How to see politics from space

HOUSTON - I found myself gazing down at a satellite image of the western Pacific to scope out a typhoon and instead found myself gazing at North Korea. Oh man, look at that.

Houston is the Space City. There are probably more of our neighbors who have seen the Earth from space than in any city in the world. Astronauts live here. Bob, down the street -- or Nicole, on the other side of town -- has seen our space-born home as it really is: a world without borders. Lines on a map are largely arbitrary -- drawn by humans and non-existent in reality. This, I've heard, is a utopian experience urging the observer to have feelings of sorrow and confusion as to why people fight wars over these invisible lines. After all, as viewed from space, we are just a tiny blue dot all alone in an infinite sea of black nothingness. If it was to blow up in a spectacular end, it's quite possible no one would notice. 

But in two extreme cases the imaginary lines are not so fake: Korea and Haiti.

The government of North Korea is the world's petulant teenager. The people of North Korea are their victims. It's a sad story, but if you've ever doubted how bad it really is and what it's really like to be cut off from the world, just look at it... from space.

This powerfully, revealing satellite image was captured Sunday evening. It looks just like this tonight too. City lights are clearly visible everywhere ... but ... in North Korea. If you know your geography, you can easily pick out Seoul.To its north, you can also CLEARLY see the demilitarized zone: the border of North Korea and South Korea. (It's that illuminated line in the middle of the Korean peninsula.) The, "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" is largely dark at night because their infrastructure is so stunted by world sanctions thanks to the DPRK's belligerent use of nuclear weapons in bullying the world for stuff (aid, money, etc.) and for their human rights offenses. Their residents victims have to use candles to get around at night like it's the 18th century. It's quite sad and it's on display for the universe to see. I'd hate to have to explain to a utopian, peaceful, extraterrestrial race who landed on the White House Lawn, why we have allowed this to continue. To me, I feel that it's too bad the world hasn't united to do something about it. If the lights are off at night, it's probably the least of their problems. 

Another country you can clearly see from space due to politics is Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola. The country is virtually deforested. Compared to its much more stable neighbor (at least in recent history), the Dominican Republic, Haiti is virtually bare. It's all thanks to decades of military rule by the Duvalier family, who controlled their people through terror. The rein of, "Papa Doc" after he was elected in 1957 (but stayed in power as a dictator) and his son, "Baby Doc" to follow straight through 2014, led to the collapse of their main industry: tourism. People had to make do with what few resources they had. Trees were the first to go.

In an increasingly cynical world where words seem so twisted people don't know what to believe anymore, let these images speak for themselves and allow yourself to discover the realities of the world in a way no one could ever tell you, or in way you may never have truly believed if you hadn't seen it for yourself. The satellite pictures are out there, free and available. Here's a link if you want to see more of North Korea in near-real time. 

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