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
Date Written: 2021
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
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