UNCLOS provisions on environmental protection and risk assessment offer model for protecting outer space environment
The Law of the Sea Convention offers some interesting solutions to these problems. First, it should be noted that the Law of the Sea Convention applies to "living resources" and the environment in which those resources live.240 Many commentators express token tribute, due to the heightened awareness of environmental damage, to environmental standards for space travel and extraterrestrial appropriation.241 This heightened awareness is ill-placed in most of outer space. The problem with assuming that all of outer space should be protected is that there is a lot of inanimate material in outer space. Even more importantly is that inanimate materials may provide solutions to increased populations by supporting the living population. On Earth, environmental protections are necessary to safeguard the long term habitability of this living planet and do as little harm as necessary to other living resources. On celestial bodies that have no life, not even microbial, there are no such incentives for environmental protections because there is nothing to protect. Of course, premature annihilation would defeat the ability to harvest those resources. The Law of Sea Convention attempts to place restrictions on fishery, which allow the maximization of resources over time.242 For example, over-fishing may lead to a short term increase in food production and profit, but substantial depletions will affect the ability of fish to reproduce, thereby causing shortages in the years to come. This method allows for the maximization of resources without affecting the rights of appropriators. This is a better method for the conservation of outer space. Extraterrestrial appropriation, therefore, may occur, but in a way to maximize those resources by not prematurely destroying a nonliving resource. Likewise, in outer space exploration, waste may not poise the same kind of threats as here on Earth.243 Outer space is a vacuum of matter. There are no living organisms in the "ethers" of space. Although there are possibilities thwastes may contaminate future explorers or haphazardly damage other systems of future generations, these concerns must be addressed in the context of outer space's huge amount of space. Under risk assessment analysis, these risks may be so insignificant that wide scale or even significant environmental protections would be unnecessary.
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The solutions the international community worked out to resolve some of the most contentious issues over ocean governance -- specifically, how to equitably divide up a common shared resource, how to sustainably manage the global commons for the benefit of all, and how to ensure all states have the freedom to navigate a global common -- have potential to serve as the basis for a similar agreement for outer space.Related Quotes:
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