28.4.15: Sarah Whatmore

Living with flooding: science, democracy and the redistribution of environmental expertise

2014 heralded the latest in a series of severe flood events in the UK, this time concentrated in southern England. Media coverage of these events and subsequent public debate has focussed on the growing frequency of extreme weather events, cuts in government flood defence budgets and the cost-benefit calculations that govern where limited public monies are spent on flood defences. However, little attention has been given to an equally important dimension: how to involve communities living with flood risk in better understanding local flood dynamics and designing more resilient and cost-effective flood management interventions? Drawing on pioneering research by a team combining natural and social scientists working in collaboration with flood affected communities in various parts of the UK, the lecture will explore the challenges and contributions of public engagement as a neglected but critical component of improving policies and practices of flood resilience.

Sarah Whatmore is Professor of Environment and Public Policy at University of Oxford