The Climate Revolution podcast episode 6:
‘Introducing: The Blue Dot Flag’
A flag for the Earth – and for everyone who strives to protect her.
In this podcast interview graphic designer Tijs Bonekamp explains why he believes a flag for the Earth could become a very powerful way to connect people who share the same sentiment: that we need to do better in how we protect the planet and all life on it.
Tijs designed the Blue Dot flag in 2019 and now distributes it to hundreds of individuals around the world through his website and the Blue Dot Foundation.
“This flag is not about us. The Blue Dot is about the planet and its nature. Similar to the rainbow flag and its purpose, this Blue Dot aims to solidify our universal awareness and care for the earth and its beautiful nature. Its purity hopefully mirrors the essence of this complex and vast story we are stuck in.”Tijs Bonekamp, founder of Blue Dot Flag Foundation
. . .
Tijs Bonekamp, 45, is a graphic designer from Haarlem in The Netherlands, where he lives together with his partner Hilde and their children Coen, 15, and Cato, 11. Tijs grew up with a lot of nature around him, but since art school and later when he moved his design studio to Amsterdam, he has mostly been surrounded by city life. In the heart of Amsterdam he works together with four colleagues at a studio for visual communication called Ape to Zebra.
The interview with Tijs was conducted via Zoom on 19 October 2023.
→ Home page: www.bluedotflag.org
→ Instagram: www.instagram.com/bluedotflag
“We don’t own the planet Earth, we belong to it,” Steve Irwin wrote 20 years ago – in his book “The Crocodile Hunter”.
In New York Times in 1946, Albert Einstein said: “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive. The world we have created is a product of our thinking, and it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
“The Earth is where we make our stand.”
Carl Sagan’s book and video ‘Pale Blue Dot’ was inspired by an image taken – at Sagan’s suggestion – by Voyager 1 in February 1990. As the spacecraft was about 6.4 billion kilometres away, departing our planetary neighborhood for the fringes of the solar system, it turned it around for one last look at its home planet. Carl Sagan unveiled the Pale Blue Dot image at a press conference on the Voyager missions in 1990. The book was first published in 1994. It is one of Carl Sagan’s last major works before his death in 1996.
The book encourages readers to think about the long-term survival of our species. It emphasises the importance of taking care of our planet and the need for responsible stewardship of the environment. The “Pale Blue Dot” concept, as presented in both the book and the associated video, continues to be a powerful reminder of the need to protect and cherish our planet Earth.
“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.”
~ Carl Sagan
“I’d like to see a greater sense of global citizenship, not national citizenship. That is potentially where we need to go.”
~ Admiral Chris Barrie, (Ret.), Former Chief of the Australian Defence Force, speaking at the RESET.21 seminar about the climate emergency, ‘Hot, wet & violent’, on 11 February 2021
Podcast content – in order of appearance
00:40-00:46 Movie clip: Marvel, Thor: Kaorg speaks to Thor about revolution
00:45-00:56 Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
00:56-01:03 Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary-General
01:05-01:25 Movie clip: Marvel: “How bad is it?”
01:40-01:49 Movie clip: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (also at 06:03-06:15 and 53:13-53:20)
03:09-03:12 BBC World Service during Second World War: “This is London calling”
03:12-04:27 Julian Allwood, Cambridge University: “1 billion deaths”
04:55-05:00 Movie clip: Netflix series ‘The Fifth Wave’: “Humanity as we know it…”
04:33-04:55 Stuart Scott speaking in Stockholm in 2018
12:23-12:26 Movie clip: Marvel: The Avengers – emergency evacuation
14:00-14:18 Movie clip: Marvel: Guardians of the Galaxy
14:18-14:29 Former admiral Chris Barrie, 2021
16:04-16:45 Carl Sagan: ‘Pale Blue Dot’ (also at 53:20-55:29)
19:40-20:00 MacKenzie King, Canadian Prime Minister during the Second World War, youtube-clip: “Unite in a national effort to save from destruction all that makes life itself worth living…”
39:42-39:50 Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International, quotes Bob Hunter in podcast
46:59-47:27 Movie clip: Netflix series ‘Black Sails’, Season 1 Episode 4: “It was inevitable”
56:40-56:47 9-year-old Eve speaking in London at Extinction Rebellion rally
56:49-56:50 Tadhg: “What we need is a revolution.”
56:52-56:58 Jose Ramos: “What is my role and my place?”
58:13-58:30 David Attenborough, excerpt from BBC’s ‘Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World’: “There just could be a change in moral attitude from people world-wide, politicians world-wide, to see that self-interest is for the past, common interest is for the future.”
58:40-58:54 The Kookaburra laughs
58:55-59:49 Prince Ea: ‘Three Seconds’
00:00-00:22 Aakash Gandhi: ‘Waterfall’ (also at 05:41-06:04 and 51:34-53:16)
00:46-01:06 Alex Aidt: ‘Icecream’ (also at 56:47-58:04)
01:29-02:55 El Secreto: ‘Yung Logos’ (also at 06:47-07:25)
03:11-04:52 Serge Pavkin: ‘Dawn’
04:55-05:41 Twin Musicom: ‘A Dream Within a Dream’
11:10-11:19 Hang Massive: ‘Heritage of Queens and Kings’
14:18-14:55 Louis Wilson: ‘Droplets’
33:40-34:43 Density & Time: ‘Ether-Real’
39:41-42:19 Serge Pavkin: ‘Reflections of Life’
55:37-56:41 ‘New Oddyssey’
“And one day enough of the people had woken. They remembered they were all brothers and sisters cohabiting the sacred beautiful planet. Gone were the delusional imaginary borders, beliefs and structures that had separated them. They started living, sharing, creating, evolving together. They became the new humans and Earth guardians of the great Mother Planet. The people and the Earth became whole again. And the children sang their song.“Passionate planet connectors – on Facebook.com
Night Thoughts— Green is a mission (@Greenisamissio1) November 15, 2023
We should never stop loving our beautiful unique home earth, treating and protecting it with respect and understanding again that we are a part of it. When this is understood, we are a big step closer to a better future for all of us.💚🌱☘️🌿🌲🌳🍀💚 pic.twitter.com/jyyEjP8DEs
“The answer to ‘What’s next?’ is: Revolution.”
