Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10/23/2012 Space as an Ocean


Image result for Public domain images of spacecraft
Image by NASA


 From the Book "PROTOCOLS" (c) 2012 by American Admiralty Books


 When Columbus started on his voyage the Atlantic was an unknown sea. Sea trade had been conducted on a regular basis around the Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coast of Europe for thousands of years .  Protocols for the entry and clearance of merchant vessels were well developed in Europe. There was a growing uniformity in national laws concerning the rights and duties of ship owners, crews, and cargo owners. There was a growing distinction between navies and the Merchant Marine. Diplomatic officers were being standardized and the rules for their exchange and posting codified. While nations often resorted to war, they also often resorted to arbitration , often through the offices of the Papacy.  When Columbus left on his first voyage of discovery the law of nations was already well developed in Europe.  When he landed in the New World there was also an existing order in many places that often included resort to war, but generally provided for orderly inter-tribal and even international trade and discourse as we saw in our review of the Mayan coastal trade system.  Despite the general familiarity with the concept of international law that was common to European Merchant Marine Officers of the day there seemed to be no  awareness of the "Indian " order whether we examine Columbus on the Mayan coast, or Vasco de Gama in East Africa, or much later James Cook in the far Pacific. If there was no awareness there was no apparent intent to try and fit in or gently influence any existing system in new directions. With a narrow but critical technological advantage, the Europeans from the very start, began to impose their own system upon the Americas and elsewhere in the world beyond the Muslim borders that they once thought of as "India". As we push out into space beyond our solar system we may encounter and run afoul of a pre-existing order. We are unlikely to enjoy the technological advantage over any group that imposed an interstellar order. However there is also  the possibility that we may encounter a culture with as great a gap in technological development in our favor as that between Columbus and the Tianos or Maya. Will we act like the Spaniards in the New World? What if such a group was already under the protection of some interstellar power? Could we in fact be under such protection now.

 Lets consider the evidence for alien contact on our own planet. UFOs have been the subject of investigation for decades. There is ample anecdotal evidence and even some physical evidence in the form of photos of craft of unexplained origin in our skies. There is the abduction phenomenon and thoroughly investigated instances of contact with nonhuman intelligent beings resulting in findings that "something happened" but the investigators never seem to be able to say exactly what. If we are being visited it seems clear that no one is attempting to make official first contact, in fact the evidence tends to indicate that while we may be being studied, official contact is being avoided. If some of the stories of contact are true some of our visitors display an attitude towards us that is not unlike that displayed by Columbus toward the first "peasants" he encountered in the New World.

 If some of the popular stories are true, aliens have taken people into temporary custody and subjected them to invasive medical procedures. Yet the alleged victims of these encounters always seem to be returned. So far as we know no one has been hauled off to an interstellar equivalent of the Madrid slave market, which by the way was the ultimate fate of the first friend of Columbus in the New World, Guacanagari.  We have found no permanent bases of alien activity on our planet or anywhere in our solar system. Could we be under the protection of some interstellar rule of law that protects technologically inferior cultures? If so can we rely on anyone tutoring us on the specifics  of the code before we push off into interstellar space? This would seem unlikely. But a close examination of our own maritime international law may give us a general outline of what we might safely assume to be interstellar good manners and a guide to staying out of trouble until any pre-existing interstellar order is revealed.

The battle over the open versus the closed seas likely parallels any existing order in space. One of the first precepts of maritime international law is that the sea beyond territorial waters is a common highway open to all on "innocent passage".  Where territorial waters enclose or infringe on international straits and passages linking the seas, an international servitude exists, giving ships of all nations a right of innocent passage. Adjacent coastal states also have various exclusive rights by way of the Outer Continental Shelf Convention and the most recent "Law of the Sea Convention"to regulate certain fisheries and exploit bottom resources, especially mineral resources out to about 200 miles from shore varying a bit with circumstances. But beyond 12 miles from shore all ships have the right of innocent passage. Beyond the various Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) the sea surface, the water column, and the bottom and subsurface bottom are legally in the international "commons". This concept of "freedom of the seas" was not adopted automatically and is still fought by some nations today. Wars were fought over the issue and may be fought again. However the logic of freedom of the seas seems settled and irrefutable. The commerce between nations is carried on the seas. Without freedom of the seas the global economy is impossible to maintain. The vast seas which once separated cultures now unite them. It is likely that the same logic was long ago applied in space if older space faring cultures exists, especially if there are numbers of them. The likely first rule of space is that it is regarded as a common highway open to all.

 The Second likely rule of space is similar to the modern maritime concept of the Exclusive economic Zone and some ancient Polynesian concepts concerning uninhabited islands. Many , if not most of the islands of Polynesia are simply too small, too low lying, or lack sources of fresh water and were labeled by the European explorers as "uninhabited". But in fact these out lying islands with no permanent human inhabitants were in fact owned, tended,and  were important food sources for Polynesian societies living sometimes several days sail away on larger fresh water endowed islands. The people of the larger permanently inhabited islands would visit the out lying islands to harvest coconuts, fish including tending saltwater ponds created as a form of aquaculture, and plant, tend, and harvest other crops. The truth was that the larger islands could not support their human populations without these additional crop lands and fishing grounds. One of the reasons we will push out into our solar system is that our ever expanding population on this planet needs the additional resources. So a probable second rule of any interstellar legal regime is that in any planetary system with intelligent life on any one planet, the inhabitants of that planet have the exclusive legal right to develop economically the out lying uninhabited planets. Apparently, if we give credence to astronaut reported UFO sightings, the right of innocent passage for all space faring civilizations remains. 

 A third probably sure bet is that in approaching anything like the port towns that Columbus saw on the Mayan coast, there will be a regular routine and procedures for formal entry with due notice to the authorities. If we ever find anything looking remotely like a space port we'd better hang well back and attempt to establish contact before attempting to enter or even draw close..  

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