The rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has fallen significantly since President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva took office in January 2023, according to government data released July 7. The area of deforestation detected by space agency INPE's forest monitoring system amounted to 2,649 square kilometers in the first half of the year—a 34% decline from the same period last year. The loss in the first six months of 2023 is the lowest since 2019, according to the satellite-based deforestation tracking system, known as DETER. Lula has prioritized reining in deforestation since assuming the presidency. Last month, he announced his administration's plan to eliminate deforestation by 2030 as part of Brazil's pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Mongabay)
Four environmental advocacy groups and one Native American people on May 1 sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), alleging the agency failed to undertake a thorough environmental impact analysis after a SpaceX rocket exploded in Boca Chica, Texas, last month. The complaint alleges the FAA violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which requires federal agencies to examine and consider environmental effects before granting licenses or allowing federal projects. Specifically, the plaintiffs claim the FAA allowed SpaceX to launch its rocket without "fully analyzing the significant environment and community impacts" of the launch, including damage to the region's wild bird habitat, and without requiring the company to pursue mitigation efforts to offset this habitat disruption.
In Episode 146 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg protests the unprovoked imperialist attack on the asteroid Dimorphos, and rants against the sacrosanct dogma of space expansionism. The much-hyped asteroid threat is clearly being used as a cover for militarization of space to achieve global hegemony on Earth—and for eventual corporate pillage of the heavenly bodies. Finally, a long-overdue voice of space skepticism emerges from academe, with the book Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics, and the Ends of Humanity by Daniel Deudney. But hubristic notions of "space communism" have also been seen on the political left, as discussed in the book I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs and Apocalypse Communism by AM Gittlitz.
Russia destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-based missile Nov. 15, in a test of its PL-19 Nudol DA-ASAT (direct-ascent anti-satellite) system. The blast created thousands of pieces of debris that quickly spread out into Earth orbit. The US says it has identified more than 1,500 trackable pieces of debris from the strike, and many thousands of smaller ones that cannot be traced. That same day, the Russian space agency, RosCosmos, reported that the astronauts on board the International Space Station had to shelter in place due to a cloud of debris passing by the station every 90 minutes, the time it takes for the ISS to orbit the Earth. It was unclear if the debris threatening the ISS came from Russia's ASAT test.
In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we're all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA's latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished Maranhão state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing "space junk" problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don't note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron's wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing ("Whitey on the Moon"), and say with Marvin Gaye: "Spend it on the have-nots!"
An international space venture called Satellogic was just announced, with headquarters in Buenos Aires, to produce satellites for the China Great Wall Industry Corp at a new plant in Montevideo, Uruguay. It is slated to deliver its first 13 satellites this year, to be launched on China’s Long March 6 rocket. China Great Wall was established in 1980 under auspices of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, and operates the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, the principal space facility in the People's Republic (MercoPress, SpaceNews, NASA SpaceFlight) But the announcement comes amid growing concern within Argentina about activities at the Chinese-operated "spaceport" at Bajada del Agrio in Patagonia—and the apparent role of the People's Liberation Army in the facility.
Will an "October surprise" in the prelude to the mid-term elections in the US be the outbreak of world war—that is, direct superpower conflict? Things are escalating fast on the frontlines with both of the United States' major imperial rivals. The US Navy's Pacific Fleet has drawn up a classified proposal to carry out a "global show of force" as a warning to China. The draft proposal reportedly calls for the Pacific Fleet to conduct a series of exercises in the coming weeks, involving warships, combat aircraft and troops, to demonstrate that the US can "counter potential adversaries" quickly on several fronts. (CNN) The plans come after a near-skirmish between a US warship and a Chinese destroyer in the disputed South China Sea on Oct. 2. The two vessles came within yards of each other, compelling the US ship to abruptly switch direction. US officials called the Chinese vessel's behavior "unsafe and unprofessional." while Beijing is accusing the US of violating its sovereignty. (WaPo)
Peru launched its first satellite into space this month, to monitor illegal mining, logging and other extractive activities in the country's vast stretch of the Amazon rainforest. The Peru SAT-1, developed with French aid and the most sophisticated in Latin America, was launched Sept. 15 from Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana and monitored from the Satellite Images National Operations Center (CNOIS) in Pucusana, south of Lima. The satellite bears the logo of Peru's space agency, CONIDA, with the words "Kausachun Peru" (Viva Peru in Quechua). (Peru This Week, Nature, Sept. 15)