~ Roger Hallam
“Act of war” statements
Entering uncharted territory
A distinguished international team of scientists has issued the starkest warning yet that human activity is pushing Earth into a climate crisis that could threaten the lives of up to 6 billion people this century, stating candidly: “We are afraid of the uncharted territory that we have now entered.”
Writing in the journal Biosciences, the coalition of 12 researchers, spanning North America, Europe and Asia, state in unusually stark language: “As scientists, we are increasingly being asked to tell the public the truth about the crises we face in simple and direct terms. The truth is that we are shocked by the ferocity of the extreme weather events in 2023.”Forbes: ‘We Are Afraid’: Scientists Issue New Warning As World Enters ‘Uncharted Climate Territory’
“Life on planet Earth is under siege. We are now in an uncharted territory. For several decades, scientists have consistently warned of a future marked by extreme climatic conditions because of escalating global temperatures caused by ongoing human activities that release harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, time is up. We are seeing the manifestation of those predictions as an alarming and unprecedented succession of climate records are broken, causing profoundly distressing scenes of suffering to unfold. We are entering an unfamiliar domain regarding our climate crisis, a situation no one has ever witnessed firsthand in the history of humanity.
The trends reveal new all-time climate-related records and deeply concerning patterns of climate-related disasters. At the same time, we report minimal progress by humanity in combating climate change. Given these distressing developments, our goal is to communicate climate facts and policy recommendations to scientists, policymakers, and the public. It is the moral duty of us scientists and our institutions to clearly alert humanity of any potential existential threat and to show leadership in taking action.“
→ BioScience – 24 October 2023:
The 2023 state of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory
“The governing classes have given up on the survival of numerous species and future generations, and their inaction constitutes the ultimate crime against life on Earth.”
~ Andrew Glikson, Australian National University, advisor to the IPCC
→ The intercept – 29 October 2023:
When Idiot Savants Do Climate Economics
“How an elite clique of math-addled economists hijacked climate policy.”
1/2 "Unrelenting Drought Clobbers The Amazon"— Roger Hallam (@RogerHallamCS21) October 22, 2023
"In Amazonas state, nearly 7,000 fires were reported in September alone, the second-highest figure for the month since satellite monitoring began in 1998." Maybe the biggest news this year is not that ..
We need to stop gambling with our planet – and our well-being – now. Sustainability & solving the climate & ecological crises is about justice, security, equity, & peace. The (only) path to prosperity and dignity for all. The alternative, brings disaster. https://t.co/C0RVTE9ncz— Johan Rockström (@jrockstrom) October 21, 2023
Australian scientists talk about the pain of watching our home planet strain and start to fall apart despite decades of warnings.— David Pocock (@DavidPocock) October 23, 2023
It's time to listen and invest in our future.https://t.co/2mFwqva9zW pic.twitter.com/8jzC9d3xIF
The fastest roll out of a new energy system in history: Renewables have already reached an “irreversible tipping point” and will dominate electricity markets by 2050 without any additional policies— Assaad Razzouk (@AssaadRazzouk) October 22, 2023
What we need now are policies to go fasterhttps://t.co/LOrrKtF5bs #climate pic.twitter.com/CKBxkyiYFK
Mik Aidt: “Imagine beauty. Something beautiful. Like a butterfly. Or a rainbow. The climate revolution should be about beauty. Raising a flag of positivity, optimism, celebration.
‘But how could we?’, you might be saying – the way things are going. We’re getting deeper and deeper into this mess of misinformation and lies, and war in the Middle East, and pressure is rising, prices keep going up, cost of living, temperature graphs are going up as well. It’s like, it’s getting out of control.”
Movie clip: “How bad is it?”
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres: “We are rapidly reaching the point of no return for the planet. We face a triple environmental emergency. Biodiversity loss, climate disruption, and escalating pollution.
UN Secretary General in 2011, Ban Ki-moon: “We need a revolution. Revolutionary thinking. Revolutionary action.”
Movie clip: Marvel: “How’d you end up in here?” “Oh, well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets, so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate. But, I’m actually organizing another revolution. I don’t know if you’d be interested in something like that. Do you reckon you’d be interested?”
“The Climate Revolution.”
Mik Aidt: “This is the sixth episode of The Climate Revolution podcast series where we constantly are on the lookout for ideas for the Climate Grail…”
Movie clip: Monty Python: “Uh, so, anything that you could do to, to help would be very helpful.”
