Academic journal article Anthropological Quarterly

Political Ecology in the Extreme: Asteroid Activism and the Making of an Environmental Solar System

Academic journal article Anthropological Quarterly

Political Ecology in the Extreme: Asteroid Activism and the Making of an Environmental Solar System

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This case study examines how, in a post-Cold War context, aerospace and astronautics practices and policies are becoming more comprehensively attached to national and international environmental politics. This is evident in the emergence of a dual identity for Near Earth Objects (asteroids and comets with orbits that bring them close to the Earth); they are astronomical as well as environmental objects that are considered to be threats as well as exploitable natural resources. The paper investigates two results of this dual categorization: 1) activist efforts to extend environmental governance beyond the terrestrial and 2) new technoscientific perceptions of the solar system as a heliospheric ecology. [Keywords: Environment, ecology, outer space, aerospace, environmentalism, disaster, solar system]

Foreign language translations :

Political Ecology in the Extreme: Asteroid Activism and the Making of an Environmental Solar System

[Keywords: Environment, ecology, outer space, aerospace, environmentalism, disaster, solar system]

...

...

Ecologia Política no Extremo: Activismo de Asteroides e a Formação de um Sistema Solar Ambientalista

[Palavras Chave: Meio Ambiente; ecologia; o espaço, aeroespaço, ambientalismo, desastre, sistema solar]

...

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

The Gulf Coast's largest US city, Houston, is exposed to some of Earth's most extreme weather, but buried beneath its modern landscape is a record of the entire planet's atmospheric vulnerability. The arid lands north and west preserve the Odessa meteor crater and the Sierra Madera astrobleme ("star wound") with their wide blast field remnants. Due southeast is the Chicxulub dinosaur-killer crater, imaged on satellite radar by petroleum geologists and astronauts. In a Houston bar in August 2008, meteor shower month, evening light shoots across the faces of six experts on Near Earth Objects or "NEOs"-the population of small and large asteroids and comets with orbits that bring them close to Earth. Drinking beer and eating pub fare are a physician, a neurobiologist, a physicist, and two astronomers who work for Houston's Johnson Space Center. This institution is the human space flight center within a constellation of nine centers that make up the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The group around the table gathers regularly to discuss NEOs as auguries of an extending human/environment relationship that will require the explicitly environmental governance of outer space.

As members of an informal, unofficial, and loosely-organized American space policy advocacy network who call themselves "NEOphiles," these passionate experts advocate for asteroids to be recognized as ever-present threats but also spaceflight destinations with multi-purpose value. Some in the group are also members of the international Association of Space Explorers NGO that is currently petitioning the United Nations to make NEO impact deflection and mitigation a global environmental security project. Both groups see outer space as a zone within which to expand human capacities, following astronautics' focus as a discipline that contributes to re-defining human relationships with environmental extremes through exploration, experimentation, and implementing national defense and policy agendas. On the one hand, it is accurate to say that the modern category "extreme environment" has gone from denoting inhumanly abnormal or socially and politically exceptional spaces (see Agamben 1998, Kroll-Smith et al. 1997) to encompassing extraordinary spaces that can be made workaday and governable by virtue of technical extensions like remote sensing and robotics (see Battaglia this issue, Helmreich 2009, Lahsen 2004). Yet, NEO activism goes beyond the process of normalizing yet another extreme thing in the contemporary scheme of things (Wolf-Meyer and Taussig 2010). It advocates scaling up the Earthly environmental boundaries that count in technical and political terms. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.