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(en) US, alt. media, Treetop Blogging Protests Logging

From Dan Clore <clore@columbia-center.org>
Date Sat, 14 Dec 2002 09:03:49 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

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! [http://www.earthfirst.org ] 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, 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 [http://sf.indymedia.org
] 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
[http://www.contrast.org/treesit/ ] 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 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 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." 

Dan Clore

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