Mik Aidt: “We didn’t actually need a university study to tell us this, but now we have one – thank you, Griffith University! …a study which has found that when it comes to climate, most Australians are not listening to the climate scientists. They’ll just look out the window and say something like, “Nah, I think the weather looks alright.” But hey, mate, it’s not, it’s not all right. The climate crisis cost 25 million [Australian] dollars every hour in extreme weather damage. If you put all the numbers together worldwide, that’s more than 600 million of damage every day. That’s not all right. It adds up to more than four. billion dollars when the week is gone. And on a yearly basis, that’s more than 222 billion. This is from a study they did at Victoria University in Wellington, in New Zealand.
And it gets worse. This is still peanuts compared to what’s coming, actually, according to the researchers. Starvation of more than a billion people. A world in war, says Julian Allwood, who is a professor of engineering and the environment at Cambridge University in England.”
BBC during WW2: “This is London calling. This is London calling…”
Julian Allwood: “PhD students who worked on the question: ‘How will society collapse if we don’t act on climate change’, is to try and predict for every country in the world whether they will, by the end of the century, be able to access enough food through growing it or through having enough money to buy it.
And it turns out that around the equator, most countries will not. So not acting on climate change means that there is a risk in countries of Africa and Asia near the equator – not just a risk, a very high probability that not acting means starvation of more than a billion people by the end of this century.
We can’t have that number of people starving and retain world peace. They’re not going to stay still. They’re going to migrate north to where the food is. And we can’t cope with migration on that scale. So not acting on climate change means a certain world war in the lifetime of anybody born from now onwards. By the end of this century, not acting means that our world will change. Acting means our world will change. But my preference is to act now so that we don’t have the impossible to imagine suffering that will come from not acting.”
Stuart Scott: “And all of this urgency has led to headlines now that looks something like this new climate debate, how to adapt to the end of the world. From the Bloomberg Businessweek Online. Researchers are thinking about social collapse and how to prepare for it.”
Movie clip: The Fifth Wave: “Humanity as we know it will be wiped from the face of the Earth.”
Mik Aidt: “But this frightening future is not a story that’s being told in mainstream media, not at all. The only way we’re going to get anywhere with solving some of these big problems we have in society is if a lot of people come together in agreement that this is what needs to happen. Imagine, just for a moment, if we could start on afresh. And here I speak as a climate action campaigner. Where should we begin if we were to do it all over again? We’re not going to get all the rising graphs in this climate emergency under control unless a majority in the population understands what the problem is and are in agreement about how we will go the same way the decarbonising, circular, earth protecting way to fix it.
But what’s going to connect us rather than divide us? That’s where Tijs Bonekamp from Holland comes in with a new idea, or rather, a new design idea:”
Monty Python: “I have seen the grail.” “No grail here.” “I have seen it, I have seen it.” “But there is one small problem.”
. . .
Tijs Bonekamp: “It’s a simple, it’s a very simple idea. It’s one rectangle. It’s one, one circle. That’s it. Um, but there’s so much to it now. And it leads to all kinds of places, all kinds of discussions, giving workshops, presentations, having a conversation, much like this one.
It’s a big adventure for me. I think it makes sense for me to be doing this to, hopefully add something. leave something behind for my kids as well. It’s not about us, it’s about the next generation.”
Mik Aidt: “Tijs Bonekamp is 45. He’s a graphic designer from Haarlem in the Netherlands where he lives together with his partner Hilde and their two children aged 15 and 11.
Tijs grew up with a lot of nature around him but since art school and later on when he moved his design studio to Amsterdam. He’s mostly been surrounded by city life. Today he lives in Amsterdam, where he works together with four colleagues at a studio for visual communication called Ape to Zebra.”
. . .
Tijs Bonekamp: “I was once asked by somebody from the nature department of the Dutch ministry to help out with some storytelling around biodiversity.
And that got me thinking, do we really need? More stories. Do we need more angles? Do we need more messages on this huge problem that we have – the climate crisis. And I was wondering if, if that would really help a lot, if people are waiting for more messaging around this? It’s so complex.
It might be better to make it more simple, instead of creating a new campaign. Create some sort of symbol that could help people to connect with, to recognise themselves in, to tie all these stories together. And, as a graphic designer, I’m quite used to zooming in and out on our clients, on their business, on their cause, on the problem that they have.
And I was looking at this question from the ministry and I thought, ‘Why don’t we zoom out on this?’ And why don’t we zoom out all the way? Just like astronauts and Carl Sagan had made this incredible video when he was 6 billion kilometres away from the Earth. I think he looked back at the Earth.
And seeing how tiny and fragile it really is, this tiny blue dot, it’s a great video. You can find it on YouTube very easily – ‘Pale Blue Dot’, it’s called.”
Carl Sagan: “From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest, but for us. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering. Thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines. Every hunter and forager. Every human being. Every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilisation. Every king and peasant. Every young couple in love. Every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer. Every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there, on a moat of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.”
Tijs: “This is what got me thinking: Okay, so this is what we need. We need some sorts of symbol, similar to the rainbow flag. It’s an open symbol. Everybody can relate to it. Why don’t we make a flag for the Earth? It was this simple idea that I presented to them. And they liked it at first, but [then] didn’t take part in further development of the flag. Which I don’t mind now. I’m very happy to have gone through with it by myself – ourselves, I should say – we’re a small team now. And I started to design the flag – the flag for the Earth. And I called it the ‘Blue Dot’ because of Carl Sagan’s video.
It’s just a simple green rectangle with a blue dot on it, symbolising our planet.
