. Most people listen through their eyes first, through the lens of marketing and branding. For us to be successful, we actually have to become more conscious of how we “package” and “market” our message. Sometimes this feels distasteful to people, but if this is the way people listen and we want them to listen, then it is incumbent upon us to learn to “speak their language.”

As activists we often get overwhelmed with problems and their causes and impacts. Your tour is about modeling solutions. What advice do you have for activists toward creating solution-based strategies?
We have gotten so good at defining what we are against that what we are against is beginning to define us. It is easy to point out problems, but it takes creativity, commitment, and vision to design and implement solutions. Solution strategies invite so many more people to want to get involved than fear and problem based activism does. Fears and problems make people good consumers. We want to be a part of liberating people from a fear-based economy. Solution strategies lie in looking at the best that your community has to offer, learning from and cultivating from the best the world has to offer, and bringing them together to create synergy. And the best strategies I have found always include creativity, reuse of resources, and working across seeming barriers and divides (we butterflies like to pollinate you know) to bring it all together.

What are some ways animal activists can better reach out to environmentalists?
I feel it is incumbent upon all of us to look for what we need to learn from each other and our many facets of what I believe is one movement—a movement to create a world that works for all. I emphasize “learn” because so often we only want to go tell other people what we want them to know and be thinking about and working on, yet we rarely take the time to see what their beliefs, knowledge, and needs are. I have found that the best way to reach out to others is to begin by asking to learn, and then offer ways that my beliefs and work might support them and their work. This is what helps build effective collaboration. I am asking to learn and offer to support long before I begin to ask them to consider my views. And more often than not, people start wanting to know more about my beliefs, views and work because of the way I live my life. This approach models a whole new way of being for most people that I think we need and, at the base of it all, I feel it is what many of us long for.

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