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Timiebi Aganaba: Towards Space Sustainability: Lessons Learned from Environmental Liability Regimes

April 14 @ 13:30 - 15:00

Topic: Towards Space Sustainability: Lessons Learned from Environmental Liability Regimes

Speaker: Dr. Timiebi Aganaba

Time: Apr 14, 2021 13:30 Eastern Time (US and Canada)


In some constitutions of the world, nature has inherent rights. But the foundation of most environmental protection has been anthropocentric. The environment has value because its benefit is measurable to humanity and thus should be protected by balancing interests of persons and corporations. When people or institutions are central, what of environments that appear hostile to life? As accessibility, particularly to the commons increases, Is there any argument that we should protect these environments for the intrinsic worth that they are part of creation? It is suggested that if we cannot do that easily on earth, in heavily populated environs, it may be impossible to do so in outer space. Despite this, the issue should be explored.

This talk presents a philosophical discussion on if the space environment is worthy of environmental protection, because so far as humans conduct activity in its realm, it is a human environment. Taking that as a premise, the talk questions if space environmentalism can only be sought from a moral perspective or if legal measures are required for accountability and enforcement purposes, with a focus on the place of liability. Liability is important because it seems strong enough a stick that all actors will pay attention. While it is recognized that a liability regime exists for damage caused by space objects through the Liability Convention of 1972, this treaty does not consider damage to the environment, particularly from waste and adverse changes to the environment caused by space debris, and resource extraction respectively.

Lessons learned from environmental liability regimes of ultrahazardous activities of maritime transportation of oil and nuclear power generation, as well as those proposed for deep sea bed mining are analyzed to provide input into a proposed liability regime for environmental protection of the space environment, as human activities increase. It is recognized that it took over 8 years to negotiate non-binding principles for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, so agreeing on a binding liability regime will be difficult. But the length of time it would take to deliberate should not prevent us from taking necessary action that can begin today.


Assistant Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society with a

Courtesy Appointment at the Sandra Day O Connor College of Law

Arizona State University, USA




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April 14
13:30 - 15:00
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