International Law Beyond the Earth System: Orbital Debris and Interplanetary Pollution

Journal of Human Rights and the Environment (JHRE) 2021

23 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2021

See all articles by Elena Cirkovic

Elena Cirkovic

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies; University of Helsinki

Date Written: 2021

Abstract

The anthropogenic contamination of outer space takes several forms. Near-Earth space is becoming cluttered with space debris, and solar system exploration raises the possibility of the contamination of planets other than the Earth — and planetary satellites within the solar system — by terrestrial organisms. Such exploration also includes the risk of the possible contamination of the Earth by materials returned from space carrying extra-terrestrial organisms, although this risk is quite low. This article addresses the regulation of anthropogenic contamination of outer space. The ongoing environmental degradation of outer space is unpredictable and disruptive. A new understanding of the cosmic and post- anthropocentric politico-juridical space — or the ‘cosmolegal’ — might provide an alternative framework. The ‘cosmolegal’ argument responds to the ‘cosmic’ need to re-think the anthropogenic self-understanding of humanity’s law because humanity has been approaching the ‘infinity’ of space with a legal consciousnesses firmly rooted in terrestrial human values. This approach needs to change due to the unknown and known consequences of the rapidly expanding human presence in outer space.

Keywords: outer space law, orbital debris, interplanetary contamination, cosmolegal, post- anthropocene

Suggested Citation

Cirkovic, Elena, International Law Beyond the Earth System: Orbital Debris and Interplanetary Pollution (2021). Journal of Human Rights and the Environment (JHRE) 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3913944 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3913944

Elena Cirkovic (Contact Author)

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies ( email )

Helsinki, 00014
Finland

University of Helsinki ( email )

Yliopistonkatu 3
Helsinki, 00014
Finland

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