From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia For other uses, see Crisis (disambiguation).

A crisis (plural: "crises"; adjectival form: "critical") (from the Greek κρίσις, krisis) is any event that is, or expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community or whole society. Crises are deemed to be negative changes in the security, economic, political, societalor environmental affairs, especially when they occur abruptly, with little or no warning. More loosely, it is a term meaning 'a testing time' or an 'emergency event'.


[hide]*1 Definition of a crisis

[edit]Definition of a crisisEdit

Crisis has several defining characteristics. Seeger, Sellnow and Ulmer[1] that crises have four defining characteristics that are "specific, unexpected, and non-routine events or series of events that [create] high levels of uncertainty and threat or perceived threat to an organization's high priority goals." Thus the first three characteristics are that the event is

1. unexpected (i.e., a surprise)
2. creates uncertainty
3. is seen as a threat to important goals

Venette[2] argues that "crisis is a process of transformation where the old system can no longer be maintained." Therefore the fourth defining quality is the need for change. If change is not needed, the event could more accurately be described as a failure.

Apart from natural crises that are inherently unpredictable (volcanic eruptions, tsunami etc.) most of the crises that we face are created by man. Hence the requirements of their being 'unexpected' depends upon man failing to note the onset of crisis conditions. Some of our inability to recognise crises before they become dangerous is due to denial and other psychological responses [3] that provide succour and protection for our emotions.

A different set of reasons for failing to notice the onset of crises is that we allow ourselves to be 'tricked' into believing that we are doing something for reasons that are false. In other words, we are doing the wrong things for the right reasons. For example, we might believe that we are solving the threats of climate change by engaging in economic trading activity that has no real impact on the climate. Mitroff and Silvers [4] posit two reasons for these mistakes, which they classify as Type 3 (inadvertent) and Type 4 (deliberate) errors.

The effect of our inability to attend to the likely results of our actions can result in crisis.

From this perspective we might usefully learn that failing to understand the real causes of our difficulties is likely to lead to repeated downstream 'blowback' that will eventually be our undoing.

Where states are concerned, Michael Brecher, based on case studies of the International Crisis Behavior (ICB) project, suggested a different way of defining crisis as conditions are perceptions held by the highest level decision-makers of the actor concerned:[5] 1. threat to basic values, with a simultaneous or subsequent
2. high probability of involvement in military hostilities, and the awareness of
3. finite time for response to the external value threat

[edit]Poverty-related crisisEdit

[edit]Unemployment and UnderemploymentEdit

Main articles: Unemployment and Underemployment

Not paying rent may lead to homelessness through foreclosure or eviction. Being unemployed, and the financial difficulties and loss of health insurance benefits that come with it, may cause malnutrition and illness, and are major sources of self-esteem which may lead to depression, which may have a further negative impact on health.

Lacking a job often means lacking social contact with fellow employees, a purpose for many hours of the day, lack of self-esteem, and mental stress.

[edit]Economic crisisEdit

Main articles: Economic crisis and Financial crisis

An economic crisis is a sharp transition to a recession. See for example 1994 economic crisis in Mexico, Argentine economic crisis (1999-2002), South American economic crisis of 2002, Economic crisis of Cameroon.

A financial crisis may be a banking crisis or currency crisis.

[edit]Environmental crisisEdit

Crises pertaining to the environment include:

[edit]Environmental disasterEdit

Main article: Environmental disaster

An environmental disaster is a disaster that is due to human activity and should not be confused with natural disasters (see below). In this case, the impact of humans' alteration of the ecosystemhas led to widespread and/or long-lasting consequences. It can include the deaths of animals (including humans) and plant systems, or severe disruption of human life, possibly requiring migration.

[edit]Natural disasterEdit

Main article: Natural disaster

A natural disaster is the consequence of a natural hazard (e.g. volcanic eruption, earthquake, landslide) which moves from potential in to an active phase, and as a result affects human activities. Human vulnerability, exacerbated by the lack of planning or lack of appropriate emergency management, leads to financial, structural, and human losses. The resulting loss depends on the capacity of the population to support or resist the disaster, their resilience.[6] This understanding is concentrated in the formulation: "disasters occur when hazards meet vulnerability".[7] A natural hazard will hence never result in a natural disaster in areas without vulnerability, e.g. strong earthquakes in uninhabited areas.

For lists of natural disasters, see the list of disasters or the list of deadliest natural disasters.

[edit]Endangered speciesEdit

Main article: Endangered species

An endangered species is a population of an organism which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in number, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters. An endangered species is usually a taxonomic species, but may be another evolutionary significant unit. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has classified 38 percent of the 44,837 species assessed by 2008 as threatened.[8]

[edit]International crisisEdit

Main articles: International crisis and Crisis management

For information about crises in the field of study in international relations, see crisis management and international crisis. In this context, a crisis can be loosely defined as a situation where there is a perception of threat, heightened anxiety, expectation of possible violence and the belief that any actions will have far-reaching consequences (Lebow, 7-10).

[edit]Personal crisisEdit

A personal crisis can occur when events of an extraordinary nature trigger extreme tension and stress within an individual which require major decisions or actions to resolve. A crisis situation can revolve around a dangerous situation such as extreme weather conditions or a medical emergency or long-term illness. A crisis can also be related to a change in events that comprise the day-to-day life of a person and those in their close circle. Such situations may be loss of a job; extreme financial hardship; alcoholism or addiction and other situations that are life altering and require action that is outside the "normal" daily routine.

