Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
4 November 2016updated 01 Sep 2022 8:40am

Five ways the Environment Committee’s flooding report is inspired by The Lord of the Rings

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has released its recommendations to overhaul flood management. Here’s what they remind us of.

By India Bourke

When the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee released its recent recommendations for an overhaul of flood management, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton. Sorry, Parliament.

After consulting with a range of witnesses, the report recommends a more holisitic and natural approach to “whole catchment” river management – from tree planting, to the installation of leaky dams. In doing so, it suggests that MPs have finally grasped something JRR Tolkien told us long ago: that good things come to those who look after the land.

How far the government will take these insights on board remains to be seen. But in the meantime, here’s five cheering ways that their recommendations echo the message of Middle Earth:

The fellowship of the floods: a new governance model

The committee’s quest for solutions led it all the way to the Netherlands, where local engagement with water management goes back to the thirteenth century.

Here they found inspiration for new national and regional models of government, such as an English River and Coastal Authority. The hope is that such an organisation will help “streamline roles and pool capacity” (their puns not mine). 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

The march of the Ents: increased tree planting

In The Lord of the Rings, the Ents are walking, talking treelike giants who help the people of Middle Earth defeat Sauron – and fewer verbal versions could soon be coming to the aid of a river near you.

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

Natural flood management trials, such as Pickering’s “Slowing the Flow”, are already reaping the benefits of new woodlands. While research funded by the Environment Agency has shown that strategic planting can reduce the height of flooding in towns by up to 20 per cent.

Tree-growing is no quick fix but in the words of Treebeard: “It takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.” 

All that glitters is not gold: new incentives for farmers

In Middle Earth, floods are only bad news for troublemakers. For the Fellowship, they are assets that destroy Sauron’s tower and prevent the ringwraiths from reaching an injured Frodo.

The committee appears to take this more postitive interpretation on board, with a suggestion that farmers be offered “appropriate” incentives to store water on their land. 

The report also calls on the government to “make developers who fail to comply with planning requirements liable for the costs of flooding”.

Lighting of the beacons: improved warning systems

There is recognition, however, that catchement-wide flood management will still not cover all bases all of the time, especially in the case of “very extreme events”. So a number of recommendations also aim to help communities prepare for and cope with the effects of flooding.

One such measure is improved forecasting. This would entail greater use of realtime data in flood warning systems, such as that already being developed in Somerset.

The Return of the King: or Flood Commissioner

As with all good stories, the report completes its tale with a call for the annoinment of a new leader, in this case a National Floods Commissioner for England. His mandate? “One catchment to rule them all, and in the flooding bind them”.

Topics in this article: