Every summer evening when I was a kid, fireflies made our backyard sparkle like Christmas twinkle-lights against the black velvet darkness. As magical as faeries flitting through the humid night sky, the fireflies brought the stars above within reach, tying heaven and earth together.
Light pollution has impaired the fireflies’ ability to find one another and reproduce. Every year, there are fewer fireflies than the year before. One summer in the not-too-distant future, the night sky at the edges of backyards everywhere will remain shrouded in darkness.
I hadn’t seen a firefly in years, but last week, I was working at my computer late one night, and a firefly landed on my office window screen. I hurried to turn off the light, thinking he would fly away once I removed the distraction of my office light. But he stayed.
Flash… flash… flash.
I asked him if he knew that his kind was endangered because of people like me whose brightly lit windows dilute the darkness and make it harder for them to find one another.
He flashed again. I’m here. I’m here. I’m here.
Like my children, this firefly didn’t have childhood memories of sparkling summer backyards to remember. He had no way of knowing how life for his kind had changed over the years. And for a creature who lives for each moment, he had no worry for his potential offspring’s uncertain future.
“Are there others like you?” I asked. I certainly hadn’t seen a firefly for years, but if there’s one around, there must be others. There must be some pitch-dark woods nearby where fireflies still survive, if not thrive.
Then I saw it—a distant flash, flash, flash in the trees at the edge of the wood. I followed the visual trail for a moment, and then there were two flashing lights following each other. My firefly had left the window screen in pursuit of a brighter light than the one still thrown by my computer monitor.
So, maybe there is still hope. I turned off my computer and went through the house turning off lights.
Going to bed earlier than usual that night suddenly seemed like a good idea.