Issue 8 - Dark Spaces
By Gordon Flake from Perth USAsia Centre | 17 Aug 2017
Growing up in the high deserts of Northern Arizona I developed a deep love for the night sky. The elevation, distance from city lights, and lack of humidity in the air rendered the heavens brilliant and the various Northern hemisphere constellations familiar friends. During the quarter of a century I lived in the humid sea-level climes near Washington D.C., however, such views were muted and I was surprised by the number of locals who had never seen the dense splash of the Milky Way.
I have had to trade the “Big Dipper” for the “Southern Cross,” but since moving to Western Australia I have become reacquainted with dark nights and clear skies. I have also become increasingly interested in Aboriginal astronomy which, unlike Greek astronomy and its emphasis on the brightest stars, focuses on the Milky Way and often incorporates the dark patches between stars. I still have trouble picking out the famous “Emu” constellation, but find the focus on the darker spaces fascinating.
My time in Perth has also affected a similar shift in my view of the geopolitical structure of the region. For most of my career I paid close attention to “East Asia” and to a lesser degree to “Southeast Asia” and “Oceania” all areas defined by their “brighter stars” or the countries comprising the region. With the emergence of broader constructs for the region such as the “Asia-Pacific” or more recently, the “Indo-Pacific” there is an increasing focus on the “dark-spaces” or the waters that simultaneously divide countries and unite the region.
The heart of the “Indo-Pacific” in particular is its maritime realm. Oceans that had long been seen as obstacles to be crossed or barriers to exchange are the spaces that tie countries together. The massive amounts of energy and mineral resources which flow through the Indian Ocean, the Strait of Malacca and the South China Seas fuel the most economically dynamic region in the world. Territorial disputes, international piracy and other security matters in the region are of global concern. As the region’s populations and economies continue to grow, fisheries, climate change, and the maritime environment pose both challenges to and opportunities for cooperation across the spaces been nations, spaces which are anything but empty.
On 2 October, we will be hosting the annual “In The Zone” conference in Perth which this year focusses on “The Blue Zone: Resources, Environment and Security in the Maritime Realm.” Whether you are Perth, across Australia, or otherwise situated in the Indo-Pacific, we hope you will join us as we examine the Indo-Pacific maritime realm on which we all depend. You will note that we have secured the participation of world class experts and opinion leaders from the full breadth of the region. We are confident that this event will change the way you think about our region and the seas that tie us together.
Now is the time to purchase your ticket to the 2017 In The Zone conference. Please visit our website to learn more about the event and to register today.
After weeks of rain, the skies of Perth look to be clear tonight and I will be out looking for the Emu.
Professor Gordon Flake is the CEO of the Perth USAsia Centre. Image courtesy of Flickr.
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