As both a self-proclaimed citizen of the world and science fiction fan, I am favorably disposed to the idea that some day, against all odds, there will be one global community undivided by petty conflict and national borders.
I admit, it is an idealistic, if not naive, expectation, but given the trajectory of globalization and the subsequent blossoming of a global human identity, it seems more inevitable than ever (though nonetheless long-coming and tenuous, given we still have a ways to go). Increased space exploration most likely accelerate these trends.
So what would our hypothetical “Terran Federation” — to use Heinlein’s concept from Starship Troopers — use as its symbol? The United Nations flag might seem like the most obvious choice, given that the global body ostensibly represents the interests of all humanity, via its member states. But to quote Swedish artist Oskar Pernefeldt the U.N. is “an organization on Earth, not the planet itself”– hence why he created his own flag for planet Earth.
According to the Washington Post, “The International Flag of Planet Earth”, which was conceived for a college thesis project, could be used to replace the national flags of whatever nations land on other worlds. This would represent a radical departure from the status quo, in which countries are more than eager to establish a lasting symbol of their achievements in space exploration (which given the expense and technical challenge thereof, is an understandable position).
Pernefeldt explains the concept of the flag:
Centered in the flag, seven rings form a flower – a symbol of the life on Earth. The rings are linked to each other, which represents how everything on our planet, directly or indirectly, are linked. The blue field represents water which is essential for life – also as the oceans cover most of our planet’s surface. The flower’s outer rings form a circle which could be seen as a symbol of Earth as a planet and the blue surface could represent the universe.
A video of the creative process behind this intriguing flag can be seen here.
Might there be a future where humans identify more with their planet rather than a comparatively smaller and more parochial polity? Might Earth actually be a full-fledged community on par with a single country in terms of cohesion and loyalty? It seems like a stretch, but so too was the existence of the nation-state not that long ago.
I think the likelihood of it summed up beautifully and effectively by Pernefeldt in the following hypothetical:
“Imagine standing on the Moon, someone asks you where you are from, and your intercom doesn’t work. You have to point with your finger. Where do you point?”