2015 Sammler, K. From the Ocean’s Abyss to the Vacuum of Space: Privatization in the Vertical Commons. Association of Pacific Coast Geographers 78th Annual Meeting, Palm Springs, CA 21 – 24 Oct.
In reaction to recent academic calls for scholars to engage with verticality, volumes, and three spatial dimensions of territory, this paper critically analyzes political, legal and practical engagement with water, air and outer space. From the arcane depths of the seabed to celestial bodies in the sky, each of these expanses differs from most land-based materialities – difficulties of occupying, delimiting, or securing vast unruly volumes – manifesting in distinct strategies of asserting sovereignty within devised jurisdictional zones. Such expanses, commonly considered “frontiers”, are also regarded as geocommons. They share many aspects of their social and legal constructions based on international treaties, utilizing a “common heritage” designation to integrate these spaces into a framework alongside normalized nation-states. Nonetheless, national and private entities are asserting themselves beyond treaty parameters. This paper investigates recent sovereignty and resource claims on seafloors, airspaces, and outer spaces as well as the blurred boundaries of each.