Treetop Blogging Protests Logging
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TREETOP BLOGGING PROTESTS LOGGING
By Amit Asaravala
December 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 a
few blankets, cooking utensils and personal items -- is about to change.
For the past four weeks, the group of self-described geeks has been working
on a plan to provide tree-sitters in the Headwaters Forest region of
Northern 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 than
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
(http://www.circleoflifefoundation.org/), have attracted the attention of
major media outlets, the tech activists hope their 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
full name. "And it's partially about having the story personalized in a way
the 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 battery
recharger powers the equipment, which will connect to an 802.11b access
point 5.5 miles away in Eureka.
The activists have also set up a weblog for Remedy. Her first two messages
were posted to the site with the help of supporters on the ground who
carried 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
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 where
they have mounted their 802.11b access point threatens to block the
necessary 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 serious
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
location on the property, or find another house.
"We'll go door-to-door if we have to," said Rabble. "Getting the tree-sits
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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