When I looked into flags and flags for the Earth – because there are many more attempts to create flags for the Earth – it’s interesting to see all the different angles that you can have on this. There’s flags that will present represent the Earth to aliens, for instance, or flags that want to combine everything and everyone on this planet.
And this flag is a bit different. It’s just to represent the Earth. And it’s fragile health that it’s in right now. So it’s a symbol for everyone who feels the same worry, who wants to have something to connect to. It’s free to use for everyone who feels connected to this beautiful planet. And who wants to protect it or, or help it through these complex times that we are in right now.”
Movie clip: The Avengers: “All personnel, the evacuation order has been confirmed.”
Mik: “So you’re saying in a way that it’s something that we can unite around. Here’s a flag that we can sort of stand under and then say: ‘This is what we are about’.”
Tisj: “Exactly. All flags do that more or less, but like, the flags for countries… Every country is represented by a flag and the flag helps them to claim their uniqueness, their beauty, their wealth. But this flag represents the Earth. The entire Earth and every living creature on it, because I think the country flags also prevent from people from seeing the bigger picture.
It’s also creating differences between the countries. And with that, it stops everyone to really see that bigger picture. Hopefully this flag will help in that sense. How could that happen? Much like the rainbow flag. I think if you see it hanging in the streets at your local football club, in a parade or every anywhere, you know these people carrying this flag feel the same way about this issue.
And if people don’t recognise the flag, but ask you what does it stand for? You have a good conversation about it. So it’s about raising awareness. It’s about growing the awareness – the idea that we need to overcome our local issues, our personal and individual issues, and think about the bigger picture.”
Movie clip: Guardians of the Galaxy: “Now I’m standing. Y’all happy? We’re all standing up now. Bunch of jackasses standing in a circle.”
Former admiral Chris Barry: “I’d like to see a greater sense of global citizenship and not national citizenship. You know, that’s potentially where we need to go.”
Tijs: “The more flags you see around you, the more blue dot flags you see around you, the more you become aware that it’s something we cannot overlook anymore. I really hope it’s a unifying symbol.
It’s not a symbol of fighting against others. It’s a symbol of getting on the same path of traveling together towards this better future for the planet and, and therefore for us, for ourselves and for our children. What kind of message do you want to give to your kids? You want to have some sort of hope for them that there is a future that is better for them than the situation that we are in right now.
And that’s why I hope this flag, this blue dot, is not only unifying, but also a symbol of hope and of a more positive outlook.”
Mik: “About 10 years ago, I was very inspired by a statement, I was interviewing the person who was at that time the chairman of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, his name was Pachauri and he lived in India. He told me, “We are all citizens on planet Earth and there’s no other place we can go.”
“Carl Sagan says the same thing in that video. We don’t have an alternative.”
Carl Sagan: “It’s just this tiny blue dot and we have to be able to make it work here. There’s no way out. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.”
Mik: “So, isn’t there a risk that the flag gets misused in the sense that what if groups that you really don’t like – let’s say: fossil fuel companies – started using the flag?”
Tijs: “It’s a question I’ve heard a lot, and it’s understandable because greenwashing is a problem. Misuse of symbols is a problem. And we will see when we get there how to fight it. I think one of the ways to prevent it is to take it slow and make sure the flag is everywhere, so it’s almost impossible to be owned up by someone or some organisation because it’s everywhere already.
And the benefit of taking it slow is that it allows the flag to spread all over the world before some big organisation tries to claim it. So the bottom-up strategy – the bottom-up strategy, definitely.
And that’s why I’m also, in the end, not too sad that the Dutch ministry didn’t come along on this journey, because I think when it’s connected to any government already, it’s not bottom-up anymore. And I’m very happy that it is where it is right now.”
Mik: “Now I read just recently a British environmentalist, he wrote on Twitter, which is now called X, that the opening of yet another new oil field out in the North Sea would be like an act of war against all life on Earth. And I thought, ‘Hmm, that’s exactly when you need flags: when you go to war. But is this a war flag just as well?”
Tijs: “I got a call from Extinction Rebellion, half a year ago when they wanted to block the highway here in the Netherlands. And they asked me if they could bring the Blue Dot [flag] to their, actions.
And of course: The flag is for everyone who tries to protect the Earth. So also for Extinction Rebellion. They can bring the flag and do whatever they think is needed to stop or change things. That said, I hope the flag has a more positive feel to it than to bring to a war.
You need your fights, fighting the big systems, fighting governments, fighting oil companies. But that said, I hope this flag will become a symbol of hope. And unifying instead of differentiation or, you know, problem.”
“Unite in a national effort to save from destruction all it makes life itself worth living and preserve for future generations those liberties and institutions, which others have bequeathed to us.”
Tijs: “I’m a designer. I have a lot of designer friends. And as soon as I mentioned this idea and showed them my first design and all of them… no, not all of them, but a lot of them said, ‘Oh, okay, that’s interesting!’ And they’ll start thinking about this design of a flag for years. And I have on my laptop, I have I think 40 to 50 alternative designs for the same flag because, when as a designer, you hear a good idea, you start to think about it and think, oh, you could try it this way or that way.
And we, so we tried it quite a few times, to improve the design, but ultimately it stayed with the initial one, which is just the green rectangle with the blue dot on there, inspired by the Japanese flag – with the same ratio – the size of the dot compared to the rectangle.
