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Why Question 42,000 SpaceX Satellites? Lots of Reasons! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Countdown to March 19/20th 2021 Global Protest – Part 5

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By Patricia Burke

There are unresolved issues about blanketing low earth orbit (LEO) with satellites, in order to provide wireless telecommunications, surveillance, data, market competition, investor opportunities, resource acquisition, economic growth, and military activities, from space.

As we count down to the March 19, 20th Global Protest actions[1], coinciding with the Equinox, we’re looking at some of the concerns voiced by experts, and an informed public.

In Part 1, we looked at the fact that “there are no trashcans in space.” “Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.” – Stewart Udall

Part 2 focused on further risks of ignoring the pollution of low earth orbit, and the unaddressed issue of bringing the human impact of littering and trash to space itself. “The greatest danger to our future is apathy.”- Jane Goodall

Part 3 considers the impact of the commoditization of space on the “Global Electrical Circuit,” and human health. “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”― John Muir

Part 4 questions the Weaponization of Space. “The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized.”― Rachel Carson

In Part 5, we take a deeper dive into the idea of space battles, including the distractions of narratives about competition between various players, (China, Russia, U.S.; Elon Musk vs. Jeff Bezos; 5G. vs. Starlink) in a “colossal chess game of immense consequences.”

Earth’s Sky as Battlefield

Eco-feminist Marti Kheel wrote, “When you are standing at the edge of a cliff, progress is walking backward.”

In the article, “Our Great Reckoning,” by Leath Tonino, Eileen Crist noted:  “I am partial to [writer and environmental activist] Wendell Berry’s definition of colonialism: destroying one place to be extravagant somewhere else. This is a straightforward description of our way of life. We are destroying large swaths of the planet to be extravagant somewhere else.”[2]

Now, the destruction extends beyond the earth, to the stratosphere, and beyond.

And we are “destroying large swaths” of presence, and consciousness itself, to access the contrived freedom to consume and to communicate, wherever and whenever we wish, wirelessly.

Ultimately, each individual must “wage battle” within themselves concerning the resource consumption, human rights abuses, property rights  violations, and environmental footprint, to support the presumed entitlement for faster, more ubiquitous wireless connectivity…. whether from earth or from space.

We choose which of the many voices and visions we heed.

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Roland Lehoucq is an astrophysics researcher at the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA). François Graner is the CNRS research director at the Université de Paris. (English version translated by Jean-Manuel Traimond.) This Marketwatch article was first published by The Conversation — “The costly collateral damage from Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite fleet.”

ROLAND LEHOUCQ, MARKET WATCH: “A colossal chess game of immense consequences is being fought in outer space, right now... The aim is to create a satellite network called Starlink. If Musk has his way, by 2025 no less than 11,943 of his satellites will circle the Earth, and if permission is granted, the ultimate result would be a staggering 42,000. This mind-boggling number must be compared to the 8,000 satellites sent into orbit since the Soviet Sputnik, of which 2,218 are still in operation.”[3]

SOURCE: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/elon-musk-is-polluting-the-skies-with-spacexs-thousands-of-satellites-2020-05-27

“Being a planetary citizen does not need space travel. It means being conscious that we are part of the universe and of the earth. The most fundamental law is to recognise that we share the planet with other beings, and that we have a duty to care for our common home.” – Vandana Shiva

BUSINESS INSIDER: “Starlink is a globe-encircling network of internet-beaming satellites that is trying to get you online no matter where you are in the world.”[4]

 The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.― Rachel Carson

AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: “I’m thrilled about the privatization of space. Private companies’ involvements are actually bringing down the cost to go to space. And everyone benefits from this, not just their companies. Right now, we spend billions of dollars on missions but don’t go very often, nor do we go with something that everyone has a part of. Privatization would change that, and thus change the scope of how space science operates.”[5]

