Extinction Rebellion: Meet The Pregnant Marine Biologist Getting Arrested To Save Our Planet

"We are just ordinary people saying ‘this is enough’ and knowing we must do more," says Hanna Nuuttila, 41

Hanna Nuuttila protesting with Extinction Rebellion

by Zoe Beaty |
Updated on

Hanna Nuutila, 41, lives in Swansea with her partner and three-year-old daughter Elen Eira. She says: “It was a crazy moment, really. Sparks were flying around my face as police cut through metal chains that bound my partner in crime and me (no pun intended) as we sat on Oxford Street. It was getting late on Saturday evening, but we’d been there since 4am the previous morning. As the police picked me up to put me in their police van, they asked how I’d like to be carried – my huge bump, protruding from my belly, didn’t allow for much comfort in the back of their van.

“I am Hanna, a 41-year-old marine biologist. I’m a mother to a three-year-old, a partner, a three-year-old daughter, Elen Eira, and a hard worker. I’m seven months pregnant. I live in Wales. I’ve never protested before, but on Saturday I became the last person to be arrested on Oxford Circus after blocking the road with my body for Extinction Rebellion. This week, I became a rebel.

“Extinction Rebellion has been quite an enlightening movement for me. I’ve been supporting environmental causes all my life and I’ve been doing all the things everyone else has done as such: I’ve used my vote, I’ve written to my MP, I’ve tried to support various environmental organisations with regards to various conservational or climate change issues. But I’ve always felt we just… weren’t getting anywhere.

“So when this report came out – this undisputable, scientific report from the International Panel for Climate Change which has recently, as we all now know, stated that we have less than 11 years to act and actually stop irreversible climate change – I knew I had to help. Climate change has serious consequences for everyone – in the UK we’re already experiencing extreme weather patterns, floods and droughts and wildfires – but especially those in various countries where people are less prepared than here.

“It’s not a case of having 12 years to start working on this – we have 12 years to stop it.

“And it’s a terrifying thought. It’s so hard and such an awful fact to process that most of us – and I do this myself – we have to just ignore it and to get on with our lives. I’m a scientist so of course I can’t ignore it completely: I know the facts, I know it’s all true and I can no longer ignore it. I want our political systems to acknowledge this.

“Of course, I’m a mother, too. And it pains me to think of our future generations. We need to be able to offer them something better. Our generations have created the world that we’re now living in. We need a vast – huge – system change. When Extinction Rebellion came about I thought that this might be the way. The movement has at least caught people’s attention.

“I first went to join the protest on the first and second days. I live in Wales, but I travelled with my three-year-old daughter and my mother to lend support. We joined the rebels, as they called themselves, and went to the children’s tent. I didn’t want to put myself in an arrestable position just because I’m pregnant. Not only that, but I’m an EU citizen from Finland. I’ve lived here for 21 years – all of my adult life – but I was worried about my safety. My daughter and partner are British. I didn’t want to risk anything.

“But then, once I got to the protest, and I felt the atmosphere and saw the momentum for change and how urgent it really is, I knew that this was more important than my individual safety.

“I came back last Friday by myself, while my family stayed at home to enjoy the Easter break together. I went straight to Oxford Circus where the rebels were holding the infamous pink boat in the middle of Oxford Circus and there were lots of people sitting or lying on the ground, mid several rings of police around them. We super-glued our hands on to the ground so that the police couldn’t move us and held the site until the next day, when we locked on to each other using metal poles and chains.

“It was exhausting – and scorching hot. I was worried about heat exhaustion at times. But I had enormous support from the public, passers-by. Me and my partner in chains. We just sat there together. We were given so much food and drink and someone bought us hats from H&M which was very kind. They were asking if we were ok and thanking us for our efforts.

“Some people were negative to us of course. They shouted at us to 'get a job' and that we were a nuisance. But I would say around 70% of people who were very supportive and came and hugged us and provided us with sustenance.

“By the time the police removed us – I was last because they were reluctant to arrest a pregnant woman – it was late on Saturday evening. The police treated us really well, even when they were cutting us out of our chains (we wore protective glasses to save us from the sparks). It was never scary though. Actually, the whole thing was very emotional at times.

“Hours later we arrived at the station where I was checked over by a station nurse. I wasn’t charged or even cautioned – just one of hundreds of people logged as ‘under investigation’. They couldn’t charge me and I don’t know if they ever will.

“I don’t regret a thing. I’m glad I am involved in this. It’s so incredibly important we all are. And the point is that most of us are very ordinary working people.

“I’ve never taken part in any civil disobedience, only marches in the past which never seemed to achieve anything. This week we have reached the political system and shown that we have enough people willing to make real change and demanding it from those we elected.

“Some people have compared the movement to the Suffragettes or the Civil Rights movement of the 60s and in some ways it is the same: it is just ordinary people saying ‘this is enough’ and knowing they must do more, now, than just write angry letters.

“This is urgent. It cannot wait. Now, we just have to keep going.”

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