But then there were the tone of colors. And then we had a big study about which blue and which green should we use. And one of the good things of the flag as it is now is that during climate marches, the bright green and and the firm blue stand out in a crowd enormously, so you can see a blue dot flag from from a mile away. And also even within a field of people carrying all different flags, you’ll still see the blue dot quite clearly, which is good, of course.
So that’s about the design. And then the production. I looked around and I saw that actually this recycled plastic bottles fabric is some sort of a standard in the flag industry. And I’m happy that they use recycled plastic, of course, but still it’s plastic. And if you have a flag out there every day, it will – by the wind – tear down bit by bit, and then you’ll start to spread microplastics.
And that of course I don’t like. So one of the issues that we’re trying to solve is: can we use a more biodegradable fabric based on hemp or any other natural ingredients? But it’s quite interesting to see how much trouble that gives us to find a production company that wants to even try it.
The production method of this recycled bottle fabric is so optimised and there’s a long lifetime. So that’s also good in a way. But it’s such a standard that it’s hard to find anyone who wants to try [anything different]. So if anyone listens to this podcast and thinks he or she can do better, please, get in contact and let’s talk because I think we could do better.
New fabrics are being developed, every day and, hopefully there’s one that’s, not made out of plastic. and better for the earth than plastic is. And of course it might, it might, not last as long with, as the plastic flag, but then that’s what it is. Um, and it also depends on how you use it.
If you use it only on Earth Day, April 22nd, for instance, then it won’t tear down as much. Of course, if you have it outside of your house every day, like my parents do, for instance, then it only lasts half a year. And that’s not good because, then the plastics will spread in nature.”
Mik: “And we live in a time now where the weather is not behaving well, so we get more and more storms.”
Tijs: “Exactly. More wind and, the flag will, yeah…
Anthony Gleeson: “So are your family, your parents, getting feedback around the flag?”
Tijs: “Yes, they are actually one of my top salespeople. They sell the flag quite often because they live alongside a walking path. And they have a sign outside explaining what the flag stands for. And based on that, they get a lot of requests, and they have their own stock of flags, so they can sell the flags without me helping or interfering – or, they don’t have to wait. They can just sell the flag, which is very good.”
Mik: “You also have a foundation behind it. What’s that?”
Tijs: “Yeah. So how do you launch a symbol or a flag that is actually not your flag, but a flag for everyone. How do you do that? This is such an interesting question, and I still don’t have all the answers to this, but what I did need to – in order to be able to order 300 flags, for instance, to have some sort of stock and make it more affordable to sell the sell the flags – is to have some sort of organisation behind it – to receive invoices to send out flags. So I started this foundation. It’s a nonprofit and it’s merely there for organisational purposes around the flag. And the interesting aspect of it is that I want to keep the flag as open to interpretation as possible. So people don’t, if once… Let’s say this foundation becomes a big foundation, a big organisation like the WWF, for instance, then the flag becomes the logo of this organisation. And I don’t want that. I just want it to be a flag and so the foundation is there, but it’s merely a transactional thing.
From the organisation [platform] I can do presentations and workshops around the flag, and so it’s convenient to have the foundation, but, hopefully the flag lives its own life and the foundation is in the background of this.”
Mik: “What got you to this point of even wanting to do something like this?
Tijs: “It was a gradual process, I think. In 2015-2016, our design agency had some big corporate companies that we worked for, and we did a lot of things for them. They were only interested in making as much profit as possible. And they didn’t really care about how we got there as long as the numbers were good. And this didn’t feel right after a certain amount of time. So we decided to say goodbye to them and, and find new clients that matched our design interest better, which is companies that will have a bigger ambition about what they do. Organisations that have a bigger ambition than just making money or, they want to improve the quality of life, or the quality of the planet, for that matter.
So first as a design agency, we were on this path of choosing our clients more carefully. And then after having this conversation with the ministry, the nature department, it led to this idea. And still, I wasn’t the biggest climate activist that was around, but I had this idea and immediately, it was literally in the middle of the night I woke up and I said to my partner Hilda, I said: “It needs to be a flag. It needs to be a flag.”
And, and seeing how we could help as designers, but just creating some symbol like this, adding hopefully something to this big pile of communication that we already have, but maybe something that could help better with raising awareness, with connecting people with growing a consciousness, a global consciousness.
I immediately felt this is what I need to be doing aside from my normal design clients – that I have this flag can be something that I can contribute as a designer to this whole climate issue. And, it’s a simple, it’s a very simple idea. It’s one rectangle. It’s one circle. That’s it. But there’s so much to it now, and it leads to all kinds of places, all kinds of discussions. Giving workshops, presentations, having a conversation much like this one. It’s a big adventure for me.
I think it makes sense for me to be doing this, to hopefully add something, leave something behind for my kids as well. It’s not about us. It’s about the next generation. I really like this whole project and I can’t wait to see where it ends.”
Mik: “Christiana Figueres spoke recently in a podcast… – she’s part of a team that runs a podcast called Outrage & Optimism, and she spoke beautifully, published just here on the 12th of October, about that generation you’re talking about – the youth, the next generations coming, and so on. First of all, I should just say that Christiana Figueres, if people don’t know who she is, she was, you could say, the brain behind that whole negotiation that led to that in Paris in 2015, there was a global agreement on putting some rules in on what levels we should not exceed when it comes to global temperature rise, and so on the 1.5°C degrees, the 2°C degrees, and these kind of things. So Christiana figures at the time was a key figure at the world level. Have a listen here just a two-minute excerpt of what she said in this podcast about loss. And about what that loss means to the young people today.”
