Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Trinidad, Cuba: a post-9/11 view »« Gumboot Nation a soft touch on violations

Ecology flag: Who created it 41 years ago?

Ecology 3ft x 5ft Printed...

I woke  up this morning with an intuitive prompt to write about the ecology flag, which I remember as a ‘tween in the 1970s. (That was when I wore white go-go boots and paisley, bell-bottomed pajamas and thought that I was cool.) The image intrigued me back then, even though I didn’t fully understand its significance.


The symbol first appeared in the Los Angeles Free Press (hurray for alternative media) on November 7, 1969, according to Wikipedia. Creator Ron Cobb, then a political cartoonist for the Free Press, put it in the public domain, bless his heart. One Internet source says that the Paramount Flag Company in San Francisco made the first ecology flag in August 1967, but I can’t verify that. If it’s true, perhaps Cobb adopted it for publication.


The yellow symbol is a combination of the letters “e” (for ecology, earth, evolution, empathy, and so on) and “o” (for organism, oneness, om, oracle, etc). Cobb was inspired by the circle or mandala as a universal symbol of timeless unity and harmony, by the yin-yang symbol, the concept of equinox, and the ellipse, “the transcendent unity that pervades all dualities.” (You can find out more details about the symbol and its meaning on Ron Cobb’s website.)


The ecology flag reportedly flew for the first time on Earth Day 1971 as a 4 x 6  green-and-white banner. Like her namesake Betsy Ross, who stitched the first U.S. flag, Betsy Boze (now Betsy Vogel) sewed the flag as a 16-year-old environmental and social activist in Louisiana. However, C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport denied her permission to fly the flag. Like any effective advocate, Boze refused this “no” and sought and received authorization from the Louisiana legislature and governor John McKeithen to display the flag in time for Earth Day.


Kudos to Boze for seeking out state power to support her cause. What a great tribute to one woman’s vision and determination, especially at an age when many contemporaries were more focused on acne angst and dating gossip.


I’m sad that the flag didn’t gain widespread use, and that Cobb limited his symbol to a facsimile of the U.S. flag. The concept of ecology spans far more than one nation’s borders. If he was truly thinking “oneness,” why not choose a more universal concept?


Even though many had ecological concerns in the 1960s and 1970s, it has taken 40 years or more for mainstream thinkers, politicians, and businesses to reflect environmental awareness. It’s sad to me that it took this long but hey, I”m grateful that at last, caring for the earth has become part of mass public consciousness.

July 16, 2010 at 7:40 am
Leave a Reply