What's Your Tree Background

What’s Your Tree is a program inspired by the story and message of Julia Butterfly Hill.

Julia Butterfly Hill gained international notoriety when she climbed 200 feet up into an ancient redwood tree named Luna that was slated to be cut down by Pacific Lumber/Maxaam Corporation. She refused to come down until Luna was permanently protected. Withstanding death threats and gale force El Nino winds, Julia lived on a tiny platform in Luna's branches for 738 days. Julia and her team had successfully negotiated to save Luna and a 3 acre buffer zone around the tree into perpetuity.

Julia's brave and inspiring action brought international attention to the plight of our dwindling ancient redwoods. For many years after she returned to the ground, Julia toured the world speaking abour her experience in the media and to audiences large and small and about the many lessons she learned.

One of the primary lessons Julia speaks about is the disease of "celebretitis," when we look to celebrities or other public figures as all-knowing and all-important. Julia's primary message all along has been to take the spotlight that has shined on her for many years, and turn it back to each one of us. We are all Julia Butterflys, Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, Mother Theresas. We all have the potential and power to become great leaders, to serve with our hearts, and to change the world.

The What's Your Tree program uses this message and folds it into a 7 week curriculum for small groups. It uses the writings and message of Julia Butterfly Hill as a way to find our own inner calling that is more powerful than we know ourselves to be. This is what we call "finding your tree."

What's Your Tree was developed out of a year-long inquiry sparked by a major motion picture based on Julia's story. This film, LUNA, is scheduled to start shooting in 2008. The possibility of a major media event like a film had us ask "What is it that takes someone from inspiration into action over the long haul?" When someone is inspired by a film, what would keep them involved and active in the world? The answer to that question became the foundation for the Engage Network, a new nonprofit organization that Julia's team birthed. (See below for details about the Engage Network.)

What's Your Tree was developed for people who are inspired by Julia’s story. It provides a way for people to “find their own tree” and build small groups and social networks in their community at the same time. When the LUNA film is released widely, we are using What's Your Tree as a way to allow inspired movie viewers to take steps towards long term engagement in their communities and in the world.

The Engage Network

The universe is but one great city, full of beloved ones, divine and human by nature, endeared to each other. Epictetus (c. 50 - 120)

What’s Your Tree is a program that was founded by of Julia Butterfly Hill’s nonprofit organization, Circle of Life.

What’s Your Tree is also powered by The Engage Network, a new nonprofit organization that is a collaboration of Circle of Life and several other social and environmental change organizations and networks.

The Engage Network is working to create a world where people are part of strong and vibrant communities, have a personal sense of purpose, and are having fun while making a difference. It operates through small purpose-driven groups of people taking action together in their communities.

The Engage Network also plans to link these small groups and support groups in creating more groups. This is much like the way a starfish works in nature. If a starfish loses its arm, it often grows a new one. In some breeds of starfish, the lost leg even grows a whole new starfish! It is a de-centralized system where everyone shares power.

We want you to know that people in the What's Your Tree Program are a part of this larger network of people who have a dream of a better world based in environmental and social justice, peace and sustainability.

For those of you who want to read more of our core thinking behind the Engage Network, check out these books:
  • The Starfish and the Spider, Ori Brafman (on the Engage Network leadership team) and Rod Beckstrom. www.starfishandspider.com

  • Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken. www.blessedunrest.com
  • Coming Back to Life, Joanna Macy
  • The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren


Philosophy of the Engage Network

What's Your Tree is part of a nonprofit organization called The Engage Network.

The core organizing principles behind the Engage Network are:

Purpose is deeply knowing who you are and sharing your story. Each person has a
chance to share their story and to find their inner purpose.

We want everyone to have a sense of inner and outer balance. To do this, our programs
help people to find a practice that will help them to achieve more peace and more love.

We are better together, particularly in small groups who met in person.

When we find joy with each other, life seems to work better.

We take on projects that make a difference in the world. We do this is a sustainable

Using the old civil rights organizing philosophy: “Each one reach one, each one teach one, each one pull one into the sun,” we encourage each small group to find a way to reach out and start other groups. Part of the way we do this is to offer more advanced trainings in leadership and network building. To grow circles, we need your ideas!

The What's Your Tree Curriculum

Our curriculum was developed to be used in small "living room" groups of 4-12 people. It is a series of stories, exercises and concepts that are spread out over 7 weeks. Group leaders do not have any special training- they are people who are inspired by Julia's story, enthusiastic and committed to group participants getting their own purpose and power.

Right now, the curriculum is still being beta tested and revised. Our goal is to have small groups meeting all over the U.S. and all over the world. These groups will be interconnected to one another, working together on projects and initiatives that benefit our planet.

Fall 2007 Program Sites

Durham, North Carolina
Leader: Jodi Lassater

Austin, Texas
Leader: Wini Hunton Chan

Denton, Texas
Regional Leader: Chris Oller
Group Leaders: Alicia Cotilla, Chris Oller
Steering Committee Members: Annie Downey, Kendra Keefer McGee

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Leader: Melanie Orpen

Eureka, California
Leader: Therese Keslin

Denton Texas What's Your Tree Program

We are very proud of the location where we chose to begin testing What's Your Tree. The inspiring participants and leaders in Denton Texas want to share their thoughts about the program. See the comments on this posting to learn more about the people behind the Denton Texas What's Your Tree program!

The photo is a picture of the growing seeds of intention that our Denton Group planted during a seed planting ceremony in the 2nd week of the program.

Launching New Program Sites

In Spring, 2008 we hope to launch at least 2 new program sites. A program site, or region, will typically start with one group that grows into many groups in a region over time. Our goal is to have a network of small groups in each region, which are connected to similar networks all over the world. These small groups will be supporting one another in taking action that forwards environmental sustainability, social justice, peace and spiritual fulfillment.

Each new program site costs about $50,000 to seed and nurture over the first year. We have a commitment that each of the circles be financially self-supporting after the second year. Our development costs includes creating earned income strategies for local communities so that the program can continue into perpetuity.

To launch a new site, we need to raise the proper funding to ensure the groups have what they need to be successful. If you are interested in fundraising to bring What's Your Tree to your area, or interested in making a gift to support What's Your Tree, please let us know by emailing info@whatsyourtree.org.