Christiana Figueres: “As of the past two to three to four years, I have been so deeply aware of another loss, and that is the loss of faith. The loss of faith, especially of so many young people who just do not believe that they have any future. So many young people who have decided, ‘We’re not going to have children because we don’t want to bring children into such a painful world that is degenerating.’ And they don’t want to do it to their children, to their would-be children, and they don’t want to put more human pressure on the resources.
And that loss of faith, that loss of joy, that loss in the confidence of the human and the shared non-human experience on this planet was… It just, it just hit me like a four by four: again another loss. And so I remain committed to this because I’m not accepting that loss is the end of the story. I have my feet firmly in the mud of loss. And I don’t think that we can deny any loss. Because then we do grief bypass, right? “Oh well, it’s okay, because we’re going to fix it. We’re going to put solar panels, or we’re going to put wind turbines.” And all of which is true. And there are many technologies now that are helping us to address this. But if we are not absolutely conscious – and not just conscious in our heads, but conscious in our full being – of the loss that we’re experiencing, that we have caused, of the grief that has taken over the global mood. Then we don’t have any ground to stand on. So to me, standing in that loss is the foundational capacity that we have to have the opportunity, although not the guarantee, to transform that grief and that loss. So why am I here? Because of loss.”
Tijs: “That’s well said. It’s to give up any form of hope. We have to have hope. This morning, my daughter was saying the same thing, sitting next to me and talking about… I asked about the war that’s going on now – a whole different issue, but it’s the same thing: ‘How are you discussing this in school? Are you…’ It is about hope. About not wanting to give up and about looking forward in a positive way and not focusing on all the negative that’s out there as well. Both with societies, but also with the climate crisis.
Our daughter is 11. She’s very aware of the whole situation. She’s been with us to the climate marches of Amsterdam and in Rotterdam. I have great pictures of her waving the flag proudly. And she’s a big fan of the flag. It fits with her outlook as well. She wants to be a scientist. She knows this for a year or two now, but not to focus on people. She doesn’t want to waste her time on focusing on people. There’s enough people doing that. ‘We need to focus on the Earth,’ is what she says now, influenced, of course, by this flag. But still, I’m very hopeful that if people, if young people like her and others invest their time and effort into improving the way we live, what we need in life and how we get all these things that we need, it can make a huge difference.
I really hope that she does become a scientist. Because I’m sure that’ll make a change and that’s also the thing with this flag. It doesn’t tell you what you should do or shouldn’t do in order to be able to wave the flag. It’s for everyone. And as long as you feel connected, you’re allowed to wave the flag. There’s nobody telling you when or why you can fly a rainbow flag, but you know when to use it and when not to use it. I think about this blue dot flag in the same way. It’s about feeling connected to it. And, she does now, Cato does now – my daughter – and I’m sure my son will too, one day. But for now, I’m very happy with her, focusing so much on it and, and also recognising it as a positive sign and not as one of stress and anxiety.”
Mik: “Let’s talk about hope for the flag itself. What’s the next steps for this flag? What could really break through? Could it be like at the next COP, someone took the flag up on stage and made it official that ‘This is now the new flag for the Earth’?”
Tijs: “This is actually quite interesting. You mentioned the IPCC. I think already in the early days about this idea of the flag I was discussing it with somebody from the United States Department. She also mentioned IPCC and one of the first ideas was, okay, if they together formulate a statement about the condition of the Earth – an objective statement, because there are scientists from every country in that organisation. I should send the first batch of Blue Dot flags to each and every scientist that is in that organisation. And I’ve tried to get in contact with IPCC, but I failed because at that time the idea was so young. It’s hard to recognise the quality maybe of such an idea. It’s only when you see it, or when you see it being used during a climate march, that you actually recognise the full potential of such a symbol.
So I didn’t manage to do so, but that still is one the ambitions: to connect it to science, to scientists all over the world. Because I think we need that objectivity as well.
And it should be about hope and it should be about dreaming a better future, but it should also be connected to science and to honesty. So taking it away from politics, taking it away from big companies, from greenwashing. That’s why I hope the flag will go.
Right now there’s a scientist in Brazil, flying the flag proudly. He’s working on a Wikipedia page for the flag. I might do some workshops… – Online? I don’t know how, that’s also interesting – some workshops in the USA on universities. Interesting question: How do you get there? Because I don’t want to fly there, obviously. So that’s a problem to be solved, but to connect to education is a good thing, of course. Again, the future generations learning about the flag will be very, very good. And initiatives like The Sustainable Hour, picking up on the flag, which leads to podcasts like this. It’s brilliant! It’s exactly what I want the flag to be doing. Slowly growing and finding its way into the world to hopefully one day become this symbol with the same magnitude or the same power as the rainbow flag.”
Jennifer Morgan: “The best thing in a revolution is conscious change of consciousness and ‘mind bombs’, which are kind of visual things that reach your heart.”
Tijs: “Different from the rainbow flag or gender issues, of course, is the timing issue that we have. We don’t have that much time. So there’s an interesting balance between growing bottom-up, which is of course much slower than to have a big flagship carrying this flag for you. So it needs to be slow, and at the same time we have, we have a deadline and, the faster it goes, the better it is, in that sense. Which is why it’s also tempting to look for big powers to try and connect the flag to those bigger powers. But it’s – then again – against the idea of going bottom-up. I haven’t solved this puzzle yet. I hope it grows, bottom-up, but fast.
