A Column By
Native American Studies
University of California, Davis
As I look up at the MIR space platform each night I can’t help but wonder what our heavens will look like after countless private corporations and governments proceed with their plans for shooting more and bigger “junk” into orbit.
Although the bright light of MIR always catches my attention, the truth is that I am actually resentful that our beautiful sky is being “contaminated” by artificial objects. And, of course, having a number of MIRs in the heavens will seriously alter the way we exist at night.
Unless we are living in a flight-zone or near airport flashing lights we are used to being able to look to the sky for a glimpse of “open space,” of an area generally unaltered by humans. But soon it will be like looking at the lights on a highway. That will, I think, be a huge spiritual and psychic loss for us all and a further propelling of people into depression, disturbance, and drug dependence.
Of course, my sky is also being assaulted by noisy, throbbing helicopters, an increasing menace. Then there are light planes and all of those spy satellites taking pictures of us without any concern for issues of privacy. What will these paparazzi of the air do with all of their photos and data? Will they sell juicy bits of it to divorce attorneys, tabloids, or government agencies seeking to document our every movement?
Whether it is the near sky or far space we are facing the theft of our sky, a theft which has already proceeded very far for those living in the paths of airliners. For the moment, however, let us concentrate upon that farther part of the sky beyond the "air-space" claims of territorial governments. Who owns it, or better put, who possesses the right to regulate its use (or abuse)?
Can we say that the farther sky (space) belongs to no one, that no one has the right to control it? No, we cannot admit that because that would mean simply that money will rule space, that those who have great wealth (governments and corporations) will be in control, or, perhaps, will compete for control just as in 1492 and later when the European empires fought for dominance in America, Africa, and Asia.
We, the human race, will be the losers if we allow the farther sky to be carved up by associations of powerful people (men). Not only that but we face tremendous danger from such affronts as the Casini space-probe launch, powered by extremely dangerous plutonium as well as from related uses of nuclear power by the military in space. Those who have the money are planning to expose us to the dangers of nuclear contamination as well as future space wars. The U.S. military, with its shooting laser beams into "our" space to destroy a satellite, presents a prelude to space warfare.
What can we do? First, perhaps, we might adopt a Declaration of the Collective Regulation of Space, a declaration to be signed by as many people as possible, solemnly asserting our collective claim to the sky, and that no one, neither NASA of the U.S., nor Europe, Russia, Japan, or anyone else has the right, unilaterally, to place anything in space without collective human permission!
Along with this declaration we must begin to create proposals for concrete ways in which space can be regulated. Perhaps the General Assembly of the United Nations might be the vehicle for establishing an international agency for the protection of space. At the very least, the subject should be debated in the U.N.O.
But what I really believe that we must do is to seek the creation of a World People's Assembly, with democratically elected representatives of each nationality (including indigenous peoples), one woman and one man from each unit, perhaps organized into two houses, a House of Women and a House of Men. These two houses might establish a system of controls over not only space but also over the international oceans and over such anti-democratic agencies as the World Trade Organization. To save our sky we must also seek to save our Earth and its oceans.
MIR's light has been bright but it will be pale compared to the beams which will be sent our way by the projected huge orbiting space platforms of private corporations and governments. Do we want that? Why should we put up with it? Should we accept the possibility of thermonuclear and laser wars in space, or of radiation fallout coming back to earth from space missions we may not even want?
Space is a part of the universe which we can still protect. Shall we save it, or let it be plundered at will by arrogant and powerful men? Or do you want the sky to resemble a freeway at night during rush-hour? Now is the time for discussion and action!
[Professor Jack D. Forbes, Powhatan-Delaware, is the author of COLUMBUS AND OTHER CANNIBALS, AFRICANS AND NATIVE AMERICANS, RED BLOOD and other books.]
All Rights Reserved by Jack D. Forbes Phone: (916) 752-3626/3237;Fax: (916) 752-7097