Community Engagement Hub
Hub Leads: John Barentine (Dark Sky Consulting, LLC) & Jessica Heim (University of Southern Queensland)
An image of the NGC 5353/4 galaxy group made with a telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona, USA on the night of Saturday 25 May 2019. The diagonal lines running across the image are trails of reflected light left by more than 25 of the 60 recently launched Starlink satellites as they passed through the telescope’s field of view. Credit: Victoria Girgis/Lowell Observatory
The CPS activity area called the Community Engagement (CE) Hub aims at the establishment of a fair-minded forum for the conscious and respectful discussion of the constellations with all stakeholders involved and communities affected. While the other hubs of the CPS are highly focused on addressing aspects of satellite constellations as they affect professional astronomers, the CE Hub seeks to engage with communities outside of professional astronomy, as the emerging changes to the night sky will impact all of humanity.
The mission of the CE Hub is to provide these stakeholders with a venue in which to be heard and to help clearly communicate their views and opinions to a wider audience. Furthermore, it will offer a bridge connecting the professional astronomical community with other stakeholders around all issues relating to, and affected by, the protection of dark and quiet skies.
The work of the CE Hub is informed by the following principles:
- We define “community” broadly to include all individuals, organisations, nations and other entities interested in accessing the night sky for social, cultural, religious and/or other purposes.
- We recognise that in the history of science, technology and environmentalism, as well as in the rapidly growing private space economy, many voices have gone unheard and their views have not been given fair consideration. This has often been due to cultural differences as well as distinct asymmetries in economic, social or political power. The CE hub seeks to draw attention to these concerns in relation to the common uses of space and the night sky, while serving as a conduit for courteous and respectful discussions of diverse points of view.
- We recognise the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The CE Hub puts a high priority on fostering dialogue with Indigenous individuals, communities, and nations and participating in the co-creation of mutually respectful partnerships.
- We recognise the Starlight Declaration — specifically, its assertion that “an unpolluted night sky that allows the enjoyment and contemplation of the firmament should be considered an inalienable right equivalent to all other socio-cultural and environmental rights. Hence the progressive degradation of the night sky must be regarded as a fundamental loss.”
- We understand that the communities we serve are broad and diverse. They are not monolithic, nor do they consist of any limited set of interests or opinions.
- The best way to overcome division and build bridges is to facilitate honest and respectful dialogue between and among all parties interested in the use of near-Earth space and resulting impacts to the night sky.
- The discussion will proceed with no prejudices and with full respect of all positions.
- The outputs of our work are of interest to the public and should be transparently available to the public in service of the CPS and IAU missions.
- We recognise that outcomes from the CE hub may not ultimately satisfy all stakeholders, but we believe that accurate representation of all voices and commitment to continued dialogue and engagement matter in all decisions about the uses of the night sky.
The CE activity will begin by describing and summarising subject matter pertinent to CE; this will be based largely on the findings contained in the SATCON2 Community Engagement Working Group Report, the Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society II Satellite Constellation Working Group Report, as well as upon relevant additional literature. This summary will be presented in a manner that can be easily understood by the widest possible audience.
In a second phase, the CE Hub will engage directly with a variety of communities, engaging in dialogue and listening to diverse perspectives on the impacts of satellite constellations on dark and quiet skies. The CE Hub seeks to facilitate meaningful discussion on sustainable ways of engaging with Earth's orbital environment that enables both current and future generations to have equitable access to benefits of technological developments in space, while simultaneously ensuring the protection of the environment and human cultural heritage. It will solicit input through interviews, discussion fora, town halls and similar events and activities intended to provide spaces for civil discussions on all topics within the purview of the CPS and its mission. The outputs from this effort may include recordings of webinars and other online events, white papers and reports, and resources stakeholders can use to advance the conversation within their own communities.
The CE Hub will also seek the expertise of those in the environmental history and Science and Technology Studies (STS) communities in order to better understand the past history of such interactions between technology and society. In collaboration with stakeholders, we will seek to articulate their views through the lens of history, including colonialism, the exploitation of marginalised societies and groups, and ongoing efforts to achieve social and environmental justice.
- Defining an initial list of constituencies to invite to exchange experiences in the CE Hub.
- Creating informational material about the potential impact of satellite constellations on the dark and quiet sky that is accessible to different audiences.
- Assist any interested group to provide their point of view on this matter. (This activity may take place in any part of the world; therefore, international collaboration is much needed.)
- Organise online/in-person fora to exchange ideas and views and generate white papers collecting these views.
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