I don’t know if that can be done, but that’s what I hope.”
Tony: “Do you know how many of your flags there are in the world at the moment?”
Tijs: “Well, at the moment, everybody can create their own flag, obviously. But there are now around between 150 and 200 flags spread out over six continents. I think in over 20 countries or so. I lost count. Or I didn’t keep track of all of them – for the ones that I’ve sent out from here. Hopefully in a few years time, you can just order your Blue Dot flag at a local print shop or local flag shop. But for now, of course, it’s not available anywhere. So that’s why I have this small stock of flags.
But I think it’s spreading. And I would have hoped to create a few more batches of flags already, but that’s what I said – it’s bottom up, so it’s one flag at a time – or four flags at a time, maybe sometimes! So yeah, “bluedotflag” – in words – “.org”, and there you can download the flag as a file to create your own flag – or order it. And then I’ll send you one. Or we‘ll send you one, or two.”
Mik: “I’m aware that my sister is making sure this flag will soon be in front of a hotel up in the mountains in South France, as well as in front of a house in Denmark.”
Tijs: “Very good. Yeah, it’s amazing. I keep asking for pictures whenever I send it out to someone, because that helps others. Also, you can see a lot of those pictures on the website, to see where it is already. And it’s amazing to see the community grow. What I learn is that the ones that see the flag, and learn about its purpose, they become a huge fan immediately and want to have their own flag or start selling flags to others, so it works really well. The power of the symbol is it’s, I think, it amazes me how strong it is.”
Mik: “To me, Tijs, a flag is equivalent to music in the way that it speaks in its own way to us.”
Tijs: “The connection to it is because there’s no wording in between. There’s nothing in between. It’s such a simple sign and that’s where it strengths comes from. It’s also interesting to hear back from others how different their relationship with the flag is.
Some do yoga with the flag because they feel it offers them this quiet space where they can do yoga next to the flag. Others of course bring it to climate marches, or hang it outside of their house to celebrate their kid’s birthday.
All of it is valid. All of it works great and the flag celebrates it. Flags can have this feeling of joy.”
Mik: “I can speak for that, coming from Denmark, where we always have flags up on the poles on our birthdays. So in Denmark, when we see the Danish flag… we actually don’t think of it as a national symbol at all. We think of it as meaning ‘birthday’. So we see that, you know, the red and the white cross, and it means: ‘Oh, who’s got a birthday here?’ So it’s very much associated with joy. Of course, there is also the other thing that flags can do if you put it on half, suddenly it means the opposite of birthday celebration. It means there’s a funeral here. Somebody has died.”
Tijs: “Yeah, it’s true. And it’s powerful. The other day, there was this big issue with the farmers here in the Netherlands. We have this carbon problem, who doesn’t, but we do too. And farmers were told they had to change their lives altogether. It needed to be different because they were part of the problem.
And in there, they responded by taking the Dutch farmer flag – the red, white and blue – and turning it upside down alongside highways and roads as some form of protest. And pretty soon in the whole of the Netherlands, you could see the Dutch flag being put upside down as if they took the Netherlands’ flag hostage and created their own environment with it.
Luckily: the Blue Dot flag, you cannot put it upside down. So that can’t be done. But flags are powerful. They can be very, very powerful. And, which is very interesting to be part of this dialogue and to find out where the threats are, because there are people greenwashing, we’ve discussed this, greenwashing big companies claiming the flag, but also the positive powers of the flag and the strength that it has during climate marches, for instance.”
Tony: “It seems to me that it’s an idea whose time has come, especially the unifying power. And the energy that it creates. It’s people that are saying, ‘We don’t have to accept this. There is something better. And we’re going to stand behind this flag to achieve that’.”
Tijs: “I’m so happy to hear this because I felt the same way a few times now, in the sense that it’s maybe exactly the right moment to have this flag here right now, it might be true and it might actually be picked up on by a lot of people and then becoming stronger and stronger and stronger success.”
Movie clip: Black Sails: “Nobody will believe it’s possible until we show them, but when that day comes, you know what they’ll say? They’ll say that it was inevitable.”
Mik: “There’s a big need to, you know, get the awareness about what’s happening to our planet much broader out to the population as a whole, and media has failed us completely in doing that. There could have been a lot of education happening on our public broadcasters. That ought to be their role, but they haven’t done it.
So we have entire populations who are literally unaware of how serious the climate crisis is. The polls that are being made actually show that people don’t get it. At the same time, there’s so much squandering and quarreling in the parliaments about carbon taxes and the rest. So people are both confused and they are feeling, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be part of this.’ Either it’s too complicated or it’s too hard. And all these different things are just too much.
And that’s where the flag comes in. Because the flag is not… you’re not signing up to be part of any political party. You’re not signing off for any strategy. You’re just saying, ‘I want to be part of that group of people on this planet who will protect and take better care of planet Earth’.”
Tijs: “And that can be in many, many different ways. It’s very open in which way you want to do it. That’s up to you. So that’s what the flag is saying to me. It’s both on an individual level, giving you, the power to express your feelings, but also on a bigger level, because all those dots together form a strong sign and a strong message to higher powers, to the politics, the governments, saying, ‘Okay, it’s enough now’.
Most of the changes in society come from bottom up, come from societies that say, ‘Okay, we don’t want this anymore.’ And then when the election day comes, they make a difference. Hopefully this is the same. We have an election coming up now on 22 November 2023. Hopefully there also, a difference is being made.
