THE SPACE LAND GRAB: SPACE TREATIES IN NEED OF UPDATEJune 2, 2015
If youve been following all the space news, epecially the news about mining the Moon and asteroids, or establishing permanent human colonies on the Moon or Mars, this article, shared by Mr. V.T., will interest you, for it goes directly to the persisting problem now confronting international law and space treaties: they're simply obsolete, being outpaced by technology and events:
I want to point your attention to a length passage, and to the implications for a new kind of space colonialism contained in it:
This week the House of Representatives took a step forward, passing a commercial space bill designed to clear a path for these businesses. Among other things, it would delay any airline-style regulation of space tourism until at least 2025, provide liability protection for some launches, and streamline permitting processes.If enacted, it also would create new commercial property rights in space that have some space lawyers—yep, they exist, in small quantities—worried about a major backlash.
The legislation recognizes two specific kinds of property rights, both arguably within the rules of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty: First, if you can obtain a resource, it’s yours—akin to the moon rocks brought back by astronauts or meteorites you can buy on E-Bay. Second, if you’re doing something in space, someone can’t just come and interfere with what you’re up to.“What the bill tries to do is say that the US will recognize claims of property rights of US citizens who go out and mine asteroids,” space lawyer James Dunstan explains. “That’s the goal, to say, if you expend the resources and go do it, and bring that stuff back, we will agree—recognize it—as your property.”
But he and others fear that because the bill doesn’t contemplate a method to resolve competing claims from representatives of different nations, it could spur a new, ugly space race based on territory grabs—or set back efforts for property rights.“If the US approaches this in a way that seems like cowboy imperialism, you could either revive interest in the Moon Treaty,”—which, reminder, bans private property in space—”or just spur a very narrow reading of the outer space treaty,” says Berin Szoka, head of the libertarian technology policy think tank TechFreedom. “Either case could end up setting the cause of private property rights back significantly.”
Both Szoka and Dunstan support property rights in space but say the bill needs modification before it goes forward.They argue that the rushed process to write this bill—there wasn’t even a public hearing about it—could lead to unexpected and detrimental precedents. For instance, this bill is limited to asteroids, but that might not stop other countries from leveraging it with other celestial bodies, like the moon.
“China could apply that precedent. ‘We’ll pass our own law for all space resources,’ China might say, something like the 200-km [exclusive economic zone] that Bigelow has been asking for,” Szoka says. “If you took it to that extreme, China could land first on the pole of the moon and claim non-interference rights for the entire pole—all of the polar ice.”
In other words, the real problem shaping up is the very present possibility that each of the space-faring powers - the USA, Russia, China, Japan, India, Europe - will apply their own legal standards and traditions concerning property to their activities on celestial bodies. This is not so much a problem from the legal point of view if, say, one wants to coordinate the legal traditions of Europe or the USA(and by extension, Japan), which come from more or less a common wellspring of jurisprudence. But in the case of the rest it is not so simple. And the bottom line remains, that all space-faring nations are gearing up for a "planet grab" that will transform human society and culture during the next two centuries or so.
There is a high octane speculation implicit in these considerations, a scenario that might be lurking in this development, on that is perhaps both the result of what is occurring, and perhaps also a hidden agenda driving it. In this context, it is worth mentioning that Dr. Carol Rosin (who maintained that Dr. Wernher von Braun once indicated to her that there was a hidden agenda for the weaponization of space) has been working tirelessly to get an international treaty against the weaponization of space for some years. One cannot blame her, for the scenario that Dr. von Braun outlined to her was rather chilling. Space, he maintained, would be weaponized, but that the arguments for doing so, would follow a certain arc: first, it would be necessary to do so as a means of defense against "communism" and the threat of ICBMs and thermonuclear attack, a prophecy that was "fulfilled" by President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative of the 1980s. Then, said von Braun, it would be necessary to do so as a means of defense against "terrorists" and "nations of concern." After this, came asteroids, again, a prophecy that seems to be in fulfillment with the increase of stories recently about the development of systems designe for planetary defense from asteroid collision. These, let it be noted, usually involve the deployment of some form of weapon of mass destruction either to blow them up, or nudge them on to different course. Finally, said Von Braun, there were extraterrestrials, and the implicit threat of invasion.
But as I mentioned, there's another high octane scenario implicit in the emerging legal battles over "space colonialism" and "planetary land grabs," and it is this: assume, for a moment, that a treaty was succesfully negotiated recognizing extra-terrestrial property rights, and a unitrary and unified standard of law under which those rights would be adjudicated. It would be, if I may borrow a phrase pregnant with significance for those familiar with certain legal developments and plans from a few decades ago, a kind of Weltraumkartel with its own Weltraumgesetz. The conventional thinking here is that if everyone could agree to such a provision, the weaponization of space could be avoided. Perhaps, but we'll get back to that in a moment. The point for consideration here is, that such a "legal coordination" for space issues would be a convenient way to leverage the introduction of an actual global government, which would, let it be noted, not come about by means of the usual means - asteroid threats, extraterrestrial invasions, and so on - but via the pressures of the need to have a unified "commercial code" for space.
And once one says this, of course, one has to supply that code with adequae enforcement provisions, and that, in its turn means, like it or not, the weaponization of space, if for no other reason than that of human nature, for if we're willing to contemplate the idea of space colonization and colonialism, of extraterrestrial planet-grabs, then one must entertain that, human nature being what it is, the eventuality of space piracy also arises. And to combat criminality, one needs adequate enforcement. This is throughout human history, the inevitable concomittant of commerce.
There's just one tiny problem, one that, if one has been paying attention to the esoteric tradition on the matter, might be very problematical, and that is, after the last round of human spacefaring and cosmic wars in high antiquity, a "quarantine zone", a kind of celestial "demilitarized zone" was established (its location varying upon the source one consults). One can only hope that when we send the battalions in to re-occupy the celestial Rhineland, that the celestial French will either be long gone, or not paying attention.
See you on the flip side...