“Thus by the 1930s, the consumer was well entrenched in the United States, complete with a spiritual framework and an intellectual rationalization that glorified the continued consumption of commodities as personally fulfilling and economically desirable, and a  moral imperative that would end poverty and injustice. … Since that time the institutions of our society, particularly those of corporate America, have become increasingly more adept at … hiding the negative consequences of our patterns of behavior, consequences such as labor exploitation, environmental damage, poverty and growing inequalities in the distribution of wealth.” [6]  – Richard Robins

ROLAND LEHOUCQ, MARKET WATCH:Why such outsized ambitions? To implement his dream of a “multiplanetary” society, and to fund it by providing all (solvent) Earthlings with high-speed Internet access. Could the expected profitability come from U.S. military spending? The United States maintains hundreds of overseas bases and has already expressed its interest in using SpaceX in putting satellites in a low Earth orbit (LEO) and also for Starlink.” [7]

Seeding the future when possible extinction stares us in the face; seeding freedom when the freedoms of all beings are being closed for the limitless freedom of the 1% to exploit the earth and people, to manipulate life and our minds: this calls for a quantum leap in our imaginations, our intelligences, our capacity for compassion and love, as well as our courage for creative nonviolent resistance and non-cooperation with a system that is driving us to extinction. ― Vandana Shiva

TECHDIRT:  “Astronomers Say Space X Astronomy Pollution Can’t Be Fixed We recently noted how the Space X launch of low orbit broadband satellites is not only creating light pollution for astronomers and scientists, but captured U.S. regulators, eager to try and justify rampant deregulation, haven’t been willing to do anything about it.” [8]

As long as human supremacy prevails, humanity will remain unable to muster the will to scale down and pull back the burgeoning human enterprise that is unraveling Earth’s biological wealth.” – Eileen Crist

ROLAND LEHOUCQ, MARKET WATCH: “Light pollution and traffic jams in orbit, Whatever the potential benefits of such a system, one of the disastrous consequences would be light pollution. As they traveled across the skies, thousands of Starlink satellites would effectively make astronomical images useless by leaving long luminous trails.” [9]

TECHDIRT: “While Space X’s Starlink platform will create some much needed broadband competition for rural users, the usual capacity constraints of satellite broadband mean it won’t be a major disruption to incumbent broadband providers. Experts say it will be painfully disruptive to scientific study and research, however: Granted, in March, Space X boss Elon Musk predicted there would be no impact whatsoever from his Starlink project: “I am confident that we will not cause any impact whatsoever in astronomical discoveries. Zero. That’s my prediction. We’ll take corrective action if it’s above zero.” The report, which was first spotted by Ars Technica, notes that enough data has been collected to clearly indicate the impact is well above zero. Worse, they note that companies have only just started launching low-orbit satellite constellations. OneWeb and Space X have only just begun their efforts, and Amazon is expected to join the fray in a major way.”[10]

Decolonizing our minds and breaking habits of supremacy requires critical thinking: look at what the culture’s throwing at you, see it clearly, and then decide whether to accept or refuse it. A simple idea, though difficult to enact, is slowness: only by creating some time and space in our lives will we have a chance to pivot from blind acceptance to critical thought. The dominant cult of speed is, for me personally, something to target and try to undermine.-Eileen Crist

AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE:  “I think asteroid mining is another promising area for development.” [11]

Nature shrinks as capital grows. The growth of the market cannot solve the very crisis it creates.  ― Vandana Shiva

ROLAND LEHOUCQ, MARKET WATCH: “A large-scale increase in the number of satellites would increase the risk of space collisions and the ensuing multiplication of debris — in the worst-case scenario, it could render the LEO and near-space environment unusable. Musk asserts that all the satellites be equipped with thrusters to make them fall back on Earth once they reach the end of their active life, but that doesn’t reduce the risk while they’re operational.”[12]

Capitalism is a core driver of ecological destruction. It gobbles up the world as “raw materials” and turns them into commodities, with immense waste at every step along the way. – Eileen Crist

TECHVISIBILITY: “The Feud Of The Tech Titans: Elon Musk Vs Jeff Bezos But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which of them is first to the moon or first to set up a colony beyond Earth, for their visions aren’t all that different. They are just both want to move humanity out into space.”[13]

