Foreign Policy Blogs

Fireflies and the Earth

We are just back from a three-day weekend at the house of some friends in Columbia County, NY.  We took a half-day trip too over to visit a nursery school pal of my daughter whose parents are working at a theatre festival in an old Western New England college town.  The college is also my wife's alma mater.  Beautiful weather, beautiful scenery. 

Last night we went outside around 10:00 (my daughter asleep after a long day), and saw not only spectacular stars but a galaxy of fireflies.  My heart leapt up to see so many of them.   Why?  When I was a kid, fireflies were everywhere in the summer, but as the 70's and 80's progressed (and sometimes regressed), the fireflies seemed to decline.  For the past several years I've noticed, though, what I perceive to be a big comeback.  Last night I was just overcome because all the beautiful lightning bugs twinkling in the warm night air meant some sort of renaissance of the earth to me.  It signified that a particular species that had been magic to me as a kid (and most other kids I imagine) was back from the threat of extinction.  To what do I attribute this?  Environmental laws protecting wetlands, general awareness of the dangers of pesticides, particularly for the purposes of lawn care and other frivolous purposes, and specifically the indiscriminate use of DDT.  (See my post of May 24 and the item titled "The War on Rachel Carson.")  See also this post on fireflies and links from the cool "Bug Girl."

I do hope that all this splendid work that's being done all over the world – and intensifying – around climate change, and renewables and energy efficiency, and sustainable development, and forest protection and reclamation, etc. is a signal that we are finally waking up from a very long sleep indeed to find our earth as a partner, as a teacher, as a parent, and as a child to be protected and nurtured.  The great Barry Commoner wrote a book a few years back called Making Peace with the Planet.  That title says a lot for me in terms of what we need to be doing , and have been doing of late.  Kevin Hydes (referenced in my previous post), pointed out a new book to me the other day:  Blessed Unrest by the author and environmental activist Paul Hawken.  The book reports on the burgeoning of the environmental movement over the past few years.

The return of the fireflies and the blossoming of environmental awareness is just the tonic for an old hippie like me who's been waiting and hoping and occasionally fighting for these days to come. 



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change