November 10, 2009

Consider:  Ecotopia includes Outer Space.

Tonight we  look at environmental issues in outer space. Our first guest is Suzanne Metlay, Operations Director for the Secure World Foundation in Colorado, and she is concerned about orbital debris, or what is called “space junk,” from literal nuts and bolts to dead satellites  in orbit around the earth.

Then we talk with Craig Eisendrath, Chairman of the Project for Nuclear Awareness in Philadelphia, who is author of a book titled The Arms Race for Outer Space and will talk with us about some of the myths and realities concerning weapons in outer space.

Our Conversation with Suzanne Metlay:

Dr. Suzanne Metlay is Operations Director for the Secure World Foundation <>, which is “dedicated to maintaining the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of Earth and all its peoples.”  She is also an educator and has down a great deal of work with high school and college students. .

  • Please tell us a little about the Secure World Foundation and its and interests.
  • You and the foundation have a particular interest in orbital debris or “space junk.”   What is this stuff? How much “junk” is out there?  Where did it come from?
  • What dangers does orbital debris create? to projects in space? to people on the earth?
  • What happens to space junk over time?  Does any of it enter the atmosphere and burn up? Does some of it stay in permanent orbit? Does some of it come back to earth?
  • What agency keeps track of material in orbit?  Does the monitoring include space junk as well as satellites? How much does this cost taxpayers and others?
  • What international agreements govern the insertion of stuff into orbit generally and the generation of space junk in particular. Presumably, these have not been very effective. What more is needed?
  • Please tell us about both U.N. and U.S. current efforts to limit and control space junk.  What is your degree of optimism that the world can, in fact, reach consensus on the problem?
  • Polls show that Americans are “concerned” about the environment, but that is much lower priority than, say, jobs, the economy, and health care.  We’d suspect that space junk is probably well below, say, global warming, on peoples’ agendas. What programs have you developed (including school programs) to educate the public?
  • What can our listeners do to monitor and even become involved in this issue?

The Secure World Foundation  is on the web at

Our Conversation with Craig Eisendrath

Craig Eisendrath, who Chairman, of the Project for Nuclear Awareness and Author, War in Heaven: The Arms Race in Outer Space. (2007)

  • In 1958, as a young man, you were working for U.S.  of State at the United Nations Political Office. Please tell us about that work and your early interests in outer space weapons.
  • In 1967, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on the use of weapons in outer space, and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs continues to monitor what it calls “outer space law.”  Does the original resolution have any teeth? Are there other laws, treaties, or de facto agreements among the major rocket-developing and/or nuclear nations about outer space weapons?
  • Please tell us a little about your Project for Nuclear Awareness. (We know that your interests here go beyond outer space weapons, although we want to focus mainly on those weapons systems in this interview.)
  • One of your areas of specialty is, as indicated by the title of your book, The Arms Race in Outer Space. What’s the nature of this arms race today, particularly in our post-cold-war era?
  • Movies like Star Wars and the James Bond series may have warped our imaginations about what is possible with space weapons.  Could somebody build a Death Star? Could we blow it up if somebody else built one?  What about laser cannons from outer space?  Could we create a satellite that gobbles up other satellites? Please educate us about the “real” developments in outer space weaponry.
  • What are some the less likely or wildly fanciful plans for outer space weapons?
  • Could there be a “Pearl Harbor from outer space” as some military people fear?
  • Earlier this year, the Chinese destroyed a satellite in orbit (creating in the process as many as 40,000 items of space junk).  How has this affected discussion of weapons in outer space
  • Have Pentagon plans and research changed at all since President Obama took office, especially in contrast to the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld regime?
  • With the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty up for discussion and renewal, do you see opportunities for limiting the development of space weaponry?
  • What are your most optimistic predictions concerning the control or elimination of outer space weaponry?  and your gloomiest?
  • How can our listeners learn more or take an active role in limiting space weaponry?

Check out the web site of the Project for Nuclear Awareness:

Important Announcement for Northstate Ecotopians

We want to close tonight with an announcement of special interest to Ecotopians.

This coming Sunday, November 15, a new group called GREEN TRANSITION CHICO will hold an inaugrual meeting and potluck at the Chico Grange, beginning at 4:30.

This group is an outgrowth of the Chico Green Film and Solutions series sponsored by Chico filmmaker Gerard Ungerman. The aim is to capture the momentum for environmental change here in the northstate and to bring together leaders and activists to talk about common interests and ways of catalyzing transition to a new ecology.

Green Transition Chico will unveil its new website at that time and encourage brainstorming about new directions.  This is very much an Ecotopian project.

For the potluck, please bring a dish to share and your own dining ware.  The session begins with informal conversation at 4:30, an introduction to the project at 5, dinner at 5:30, and a brainstorming session from 6:30-8:30. This at the Chico Grange, 2775 Old Nord Avenue, Sunday the 15th.

Playlist for Ecotopia #59: Space Junk

1. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 1:43        Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra      2001: A Space Odyssey

2. Reqiuem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs & Orchestra      6:33        Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks      2001: A Space OdysseyLux

3. Aeterna (Alternate Version)       6:02  Stuttgart Schola Cantorum   2001: A Space Odyssey

4. Weave Me the Sunshine    4:28  Peter, Paul And Mary   The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

5. Tsmindao Ghmerto   3:10  Kitka     Sanctuary: a Cathedral Concert

6. Zabljalo mi e agu˘nce      5:25  Kitka      Sanctuary: a Cathedral Concert