Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

The Disappearing Sky

The sky is a unique domain, and one that is inadequately regulated. With the advent of global pollutions and technologies, remedying that has become more urgent than ever.

Some months ago, an American astronaut accidentally let a tool escape into orbit, eliciting concern about its hazardous potential as a hurtling object that could destroy an expensive satellite or even threaten lives aloft. Shortly afterwards, China blew up one of its satellites, immediately doubling the type of fine orbiting debris that is dangerous because it is hard to track.

Once again the world became aware of the strange situation emerging in our skies. The sky is a unique domain, and one that is inadequately regulated. With the advent of global pollutions and technologies, remedying this is becoming an increasingly urgent problem.

In most cases, the laws for skies mirror those governing the world’s oceans. Oceans belong to everyone except those near landmasses, which are managed in a similar manner to the country's land-bound borders. As a result, the sky is usually conceptualized in terms of traffic. Airliners and fighter planes operate in “controlled” air close to the ground, while nationality is supposed to matter less the higher you go. Fragile treaties that cover this are enforced mostly by the fact that few nations can afford to place assets that high.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/kkaaIp5;

Edit Newsletter Preferences