With the launch of a major report by the Global Commission on Adaptation on 10 September 2019, we follow the story of an environmental hero from the Seychelles and their quest to adapt by harnessing the power of trees. #AdaptOurWorld
For many people, retirement is a chance to take a break. Not so for Victorin Laboudallon, a grandfather from the Seychelles who spends his days planting forests to fight climate change.
Wherever there’s a forest fire in the Seychelles, you can be sure you’ll find Laboudallon ready to fight back, armed with seeds and shovels.
“Protecting nature makes me very happy in life,” says Laboudallon. “We need to protect it as much as we can, so other generations can enjoy it like I did when I was a kid.”
Laboudallon, 65, has built a network of volunteers, from children to retirees, whom he calls upon to help him with replanting.
“If tomorrow we have another fire, we are ready to go back and plant.”
Laboudallon is widely known across the Seychelles for his decades of environmental action and his big personality. While planting trees in the wet dirt, barefoot and laughing, he says his surname means “friend of the mud” in his local Creole language.
“I’m not somebody who lives under the big concrete. I live under the beautiful trees,” he says, pointing above at the iconic coco-de-mer palm.
The Seychelles is a nation of 115 islands—known for glistening beaches and stunning biodiversity—off the east coast of Africa. Here climate change is not a distant prospect, but a daily reality.
Sea levels are rising and many of the islands are low-lying. As the waters creep higher, the shoreline crumbles away and floods devastate people’s land.
“We’ve got the sea rising,” says Laboudallon. “You can see places where there used to be houses. Now there are none. There is something on this planet going wrong.”
It’s unknown how the Seychelles will adapt. More than 16 per cent of the nation’s land is below 5 metres above sea level, yet a study in the journal Nature suggests Antarctic ice alone could increase sea levels by 15 metres by 2500. The waters of this tourist paradise are crystal-clear, but the future is anything but.
Nature enthusiasts like Laboudallon have taken matters into their own hands. While giving a tour of his tree nursery, he explains how different types of trees offer different services when adapting to climate change. For the Seychellois, mangroves are fundamental.
“If the mangroves are gone, the nation of Seychelles will be gone,” says Laboudallon. “Our protection for human life is the mangroves.”
Mangroves defend against the impacts of rising seas and coastal erosion by drastically reducing the height and force of the waves before they hit the shoreline. In fact, if all of today’s mangroves were lost, the global damage from flooding would be an extra US$82 billion per year.