The Centre for Water Cultures Seminar Series - Seminar No 1
Discourse and the use of evidence in the governance of flooding and coastal erosion in the UK
Dealing effectively with floods and coastal erosion is a key strategic priority for the UK governments, the Environment Agency is currently revising its National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England; the Welsh Government is revising its National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency is due to update its Local Flood Risk Management Plans and Flood Risk Management Strategies in 2022. Diverse communities across the UK are affected by extreme flood events, as others face the effects of coastal erosion on homes and livelihoods in what are often already economically deprived coastal communities. Issues of risk and uncertainty, diversity of population, geography and local cultures present governments, their agencies, and those who hold them to account in national parliaments with a hugely complex policy issue. Academic work in cultural political economy (Sum and Jessop, 2013, for example) suggests that simplification of complex policy issues is an inevitable and necessary part of governance practices, but that reality will always ‘bite back’.
This paper presents an analysis of the sources and use of ‘evidence’ in current Flood and Coastal Erosion Strategy documents using methods of intertextual analysis. It maps-out sources, range and uses of evidence and shows that, in many ways, this range and usage are limited. The paper raises questions about the extent to which the culture of policy making on flooding in the UK makes best use of evidence.
Dr Michael Farrelly is a Senior Lecturer in English language with research expertise in critical discourse analysis. He has published on methods of CDA, intertextuality, discourse and democracy and critical policy discourse analysis. He is currently working on discourses and the climate crisis.