George Clooney Launches Satellite Project to Protect People as Sudan Heads into January 9th Referendum


Actor George Clooney has been making himself useful lately.

All too often, celebrities sound off about issues they know little about, and impressionable people are inclined to ascribe to them greater understanding than they usually possess. Of course, celebs like anyone are at liberty to opine. But why, for instance, should I take Lady Gaga’s opinion about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell more seriously than my neighbor’s? Or Sean Penn’s opinion about how to deal with tyrants and dictators more seriously than I take my sister-in-law’s? Especially given that most celebs live a pretty rareified existence, why should we revere their opinions on international relations or cite them in attempting to address incredibly complex geopolitical or national dilemmas?

That said, Clooney does his homework. And he exhibits that rarest of qualities in a celebrity: common sense.

At one point (and here I paraphrase), he displayed that down-to-earth perspective when he said: “The paparazzi are always following me around anyway, so I might as well do something worthwhile.”

In recent days he has initiated a project called “Satellite Sentinel,” which will use satellite imagery analysis and Google’s map technology to monitor any large-scale violence in Sudan during and following the highly-anticipated January 9th referendum, in which the country’s mostly Christian South will have the opportunity to vote to secede from the Islamist North.

Although the idea has its detractors, it seems unlikely to cause harm and, if anything, has raised the profile on a precarious situation that can only benefit from greater international monitoring. It seems logical to speculate that it may decrease the likelihood that bad actors like Sudan’s President, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, will be inclined to initiate violence rather than respect the vote; after all, he knows he will be watched.

Kudos this New Year to a celebrity with sense. And Happy New Year to all!

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