- Mercure Libbrecht Gourdet
Satellites, manta rays and a new president
Another week, another news round up of what happened these past seven days. So let’s dive into this new week and a new month. Welcome to March, which signifies spring, new life and new possibilities to start something new.
In some news for democracy, Nigeria elected a new president with a record low turnout of only 27% of eligible voters going to the polls. Following the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, who was known for his social welfare initiative and his strong stance against corruption, the president elect Bola Tinubu will be assuming office at the end of May. With the nickname “big boss”, he was previously Governor of Lagos State, where during his stint he managed to equalise fortunes in Lagos. A multimillionaire, officially through real estate, he often faced questions on the legitimacy of his riches, which seems rather paradoxical after the previous inhabitant of Aso Villa (the president's residence and office). One thing is for sure, he will have a difficult time bringing the Nigerian economy back to a better place, just like a lot of countries all over the world (New York Times).
Going away from the wonders of a democratic society, let us now focus our eyes on the sky, where more and more human made satellites are circling earth. And it is starting to get crowded. Not necessarily due to a lack of space, as the size of satellites is rather negligible when compared to their orbit and available space. But rather because of the prominence they started to gain in pictures, eventually ruining them. And it is not just limited to amateur astrophotography pictures from Earth. Now their trajectories are even starting to become visible in pictures from the famed Hubble Telescope (New York Times).
The amount of satellites in orbit has been exponentially rising since the first one was launched in 1957. With only 2027 estimated to be orbiting earth in 2018, four years later the estimation lies at 6905, according to statista.com. And the number will only continue to grow with Starlink sending up thousands more in the coming years and the space sector seemingly being the new gold rush with myriads of new startups trying to find a nugget in this vast emptiness of space. One does wonder therefore, whether on a dying earth it is necessary to spend billions of dollars to leave, rather than caring for life on her.
Let us therefore stay a bit here on our blue planet and celebrate a historic treaty for the protection of the ocean: The UN High Seas Treaty is the first of its kind to protect the “high seas'', which encapsulates everything outside of national sea territory. As a reminder, everything within 200 nautical miles of a country's shores has traditionally been under its control. This allows each nation to control (and exploit) everything in the water, above and on the seafloor. Anything beyond that is considered “International Waters” often just called the High Seas, and is not subject to (inter)national regulations. This also means that up until now, no rules were established to protect nature in this vast ocean that covers close to half the planet’s surface. Everything is about to change now though, as the new treaty will be establishing new zones of natural protection and enabling more funding for ocean conservation. In numbers, 30% of the international waters will become protected zones ares by 2030. In those zones, endangered species such as manta rays, phytoplankton and sharks will be able to live peacefully and thrive without the influence of humans. It also sets out new rules for ocean floor mining, which has been detrimental for fauna and flora all over the globe.
With the last treaty dating from 1982 (The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea), it is a much needed solid promise to safeguard our marine world (BBC World News).