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June 14, 2011

7 Questions For ... Greenpeace Activist Hannah McHardy

GP02E3F Sterling College graduate Hannah McHardy is back home after her high-stakes hijacking of a deep-water oil rig off the coast of Greenland — and she's got a story to tell.

McHardy, 25, and another Greenpeace activist spent four days inside an "Arctic survival pod" underneath the oil rig earlier this month, protesting the planned drilling by Scottish company Cairn Energy. Using a spotty Internet signal from a nearby support vessel, she tweeted, blogged and v-logged the action live and gave media interviews using a satellite phone.

The stand-off ended on June 2 when the Danish navy arrested McHardy  and her cohort (pictured) for trespassing inside an "exclusion zone" around the rig.

Now back in the U.S.A., Seven Days caught up with McHardy by phone from her home in New York, where she's recuperating from an Arctic cold.

SEVEN DAYS: Last we knew you were in Vermont researching bioremediation at an old asbestos mine in Lowell. How in the world did you end up in an Arctic survival pod on an oil rig near Greenland?

GP02E4A HANNAH MCHARDY: I had previously sailed on a Greenpeace ship when I was 18 as a volunteer deck hand, so I was already plugged into the organization. An old friend from Greenpeace got in touch and said they needed someone with some technical climbing skills for their Arctic campaign.

I've been following the action as Greenpeace has been confronting oil rigs that are doing really risky exploratory drilling off the coast of Greenland. To me, it's insanity that, as we see this dramatic retreat of Arctic sea ice, oil companies like Cairn Energy are using it as an opportunity to rush in and extract more of the fossil fuels that are causing climate change in the first place. They're literally trying to fight fire with gasoline. When I got that phone call, it was a no brainer.

SD: Tell me about your journey to the Arctic. What was that like?

HM: I boarded the ship in England and we had been sailing through really intense Arctic storms in the North Atlantic for about a month when we found the rig. While I was in the Arctic, I really experienced firsthand the extreme weather, icebergs and highly remote location that poses unprecedented challenges to any oil-spill response that would happen. When we found the rig, we launched a few of the inflatable boats we kept on the ship and just went right up to the rig and climbed up on the ladder. We were able to set some anchors on the underbelly of the rig just a few meters from where the drill bit was and hoisted the Arctic survival pod onto the rig.

SD: And nobody tried to stop you?

HM: Well, the [Danish] navy was there and they were definitely protecting the interest of the oil rig. But they weren't able to stop us. At the time we put the pod up, we weren't actually doing anything illegal because the rig was still in transit to the drill site and the exclusion zone around the drill site could only be implemented once they had hit their drill site. So, legally, the navy couldn't do anything to stop us.

GP02E30 SD: How big was the pod and what were you doing all day when you were in it?

HM: The best comparison would be the size of a two-person dome tent. It was pretty well insulated, so, as long as we kept the hatches closed, we would start to warm up a little bit from our body heat. But mostly it was sort of like living in a styrofoam cooler. It was snowing on and off the whole time we were up there.

SD: How were you blogging and making videos? Where was your Internet connection coming from?

HM: The Esperanza, the Greenpeace ship, stayed pretty nearby, like, just outside the 500-meter exclusion zone that was established. So we had a small laptop and a directional antenna that we had to frustratingly point towards the ships as they moved back and forth, and we would lose our connection. So a lot of time was spent just trying to keep that Internet connection so we could send out tweets to the public about what we were doing and why we were there. We had a satellite phone as well that we used to call the Cairn Energy headquarters and tell them why we were hanging from their oil rig and asking if they could publish their oil-spill response plan.

GP02E8X SD: Tell me about the apprehension. You were there four days and then the Danish navy moved in and seized the pod?

HM: The Danish navy launched two [ships] that came right under the pod and then two of the navy [men] repelled right down on top of the pod. And they dropped in really quickly, made a really loud noise on the roof of the pod that startled us so the first thing I said to them was, "Whoa, you guys are quick!" It was all really cordial. We were all making jokes and laughing.

