‘We must act now’: Greek alpinist and climate ambassador Vanessa Archontidou

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By Ilias Karagiannis.

She has made the unthinkable seem ordinary. Vanessa Archontidou is not your typical Greek. She is one of the very few women in the world who have managed to conquer the seven highest peaks on every continent on the planet.

Climber, marketing executive, mother of two and now Ambassador of the European Climate Pact. As Ambassador, Vanessa visited Australia a few weeks ago, wanting to raise awareness of the need for immediate action to tackle climate change.

The bushfires in Australia and Greece, the devastating floods in NSW and across the country are the result of man’s devastating intervention in nature and it is not certain that we now have much time to reverse the situation.

“That’s why I went to Australia. Through the organisation ‘A woman can be,’ which I have founded with four other ladies, our goal is to highlight the challenges associated with climate change,” Vanessa tells The Greek Herald.

“We try to achieve this through missions made up of women. I also took my kids to Australia. In these missions we try, with the photos and videos we bring back, to highlight the issues of climate change in a more adventurous way.

Vanessa took her kids to Australia with her.

“To be able, through the audiovisual material displayed in workshops and events, to discuss in another way the issue of climate change.

“In Australia, we visited the Great Barrier Reef and the oldest rainforest, Daintree, which is essentially a big lung of nature.”

Vanessa arrived with her two children in Sydney and then in a small van, visited Queensland, Cairns, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation, Sydney and Mount Kosciusko in NSW, to fight climate change.

“Australia was a conscious decision. I wanted to make this trip to show the effects that exist from climate change,” she says.

“I was surprised, however, by its natural beauty, the wealth that exists in this country, even within the big cities. Let me give an example.

Vanessa was impressed by Australia’s natural beauty.

“Getting off the plane in Sydney, I expected that I would see a huge city which would be like the big European ones. But it was so green, as I saw it from above, that it made you think that it is a natural paradise.

“When I visited Australia. I was impressed by the way people respect nature. Their behaviour should be an example.”

Signs of climate change and optimism:

This long trip to Australia filled her with images. Images, in which the effect of climate change was visible.

“On the Great Barrier Reef I saw corals that had been altered. The oceans are warming and corals are turning white, which means they are dying. It’s one of Australia’s largest problems,” Vanessa explains.

“On the track of fires, we went through the areas affected in 2019. But nature regenerates and you see green. But what one cannot perceive when one goes for the first time is the lost beauty that was there before the fires.”

Still, Vanessa is not pessimistic about dealing with the effects of climate change.

“Over the last few years I have seen several steps forward which make me optimistic that we can reverse the trend of climate change or finally balance the situation,” she says.

The Greek Australian community and Antarctica:

Of course, during this journey in Australia, Vanessa met a lot of members of the Greek Australian community.

“By chance, in many places on our journey we began to hear Greek. They were expatriates and this timbre made us happy. We also met some Greek expatriates during our trip,” Vanessa explains.

“They had gone on holiday from Melbourne to Queensland. We had a conversation and they told us about how they migrated from Greece to Australia in search of better living conditions.

“This gave me the chance to talk to my children about living conditions in the past in Greece and the need for people to emigrate for a better life.”

The mother of two assures us that she could stay anywhere in Australia.

Vanessa has been impressed by Australia and its animals.

“People live like people. There are gardens in every house and they are very different from living at Zografou, where I live. The whole way they lived is much better than in Greece,” Vanessa says.

But what will she find difficult to forget about this trip?

“The animals we had only seen on television, such as koalas and kangaroos. In fact, one day a kangaroo passed in front of our van,” she says.

“I was also very impressed with Cape Tribulation, which was a piece of pure nature… Also at the Great Barrier Reef a huge, colourful fish that was the size of a pig and really posed with people.”

At the beginning of 2022 and before her trip to Australia, Vanessa also made a trip that few have managed, to Antarctica.

“I stayed for almost a month and there I saw a white planet, like Mars but in white,” she says.

Vanessa has climbed Denali as well.

“What we wanted to do in Antarctica, with the climb to the highest peak in Vincennes, but also crossing the South Poles with skis, was to convey a very important message – that we must act now on the climate.

“We saw signs of climate change. More blizzards than in the past, snowfalls.”

Vanessa also climbed the highest peak in Australia, Kosciusko, with her two children. In other words, she has conquered the seven highest peaks in the world. How did she feel up there?

Vanessa climbed Mt Kosciusko with her children.

“Every time I get to the top I don’t feel anything special because I’m still halfway there. I have to be careful on the descent because that’s where most accidents happen,” she concludes.

“Going down I cry a lot and I get a deep emotion because when you go down you understand that you made it.”

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