Declaration of the Rights of the Moon
The Moon has been a constant feature of human existence since the time of our earliest ancestors, illuminating the night, regulating cultural activities, and inspiring science, knowledge and belief.
Since the development of the technology to travel into space over 80 years ago, the Moon has also come to be regarded as a resource for use by humans. International space treaties such as the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 proclaim that the Moon is part of the common province of humanity and not subject to territorial claims. Nevertheless, space agencies and private corporations are proposing to extract lunar resources for profit.
There are many legal and ethical complexities around lunar mining but underlying them is the common space community belief that the Moon is a dead world toward which we have no moral obligation. This view is at odds with public beliefs about the cultural and natural significance of the Moon. It also contrasts with a growing movement on Earth recognising the rights of nature, which has seen entities such as the Whanganui River in New Zealand granted legal personhood. There is mounting scientific evidence that the Moon has dynamic ongoing geological and cosmic processes. Given the acceleration of planned missions to the lunar surface, it is timely to question the instrumental approach which subordinates this ancient celestial body to human interests.
A few years ago, landscape architect Thomas Gooch, Director of the Office
of Other Spaces, started running public forums to discuss how we should
understand our relationship with the Moon, as part of his work with the Moon
Village Association (MVA), an international NGO based in Vienna. The MVA is
committed to ethical and sustainable engagement with the Moon. The last of
these forums, in August 2020, considered whether the Moon could be granted
legal personality as a way to acknowledge that the Moon had an existence of its
own separate from human perceptions.
The forums led to a discussion between Dr Michelle Maloney (National Convenor, Australian Earth Law Alliance), Ceridwen Dovey (space researcher and writer), Alice Gorman (space archaeologist), Mari Margil (Executive Director of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights, US) and Thomas Gooch, about creating a Declaration of the Rights of the Moon. One issue was clear: as the Moon held such importance for the people and non-humans of Earth, it was imperative to consult widely and gain as much input as possible. However, there had to be some starting point to open the discussion. Slowly the idea that the group would draft such a declaration was born.
Over the course of a year, the group met regularly to define and refine
the necessary concepts. The Draft we have created here is the end result. But it;s really just a bebinning - a way to start the discussion at a global level. We don't know how this declartion will evolve, but your participation is a key part of the process.