Explore But Don't Exploit
|Big sign welcoming the conference at the gate of Gitam University in Visakhapatnam, India|
We are entering our third and final day in Visakhapatnam, India conference at the Gitam University School of Law. I cannot say enough times how impressed we have been with the total commitment to this conference from the law school administration, faculty and students.
From the first day's formal opening that included the founding chancellor's excellent presentation (he acknowledged that he doesn't come out to many of these kind of events but asked to speak at the opening) it has been a remarkable event.
|Will Griffin before the start of the opening ceremony|
The most exciting thing for all of us is the incredible student participation - not only from Gitam University but law students have come from Chennai and faculty have come from other educational institutions throughout India as have members of the public as well. Five people came from Nepal to be at the event - one of the men from Kathmandu will host us when we go there at the end of this month.
Each of our six Global Network leaders at this event have all been given the opportunity to speak and our talks have been eagerly received. Topics we covered have included US plans for control and domination of space, Pentagon 'missile defense' deployments in eastern Europe and Asia, as well as testimony about being in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars by William Griffin from Veterans for Peace. (Our GN Advisory Board member Koohan Paik had to cancel at the last minute as she came down with illness and has been sorely missed.)
One of the biggest thrills for me as been to meet three young men from Chennai who are law students. Somehow they got interested in space law and have studied the subject for the past year and decided to draft a space law for India which has been given to the government.
There is presently international space law at the United Nations - the Outer Space Treaty and the Moon Treaty (which the US never signed because it has wanted since the early 1950's to put military bases on the moon and to control it for mining, etc). Both of those UN treaties say that all outer space bodies are the 'common heritage' of all humankind and that no country, corporation nor individual can claim ownership of them.
|Sung-Hee Choi (from Jeju Island, South Korea on the left) spoke about the anti-Navy base struggle and the plans for US deployment of 'missile defense' in Korea|
Anyway these three young guys are brilliant and have asked how they could become involved in the Global Network and told me they have ideas for how we can expand our reach to foster global debate on these issues. So as a first step I asked them to write an article for our next Space Alert! newspaper and share their story.
|The three law students from Chennai, India who captured my imagination and heart|
Some of the students at the conference have made the case that space development is something that we should embrace (in fact satellites enable GPS, cell phones, cable TV, ATM machines and more) but others have been more skeptical about corporate intentions in space.
|An excellent talk by Sai Tajuna the granddaughter of GN board member J. Narayana Rao|
Ms. Aruna Kammila, Gitam School of Law Assistant Professor yesterday began her talk with the words "Explore but don't exploit" and went on to make a profound presentation that underscored how we should be skeptical about corporate intentions to control space for their own profits. This is the very same point I made during my own presentations. So there as been a rich and vibrant discussion that has made sparks fly at the event.
This is just what the Global Network has always been wanting to create around the world - debate about the kind of 'seed' humanity should carry with us as we inevitably reach into space. I asked during my opening talk, "Will we carry the bad seed of war, greed, and environmental degradation with us when we leave our planet?" I told the conference that humans are immature and before we go careening off into space we need a global discussion about what kind of seed we carry with us. So that debate is happening here in Visakhapatnam and I am confident will be carried across India.
|My words during the opening ceremony of the conference|
Global Network board member J. Narayana Rao from Nagpur is the guiding light of the event. He is the one who for the last dozen or so years has been traveling around India speaking to students about space and for the past several years has organized an annual conference in a different city. The event this year is his crowning achievement and was capped when his own granddaughter rose to make a wonderful speech about the need to continue the work for peace in space at Gitam University where she is a student.
|J. Narayana Rao speaking at the conference - he is the father of the growing Indian peace in space movement|
Rao is a retired national railroad worker in his 80's who lives on a very humble pension. For many years before we met him he was quietly receiving Global Network space emails and printing them in a booklet and sharing them across his country. He has become one of our best advocates and this year it appears that his dream of strong student participation has come true.