[edit]See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Seeger, M. W.; Sellnow, T. L.; Ulmer, R. R. (1998). "Communication, organization, and crisis". Communication Yearbook 21: 231–275.
  2. ^ Venette, S. J. (2003). Risk communication in a High Reliability Organization: APHIS PPQ's inclusion of risk in decision making. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Proquest Information and Learning.
  3. ^ Mitroff.I. (2005) Why some companies emerge stronger and better from a crisis, p36
  4. ^ Mitroff & Silvers, (2009) Dirty rotten strategies
  5. ^ Shlaim, Avi, The United States and the Berlin Blockade, 1948-1949: a study in crisis decision-making, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1983, p.5
  6. ^ G. Bankoff, G. Frerks, D. Hilhorst (eds.) (2003). Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People. ISBN 1-85383-964-7.
  7. ^ B. Wisner, P. Blaikie, T. Cannon, and I. Davis (2004). At Risk - Natural hazards, people's vulnerability and disasters. Wiltshire: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25216-4.
  8. ^ Factsheet: The IUCN Red List a key conservation tool (2008)

[edit]Further readingEdit

  1. Borodzicz, E. P. 2005 'Risk, Crisis and Security Management' John Wileys, Chichester. ISBN 0-470-86704-3
  2. Takis Fotopoulos: "The Multidimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy" Special Issue, "The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy", 2005.
  3. Lebow, RN, Between Peace and War: The Nature of International Crisis: 1981. The Rancho Bernardo Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0-8018-2311-0.

Anshuman Bhardwaj 06:41, April 1, 2011 (UTC)

For other uses, see Act of God (disambiguation).

[1][2]This tornado damage to an Illinois home would be considered an "Act of God" for insurance purposes

Act of God is a legal term[1] for events outside of human control, such as sudden floods or other natural disasters, for which no one can be held responsible.


[hide]*1 Contract law

[edit]Contract lawEdit

In the law of contracts, an act of God may be interpreted as an implied defence under the rule of impossibility: i.e, the promise is discharged because of unforeseen, naturally occurring events that were unavoidable and which would result in insurmountable delay, expense, or other material breach. In other contracts, such as indemnification, an act of God may be no excuse, and in fact may be the central risk assumed by the promisor—e.g., flood insurance or crop insurance—the only variables being the timing and extent of the damage. In many cases, failure by way of ignoring obvious risks due to "natural phenomena" will not be sufficient to excuse performance of the obligation, even if the events are relatively rare: e.g., the year 2000 problem in computers. Under the Uniform Commercial Code, 2-615, failure to deliver goods sold may be excused by an "act of God" if the absence of such act was a "basic assumption" of the contract, but has made the delivery "commercially impracticable".

Recently, human activities have been identified by engineers as root causes of events until now considered natural disasters. In particular:

Such events are possibly threatening the legal status of Acts of God and may establish liabilities where none existed until now.

[edit]Tort lawEdit

In the law of torts, an act of God may be asserted as a type of intervening cause, the lack of which would have avoided the cause or diminished the result of liability (e.g., but for the earthquake, the old, poorly constructed building would be standing). However, foreseeable results of unforeseeable causes may still raise liability. For example, a bolt of lightning strikes a ship carrying volatile compressed gas, resulting in the expected explosion. Liability may be found if the carrier did not use reasonable care to protect against sparks—regardless of their origins. Similarly, strict liabilitycould defeat a defense for an act of God where the defendant has created the conditions under which any accident would result in harm. For example, a long-haul truck driver takes a shortcut on a back road and the load is lost when the road is destroyed in an unforeseen flood. Other cases (and the preferred federal rule in the United States) find that a common carrier is not liable for the unforeseeable forces of nature. Memphis & Charlestown RR Co. v. Reeves, 1870, 77 U.S. 176.

A particularly interesting example is that of "rainmaker" Charles Hatfield who was hired in 1915 by the city of San Diego to fill the Morena reservoir to capacity with rainwater for $10,000. The region was soon flooded by heavy rains, nearly bursting the reservoir's dam, killing nearly 20 people, destroying 110 bridges (leaving 2), knocking out telephone and telegraph lines, and causing an estimated $3.5 million in damage in total. When the city refused to pay him (he had forgotten to sign the contract), he sued the city. The floods were ruled an act of God, excluding him from liability but also from payment.

[edit]Other usesEdit

See also: Theodicy

The phrase, “act of God”, is sometimes used to attribute an event to divine intervention. Often it is used in conjunction with a natural disaster or tragic event: A miracle, by contrast, is often considered a fortuitous event attributed to divine intervention. Some consider it separate from acts of nature and being related to fate or destiny [4]

Christian theologians differ on their views and their interpretations of scripture. Some say that God causes a disaster: R. C. Sproul speaks of Divine Providence: “In a universe governed by God, there are no chance events”[5] Others indicate that God may allow a tragedy to occur.[6] Yet others just accept unfortunate events as part of life[7] and reference Matthew 5:45 (KJV): “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

[edit]See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Black, Henry Campbell (1990). Black's Law Dictionary (6th edition ed.). Saint Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co.. p. 33. ISBN 0-314-76271-X.
  2. ^ "Earthquake in China". 2009 May 06. Retrieved 2011 March 01.
  3. ^ Whitelaw, Claire; Robert Sanders (2008 June 09). "Javan mud volcano triggered by drilling, not quake". Retrieved 2011 February 22.
  4. ^ "Introductory Session – Four Theories of Disaster". FEMA Emergency Management Institute. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  5. ^ Sproule, R C (1992). Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Tyndale. pp. 61–63. ISBN 0-8423-2001-6.
  6. ^ "God Allowing Tragedy". Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  7. ^ Robinson, B A (2005-09-04). "Why do tragedies happen?". Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Retrieved 30 December 2009.

Anshuman Bhardwaj 06:41, April 1, 2011 (UTC)