We have to unify. You have to join forces to make a statement.”
Mik: “If one political party then takes your flag and really uses it in their campaigning, then what? Because then it becomes like a symbol for one political stance.”
Tijs: “Well, that can only be, if this flag is also somewhere else, then no political party can claim it.
If the flag is also being used in Australia, or in the U.S., or in Brazil, then a political party cannot just simply kind of claim the symbol, the flag. That’s why I hope it’s growing bottom-up and spreading evenly over the Earth, so it doesn’t become the sign of one political party.
That said, if it’s a political party with the right ideas, protecting the same planet that this flag is fighting for, then it’s fine, of course, for them to also wave with the flag every once in a while, they just shouldn’t make it their logo. And talk about the truth, the values of that flag, the values that are associated with it.”
“So they’re representing the flag, not the other way around.”
“Exactly. You also have the EDGs, and they also come in the form of a small button pin – a pin that you can put on. And there’s a lot of politicians who are carrying this pin, saying, ‘Okay, we support the EDGs and we fight for them. And we stand by these [values to confront] the structure of problems that we have.”
And in the same way, I could see politicians carrying a pin of the Blue Dot flag. That might actually be a good idea. Why not?”
Mik: “Now you know what to do next week: investigate how you turn it into a pin! Fantastic experience to speak with you and learn about the background for the flags, which are now waving for the first time in Australia.
We’re excited about that. We hope we can take it somewhere with that same message as you have talked about here in The Sustainable Hour.”
Tijs: “Thank you very much for having me. And it’s great to have a platform for the flag like this.”
Tony: “It’s your gift to the world. And it’s the world’s decision now about where it goes.”
Tijs: “Exactly. It’s more or less out of my hands. Of course I try and help it as much as I can, but, it goes where it will go. And you cannot force things like this.”
Mik: “And do we have your approval – because we’re trying to start what we call a ‘climate revolution’. And we mean that in a positive way. There are many revolutions that are bloody and negative. But there’s also very positive revolutions out there. For instance, the technological revolution that we’re seeing at the moment in the solar industry, in the wind industry, and so on. Here in Australia at the moment, we’re experiencing what’s being called the Teal Revolution which is about some independent individuals who are going into politics and trying to change, in a way, politics from bottom-up, coming with their personal values and saying, ‘We can do this different when it comes to climate,’ and they are speaking up big time. So what do you say to that – that we begin to use the flag as a climate revolution flag? Would that be allowed?”
Tijs: “I think so. By the sounds of it, it looks exactly what it aims to do. So yes, please do.”
Movie clip: Monty Python: “Yeah!” “Oh, oh, thank you. That’s fine. Thank you. Thank you.”
Carl Sagan: “The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited. By the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel, on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings. How eager they are to kill one another. How fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could march. Migrate. Visit? Yes. Settle? Not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish. The pale blue dot. The only home we’ve ever known.”
Tijs: “To be doing something that is so related to my work. To also connect it to my children in this way. To have something that is purely professional, almost, for me – to create something that helps to communicate a problem but to also connect it to my children and seeing them valuing this flag as something that is important to them is, is amazing.
I am I’m so happy that something so simple can help in such a way, not only in the bigger scheme of things, but also just to see my daughter with, with the flag. It’s beautiful. Something to hold on to for a better future. As simple as that. I think that’s mainly what I hope it does for people.”
9-year-old Eve at rally in London: “Wake up people of the Earth. Wake up leaders of the world. The world is dying. The future is in your hands. Act now.”
Tadhg: “What we need is a revolution.”
Jose Ramos: “I can’t, I can’t keep living the way that I’m living. Something… What is my role or my place?”
Mik Aidt: “We don’t need more knowledge, more books, more solutions, more studies. What we need is to come together and do the work. Maybe to have the courage to get up on the barricades for Earth. For life on planet Earth. And for that, we need a flag. A flag for the Earth. A flag for all those people who want to protect the earth, and life on it.
And if we are to declare war on that climate monster, and on those people who believe they can continue this destructive behavior of theirs, yes. We need a flag. A flag that could possibly open up a new pathway, a new way of thinking. Like Albert Einstein told us back in 1946, a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive.
The world we’ve created is a product of our thinking, and it can’t be changed without changing our thinking. Which is where the climate revolution comes in. It’s the one that begins in your head.”
BBC documentary clip: Sir David Attenborough: “There just could be a change in moral attitude from people worldwide, politicians worldwide, to see that self interest is for the past. Common interest is for the future.”
Music video: Prince Ea: “Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old, mankind about 140,000 years old. Let me put that in perspective. If you condense the earth’s lifespan into 24 hours, that’s one full day. Then we have been here on this planet for drum roll, please. Three. Seconds. Three seconds. And look what we’ve done. (…) See, they want you to feel powerless, but it has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause a typhoon halfway around the world, but when enough people come together, we too will make waves and watch the world into a new era filled with love and connection, freedom for all without oppression, but it is up to you, yes, you watching this behind this screen to make the effort because time is of the essence and only together can we make it to the fourth second.”
Introducing: The Blue Dot Flag | Dutch graphic designer Tijs Bonekamp explains why he believes a flag for the Earth could become a very powerful way to connect people who agree that we need to do better in how we protect the Earth.https://t.co/KXUbHPfnOP#BlueDotFlag #EarthFlag pic.twitter.com/9MzSjwhpIO— ClimateRevolution (@Clim8Revolution) October 23, 2023
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