Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Space Environmentalism, Property Rights, and the Law

Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Space Environmentalism, Property Rights, and the Law

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION .................................................................281

A. Types of Environmentalism .....................................283

B. What is the Space Environment?.............................290

II. PROPERTY RIGHTS AND PROBLEMS OF SPACE POLLUTION .......................................................................292

A. Is Space Pollution even Possible?...........................292

B. Air and Water Pollution in Space............................293

C. Other Pollution on the Moon and Celestial Bodies......................................................................295

D. Space: The Ultimate Waste Dump .........................296

E. "Wilderness" Preserves.........................................297

F. Terraforming ...........................................................299

G. What if There's Life?...............................................302

III. INTERNATION AL LAW AND THE SPACE ENVIRONMENT .....303

A. The Test Ban Treaty.................................................304

B. The Outer Space Treaty...........................................305

C. The Liability Convention.........................................307

D. The Moon Treaty.....................................................308

IV. CONCLUSION.....................................................................309

I. INTRODUCTION

A considerable body of academic literature exists on the subject of space law, despite the fact that very few human beings have ever been to outer space, and substantial presence beyond the earth's orbit still seems to be in the rather distant future.1 Among those proposing detailed, centralized regulatory regimes for a realm that so far has little, if any, need for them are anti-market2 environmentalists who, not content to attend merely to the earth's pollution problems, are concerned about the possible future pollution of the moon and other celestial bodies such as Mars. This article considers the ideas of these individuals-whom we will call socialist space environmentalists3-and rejects them.

We find proposed environmental programs for outer space not only philosophically ill-founded, but also economically and pragmatically unjustified. In their place, we propose an alternative: a regime of pure private property and strict liability. Though our approach might be considered radical if proposed for the earth,4 we maintain that it is an entirely appropriate policy for outer space and celestial bodies.

A. Types of Environmentalism

Few, if any, human beings would self-identify as enemies of "the environment." After all, everyone wants clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, and does not want anyone to invade his person or property with harmful substances without permission. People who go this far-and only this far-with their environmentalism probably comprise the majority of humanity. They can be said to be adherents of anthropocentric environmentalism.5 Anthropocentric environmentalists can be found across the political spectrum. For example, voices ranging from the right6 to the extreme Marxist left7 have called for unprecedented global government intervention to combat perceived environmental threats to human well-being. Others, however, have advocated laissez-faire capitalism as the appropriate means to protect the environment to maximize human well-being on Earth.8 For the anthropocentric environmentalist, non-human creatures and objects are valuable to the extent that humans value them-they have no "intrinsic" value apart from this.9

In the second half of the twentieth century, another type of environmentalism came to the fore: ecocentric environmentalism. (Ecocentric environmentalism is also sometimes referred to as "deep ecology," to contrast it with the "shallowness" of anthropocentric concern for the environment.)10 Originated by Aldo Leopold, who conceived the idea of the "land ethic," ecocentric environmentalism holds that the environment itself is intrinsically valuable, and that human beings themselves have value only to the extent that they play a role in, and support, this environmental whole. …

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