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13 January 2005

In November 1980, an unemployed ventriloquist called Dennis Hope lassoed the moon. Not literally of course, but legally, which requires more paperwork, but less rope.

In 1967, as the race to space continued apace, the UN signed the Outer Space Treaty. Essentially, this treaty forbade any government from claiming any extra-terrestrial body as their own private property. What it failed to do however, was to extend that bar to individuals or corporations. Thirteen years later Dennis Hope - a poor man's Keith Harris, with a glorious dream - spotted the loophole and exploited it, filing for ownership not only of the moon, but also of Mars, Venus, Mercury and various other assorted astronomical knick-knacks in our solar system. But he left the Sun and the Earth because he didn't like the colours.

Then he promptly set about selling off his property, an acre at a time. To date, Hope is said to have earned over six million dollars from the moon alone.

This week a Russian lawyer called Vladimir Osipov exploited the same loophole when he laid claim to the clouds. Osipov submitted his official claim to his local notary office in the town of Yeisk, and like Hope before him, notified the international community, to the tune of 150 countries, of his intention to take the clouds as his own. Unlike Hope however, who incidentally is American, Osipov is not seeking financial reward.

Rather it is his intention to use the private property status of the clouds to force environmentally-friendly policies on pollutant-puking factories. He told Pravda that he intends to confer ownership of the clouds on environmental groups. 'They will definitely want their private property to be ecologically pure,' he said. 'That is why they will demand ecologically pure technologies from those who use natural resources.' In cases where clouds are harmed by chemical pollution, the polluters will be sued for punitive damages. Presumably the theory is that when
guilty corporations see how much they are set to lose, they will begrudgingly phase out all of their environmentally-unfriendly practices, maybe start paying their employees decent wages and finally fully realise that the pursuit of profits are nothing as compared to the nurturing of humankind and the protection of
Mother Nature.

And it is a wonderful theory. But probably the only reason Dennis Hope was able to make his millions from the moon was because that's all he was interested in: making millions. The powers-that-be can understood that, and admire it. It's the American Dream. Osipov on the other hand just wants to cause trouble. He's not interested in money at all. Unforgivably, if he gets his way, he might actually end up forcing the international business community to lose money. And that can't be allowed to happen. This is why his cloud scam is destined for failure and the oceans in the sky shall forever remain the plaything of the careless corporation. Ah well.

In the meantime we at TFT have our eyes on the Sun. Dennis Hope didn't want it. We do. So we're going to claim it. And then when it's ours, if people don't start acting responsibly and with a great deal more humanity, let's say, by the middle of summer - we're going to turn it off.


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