They stuck their heads into the pod and said, "You guys have a nice little place there." And then they told us we were under arrest for being inside a drilling exclusion zone. They hoisted us up onto the rig. We didn't resist arrest or want any drama. They put us on the helicopter back to Greenland and gave us a window seat — which was nice.

It was all a bit surreal, flying over the mountains of Greenland in the Arctic midnight sun. They took us first to the police station in Nuuk, Greenland, then transferred us to the prison. We went in front of a court a couple days later and were charged with trespassing and fined 20,000 Danish kroner, which is the equivalent of about $3800. And they got us on the first available flight out of Greenland. I'm not allowed back in Greenland for a year.

SD: What struck you the most about being in that part of the world?

GP02E85 HM: There was an amazing moment when I was in the pod hanging. In between all these ships out there were a couple of pilot whales that came up, and breaching in the water and spouting from the water below. And Luke [McHardy's fellow Greenpeace activist] and I stood with our heads hanging out of the pod and looking around and the intensity of that moment was pretty apparent. We were having this ultimate Arctic showdown over who's going to be able to claim this area.

Bonus Questions!

SD: What did you hope to accomplish? And did you accomplish it?

HM: A spill in the Arctic would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to contain and clean up.  So, during the four days that we hung from the [oil rig], no drilling occurred and that was four days that an Arctic oil spill was prevented. With the media we got during that, we were able to shine an international spotlight on companies like Cairn Energy, whose failure to get off dirty energy quick enough is leading them to gamble with this pristine Arctic ecosystem. So, after the Danish navy removed us, it was just a few days later that 18 more Greenpeace activists climbed right back onto the rig and demanded to see Cairn's oil-spill response plan.

SD: How do you answer critics who say your action was an illegal stunt, and you should have fought this battle through legal and regulatory channels?

HM: Throughout history, activists have been criticized and harassed for civil disobedience. But people seem to forget how crucial a role it's played in the progress of our country, especially. From the Boston Tea Party to the eight-hour work day to the civil-rights movement, all of these have involved dedicated people who are willing to break the law.

Especially when it comes to climate change, waiting until the politicians and the corporations connect the dots of widespread drought, wildfires, extreme weather, flooding and shrinking of the polar ice caps, it will be too late to do anything about it. So, for me, the magnitude of this moment is very clear.

All Photos © Steve Morgan/Greenpeace and © Greenpeace


"With the media we got during that, we were able to shine an international spotlight on companies like Cairn Energy"

Who is Cairn Energy?

Next time try doing it naked, then you may get "Actual" media coverage. Most of the world didn't know this stunt even occurred.

The ocean has killed WAY more people than the oil industry. If Ms. McHardy had any integrity she'd be researching a way to drain all of the water out of the North Atlantic so we could drive across in safety.

It should also be mentioned that Cairn won their injunction against Greenpeace yesterday.

@JCarter, I don't find the civil rights comparison as amusing as you do. Her argument that arctic drilling is harming people by way of the harm it's doing to the environment is no different than a civil rights advocate arguing that a government's policies are harming people. In both cases, civil disobedience has played a role in raising awareness of a perceived crime against humanity.

She sees a wrong and is trying to raise awareness of it with her "little publicity stunt" and I commend her for having the courage to do so in an unfriendly setting. To quote a previous Jimmy comment, "Try holding a 'rally' somewhere that you're not preaching to the choir ... somewhere that there are actually heads that you might be able to turn, but you might get your ass kicked (or worse) in the process. THAT isn't easy."

As for the claim that most of the world doesn't know about what she did and that she lacked "actual" media coverage, I disagree:


sure there was some coverage, but when you scan Fox Business are you going to stop and read an article about an oil drilling protest by GreenPeace? Ho Hum.

Anywho, your civil rights argument fails and your anaology is disparaging to all who actively fought for civil rights. Oil companies "harming" (debatable) the ocean isn't a civil rights. No where is a right being taken away.

Civil Rights? People don't seem to even know what this even means anymore, it's a catchphrase. I can't believe she didn't bring in the Nazi's somehow? It's all Hitler's fall for mass producing automobiles that led to oil consumption and necessitiated drilling in the ocean.


