“The Languo of Flows”: Ecosystem Services, Cultural Value, and the Nuclear Legacy in the Irish Sea
“Flow” is a key concept in our era of liquid modernity, across a broad range of ecological, economic, and cultural discourses. In this essay, we examine the material flows integral to naturecultures through the specific case study of Seascale on the Cumbria coast in the UK. Through an analysis of cultural representations, we show the construction of Seascale as a seaside resort in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the rapid and irrevocable sinking of its cultural value since the commissioning of the nuclear power and reprocessing plant at Sellafield in 1947. By following the “flows” of pleasure, emotion, energy, and waste through Seascale, we explore the legacies of nuclear contamination for coastal communities, within a broader regime of the commodification of nature. This essay emerges from a transdisciplinary research project to investigate the cultural influences and impacts of ecosystem change in coastal environments around the Irish Sea. A collaboration between environmental humanities and ecological sciences, the project sought a materialist intervention in the conceptualization and practice of ecosystem assessment so as to capture and map a more inclusive and multidirectional sense of the flows that are integral to ecosystems, and to move beyond the limitations of dominant models of environmental stewardship. In contrast to the ways in which flow metaphors have been employed in contemporary economic and environmental discourse, the project attempts to analyze the material flows integral to naturecultures through particular places, perspectives, and agencies.