…..like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.[14] – Carl Sagan

ROLAND LEHOUCQ, MARKET WATCH: “Beyond the operational risks, building, launching and maintaining such a gigantic network of satellites would require an enormous amount of raw materials and energy. To follow and connect to them, buyers will have to use purpose-built phased array antennas. To make them affordable, they would have to be mass produced, and SpaceX has asked permission for 1 million of them. For starters.”[15]

Making capitalism more equitable would be good for humans, but nature would be no better off, as long as mass production and mass consumption remained essentially unchanged and the natural world continued to be treated as human property. – Eileen Crist     

AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: “Ultimately, I think the exploration driver is going to be geopolitics. Under the current regime of lunar laws, you can’t interfere with what someone is already doing. This means that the first country to put a telescope on the moon will essentially prohibit others from landing there. This could create a land grab on the moon. And if China is serious about landing people on the moon and continues to head in that direction, US leadership will have to respond. So geopolitics, alongside the ambitions of the private space sector, will be the main drivers of moon exploration.”[16]

Not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress…― John Muir

BLOOMBERG: “A plan to redeploy spectrum for super-fast 5G wireless networks is sparking concern among aviation safety experts that it could result in interference with the electronics on aircraft, potentially leading to crashes “There is no question that additional study is needed to understand the full extent and severity of 5G interference with radio altimeters and whether any mitigations are feasible—or even possible—to ensure flight safety,”…. Aviation regulators in France have gone further and have slowed the deployment of 5G around airports while they study the matter.” [17]

…unless there is some kind of spiritual revolution that is able to keep abreast of our technological genius, we will not save our planet. ― Karen Armstrong

AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: “Many see the moon as a practice location for Mars….Going forward, an obvious one is water. There are a lot of people who think harvesting that water could be an enabler for businesses in low-Earth orbit or for longer-term stays on the moon. There’s also interest in doing radio telescope observations from the far side of the moon.”[18]

If we want to address mass extinction, we have to find a different way of life. We have to scrutinize human expansionism: the endless expansion of our numbers, our consumption, our infrastructure, our use of the lands and seas. – Eileen Crist

ROLAND LEHOUCQ, MARKET WATCH: “More troublingly, competitors are sharpening their knives. Kuiper is backed by Amazon AMZN, -0.77%, OneWeb by billionaire Greg Wyler, and Hongyan is Chinese. Just as with electrical scooters, investors are rushing into massive production, and the results could be disastrous. Such unbridled competition has negative consequences from the environmental point of view as well as from the security and business ones. The theory is that whoever is “first past the post” will gain near-monopoly power, cornering the potentially colossal market. We could well see several redundant satellite networks duke it out in the skies. Yet there will be only one winner. Or none.”[19]

Your life matters. You can’t live through a day without making an impact on the world.  And what’s most important is to think about the impact of your actions  on the world around you. – Jane Goodall

THE VERGE: “No matter what, it seems that a giant constellation is going to have some kind of negative impact on someone — it can’t be helped. And looking at the big picture, SpaceX isn’t alone in its attempt to create a mega-constellation of satellites. The company just gets the most attention because it’s proposing the largest number of spacecraft, and its vehicles are big, bright, and lower in the sky compared to other proposed constellations. Others like OneWeb and Amazon want to also fill the sky with internet-beaming vehicles.”[20]

Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions that sustain life,― George Monbiot

ROLAND LEHOUCQ, MARKET WATCH: “Privatization of the commons On March 9, Musk claimed that thanks to Starlink, anybody “will be able to watch high-def movies, play video games and do all the things they want to do without noticing speed”. Thus, Musk explicitly underlines his wish to reinforce already massively energy-guzzling digital activities, such as video streaming and online video games. These consume just below the whole electricity consumption of Europe (if you want figures, the world digital energy consumption of 3,834 TWh expected in 2020 is comparable to the 4,077 TWh for European electricity in 2018). Their share of world greenhouse gas emissions is already 4% and could double to 8% by 2025. Musk’s declaration ends on an ominous note, in essence saying “My clients will be able to do whatever they want, just as I am able to do whatever I want”. The Federal Communications Commission appears to be ready to give Musk its blessing. After all, the Commission’s space department is not shy about its priorities: authorize more satellites, faster, with much less regulation.[21]

