Ever since the heady days of the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992 when we came up with the Convention on Biological Diversity I have had this feeling that we had invented a fad.
For a while though I could push that niggle aside as the new term biodiversity entered our lexicon and the sound bites of politicians.
Books on biodiversity were written for the populace and texts for students. I even got hired to develop an undergraduate course in this new subject. That it was just a logical amalgam of ecology, evolution and conservation biology was no matter — this was a great new hook to catch the awareness and maybe persuade people to do something about what was happening to the natural world under the increasing weight of human numbers.
Not too many politicians talk about it anymore, at least not to the press. There are a few stalwarts, notably in the conservation NGOs, who still hold a candle for it and a residual trickle of public funding goes toward environmental interventions with a biodiversity theme. Mostly though we seem to be back where we started talking about conservation and preservation of endangered species.
So am I correct in this hunch? Have we really forgotten about biodiversity?
Here is what Google Trends has to say about the popularity of the word in searches from 2004 to present relative to the peak search volume that happened in October 2004.
Well it would appear I was at least partially right.
Peak search volume was at the start of the data run in 2004 to be followed by a steady and consistent decline through the rest of the noughties.
In the current decade we are running at an average of 47% of that 2004 peak.
It is a pity that we don’t know how much search activity the 1992 Rio Earth Summit might have generated [1998 was Google’s first official year]. In fact the steady increase in overall search volume makes that 47% more measly given that todays daily total search volume is more than 7x that of 2004.
Biodiversity may not have disappeared as a search term but it has waned.
As usual Google trends tells us that we can easily put aside any challenging or technical issues in order to enjoy Christmas and New Year celebrations and we are also not too worried about them when school is out for the northern summer.
The Rio+20 Earth Summit came and went without much fanfare last year. It prompted a bit of a spike in searches but not enough to catch up with those 2004 scores. It does not seem that biodiversity got a fillip from Rio+20 as any pickup was short-lived — maybe because they called it the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.