I know what civil rights means. It means the rights you and I naturally have as humans that can't legally be taken away from us. It's not a catchphrase to most people and it's certainly not just something in the past as your "fought for" tense seems to imply. And contrary to the dumbed-down history books, it also doesn't always have to do with race or ethnicity and it's also not just an American thing.

If oil drilling is harming the planet and thereby threatening the long-term safety of the people on the planet (again, debatable, depending on which side of the debate you reside), then it is arguably threatening to infringe on my right to live safely. I have a right to live safely, you ask? Yes, according to Article 25 of the International Bill of Human Rights, which states that one of our natural (read: civil) rights is that of a "standard of living" which allows for health and well-being. And so, again, I commend anyone who sheds light on a potential threat to that right.

PS. We're better than distracting Hitler comments, sarcastic or not.

"If oil drilling is harming the planet and thereby threatening the long-term safety of the people on the planet (again, debatable, depending on which side of the debate you reside), then it is arguably threatening to infringe on my right to live safely."

You live in the ocean??

So what your saying is that someone living next to a wind tower has a civil right to tear that mofo down, since it (arguably) has health effects and that threatens to infringe on their right to live safely.

Oh and BB, while international treaties and agreements are all nice photo ops for the media and public masses, let's be frank. They don't mean squat. It would take a international governing body that had some balls and the inclination to attempt to enforce the issues. Otherwise put them in the museum and let people look at them.

Ultimately, the only Bill of Rights that matters is the one attached to the US Constitution.

I think that Bill of Rights was torn up by the last president and continues to be shredded by the current president. Carter must be one of those dumb guys who doesn't know that we live on a finite earth.

Oh I am well aware Peggy that matter can neither be made nor destroyed. And that fossil fuels, being made of fossils, are also constantly being generated as things constantly die and are decomposed. Now you could argue we use it faster then it's made and that would be accurate, and I would agree with that. We need to develop realistic alternatives to energy. We have plenty of time left to do so, but it's time to get serious finding a real source of energy and stop dicking around with ethanol, wind, etc.

bravo, Hannah, well done and thank you. Don't listen to the gumpy ol' negative bah-humbug JCarters of the world - there's still plenty need for people to go out and directly confront those that engage in acts of insanity like drilling for oil in the pristine and fragile arctic and plenty need for something to inspire the rest of us to get off our butts and do what we can as well. Thank you mucho.

??? If being realistic makes me a "gumpy ol' negative bah-humbug " then so be it. But let me put this out there, let's look at the Lowell Wind Farm Project as an example. You have plenty of opposition, they hired a lawyer, filed briefs with the public service board, did some fact checking and compiled verifiable facts and logic, and continue to do so. Notice they did not, attempt to physically inhibit the construction of the project, did not roll boulders into the road leading up the mountain, did not sabotage the site in anyway.

I'm just saying. Letting your emotions and heart dictate your viewpoint and course of action is a poor trait in someone that would like to be a scientist. Makes it impossible to be objective.

Let me put this out there, JCARTER: Here we have an interview with a very eloquent, thoughtful young woman who's gone out into the world and acted in a peaceful and ethical manner with the intention of trying to improve this world we all share. And you start off the comments by only saying "Did she just equate this little publicity stunt to the civil rights movement ......BAWHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH", a classic example of troll behavior on the internet. Mean-spirited, snarky, reflexive and contributing no value whatsoever, sadly this remains a common phenomenon. Even if I disagreed with her, I'd rather give Hannah some praise for her values and efforts rather than waste time being negative and unhelpful. Nice people can disagree and have a thoughtful exchange without being snarky. troll behavior should be called out.

(btw, most the scientists I know are both wildly passionate and dedicatedly objective. They dance, they cook, they live life to the fullest AND they are focused and professional in their work.)

Have a blessed day.

"l young woman who's gone out into the world and acted in a peaceful and ethical manner "

BayouDog, since when is trespassing and vandalism "peaceful and ethical"? Just curious?

