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Put the Earth on Top 

The plaza flags as Dave Meserve would like to see them fly.

Photo illustration/submitted

The plaza flags as Dave Meserve would like to see them fly.

The Earth flag flies on the Arcata Plaza. That is good.

But wait! The plaza flagpole order is not logical. The American flag flies at the top, the California flag beneath it and the Earth flag at the bottom.

Doesn't the Earth encompass all nations and all states? Isn't the well-being of the Earth essential to all life? Aren't global issues more important to our healthy survival than nationalism?

It's time to recognize the primacy of the Earth over nations and states when we fly their symbols on our town square. We cannot have a healthy nation without a healthy Earth.

It is time to "Put the Earth on Top."

Global warming and nuclear war are the greatest threats to our survival today. Stabilizing the climate and advancing peace require that we meet in good faith with other nations and develop a positive plan of action. We can proudly negotiate as Americans, but we must prioritize the overall well-being of our planet and be willing to make political and economic concessions.

Human-caused climate change and its product of global warming will make the Earth uninhabitable within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren unless people agree to drastically cut CO2 emissions. Greta Thunberg has accurately assessed the results of the COP26 Climate Summit as a resounding, "Blah, blah, blah."

Nuclear war, inflamed by our new cold war with Russia and China, could destroy all life on Earth in just a couple of years with the onset of nuclear winter. Unlike climate change, nuclear war is not already happening, but if it does happen, by design or accident, it will bring about far quicker devastation and extinction. The only path away from the brink is for nations to put aside their political posturing and agree to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, pledge no first-use and use true diplomacy to resolve conflicts. Once again, the focus must be shifted from national interests to the safety and well-being of our planet Earth.

But, isn't it illegal to fly any flag above the Stars and Stripes? The United States Flag Code does state that the American flag should fly at the top of a flagpole, but regarding the enforceability and application of the code, Wikipedia states:

"The United States Flag Code establishes advisory rules for display and care of the national flag of the United States of America ... This is a U.S. federal law, but only suggests voluntary customs for handling of the American flag and was never intended to be enforceable. The code uses non-binding language like 'should' and 'custom' throughout and does not prescribe any penalties for failure to follow the guidelines."

Politically, some may think that flying anything above the American Flag is unpatriotic. The image on the Earth flag is known as The Blue Marble, taken Dec. 7, 1972, by the Apollo 17 spacecraft crew, and is among the most reproduced images in history, now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Flying the Earth flag above the Stars and Stripes does not disrespect the United States.

Some will object that we should not waste energy on rearranging flags, but instead take on the "real local problems" that face our community. I believe we can do both. We can address these "down to Earth" issues as we also focus more on preserving the health of the Earth itself. We must act soon to address climate change and the threat of nuclear war, and to do so we must increase our everyday awareness of the primacy of the Earth.

Moving the Earth flag to the top of city flagpoles will require a ballot initiative, with the majority of Arcatans voting to make it so. Getting it on the November ballot requires about 1,000 signatures of registered voters, so we need to begin circulating petitions soon. Please let me know your thoughts on this idea, positive or negative, and if you would like to help by emailing me at davemeserve@gmail.com.

My hope is that by next year, all city of Arcata owned flagpoles will have the Earth flag at the top. I hope that the idea catches on, and other cities and other nations begin to do the same. In a world that expresses love and respect for the Earth in this way, agreements leading to a healthy climate and world peace will be more attainable.

To provide a safe and healthy home planet for our children and grandchildren, let's "Put the Earth on Top."

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Dave Meserve

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