Accepted Paper:

Flood Futures: hopeful plans and policy paralysis   


Maggie Mort (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

Research with children affected by floods uncovered fragmentation in UK policy. For survivors flood futures are visceral, relived when it rains heavily. They identified measures to address flood risk to find these falling into complex and contested jurisdictions and policy neglect of flood futures.

Paper long abstract:

During the UK storms of December 2015, more than 16,000 homes were flooded, with many residents displaced for up to 12 months. Some householders in the city of Carlisle, Cumbria were flooded out for the third time since 2005, yet the mantra of politicians was: 'unprecedented'. But as severe flooding becomes frequent, it must also become identified with what it means to live in the UK. Research with young people affected by the winter floods of 2013/4 uncovers the fragmentation of UK flood policy. As flood survivors, children have identified measures to address future flood risk, only to find that these measures fall into complex and contested policy jurisdictions. For the young people, flood futures are visceral, residing in the landscape, the mud, the drains and under their houses and are relived when it rains heavily. For them, being flooded is not a matter of bad luck or unprecedented rainfall, but of bad management; not a matter of calculation, but materialisation of poor care and revelation of injustice. Emergency response attracts more public attention than preparation, while spending on prevention is politically unattractive. Flood risk calculations act to make floods abstract and to order and organise them. They also act to undermine practices of mitigation and adaptation which the children have called for in pursuit of a more affirmative future. This paper will consider exhortations for flood plans at the household and community level in relation to wider policy neglect of flood futures and failure to acknowledge uncertainty.

Panel T028
Futures in the making and re-making