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Interview with Dr Tess Roser of Expedition Climb8

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Outdoors People for Climate Action has been closely following the inspiring Climb8 expedition - a celebration of the Australian Alps and a call to action for its future, a seriously gutsy and all-female adventure and a newsworthy climate action.

Climb8 - Marita, Angela, Tess - Marita Hills Photography

We were thrilled when Tess, one of Climb8's four expedition team members, who's also a member of Outdoors People for Climate Action, was able to do an interview with us on a well deserved rest day in Adaminaby; telling us more about herself, the expedition and her unique perspective on climate change and climate action, as a doctor and adventurer.

Tess climbing in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Could you tell us a bit about yourself Tess?

My name is Tess Roser, I grew up in the hunter valley NSW, and work as a junior doctor in NSW. I just finished up working in the Central Coast, and am now bouncing around places for the rest of the year. After Climb8 I'll be heading off on a sailing boat hopefully. Will have to see what Covid brings!

Why do you love the outdoors? Which outdoor places and activities do you enjoy most? The outdoors cater to pretty much everyone, and that's one of the big appeals for me. There is something for everyone from every walk of life to enjoy. Whether it's sporting, physical challenge, creating art, sitting and reflecting, nature appreciation, animals or plants, or spending time with friends in the sun - there is literally something to suit everyone.  For me, it depends on my mood.  Sometimes the outdoors is a place I can escape to in the middle of a working week - to go and sit with my eyes closed in the sun, and the sound of birds in my ears. Sometimes it's a place I can go to exercise and push myself physically, and get rewarded with incredible views. Other times it's a place to explore and discover, or a place to be creative with art or photography.

Activity wise I'm a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. I hike, trail run, climb, backcountry ski, snowshoe, camp, cave, canyon, mountain bike, sail - you name it and I'll be out there flailing around with a smile.

Tess mountain biking in Rotorua NZ

What concerns you about the climate crisis? Do you think it will impact your relationship with the outdoors?

The climate crisis is this huge multi-headed Hydra of a beast. It's really hard to sit down and name every aspect of how it concerns me.  Obviously, as a doctor, I have very grave concerns about the (often overlooked) impacts on health. Increase in temperature will increase a lot of tropical diseases, mosquito spread infections, water borne illnesses etc. Flooding will result in a lot of contaminated water. Increase in fires, like we saw last summer, will mean a lot of respiratory diseases too.  And it's not just on the individual, but also communities and entire nation's/culture's health too.  It goes beyond physical health, because there is also an alarming impact on mental health too. That is a whole topic that is very in depth, so I won't go much further into it now.

In terms of the outdoors and nature - again it is a gigantic issue that is hard to summarise all of my concerns.  In general categories, I can probably narrow it down to the following:

Plants and animals: climate change affecting where and how organisms survive, and how many extinctions will occur. Which will irrevocably alter the outdoor experience. Ecosystems: changing diversity, changing environments and the ongoing effects.

Weather: changing weather patterns which change our ability to plan and safely undertake adventures, and where we can go and do these adventures. For example, snow sports with global warming, kayaking/white water rafting with drought, anything physical with increased heat. Fires: obviously a huge one in Australia. I wasn't able to get out and enjoy any nature last summer because of fires. And now all the closed burnt areas are inaccessible.

Human impact: evidence of human impact, although not a climate crisis specific effect, is still a part of the same basket really. Seeing rubbish, human waste, graffiti, and off trail tracks and erosion is visually devastating.

Dr. Roser outside hospital post night shift

Can you tell us a bit about Climb8 and why you’re doing it?

Climb8 is an all women's snowshoeing expedition across the Australian Alps region, approximately 800kms from start to finish. It's primary purpose is to raise awareness and start a conversation about how climate change and the climate crisis is going to negatively impact on our delicate, beautiful and unique alpine region and our winters.  It also has many other aims, but that is it in a nutshell.

I'm doing it for several reasons. Obviously I have a great passion for the outdoors, and climate change. I'm a backcountry skier, and I'm incredibly concerned about the future of Australian winters and the alpine region.  I'm also a huge advocate for getting more women out into the outdoors, and for more women's based expeditions. Being part of a women's expedition, plus climate action, is a double bonus!

Plus, it's a unique opportunity to spend some quality time in the Aussie snow, and I love the challenges we have set for ourselves for the trip. We have an aim of going zero single use plastics for the expedition, which has proved challenging but we have come up with some creative solutions. We are also experimenting and learning along the way about ways to help reduce our impact on the environment.  Nothing is obviously ever perfect, but I'm absolutely a fan of trying and coming up with solutions.

Backcountry skiing - Hunter Area Outdoor Women's trip

How do you aim to have a positive impact on the climate crisis? What kind of actions do you think are important for people to take?

My biggest motto at the moment in life is: don't let perfect be the enemy of good.  It's very easy in our lives to be simultaneously bombarded with the devastating and detrimental effects humans are having on the planet, and be accosted with all the different ways you are failing to help. I find in the times of social media, we are always being shown all the different things we should be doing to help, and it can get overwhelming!

There are so many little ways and lifestyle changes that we can do that have a positive impact - little things like keep cups and metal straws, and remembering your reusable shopping bags, going vegetarian or reducing meat, using cloth sanitary pads or moon cups, using public transport, etc, etc.  And whilst little things do add up and help start conversations about reduction of impact, you shouldn't feel bad if you don't do all of these things at once. Start with one thing and try to incorporate that into your daily life - like a habit, and then go from there.

For me, I live a pretty busy, chaotic life. Between my job and extra studying, family and friends, I don't have a huge amount of leftover time and energy to do things like bulk buy food, go op-shopping for second hand clothing, make my own soaps. I often forget my keep cup and reusable grocery bags.  I know there are probably a lot of people in that same boat, and especially if you have children, or don't have a large disposable income, it can be tough.

The bottom line is, these daily changes are needed and are helpful, but they are not the most efficient or impactful way to help the environment.  We need to remember to put the onus on systems and government. We need cleaner energy, better recycling, cleaner air, better public transport, more money into renewables and more support of scientific research.  The best way to do this is to be vocal, have discussions and conversations, write to your local member, donate to charities or political parties that are serving the environments best interests and, most importantly, vote!

If we, as citizens, can hold our governments and leaders accountable for the future of our planet, hopefully some real changes can be made, and the entire culture can shift. That will also filter down to the individual level, and make it easier for us to choose daily changes like installing solar on our homes, or choosing electric cars that are affordable.

Tess, mid trek in Nepal

Tess recently returned home from Expedition Climb 8 after traversing 400 km through the NSW alpine from Wee Jasper to Victoria. At the border Tess and another team member, Marita, decided to return home due to the dynamic and unfolding COVID-19 situation in the state. The remaining team members followed suit, leaving the mountains just days later, when level 3 restrictions were introduced.

As outdoors people know all too well, any epic expedition is going to have its fair share of curve-balls and surprises and it's up to leaders and the team to make sound decisions to keep themselves and others safe.

We've touched base with Tess since; understandably she said it was a difficult decision to make but she feels privileged for her experience and all that she was able to do with Expedition Climb8 until that point.

Terra Roams, the expedition leader, has pulled together a new team who will be able to resume where the Climb8 left off, she hopes in six weeks, after restrictions in the state ease.

To support expedition Climb8 on their all female climate action alpine traverse consider giving to their gofundme which will help cover the expedition's costs.

To follow Tess's adventures visit her Instagram.

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