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Social Sciences [clear filter]
Thursday, October 18

9:30am EDT

The space commons versus the clever use of flags (and corporate logos)
By all accounts, space exploration is undergoing a new phase. Plans are being made for the most ambitious space projects since the Apollo era. Space exploration, tourism, privatisation, colonisation, are back on the table. Government agencies and private companies vie for achievements to exceed those of past space races. As speculation and utopia ramp up, new questions arise as to the social and ethical dimensions of this new effort.
This talk addresses the matter of space as commons, that is, as something to be shared and managed in a participatory and equitable manner. Past treaties presented space as a common heritage of humankind, but geostrategic concerns often superseded that notion, and national flags unfurled in the vacuum. Under what conditions can space exploration be inclusive, as this Symposium proposes? How can resources be ethically allocated, in light of the technological and resource limitations on Earth? To whom would new findings? What notion of “common good” should we apply?
A famous article by G. Hardin in 1968 discussed “the tragedy of the commons” on Earth, pointing out that resources are prone to be abused in systems of common property. Private management would be preferable and more attractive as resources become scarce. Elinor Ostrom, in contrast, found that traditional management of the commons often achieves durable sustainability. This talk addresses that debate and places it in the cosmos.

avatar for Dr. Artur de Matos Alves

Dr. Artur de Matos Alves

Assistant Professor, TELUQ, Université du Québec
Artur de Matos Alves is Assistant Professor at TELUQ, Université du Québec. His main interests revolve around philosophy and ethics of technology, emerging technologies, and communication.

Thursday October 18, 2018 9:30am - 9:50am EDT
Room AB Concordia Conference Center, MB Building 9th floor, 1450 Guy St, Montreal, QC H3H 0A1
  Social Sciences, Ethics

9:50am EDT

What Michel Foucault can tell us about private ownership in and appropriation of celestial bodies
Since the dawn of civilization, humans from all over the world, guided by the primordial need to explore, have spun tales of space travel. Yet, despite all the stories of celestial adventures and the eons of desiring to know and reach for the moon and beyond, it has only been in the past few decades that people have spoken of privately owning and appropriating celestial bodies. The discussion around this relatively young notion grows in crescendo daily and yet it leaves little room for reflecting critically on the causes and potential effects of this newfound fascination with celestial ownership. One may find reasonable the lack of any such reflection in the technological, political and economic fields that -rightfully so- concern themselves with the practical side of space use and exploration. Where this lack becomes troubling however, is in the existing literature on space law, which, while greatly concerned with the legality of private ownership in and appropriation of celestial bodies and their resources, rarely includes in depth discussion on the nature of property and its connection with power -not just economic or political power- over people. It is this gap that this presentation will address and endeavour to fill.

As space becomes more accessible and the need for clear international laws increases, conducting such a critical analysis is imperative. After all, our effort to ‘bring space down to earth’ will not be successful if we forget to first bring to this new domain what we have learned in our time on earth. One of the things we have learned when it comes to private property and appropriation rights in land is that all too often they have been used as a tool of disenfranchisement and oppression. In turn, through the use of the theories on power, especially as it relates to private property, posited by French philosopher Michel Foucault and his intellectual descendants, we can apply this knowledge to the celestial domain. To do so, this presentation will provide an analysis of the most popular justifications given by academics from various fields, politicians and private companies in favor of the establishment of exclusionary rights in celestial bodies. By analysing the language used in these arguments and the notions they promote as evident and undisputable, it will be shown that the concept of property and appropriation championed by the proponents of these rights is a familiar technology of power. This technology has previously been used to promote narratives such as that of the American Frontier; narratives that have historically perpetuated the unequal treatment of some parts of the populace and the exercise of oppressive power. It is on the basis of that observation that this work will posit that if the use and exploration of space is to truly be the province of all mankind and for the benefit of all peoples, a new notion of property must be constructed before we can continue taking giants leaps beyond our homeworld.


Georgia Psarrou

LLM Student, Institute of Air & Space Law (IASL), McGill University
Georgia Psarrou is a Masters student at the McGill Institute of Air & Space Law. Early on in her undergraduate studies in law at the University of Sussex she developed a great interest in researching the ways power can operate through legal instruments to serve the interests of States... Read More →

Thursday October 18, 2018 9:50am - 10:10am EDT
Room AB Concordia Conference Center, MB Building 9th floor, 1450 Guy St, Montreal, QC H3H 0A1
  Social Sciences, Ethics

10:10am EDT

Legal Aspects of Space Geoengineering
Space geoengineering consists of intentionally deploying means to deviate the Sun’s heat in space. This technique has been identified as one among the few options that would allow the international community to ”buy precious time” against global warming (one of the most problematic consequences of climate change) by halting and reducing it. In fact, because geoengineering alone is not a solution to the various effects of climate change, this acquired time would allow the international community to discuss and agree on more effective and durable climate change mitigation measures. Of the many ways of deviating the Sun’s heat through space geoengineering, three have been identified as feasible. 1) Placing orbiting reflectors in the Earth’s orbit, which would however create significant orbital debris hazards. 2) Placing clouds of dust grains at the stable Earth-Moon triangular Lagrange points, solution which would nevertheless work for only a relatively short period each month, when those clouds would be between the Earth and the Sun. 3) Creating a station of some large (or many small) occulting discs close to the Sun-Earth Lagrange equilibrium point. This third method, which has been identified as the most effective and less risky, contemplates the possibility of fabricating parts of the station in-orbit by using outer space resources. The study explores which legal consequences arise, under current international space law from a possible space geoengineering deployment, especially if this would result from the unilateral decision of a country. Space geoengineering, in fact, will likely have climate effects affecting all countries, even if one single state decides to deploy it for its own benefit. Space law principles such as those of common interest, freedom and non-appropriation and other international law principles such as those of non-interference and cooperation are critically analyzed against such a usage of outer space. The study also provides a comparative analysis of the international space law provisions that seem to hinder such space application versus those which, on the contrary, could stimulate it. Last but not least, a critical assessment is made of the liabilities and responsibilities that states could encounter under international space law in the case of space geoengineering deployment. In its conclusion, the study explores whether the current corpus juris spatialis is suitable for future space geoengineering activities and what are the desirable changes it should eventually undertake.


Ermanno Napolitano

PhD (DCL) Student, McGill University - Institute of Air and Space Law
Ermanno has a strong passion for aerospace law. He is particularly interested in governmental regulation of space activities. Through his work he seeks to provide arguments and foundations for the development of appropriate national space laws and policies to foster the growth of... Read More →

Thursday October 18, 2018 10:10am - 10:30am EDT
Room AB Concordia Conference Center, MB Building 9th floor, 1450 Guy St, Montreal, QC H3H 0A1
  Social Sciences, Ethics
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