Peace and Policy in the Age of Space Technology (Part 1, The Obvious)

The space industry has been around for over a half century, and the introduction of this industry was born out of conflict. Many remember the Race for Space in the form of the United States versus the Soviet Union. However, as technology always does, the ability to access space reached the hands of the public and of entrepreneurs all over the world. We now live in a time where business is not only conducted around the world, but above it.

That is a pretty quick synopsis of how the use of space technology has evolved. What I really want to do in this post is describe just a few ways that the space industry has changed our lives from the perspective of diplomacy and international relations. Without space, we would not have a lot of things, but the way in which we conduct ourselves has also changed.

In this two part series, we will explore the consequences of living in the space age starting with the fairly well-known impacts and ending with the incredible possibilities of the future.

 

The Obvious:

Space technology started with government and military research, and both entities continue to make serious investments of money and energy in exploring this field today. Militaries around the world have an extremely varied portfolio of space assets. For the US, assets range from spy satellites to top-secret space planes. It also includes satellites responsible for tracking weather, ocean levels, the polar ice caps, and other geological phenomenon. This space-based data helps predict natural disasters and environmental activity, which drives many of the policy decisions related to science, geology, and protection of the environment.

A crucial diplomatic role for satellites today is their use in monitoring areas prone to conflict. This includes the plans to observe Georgia “to help prevent further incidents and to resolve disputes between Tbilisi, Moscow, and Tskhinvali.” The hope is that by tracking militia and border guard movements, security threats could be identified sooner[1]. This objective by the EU is just the beginning of what could be a revolution in preventing conflict around the world.

However, peace is not only important to maintain on Earth, but in orbit as well. This has probably never crossed your mind, but after nearly sixty years of space flight, the planet is surrounded by junk (aka orbital debris). Old satellites, broken satellites, satellites that have crashed into each other, and even natural debris including meteoroids all cocoon the blue planet.

Orbital debris

The orbital debris that surrounds the Earth (objects not to size, obviously).

 

Today, over 500,000 piece of debris are being tracked as they orbit at 17,500 miles per hour, but many pieces under the size of one centimeter cannot be tracked[2]. This is a problem because even the smallest pieces of debris at those orbital speeds can cause serious damage to satellites. Just look at the cupola of the International Space Station. A paint chip that smashed into the window last month caused that[3].

ISS chip

A paint chip smashed into the ISS cupola window in April 2016 causing this unnerving crack.

 

The rising population of debris is a threat to not only satellites used to broadcast TV, relay cellphone and GPS signals, track weather, and monitor greenhouse gases, but also to the complex networks of military space assets. Space is a contested environment, and one mistake from any satellite could cause a snowball effect of debris and eventual destruction leading to serious tensions between nation states. Space satellites are expensive to build and launch, so any loss of those assets, especially ones that relay vital military intelligence, could lead to strain on international relationships.

An example of this occurred in 2007 when the Chinese intentionally destroyed the Fengyun-1C weather satellite as a validation of the viability of a “kinetic-kill” Anti-Satellite (ASAT) device. Current ASAT methods mainly include launching a ballistic missile or space-launch vehicle at the satellite, but ground-based laser systems are in the works. And yes, there has been talk of ASAT technologies capped with nuclear weapons. It is a highly-debated technology with serious repercussions should they be aimed at a satellite you care about. The United States no longer conducts these kinds of launches (not since 1985, at least) for fear of the physical and diplomatic ramifications of such technology demonstrations. This made the 2007 Fengyun incident all the more interesting. Once the retired weather satellite was destroyed using the ASAT missile, a seemingly endless flotsam of shrapnel created a mess around the planet. The debris cloud rose from an altitude of 200 all the way to 3850 kilometers, which encompasses all of low-Earth orbit (LEO) where most satellites operate. Chinese officials claimed that test was simply that, a test. However, the White House condemned the demonstration, and the act was universally criticized as reckless. Scientists and engineers hoped that from this, more attention to space situational awareness (SSA) research would be given in order to track debris fields like the one the Chinese created. Six years later, a Russian nanosatellite was destroyed by debris from Fengyun-1C. Countless other satellites have lived out their lifespans dodging Fengyun debris.[4],[5]


Chinese debris

The Fengyun-1C debris field over the course of six months. Side note: SSA is my proposed field of research at Georgia Tech this fall while I pursue my PhD. I do not believe I will be short of any work.

 

While eyes in the sky and top-secret military satellites and nuclear ASATs can be controversial, the use of the space environment is not always so provocative. The United Nations has an Office for Outer Space Affairs (isn’t the 21st century just the coolest?!) which also houses the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. This committee was created “by the General Assembly in 1959 to govern the use of space for the benefit to all humanity[6].” Space will always be contested by various governments and militaries, but space is a very special environment.

