Born 1951, mother of two daughters, grandmother of 3 children, Licentiate of Technology, married.
When you work towards a change, you have to gain credibility in the eyes of those who hold the power. But how can you maintain your original spirit, and prevent yourself from becoming just one of them?
The first big political test of my youth came in 1969 when I was 18 and became the local leader of “Day’s work” solidarity campaign of high school students. We collected money for the Mosambique Institute, a humanitarian organization that organized elementary schools and healthcare for the areas liberated from Portuguese colonial power. Each student worked one day and donated the salary of that day. The local leading newspaper in my hometown, Aamulehti, attacked heavily against our campaign, and against me. In the same autumn, I got elected to the board of Teiniliitto (student union of secondary school). One year later, I became the vice-chair. At that time, Teiniliitto was one of the biggest youth organizations in Finland.
The first half of the 1970s, I was active in the left wing student movement, which was quite strong in many countries. Between 1971 and 1972, I studied economics at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Helsinki University and was elected to the council of the student union. Then I decided to move to the Helsinki University of Technology to study electrical engineering. There I quickly joined a “one man, one vote” movement campaigning for administration reform of the universities. I participated in organizing a lecture boycott in November 1972 and in February 1973. I also got elected to the council of the Student Union of University of Technology. At the same time, I became a board member of the Socialist Student League. The big energy crisis of 1973 convinced me to choose electrical power engineering and energy technology as my major.
I married in 1974 and in 1975 we moved to Tampere, where my husband had gotten a job. I graduated in 1979 and gave birth to two daughters in 1976 and 1979. I tried “honest work” in an industrial company, Oy Tampella Ab Tamrock, where I became its first woman engineer. It was not a nice place for a young woman engineer. After 2 years, in 1981, I fled to Tampere University of Technology to work as a teaching assistant. There I started to learn more about alternative energy solutions and environmental problems linked to power production.
During that time, I also became active in the feminist movement and the Women for Peace movement. In August 1983, I participated in the Nordic women’s peace walk in the USA. We were 100 women from all Nordic countries and we walked from New York City to Washington D.C. in order to protest against the deployment of new nuclear missiles in Europe, so called euro missiles.
I started to express my frustration to the world of engineering via poems. In 1984, the biggest publishing house of Finland published my collection of poems. The same autumn I was elected to the Tampere City Council from the first ever Green list. One year later, I left my job in Tampere University of Technology and became a freelance writer.
In the city council of Tampere, my biggest battle was on the so-called Tampella agreement in 1989. Tampella was one of the oldest industrial companies of the city, and owned a big factory area on the riverside, in the heart of the city. The company wanted to cash this area via a city plan, which would have tripled the building right of the area. In the city council, Greens and others opposing the agreement faced a crushing defeat, but the public supported us and later we won the case in court. Nowadays, the old Tampella factory area is a rather nice place. In the 1990s the scenery of Tampella was pictured in the 20 marks note, which was the last new Finnish “markka” note before Finland joined the Euro currency.
In 1989, I was also elected as a vice chair of the Green Party. In 1990, we wrote the first program for the Finnish Green Party with Pekka Sauri and Pauli Välimäki.
In March 1991, I was elected to the Parliament of Finland, and became the chair of the Green Parliamentary Group for the years 1991-1993 and again in 1997. In the Parliament in the 1990s, I worked mainly on economic and energy policy, foreign policy and gender issues. In 1997, I was elected as the Party leader of the Greens. My term as the Party leader ended in 2001, because of the rotation rules of the Party.
Between 1999 and 2002, I was the Minister for Environment and Development Co-operation in the Finnish Government, the second cabinet of PM Paavo Lipponen. During that time the final negotiations on the more detailed rules for the Kyoto Protocol were finalized, which enabled the ratification of the Protocol by most countries. The most important exception was the USA during the George W. Bush administration.
In April 2002, the Finnish Parliament approved a decision in principle for a new nuclear reactor. This was an enormous disappointment for the Greens. The Green Party decided to leave the government coalition.
Greens stayed in the opposition during the next, PM Jäätteenmäki’s government, although the party was one of the winners in the 2003 elections. Before the European Parliament elections, I was again the chair of the Green Parliamentary Group.
I was elected to the European Parliament in 2004 and re-elected in 2009. In the 2014 European Parliament election I did not run. During my 10 years in the European Parliament, I was a member and the coordinator of the Greens in the Environment Committee (ENVI) of the Parliament, and a substitute member in the Industry and Energy Committee (ITRE). I worked mainly on climate, energy, chemicals, air quality and environmental health issues.
In April 2015, I was re-elected to the Finnish Parliament and became the chairperson of the Environment Committee.
I have been writing and speaking quite a bit about feminist, or generally alternative, perspective on power.
When I joined the Greens, I defined the main idea of Greens as following: We defend values that cannot be measured in monetary terms, but which can be destroyed in the pursuit for profit. Woman engineers and Greens, who work within the old power structures, often face a similar problem: When you work towards a change, you have to gain credibility in the eyes of those who hold the power. But how can you maintain your own original spirit, and prevent yourself from becoming just one of them? It is not easy.
I consider my personal strengths to be versatility, persistence and courage.
In 2009, I published a novel called My Hair on a Hat Shelf, which is based on my diaries between August 2000 and May 2002. It tells about my life as the Minister for Environment after being diagnosed with breast cancer. In the 1980s, I published a collection of poems, a novel, and two non-fiction novels. I have also together with three other people, written new kind of physics textbooks for high school level.