May 21 is Day of Bees, May 22 is Day of cultural Diversity and May 23 is Day of biological diversity
The bunch of dedicated days we celebrate this week invites us to reflect on the need for diversity in our world. They crystallise the importance of what is involved in the big words of cultural and biological diversity as we focus on the work of bees and their place in our environment.
When we reflect on cultural and biological diversity, we recognise the blessing of difference. When we long for a world that abolishes real differences and worships sameness, we put ourselves at risk. In Christchurch we recently saw how destructive the fear of diversity can be. Many Muslim people were killed, and the lives of their families and community were devastated by someone who hungered for a world in which there was no space for Muslims.
In Australia, we find similar examples of resistance to people who are different, whether they be Indigenous, Jewish, people seeking protection from us, Muslim, mentally ill, unemployed, with a criminal record, and so on. On the foundations of such discrimination a tower of hatred can easily be built. And the possibilities offered to a society from human diversity leach away.
The vulnerable young people whom we serve at Jesuit Social Services have often experienced this disregard because they are seen as different in so many ways. A large part of our accompaniment of them is to make them feel welcome and blessed in their difference.
The threat to biological diversity arises largely out of the desire for short-term profit. Mining companies devastate forests and pollute streams. We notice the immediate effects on human life in the affected areas, but the consequent direct and indirect destruction of species escapes notice. Mixed farms with their diversity of plant and insect life in fields and hedges give way to massive farms sown with homogeneous seeds and fertilisers from a single source. These yield a higher crop and higher profit for the agricultural corporations, but the loss of variety has unforeseeable results.
In both cases the desire to eradicate diversity arises from a failure to recognise the importance of interlocking relationships both in human society and in the biological world. The deeper and the broader the relationships within the human community, the richer and more creative the human society that arises from it. Similarly, in the biological world, the health of the environment depends on the subtle interrelationships between plants, insects, birds, animals, microorganisms, water and soil, heat and cold that cannot be exhaustively mapped. Where those relationships are stressed at any point, the effects are felt across the whole network.
We can, however, imagine these effects in the health of bees. We human beings value bees because they produce honey, and perhaps also because in taking and leaving pollen as they work their way from flower to flower they propagate the plants and ensure the growth of seed. Without bees, orchards and woodlands would be less fruitful and varied. Without the alighting and leaving and murmur of innumerable bees, gardens would become less delightful to walk in. If pesticides on the flowers affect the bees, they will diminish. In turn the survival of the plants themselves becomes more precarious. That is a parable of our world.
Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ writes for Jesuit Communications and Jesuit Social Services.