The International Space Station (ISS) has been manned continuously since November 2, 2000. Every child that has been born since that date has lived in a world where humans make routine trips to space to conduct research, a reality that most today take for granted. In a time when things on Earth can seem so dark, so complicated, and so confusing, much of the amazing good that comes from the ISS goes overlooked. Medical research onboard the ISS observes how human physiology changes in space. Doctors over time have come to the conclusion that living in space has the side effects of rapid aging. However, the work conducted on space station isn’t just observing the astronaut’s health, but working to find solutions to health problems on Earth. This includes revolutionary new cancer treatment methods, advances in water purification for providing drinkable water worldwide, use of ultrasound technology for delivering medical care in remote areas, vaccine development and so much more.

These discoveries and advances in medical technology are happening because we went to space. NASA knew that the ISS would be an amazing feat of engineering. Pieces and parts were built around the globe and met for the first time in space. The jigsaw puzzle that is the ISS is an engineering success, but using the lab to conduct some of the most crucial research in the world is what makes it an international success. The ISS is a symbol of what we can accomplish as a human species rather than just individual nations.

 

This is what we have today. Part two of this series will cover the goals that have the aerospace community drooling today and discuss the political and diplomatic support that must be in place to achieve such ambitious goals for the human race.

 

About the author: Jillian Yuricich is a recent graduate from The Ohio State University in the Class of 2016. She studied Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering with a minor in International Studies, Security and Intelligence. Jillian participated in several internships during her undergraduate career including ones at Rolls-Royce North America, NASA, and the Naval Air Systems Command. In 2014, she became Ohio State’s first Astronaut Scholar, a grant awarded for excellence in STEM research by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation originally created by the Mercury 7 astronauts. She also participated in scientist-astronaut training through a program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where she experienced high-G loads and microgravity and flew in a spacecraft simulator in an operational spacesuit. Starting in August of 2016, she will begin her PhD program at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Aerospace Engineering.

[1] http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/news/articles/eav111609b.shtml

[2] http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/news/orbital_debris.html

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/05/12/a-bit-of-debris-chipped-the-international-space-station-thats-just-one-piece-of-a-much-bigger-problem/

[4] http://www.space.com/3415-china-anti-satellite-test-worrisome-debris-cloud-circles-earth.html

[5] http://www.space.com/3370-chinas-anti-satellite-test-widely-criticized-treaties-needed.html

[6] http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/copuos/index.html

Mental Health Stigma and What You Can Do About It

According to the CDC, Mental health stigma can be defined as prejudice, avoidance or rejection that a person feels from themselves or from others because of their mental health concern.

The harm of mental health stigma:

Stigma can prevent people from seeking help, from getting help when needed or not getting the kind of help a person needs.  This can have devastating consequences for individuals and the surrounding community.

Many forms of treatment including medications healthy lifestyle habits counseling and other options are available.

A common problem

  • 1 in 4 people have a mental health condition, and 1 in 2 US adults will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for disease control.
  • Mental health concerns can get completely better somewhat better unchanged or in some cases, worsen; and can occur to people from all walks of life.
  • It is not a condition of the rich or poor or middle class or a certain race ethnicity or culture — a mental health condition can occur in anyone.

People with mental illness don’t always feel supported:

According to the Center for Disease control and Prevention,

  • About 1 out of 2 people believe that they are sympathetic towards persons with mental illness,
  • But only 1 in 4 people with mental illness feel that people are sympathetic towards them.

What you can do about mental health stigma:

According to the National Alliance for Mental illness suggests 3 steps to reduce mental health stigma:

  • Step 1: Educate yourself and others about mental illness.

A good resource is National alliance for mental illness (nami.org) and National Institute for Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml).

  • Step 2: See the person not the illness. Getting to know the person and their

story and treating them kindly can be helpful.

  • Step 3: Advocate for mental health by pushing for better policies, taking part in community programs that promote mental health.

