Conceptual Framework

To discuss space and environment, we use the lens of policy change in relation to technology. A new technology comes into being, for example, space technology in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik. Actors (national, sub-national, international) became aware of the possible uses of space technology. They advocate policies that favor using space for particular purposes in their interests. As space technology is developed and implemented, it provides a push for policy and opens new options. Some of these relate to positive environmental uses of the technology. So also are negative environmental impacts envisioned. Over time, policies to deal with the positive and negative environmental dimensions of space technology are enacted.

In the three areas of space/environment studied—earth observation, near-earth orbit, deep space—technology and policy have advanced unevenly. Earth observation is a direct environmental application of space technology. Hence, it has seen the most space-environment interaction and policy development. Earth satellites can "see" environmental change and monitor the impacts of environmental treaties. This is not to say that the Earth observation front is all well in terms of policy. There are unresolved policy problems in the transition of satellite technology from research and development (R&D) to use. In near-Earth orbit, the environmental policy dimensions are essentially related to negative impacts of the long-term use of a place. There are issues of crowding and also of debris from past use. These policy matters are much less developed than those in the first realm. In deep space, there was environmental policy in connection with Apollo and speculation about what comes next with using the Moon and especially Mars.

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Negotiating Essentials

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