Major force (HLD 383)

11 April 2021

I listened to a discussion recently about force majeure, specifically in relation to how the coronavirus pandemic has affected business contracts and so forth in the past year.

I had heard of the term, but hadn’t really given it much thought.

Under international law, it refers to an irresistible force or unforeseen event beyond the control of a state making it materially impossible to fulfill an international obligation, and is related to the concept of a state of emergency.

But you don’t come here for legal opinions and exact definitions. That has never, nor will ever, have anything to do with my literary diarrhoea.

I’m warping the genuine meaning of that term into a discussion about forces of nature.

This is, of course, very topical to us in Western Australia at the moment, as we have one cyclone crossing the coast possibly as I type, and remnants of another two cyclonic systems still affecting our weather.

Cyclones are a common feature of life in the north west of our state, but rarely do they venture as south as this one is doing.

We have lived in the north west, and the houses up there are designed and built to give the best possible protection against that type of extreme weather.

So they do represent a major force, but it’s an expected and planned for force. This does not mean they do not cause horrible damage and risk to lives, but preparation and planning is a key feature.

When a cyclone ventures into the south of the state, then things get a little trickier. Houses are not built with cyclones in mind, for a start. We don’t have the same level of preparedness and awareness of cyclones that the folk in the north west have. You don’t take seriously something that hardly ever happens.

On the news tonight they also talked about a volcano eruption on the island of Saint Vincent in the Caribbean. While residents would definitely be aware of the existence of a volcano, would there be a level of preparedness in place? The last eruption was apparently in 1979…but it killed 1000 people, so you would think that awareness of the volcano should still be current.

Cyclones, hurricanes, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, blizzards and bushfires are unavoidable.

The real force of nature is our preparedness and ability to follow instructions.

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