Sunday the 28th of March is Children’s Picture Book Day, so I began poking through boxed children’s picture books for this weekend’s mashup, ending the amusing romp down memory lane with the difficult task of choosing a favorite. I was drawn to Eric Carle’s The Very Lonely Firefly in the same way my children and I were drawn to the enchanting story a couple of decades back. After numerous encounters with flashlights, headlights and city lights, a firefly looking for a light just like its own finds its lights.
Though we delighted in the LED lights that flashed on the last page of the book, these artificial lights are not nearly as spectacular as the cold light in the soft bodies of an actual firefly, which, write Biologists Cheyenne McKinley and Sarah Lower at Scientific American, is a light of a beetle that produces a bioluminescent enzyme to seduce a mate. Of the 2000 species that still bless our planet, each has its own unique signaling language. Fireflies, it turns out, have been writing code in light long before we have.
Although the firefly is not yet on the extinction list, city light pollution poses a serious threat. By keeping light use to a minimum and by turning lights off for an hour on the 27th of March to observe Earth Hour, we can increase awareness about the effects of over consumption of light in our planet and maybe even help some lonely fireflies find their mates. And if you’re not in the vicinity or in the season to enjoy these creatures at the moment, you can still enjoy the darkness of the firefly’s world.