If You’ve Got Clooney Money, You Too Can Rent a Satellite

While this Guardian piece on George Clooney’s latest commercial (for Nespresso) focuses on the company’s environmental sustainability practices, the eye-opener for me was buried in the piece (Links and text in brackets are from The Guardian).

“Most of the money I make on the [Nespresso] commercials I spend keeping a satellite over the border of North and South Sudan to keep an eye on Omar al-Bashir [the Sudanese dictator charged with war crimes at The Hague]. Then he puts out a statement saying that I’m spying on him and how would I like it if a camera was following me everywhere I went and I go ‘well welcome to my life Mr War Criminal’. I want the war criminal to have the same amount of attention that I get. I think that’s fair.”

Sudan is an area of serious interest for Mr. Clooney, and is likely a big reason Nespresso is working to source coffee from South Sudan.  The satellite time is not a new development.  Clooney helped start the Satellite Sentinel Project in late 2010.  The effort involves DigitalGlobe satellite data in connection with ground observers to note evidence of past or potential activities connected to human rights violations.

While this is impressive, it’s worth noting that this is still a very labor-intensive effort.  Having the satellite time helps, but Sudan is far from the only place in the world that could benefit from such monitoring (with or without satellites).