Astrobiology and Drowned Nations

There’s a lot going on again this week at Studio-X NYC. Two quick things to put on your radar, in case you’re near New York:

[Image: NASA astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild measures solar radiation, via NASA].

1) Tonight at 6:30pm, we’ve got NASA astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild coming in to discuss her work, from extreme environments here on Earth, where scientists test for the limits of life, to the irradiated landscapes of Mars. We’ll look at the nature of biology, the possibilities for synthetic life, unexpected alternatives to DNA, and other mind-bending experiments that ask, in Rothschild’s words, “Where do we come from? Where are we going? and Are we alone?” Architect Ed Keller will be co-moderating this live interview.

2) Tomorrow, beginning at 6pm, we’ve got a massive line-up, including, I’m thrilled to say, an interview with Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, discussing “drowning nations and climate change law. The list of whole countries at risk from sea-level rise is both extraordinary and growing, from the Marshall Islands to the Maldives, posing a series of unanswered questions about migration, citizenship, geopolitical power, and even the very definition of a state. As a 2010 article on ClimateWire asks, citing Gerrard’s work, “If a Country Sinks Beneath the Sea, Is It Still a Country?”

[Image: Male, capital of the Maldives, via Wikipedia].

Gerrard was instrumental in organizing a conference last year called “Threatened Island Nations: Legal Implications of Rising Seas and a Changing Climate,” inspired by the “unique legal questions posed by rising oceans.” Central to our conversation tomorrow night will be what that last link calls “the sovereignty of submerged nations”:

Would the countries continue to have legal recognition like the Order of Malta, which ceded its island territory long ago but continues to be treated like a sovereign for some purposes? Would they retain their seats in the United Nations and other international bodies?

Here, it’s interesting to note recent suggestions that the “entire nation of Kiribati” might—or might not—move en masse to Fiji, to escape rising sea levels.

We will be interviewing Michael Gerrard only from 6-6:45pm, so don’t be late.

Immediately following that live interview, we will kick off a roundtable discussion on the future of sovereignty, governance, citizenship, and the nation-state, looking at a range of unique geographic and spatial scenarios, from the Arctic to the Internet. Joining us—many via Skype—will be: Benjamin Bratton, director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics at UC-San Diego; architect Ed Keller; Tom Cohen, co-editor with Claire Colebrook of the Critical Climate Change series from Open Humanities Press; science fiction novelist Peter Watts; architect and urbanist Adrian Lahoud, editor of Post-Traumatic Urbanism; and Dylan Trigg, author of, among other things, The Aesthetics of Decay.

Studio-X NYC is at 180 Varick Street, Suite 1610, 16th floor; here is a map. These events are free and open to the public, and no RSVP is required.

One thought on “Astrobiology and Drowned Nations”

  1. The new documentary "The Island President" should be mentioned in passing. It's an absorbing look at the politics surrounding headlines that may have flitted through our brains about this nation, probably first on the drowning list. It recently underwent a coup, deposing President Mohamed Nasheed. Development powers were not on his side as you can imagine.

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