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When I see my first firefly in 30 years this summer in New York, I am totally unprepared. It appears like a floater, a tiny visual hiccup, as darkness drapes over a humid August day. Behind the wheel of my dad's car, I slow in the turn, searching for further flashes from within the shrubbery. A second signals. Then a third.  

The dormant child within me tugs to pull off to the side of the road, yet the adult reestablishes contact with the gas petal, though emotionally floored by a flood of memories ... Those eternal summer evenings dancing with lighting bugs. The over-excited neighborhood kids wide-eyed behind glass jars with punctured tops. And the bells of the Bungalow Bar ice cream truck serenading us while the tadpoles captured earlier that day squiggle and swim in silver buckets already forgotten in the swell of deepening shadows alongside the houses.

Life is so simple. So simple. So alive.

Driving back to the hotel at about the same time the next evening, yet another sighting has me wondering if our rapidly changing climate and the massive over development of Long Island in the decades since I left my childhood home, have impacted the firefly population. Turns out both have.

Scientists convening at the 2010 Kuala Lampur 2nd International Firefly Symposium discussed the impact of urban sprawl, light pollution and habitat destruction on the world's 2000 species of lightning bugs. Fireflies, they say, are perhaps the "canary in a coal mine" in determining an ecosystem's health.

"When you talk to old people about fireflies, it is always the same," says Swiss researcher Stefan Ineichen. "They saw so many when they were young and now they are lucky now if they see one."

Like many outdoor insects, fireflies’ life cycles are triggered by environmental cues. For example, as air temperature warms, flashes accelerate (mid-70s to mid-80s are ideal). Also, firefly eggs can only survive in moist soil, eliminating most of the western United States as potential breeding ground. Wet springs can contribute to higher firefly populations. Larvae can survive winters underneath snowpack, as long as a warm, humid summer follows. from WAPO
And while there is not yet any direct evidence connecting global warming to declining firefly populations, lighting bugs are appearing earlier than usual and in locales where they once never appeared.
Gone
.:kathysuz - 7/21/2012 12:52 pm

They are gone. They haven't been here for the last 3 weeks. There were so so many this year it amazed me. Every night was a pleasure to sit outside and feel blessed by dozens of tiny lights. Then our weather hit 100-105 day after day and they disappeared. They were here for the shortest time I have ever seen. Without them summer is empty. So sad.

:Profwood1 - 8/1/2012 3:09 am

Same thing here in the Phila. ,PA suburbs. Lots in June but after 5 heat waves with temps up to 102, they really started to vanish in mid July. Very sad. Only saw 5 last night & tonight & they went in for the night at around 9:00. They really are one of summer's greatest pleasures. They came out June 2 & I even saw some double & triple flashers

.:winnersville - 7/30/2012 9:52 am

I know what you mean, Kathysuz. In my area (Richmond, VA) they have disappeared for three weeks at one of my habitats, and one week at the other one. Even the one I am going to add for next year was quiet.

They got an early start this year, due to the mild winter, now, they disappear earlier this year. Last year, it was mid August.

Good luck next year. Oh, how many habitats are you observing at?

from Boston Museum of Science. Firefly Watch Discussion Board

Back in California, I am standing mid-curve on the three-mile half-mooned Stinson Beach when my new pup, Agatha Pocket, sets off in a gallop through the surf, chasing a formation of pelicans. And in a flash, my past begins to unfold before me like a fluid bend etched in the fabric of time.

I saw the first pelican of the season last night. It appeared as my eyes swept over the Richardson Bay as an oblong black obelisk bobbing on the water. The moon rising was a slash in the sky, rough edged like a corn of beans jimmied just enough open with a knife for a spoon to sneak through. Being a West Marin woman, the sighting of pelicans is akin to recognizing the smell of your youngest tumbled in a sea of kids at the annual Fishermen's Derby.

It's second skin. Instantaneous. The curve of that beak tore through to the core of me, eliciting a sense of timeless wonder and joy reminiscent of returning to Combray, Aunt Leonie and that tea and madeleine.  KosAbility: The Taking of the Cookie & Tea: 2011

california brown pelican photo: Brown pelican CALIF-A314_.jpg

In three hours on the beach, I sight only one formation of pelicans. An oddity for early September, when young families of birds typically flood to the shore from nearby nesting grounds for flying and fishing lessons.