Take the stigma free pledge: http://www.nami.org/stigma

Learn more about stigma related to mental illness:  http://www.fccmh.org/resources/docs/MentalIllnessandStigma.pdf

Resources for mental health treatment:

  • Office of Student Life’s counseling and consultation service: http://www.ccs.ohio-state.edu/
  • OSU Stress and Anxiety disorders Clinic ( psy.ohio-state.edu/ )
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1800-273-8255
  • NAMI Support page: http://www.nami.org/Find-Support

Dr. R. Ryan Patel, DO FAPA, is a psychiatrist treating OSU students and their families using counseling, medications and healthy lifestyle habits at OSU’s Counseling and Consultation Service. He is also author of the blog: u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness.

photo courtesy of namifoxvalley.org

photo courtesy of namifoxvalley.org

Bathrooms For All

Since the Supreme Court decision on Marriage Equality on June 25, 2015, LGBT folks and our issues have had an increased presence in the media.  Recently, North Carolina passed a “Bathroom Bill” that requires all individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth regardless of their gender identity or gender expression.   Supporters of the bill state the bill will ensure the safety of women and children in restrooms, completely overlooking the reality that trans identified individuals and folks who are perceived to be in the wrong restroom are at higher risk of both verbal and physical assault.   The bill also overlooks the reality that not all trans people have access to the resources to change identity documents to reflect who they are.  For example, here in Ohio one cannot change one’s birth certificate and changing identification such as a driver’s license can be costly financially and emotionally.

The reactions to the North Carolina legislation are both encouraging and frightening.  On one hand, several individuals and groups have come out in opposition to the bill from celebrities who have canceled concert tours to campaigns such as #illgowithyou for allies who are willing to accompany trans folks to the bathroom to help ensure their safety.  On the other hand, states such as Ohio, Mississippi, and Florida have discussed (and/or have passed) similar legislation.  Currently, the Ohio bill is not expected to go very far in our state legislature and Governor John Kasich has stated that he would not sign such a bill into law—however, the fact that such a bill was conceived, regardless of its passing or not, is scary and a reflection that we still have a ways to go before “all are equal” truly mean “all are equal.”

Moving past all of the political rhetoric and jargon, at the end of the day all we as trans people want is to safely and comfortably use the bathroom—to perform a basic biological function in peace.  Part of this discussion has led to conversations around the need for more single occupancy restrooms (which benefit not only trans people but also many other groups) as well as questions on how a bathroom law would be enforced (will folks have to start carrying a copy of their birth certificate or would random stall checks be implemented?).   Though I am mindful of the need to be careful with generalizations, my hunch is that the majority of folks who use public restrooms do so in order to pee, poop, wash their face, change their clothes, seek a quiet space during/after a hectic staff meeting—expecting to do so without fear of being harassed or for some nefarious plot.

As with all of the equality milestones we have experienced, the current conversation around restrooms is an indication of the work that has to be done and has yet to be done.  Even if bathroom bills are overturned or not passed, the current realities of states like North Carolina, Mississippi, Indiana, Arkansas, and Florida, do not encourage or spark a desire to visit those states out of fear—a reflection that policy changes do not always ripple onto everyday life or change how LGBT people are treated in society.

I do not want to seem ungrateful for the support the trans community has received these last few weeks.  Attorney General Loretta Lynch proclaimed a powerful statement of solidarity when she said:  “Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself…we see you, we stand with you, and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward…please know that history in on your side.”  These words are moving and hope-filled to all who have been marginalized, however, my concern is where were these words last year when over 20 trans women, the majority trans women of color, were murdered in the US (and these are just the cases that received media attention)?  Where were these words when trans people are fired from their jobs for simply being who they are?  I am grateful for the solidarity but part of me feels that these words were needed much sooner rather than later.

One last thought to share is that current conversations around bathrooms need to be expanded beyond binary understanding of gender.  Much of the current rhetoric on all sides of the debate focus on trans men and trans women, often at the expense of genderqueer, agender, gender-nonconforming, gender expansive, gender-nonbinary, and folks who don’t pass or who don’t want to pass.   In our efforts to counter harmful rhetoric and practices, we must remember that trans identified individuals represent a spectrum of identities and expressions of identities.

As the bathroom conversation continues to evolve, we must remember that accomplishments are steps on the journey for the full equality and celebration of LGBTQIA+ communities—the struggle is real and filled with both challenges and resiliencies.  Peequality for all!

delfin bautista is the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.  delfin is a native of Miami, FL and of Cuban and Salvadoran heritage.   they identify as trans*, specifically as Two-Spirit or genderqueer.  they are a social worker and queer feminist theologian passionate about engaging the intersections of religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, and social justice–creating spaces were individuals and communities are both safe and challenged to wrestle through questions around identity and expression.  delfin has a Master in Divinity as well as a Master of Social Work.   

photo courtesy of www.pridelife.com

photo courtesy of www.pridelife.com

Finding Art & Peace

Finding Art & Peace

I believe art has the power to save people. I believe this because it saved me.

I am an artist. I am a poet. I am a peacebuilder. I am recovering.

Funny enough, art was not always something I believed in. At least not this strongly. I was a musician in high school. I did some journaling. And I even tried my hand at poetry when the season for poetry submissions came along in English class. I never saw art as something that changed anybody, even though I loved music.