The business of grabbing and money-making, through a violent extractive economy that the 1% have built, is burdening the earth and humanity with unbearable and non-sustainable costs, and has brought us to the brink of extinction. We do not have to escape from the earth; we have to escape from the illusions that enslave our mind, and make extinction look inevitable. – Vandana Shiva

ROLAND LEHOUCQ, MARKET WATCH: “Thus the American authority tasked with regulating U.S. telecoms — which recently decided to drop the Net neutrality principle — turns a blind eye to the privatization of space by a corporation that wants to take over the low Earth orbit region. All this in the spirit of the 2015 Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which allows US industries to “engage in the commercial exploration and exploitation of space resources”. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty declared outer space to be a common good of humankind. Today this may seem quaint to some, but it is more necessary than ever.”[22]

It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.  – Ansel Adams

ARSTECHNICA: “In early April, for example, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to support using lunar resources for eventual moon settlements. Trump’s actions are in line with previous presidential administrations. The United States has not signed the 1979 UN Moon Agreement that heavily restricts non-scientific use of resources in space. Additionally, Congress passed a law in 2015 supporting American companies in their bid to mine the moon, as well as asteroids, for human activities.”The executive order tipped its [the US government’s] hand in terms of how it thinks of space … that it’s the policy of the United States that space is not a global common,” Barentine said. “If space is not a global common, and for each individual country to exploit, under the obligations of the United States treaty there is no liability on the impacts of astronomy, the impacts of the night sky, and the cultural implications around that.’”[23]

Human supremacy is a historical inheritance that we’ve been saddled with through conditioning, and once the conditioning is removed, reality will have a chance to come into view, and we’ll then have the opportunity to align ourselves with it. – Eileen Crist

Richard St Barbe Baker stated, “This generation may either be the last to exist in any semblance of a civilized world or it will be the first to have the vision, the bearing and the greatness to say, ‘I will have nothing to do with this destruction of life, I will play no part in this devastation of the land, I am determined to live and work for peaceful construction for I am morally responsible for the world of today and the generations of tomorrow.

We cannot harmonize and safeguard nature and earth without addressing burgeoning wireless consumption, and its impact on the environment.

Elon Musk (Starlink) and Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin)

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”― Rachel Carson

LEARN MORE:

https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/540/our-great-reckoning

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/elon-musk-is-polluting-the-skies-with-spacexs-thousands-of-satellites-2020-05-27

https://stop5ginternational.org/5g-protest-day-march-20-2021/

THE WEAPONIZATION OF SPACE

Karl Grossman and Bruce Gagnon at Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, www.space4peace.org.

The Perils of Military 5G. Mar. 15th, 2021 | Karl Grossman https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/03/15/the-perils-of-military-5g/

Bruce Gagnon: The Ongoing Danger of Militarization of Space. Jan. 21st, 2020 https://tucradio.org/podcasts/newest-podcasts/bruce-gagnon-the-ongoing-danger-of-militarization-of-space/

Trump Space Force: Turning the Heavens into a War Zone  Feb. 20th, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTZXruyAJgc

Protests Against Deployment of 5G — and the 5G-Military Connection. Mar. | Karl Grossman http://13147359.sites.myregisteredsite.com/blog/protesting-deployment-of-5g-and-the-military-connection/

For an animated, fact-filled overview of 5G and SpaceX’s taking of the commons – our skies – for corporate gain and the militarization of outer space, please listen to an interview with Julie Levine, Dafna Tachover, Karl Grossman and Brenda Martinez on KPFK, Solartopia kpfk.org. (At link, scroll down to Solartopia March 13th archive.)