The California Brown Pelican, another environmental indicator species, is also declining in numbers.  After being removed from the Endangered Species List following the banning of DDT, they are currently threatened by climate change. Warm temperatures in the north disrupt their natural migratory patterns, resulting in injuries and illness, frost-bite and disorientation as they battle back south through harsh storms.

In 2010, veteran pelican watchers reported the second year of a major shift in California brown pelican migrations had resulting in a significant die-off of adult birds who had previously successfully survived the yearly journey south. Pelicans were also sighted inland searching for food. That same year, after summering in Kazakhstan, a group of pink African pelicans mistakenly migrated north to Siberia. And, for the past few years, squadrons of brown pelicans have appeared far north in Victoria, Canada.

There is a truism among all addicts: that whatever one's drug of choice, its habituating impact is deliverance into a state of ecstasy, of belonging, of freedom and power. The disease model of addiction identifies the dysfunction of the neurotransmitter dopamine as the causative agent. Dopamine is identified with feelings of intense pleasure, with finding a sense of purpose and meaning, assisting with learning and generating motivation.

In a  2012 New York Times article, The Ecology of Disease, scientist Jim Robbins suggests that disease is an environmental issue.

If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, it can cause a breakdown of these systems and come back to haunt us in ways we know little about. A critical example is a developing model of infectious disease that shows that most epidemics — AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, SARS, Lyme disease and hundreds more that have occurred over the last several decades — don’t just happen. They are a result of things people do to nature.
If man’s addiction to an unsustainable, fossil-fueled lifestyle is a disease, it has reached epidemic proportions. Never before since the evolution of life as we know it on this planet have we been in the position where our addictions threaten the existence of all manner of life at every level.  Where no matter how furiously fireflies, pelicans and hummingbirds beat their wings, all effort will be futile without the support of the sky.

At this point, our only step might be total abstinence. Retreat and recovery.  Our wisest move might be to reconnect with something as simple and pure as our breath. After all, according to The Biology of Kundalini  spiritual awakening or 'bliss' involves focusing the energy of both the brain and the body to precipitate the natural release of endorphins, endogenous cannaboids, oxytocin ...  and dopamine.  

"

Patanjali, author of century's old Yoga Sutras, suggested the route to human contentment followed an Eight Fold Path which consisted of asanas (poses), pranayamas (breathing practices) and meditations.

The first of five ethical principles or yamas is Ahimsa, the Sanskrit term for Non Violence.  Ahimsa means do no harm or cause no suffering to any living thing. Not only are we responsible for our harmful behaviors, we also commit to prevent others from causing harm.

"You may mistakenly think that to refrain from harming another brings benefit to that other, and not to yourself," says Sharon Gannon, the co-creator of Jivamukti Yoga. "But when you start to understand how karma works, you realize that how you treat others determines how much suffering you experience."

We can learn much about how birds experience life through Yoga. There are, in fact numerous poses named after birds: Pigeon, Heron, Rooster, Eagle, Crow, Peacock, Bird of Paradise.  There is even a pose called Penguin.

But there is only one Firefly Pose.

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"Hummingbirds" Blogathon: September 9-September 13, 2013




 photo CostasRedBarrel_2139_zps15a32cf3.jpg


In May 2006, the late environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai addressed 7,000 international educators who had gathered in Montreal for the 58th annual conference of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA). Here is the story she shared with them.

One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest - a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire.  Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest.  As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire and they were feeling very discouraged and powerless.  They were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes.  Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird.

This particular hummingbird decided it would do something.  It swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the fire.  Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again.  All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, "Don't bother, it is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop, you can't put out this fire."

And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice, "What do you think you are doing?" And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said:

"I am doing what I can."
In this time of escalating climate change, this is our challenge.

To refuse to surrender to the apathy of denialism and fatalism.
To be fierce in our defense of the Earth.
To continue to fight in the face of overwhelming odds.
And always, always, to do what we can.

Because it is only by each of us doing what we can, every day, that we will save the Earth – for ourselves, and for the generations to come.  Like the hummingbird.


Our Daily Kos community organizers are Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, boatsie, rb137, JekyllnHyde, citisven, peregrine kate, John Crapper, Aji, and Kitsap River.  Photo credit and copyright: Kossack desertguy and Luma Photography.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, DK GreenRoots, Kitchen Table Kibitzing, Wildlife Endangered and Threatened, Holy $h*tters, and J Town.

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