Finally, I found my home in writing and poetry with a hint of music when I have the right instrumentation. Let’s be honest, trombones just don’t play parties alone.

I’ve always found solace in words, but I remember a time when I couldn’t even find words. Every time I started writing I spent more time scratching words out and doodling over them than I did creating anything. In retrospect, I wasn’t ready to start talking about what I knew. That is what the best writing is about – what you know – and what I knew was way too complicated to start talking about out loud. Just a few years ago, though, when I ran out of excuses to not deal with it and all other means of ignoring everything, I came face to face with a type of broken I can honestly say I hadn’t yet seen. Right when I should have been permanently, irreparably broken, I found my words.

It was finding my words that started to change the way I look at the world, healing, and eventually peace.

I started to see that art has a unique role in understanding pain, struggle, and conflict. That I could really uncover the causes of my own pain and conflict by exploring my art, and ultimately that exploring my experience through art could also help other people explore theirs at their own pace, in their own way.

My journey to seriously consider the role of art in peace began here. How can we do peace if we don’t take the time to understand the underlying, innermost causes of conflict – inner and interpersonal? And how can we possibly understand the underlying causes of conflict in a community if the people in the community haven’t had the chance to understand them themselves?

I didn’t understand what I was struggling with for a long time. Art helped me figure it out in a way that was comfortable for me. Sometimes sitting down with a traditional counselor isn’t enough, and often it’s not even an option. We have to find a way to better understand and identify the causes of conflict in individuals and communities, so that we all know better how to address them.

Art let’s you explore your life and experiences both directly and indirectly, and, for those who don’t do art, seeing and discussing art can help you uncover your own struggles.

What better way to promote agency in your own understanding and healing than art? Art helped me realize I was an agent in my own life, that I had the power to deal with my problems, and that I could do it through art, when so much else had failed. This was a pivotal moment in becoming the person I am today.

 The Theory Behind the Journey

Peace is both the ending of violent conflict and the removal of structures that promote violence. It is creating structures that contribute to sustainable, lasting peace. There are many opinions about how that happens, but most agree it has political, social, economic, security, and legal dimensions. My degree program broke it down into conflict analysis and resolution, human rights, and development and human security.

If you look at peace theory, it’s so clear that art has a place amongst those dimensions. The basis of conflict analysis and resolution is that to end violent conflict and create peace we have to figure out the causes of conflict. Art has the ability to uncover and explain the causes of conflict in new and more holistic ways.

Art can revitalize local economies and promote not only short-term relief, but long term, sustainable development. It can build up local artists and artisans while bringing in art lovers, collectors, philanthropists, and business people – thus boosting local, small business to meet the increased demand for housing, food, and transportation.

It has also helped record and remember lives lost to terrible human rights abuses. It’s often helped promote reconciliation. Things like storytelling are often used as traditional forms of forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation. Art is so often used for social recovery that art therapy is now a widely used tool for helping children, youth, and adults overcome horrible traumas and abuses.

 The Missing Link – Why Nairobi?

Art has a role to play in each and every aspect of peacebuilding. Peace is often seen as a systemic goal, and art has a role to play in that too, but what art really does is make an intentional connection between the creation of inner, personal peace and systemic peace.

IMG_5733

The youth I met in Kariobangi and Mathare believed so intrinsically that their everyday actions could contribute to personal and community peace. That they could build peace by saving money from their car washing business to teach children about social issues through football. That they could build peace by doing free concerts for community events and schools, so they could use their art to contribute to individual and community development, while also pushing for deeper conversations through the subject matter their art explores. That a couple of djs could contribute to peace and social awareness by creating a mixtape that also talks about social issues during traffic jams.

The coolest thing about youth in Nairobi is they’re already on a journey to connect inner peace to systemic, and they want to do it in new, innovative ways. So in some ways, they taught me, at the end of the day, that art just makes sense. If we ever want to take youth seriously, and we should if we really take peace seriously, then we have to start speaking through mechanisms that youth speak through. Youth are not only the backbone of society, but also the backbone of peace. And I know from the youth I’ve met here that I would be completely lost to try to create peace with youth without including the very voice they speak through.

For me, the lesson at the end of the day is this:

For all those without the privilege, resources, and opportunity to be heard, art is the voice. For all those too broken, marginalized, and disenfranchised to speak, art is the platform.

Jessica Ciccarelli, the Recovery Poet

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About the author: Jessica Ciccarelli is a recent graduate of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies with a Masters degree in Peace and Justice. She is currently living in Nairobi, Kenya collaborating with local partners to begin a leadership program that trains disadvantaged youth with a focus on art, peace, and conflict transformation. She runs a blog at www.therecoverypoet.com, in which she focuses on the healing power of art to create peace.