As this year’s international biodiversity day came to pass, I feel a bit disappointed that despite media’s recent attempts to make it into “a thing”, it is still celebrated only by a few initiated souls with sustainability on their mind. Well, inflation is running high in the international-day nomenclature, competition is tough. The International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22nd is squeezed just between International Tea Day and World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (both on May 21st) and International Day to End Obstetric Fistula on May 23rd. They are all sharing the week with WHO’s biennial UN Global Road Safety Week as well. And this is just looking at UN’s official calendar.
It looks like there is no lack of diversity when it comes to red-letter days, at least. It is easier than ever to get lost in the dense forest of worthy causes, all screaming for our attention, as well as for our efforts and money. Even armed with the comprehensive SDG map of Agenda 2030, getting our priorities straight isn’t a trivial matter. Sustainability aspirations are still mired in an impenetrable jungle of intertwined challenges and knots to be solved.
So, how can the tiny voices of those myriads of creeturs on the verge of extinction get through the cacophony and touch our hearts and wallets?
Luckily, they have got some passionate advocates, singing their praises in an eloquent and poetic way. Norwegian professor Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, for one. I should probably warn you that her enthusiasm for insects and fungi is contagious and can be addictive. As is her good-natured pragmatism. Her message is not that of the alarmists (even if she knows better than anyone that there are plenty of reasons to be alarmed), nor that of the militant eco-warriors (even if she is good at conveying a sense of urgency). “Most conservation biologists, including myself, believe that we need to find a set of realistic compromises – between the naively romantic and the hyper-pragmatic,” she says.
Investors too are starting to embrace biodiversity. They find the hidden-treasures arguments of biologists like Sverdrup-Thygeson most compelling, of course. Termites that inspire self-cooling buildings in the tropics, with 90% lower energy consumption than normal, beetles helping break down plastic and ants giving us new antibiotics; it is a wonderful world out there, full of potential, as long as we don’t squander it all.
Compelling business cases and attractive investment opportunities aside, let’s not forget the main reason for preserving biodiversity: the moral imperative. In the words of Sverdrup-Thygeson (from Swedish), “Can we honestly accept that we are exterminating species that have as much right to be on earth as we do? Who gave us the right to do so? Do they not have the right to live their cute tiny butterfly lives, even if they are not useful or comprehensible to us?”
And if neither profit nor ethics are enough, there is always a foolproof shortcut to the heart: the excruciating beauty and fragility of life on earth reflected through the magnifying lens of art. I dare you to remain emotionally detached while diving into that wonderful love story of a documentary, My Octopus Teacher, for instance. There is no better way to celebrate biodiversity than by letting yourself be swept away in one man’s insatiable curiosity and yearning for intimacy with the wild. Whether it happens to be on biodiversity day or not.
 May 22nd also happens to be World Fiddle Day, Sherlock Holmes Day, Goth Day and Maritime Day, among others.