Port of Call
The Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors on Exchange in Lacanau, France, Oct 6, 2017
Surfers taking to the water on the beach at Lacanau.
The young men and women of Peace Boat's Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors Programme visited Lacanau, France on 28 September to meet with the local people to discuss the struggles they are facing on the west coast of France due to coastal erosion and climate change. Lacanau is a town located near Bordeaux on the Aquitaine coast in the Gironde Department, and is a popular surfing destination. Currently, erosion along the beach is causing the coastline to retreat by 1-2 meters a year and threatens homes and businesses located near the water.

The Youth Ambassadors arriving at port in Bordeaux.
The seven Youth Ambassadors are from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean: Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, and Belize. They represent various educational and professional backgrounds, and while traveling speak about and discuss the effects and consequences of climate change on their homelands and the world. Their visit to Lacanau is part of their efforts on the 95th Global Voyage to engage with local, regional, and national governments, civil society, and scientific communities as they travel on the ship throughout Europe and North America.

Martin Renard discussing the state of the erosion in Lacanau.
Jerome Augereau, a photographer from Lacanau, joined the ship from Portugal to France and while aboard taught the ambassadors about the situation along the coast. While the ship docked in Bordeaux, he accompanied the Youth Ambassadors to Lacanau, where they met with Martin Renard, Director of Urban Planning for the Lacanau City Council, and Gerard Depeyris, a member of the Cooperation Committee of Lacanau. Mr Renard and Mr Depeyris discussed the different options the town is considering to combat the erosion problem, including the expensive process of relocating the town a considerable distance from the current location of the shore.

The ambassadors together with Mr Renard, Mr Depeyris and Mr Augereau.
Mr Renard and the other hosts also explained how the problem is made much worse by periodic storms exacerbated by climate change, most notably a series of eight storms which hit the region over three months in the winter of 2013-14. The storms caused more than ten meters of beach and dune erosion in Lacanau. Many places along the coast similarly lost 10-20 meters of land, with the most extreme case, Soulac-sur-Mer, losing 40 meters. These areas worst affected have already started to deal with the reality of climate refugees, as tenants had to be evacuated from an apartment building near the beach. The Youth Ambassadors explained how similar problems of erosion and rising sea levels threaten the very existence of their countries, and the challenge of legally maintaining territory as areas of land fall below sea level.

Mr Augereau standing at what would be the new edge of the town after relocation.
The photographer, Mr Augereau, documented the state of the erosion by photographing the beach at Lacanau as the storms occurred and continues to do so once a month. He gave the Youth Ambassadors a tour of the beach and explained how its appearance has changed and how and where he photographs in order to document the ongoing erosion accurately. Finally, he explained a bit about the people and businesses of Lacanau and showed where the new edge of the town would be if a relocation of the town occurred.