Cop28: Wake up and smell the 'planet's scariest bouquet' of flowers

Made up of Antarctic pearlwort and hairgrass, blooms are a 'powerful symbol' of climate inaction

The bouquet is made of two plants that are thriving because of global warming. Photo: Environmental Leadership Canada
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Flowers and foliage are usually a sign of life and positivity. However, blooms being dubbed the “planet's scariest bouquet” are doing the rounds on the last day of Cop28 in Dubai on Tuesday.

Part of a climate change campaign launched by the educational charity Environmental Leadership Canada, the bouquet is made up of Antarctic pearlwort and hairgrass.

Although the two species are native to Antarctica, they have been growing at a faster pace than ever before. This rapid spread is a grim reminder of the polar region's warming temperature, says Michael Romaniuk. He is associate creative creator at Zulu Alpha Kilo advertising agency, which created the campaign alongside Environmental Leadership Canada.

A 2022 study shows that the proliferation of these flowering plants, since 2009, has been greater than the past 50 years combined. As such, the bouquet has become a symbol of climate apathy.

“It is interesting because usually flowers are given as a sign of love, sympathy, gratitude or compassion, but for the first time, these are a symbol of inaction,” says Romaniuk.

“At Cop28, it becomes powerful in the hands of delegates and visitors.”

Rather than harvesting the flowers from Antarctica, the organisation assembled a 3D-printed replica of the bouquet to bring to Dubai, where Romaniuk says it has been a perennial conversation starter.

“When people see it first, they're like: 'Oh, we love this, what a beautiful bouquet.' But as we explain more about it, they are surprised,” says fellow creative director Ivan Mallqui.

The irony and ingenuity of the campaign makes it an effective way of getting people to talk about climate change, according to both creatives.

“Creativity can disarm you, and invite you into that conversation to talk about real issues in a way that is non-threatening,” says Romaniuk.

As part of the campaign, which will continue well beyond Cop28, Environmental Leadership Canada wants people to send digital versions of the bouquet to their political representatives.

“People can send digital bouquets to their leaders, on their birthday or special occasions, as a subtle way of doing a gesture we are all used to, but with a twist,” says Romaniuk.

Both creatives, who flew to Dubai from Canada for Cop28, are aware that such creative stunts can be reduced to a gimmick especially as companies are increasingly accused of greenwashing.

However, Romaniuk hopes the campaign instead creates awareness about the specific issue in Antarctica and its wider implication about global warming, adding “people being able to send digital bouquets to their leaders is akin to sending a petition”.

“We want to empower people to create that pressure in a creative way.”

Updated: December 12, 2023, 7:05 AM