The last post on what sovereignty means to an extraterrestrial colony prompted some comments and some references to the history of sovereignty. If you are interested, check out a discussion on sovereignty.
As I have had more time to think on it, perhaps this is a more general question. Certainly it is possible for a lunar colony to remain an outpost of a company or government with temporary residents holding earth bound concerns. But is that practical on Mars? How about further out moons or asteroids? At some point the people of a colony will be so far out and intertwined with their environment that the connection with their Earthly concerns will loosen and break.
I would guess this is true of most colonists who move their lives to a new land. This is especially for the generations born in that new land. So I say that extraterrestrial sovereignty is a foregone conclusion, at least eventually.
“Wait,” you may say. “We have no such problem today. People live in different countries without ever giving up the ties to their homeland.” That is true. We also have one day travel to practically anywhere in the world, telephones, televisions, and the wonderful stream of electrons you are reading this entry called the internet. There is no where on Earth where you have to disconnect from your place of origin to stay alive and prosper.
The distances in space are difficult to imagine. Jupiter and its interesting moon Europa never come closer than 365,000,000 miles to the Earth. Flying in a race car at 200miles/hr would get you there in roughly 222 years. That is far. (note: this is simplified so I don’t have to deal with physics at night-djs) The last mission we sent to Jupiter took six years to get there.
Imagine living on a colony away from your home and it takes six years to get back. Would you go home for Christmas? Maybe not. Would you go home at all? I don’t know about you, but I get restless driving six hours to the beach. I don’t think I could take six years.
Now the visionaries among us will say, but what about Star Trek? With super-duper-warp-hyper-drive-ftl-fairy-dust engines these far out colonies will be a few moments away. Perhaps in eons to come, but initially we will crawl in our clunky and slow spaceships. The world was not settled after we invented airplanes. It was settled on foot and by boat. Even as late as 1492, when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, it took three months to cross the Atlantic. During the American Revolution, it still took the English eight weeks to cross the ocean (if the weather was good). That is how colonies have been settled throughout time and there is no reason to believe space will be any different.
So having established that far reaching colonies will be cut off from their place of origin, where are we on the question of sovereignty? From all the comments and historical research I have been given since my first foray into this topic, it seems to me sovereignty means this:
Other countries either believe in is in their best interest to leave you alone or don’t have the resources to do anything about it.
Let’s take the Unite States of America and France as examples. There are, perhaps, many countries who would love to destroy America’s sovereignty. They just don’t have the capability. On the other hand, the US could destroy France relatively easily, but then who would make the wine? (just kidding :)
So given a colony of humans living years away from Earth, whose children only know of Earth through night-time stories, what are the chances anyone on Earth is going to expend the resources to quash their little rebellion. And if they do, the colonists have years to prepare. Call me pessimistic, but it’s hard to keep a supply line 365 million miles long.
My purpose in thinking about this, as always, goes back to the Outer Space Treaty. If a colony declares its independence to the world, are they bound by that treaty? More importantly, can nations on Earth recognize their independence without violating that treaty? I am sure many countries and corporations with no presence on said colony would gladly support there separation. So is a declared sovereign nation, who has never signed the Outer Space Treaty, bound by it or do they have to win a battle with the world first?
So in conclusion, I think as we go further out into space, humans are going to have to deal with multi-world politics. Can we then discuss the solarization of humanity? I can see the bumper stickers now:
Think Solarly, Act Locally