Tech Billionaires Are Buying Up Space – WHY IT AFFECTS YOU!  Feb. 28th, 2021 | Russell Brand https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe4MrUhuE60

References:

[1] https://stop5ginternational.org/5g-protest-day-march-20-2021/

[2] https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/540/our-great-reckoning

[3] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/elon-musk-is-polluting-the-skies-with-spacexs-thousands-of-satellites-2020-05-27

[4] What Elon Musk’s 42,000 Starlink satellites could do for — and to — planet Earth https://www.businessinsider.com/how-elon-musk-42000-starlink-satellites-earth-effects-stars-2020-10

[5] https://www.aei.org/economics/5-questions-for-tim-fernholz-sara-seager-stan-veuger-and-matt-weinzierl-on-american-space-exploration-and-policy/

[6] Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), p.22   quoted in https://www.globalissues.org/article/236/creating-the-consumer

[7] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/elon-musk-is-polluting-the-skies-with-spacexs-thousands-of-satellites-2020-05-27

[8] https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200831/07155145218/astronomers-say-space-x-astronomy-pollution-cant-be-fixed.shtml

[9] https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/14/21043229/spacex-starlink-satellite-mega-constellation-concerns-astronomy-space-traffic At the March 9 “Satellite 2020” conference keynote speech, Musk dismissed those worries and claimed his satellites will do no harm to astronomical research — if need be, they will be painted black. This idea was tested with satellite 1130, “DarkSat”. The results were unconvincing, to say the least. The next generation is supposed to be less luminous than the faintest stars that can be seen with the unaided eye, but this is still far too bright for astronomers’ ultrasensitive instruments, which can observe stellar objects four billion times fainter than that threshold.  There could also be some trade-offs when it comes to coating the satellites. For one, changing the outside of the satellite might alter how the vehicle responds to the harsh environment of space where temperatures swing wildly between sweltering and freezing. Making the satellite darker could cause it to absorb more heat, throwing off the temperature of the precious electronics within. “Most of the electronic components will have been designed, built, and assembled in a room temperature environment,” says Lewis. “And that is the environment that they like.” Too much of a temperature change could ultimately lead a satellite to break or fail while in orbit

[10] https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200831/07155145218/astronomers-say-space-x-astronomy-pollution-cant-be-fixed.shtml

[11] https://www.aei.org/economics/5-questions-for-tim-fernholz-sara-seager-stan-veuger-and-matt-weinzierl-on-american-space-exploration-and-policy/

[12] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/elon-musk-is-polluting-the-skies-with-spacexs-thousands-of-satellites-2020-05-27

[13]  https://www.techvisibility.com/2020/06/08/the-feud-of-the-tech-titans-elon-musk-vs-jeff-bezos/

[14] Referring to Nuclear War

[15] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/elon-musk-is-polluting-the-skies-with-spacexs-thousands-of-satellites-2020-05-27

[16] https://www.aei.org/economics/5-questions-for-tim-fernholz-sara-seager-stan-veuger-and-matt-weinzierl-on-american-space-exploration-and-policy/

[17] https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/plane-crash-risk-seen-rising-on-fcc-plan-to-expand-5g-spectrum

[18] https://www.aei.org/economics/5-questions-for-tim-fernholz-sara-seager-stan-veuger-and-matt-weinzierl-on-american-space-exploration-and-policy/

[19] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/elon-musk-is-polluting-the-skies-with-spacexs-thousands-of-satellites-2020-05-27

[20] https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/24/21190273/spacex-starlink-satellite-internet-constellation-astronomy-coating

[21] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/elon-musk-is-polluting-the-skies-with-spacexs-thousands-of-satellites-2020-05-27

[22] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/elon-musk-is-polluting-the-skies-with-spacexs-thousands-of-satellites-2020-05-27

[23] https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/05/can-we-save-the-night-sky-from-satellite-streaks/

Top and bottom image art by Flo Freshman

Patricia Burke works with activists across the country and internationally calling for new biologically-based microwave radio frequency exposure limits. She is based in Massachusetts and can be reached at [email protected].

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