"I'd rather give Hannah some praise for her values and efforts rather than waste time being negative and unhelpful"

I don't think giving her a pat on the back and saying good job is helpful. I think that indicating her efforts could be focused in a more constructive manner that may accomplish something is much more helpful. Sometimes the truth hurts and reality sucks, but as our government continues to prove, turning a blind eye and just pretending that it doesn't gets you nowhere.

You may not like the message, the tone of the message or the messenger, but ignoring is even more damaging.

JCarter, of course I don't live in the ocean, you silly Internet poster, you! The global warming argument, which I'm sure you know is: that our acts on this planet are negatively affecting the environment and our civilization's way of life in the future. Whether or not I live on the sea or on land and regardless of whether or not I live next to one of the "mofos" doing harm, if global warming is a real thing as is argued, it is negatively affecting our entire planet's way of life. In this sense, the entire world's population is our neighbor and vice versa ... even the folks living in the ocean.

So, JCarter, I don't say Ms. McHardy has the right to tear down anything, just as a wind-tower protestor has no right to tear down anything. But of course said protestor and of course Ms. McHardy have a right to protest. I don't condone violence, I don't condone sabotage, I don't condone vandalism, and I see no harm in her actions. She broke a law and she was punished under that law. She knew what she was getting into and she chose to do so anyway to make her point (which was reported worldwide). I commend her for her bravery. And because I reside on her side of the global warming debate, I applaud her effort to raise awareness.

As for whether or not something outside of the Bill of Rights can matter, I wish Thomas Jefferson was alive to respond to that statement. Try not to forget that the Bill of Rights wasn't added to the Constitution until after Thomas Jefferson pressed James Madison to do so. Thomas Jefferson, the same man who said "A free people claim their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate." As such, I'd argue that the Bill of Rights aren't the only ones that matter.

Also, you argued that Ms. McHardy's actions of trespassing and vandalism were not ethical and peaceful. It should be noted that they were charged with trespassing, not vandalism (stupid facts!). Trespassing is a pretty peaceful crime if you ask me. And, again, depending on which side of the debate you reside, it could also be argued that her actions were entirely ethical.

". . . and acted in a peaceful and ethical manner"

No, this was not peaceful and ethical. It was illegal and destructive.

And it caused global warming itself, because a fossil fuel-burning Greenpeace ship had to take her to the scene; a Danish navy ship steamed to the scene in response; and then she was helicoptered back to Denmark and flown back to the US. Cause the burning of fossil fuel much?

And, Mr. Ministry of Truth Machado, I think Peggy Luhrs' terse, unhelpful comment qualifies as a personal attack on another poster (as usual for her).


I will re-itierate my position since I think it has gotten loss. What she did had no effect, and her time could have been spent more productively. She has a right to protest and waste her time surely, but it really isnt accomplishing much.

Outside of that I think you are really really stretching to make global warming a civil rights issue. Trees are the biggest culprit. The major greenhouse gas is water vapor, 90% of that comes via transpiration from plants. I say we cut down all trees and shrubs then as they are infringing on our civil rights. If in fact living at some determined temperature is in fact a civil right. I would argue it isn't.

You are starting to make yourself sound pretty silly by now. If you don't think Greenpeace action has or is accomplishing much, I would invite you to check our their international web page and see how devoted activists and professionals have and are changing our world in real ways other than just arguing on the internet. In terms of your idea that global warming is just an issue of our human desire to live in a comfortable temperature, it is not. It is that temperature which effects weather patterns, which cause drought, flooding, harsher storms, which then causes food shortages, refugees, and political unrest. Not to mention thinking a bit outside our humanistic centered mind and considering how these changes are effecting animal habitat as well. We are all in this together, and we gotta really start working towards solutions now.

"Not to mention thinking a bit outside our humanistic centered mind and considering that not everything that happens in the world is a result of evil humans."

There, FYP

$50 says that McHardy is on a terrorism watch list at the FBI or Homeland Security.

The fact that you are now making up rumors about someone you don't even know clearly shows the insecurity of your argument, and your unwillingness to actually look at the issue at hand.


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