Weeks ago, I was sitting on the back step watching Josephine sniffing around the backyard. The sun had just dropped and evening was still. I noticed a faint blink of light floating around the back corner of the yard. The first firefly sighting of Summer. Or at least this is what I thought at the time. The weather turned almost Fall like with heavy rains after that first firefly sighting, making me think that the kind of Summers I am used to may not be happening this year. The temperatures are still very mild for this time of year. Yet despite the absence of warmth, the fireflies continue to dance across the backyard every evening. One firefly has turned into many fireflies.
Michael calls them lightning bugs. He finds it interesting that I have always known them as fireflies while he knows them as lightening bugs. We hit several of them mid-glow on our way to Hannibal last Friday and marveled at the green fluorescent streak they left behind on the windshield. A superoxide anion, which is a form of molecular oxygen that contains an extra electron, reacts with an enzyme called luciferin to produce the greenish yellow glow of a firefly. You would think that knowing the science behind the glow would take some of the wonder and magic from seeing a firefly in action, but not for me. In fact, the knowledge of how it happens, makes the whole thing even more amazing. Mix together some luciferin with some ATP and a superoxide anion and Bam! you have a flash of light. Produced by a tiny beetle.
Fireflies represent so many things for me. They are the harbingers of Summer. They make you want to believe in magical things and fairies. The thing about them that I am most grateful for though is how they spark curiosity. How do they do that? Why do they do that? These are questions I asked as a child. These are questions that inspired a young scientist. I am thankful for the inspiration fireflies have given me. Luciferin is used in labs today to help study protein-protein interaction in live cells, how cells signal one another, and to monitor cell growth. It has been an invaluable tool in basic scientific research. So...I'm pretty thankful for fireflies. They are a pretty good reason for supporting environmental protection.
Climate change is a real thing that is happening to our planet. It is not about belief. It is a scientifically shown thing that it is happening. I'm not sure some people understand the full implications of how this is more than just temperatures. Crop failure has led to famine in places like Somalia, which has now become a breeding ground for terrorists. All they need is a bowl of rice to recruit a new member to their fold. Beaches that our US Army could use to deploy troops in times of crisis, no longer exist. In fact our US military stands to spend millions of dollars in repairs for docks and piers that are now under water due to rising water. Defense Secretary James Mattis has called climate change a national security threat. The United States has contributed more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than any other country on the planet. Today I am grateful for every US governor who stood up and declared that they would continue to uphold the Paris Climate Change Agreement. I am grateful that my governor is among those who are taking a stand.