How Mussels Inspire Hope
I’ve wanted to write this post since January when I read about scientists finding 17 different species of freshwater mussels in the Delaware River somewhere between Trenton, NJ and Philadelphia.
The story is probably long forgotten by those who read The Philadelphia Inquirer or by those who, like me, saw the story printed in the January 30 edition of The Dallas Morning News. However, for Danielle Kreeger, the scientist who found the mussels, that June day is probably one of the highlights of her long career.
You see, she was in a boat in the middle of the river working on a wetlands project. It was June and she got hot. She jumped in with her mask and snorkel to cool off and there, on the riverbed bottom, hauled in gobs of freshwater mussels, including two species thought to be extinct and another that hadn’t been spotted in the area for more than half a century.
Why should we care?
Because we also care about the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, tsunamis in Japan, and potential radioactive milk appearing in the United States. We should care because future generations depend on us to care.
Are you aware that:
- Mussels filter sediments, nutrients and contaminants, all of which protect the river from disease?
- Mussels are indicators when something is going wrong with a river or body of water? They are the “ideal sentinel organism” according to a biologist who was in the boat with Kreegerr.
Can you see the bigger picture?
As someone who had no appreciation for biology in school and is squeamish around slimy creatures, it’s kind of hard to understand the significance of the discovery on that hot June day. Heck, I don’t even like to eat water creatures unless they have fins and swim. But what I do appreciate is the picture beyond the Delaware River.
In addition to the interdependencies of water life, the bigger picture includes the humans who make their living off the water. Those local folks buy goods and services that support a local economy. Salaries of grocery store clerks, hairdressers and school teachers are paid so that they feed the economy and the picture grows bigger and bigger.
I’ve contemplated these things as I’ve stood before a body of water experiencing feelings of awe and humility.
Mussels are a symbol
Let’s face it. Our planet is in pain. The unfathomable events in Japan and New Zealand, the two most recent in a growing frequency of worldwide tragedies, are indicative of that pain.
Some say that global warming is to blame. Others say Mother Nature is angry. I don’t know about those things, but I do know that when I read the story about the mussels in the Delaware River, I felt a sense of hope.
If one species of an animal can mystically appear in a place where it hasn’t been seen in five decades, then I believe there is hope for the species of humanity.
While the answers for the tens of thousands of lives lost to natural disasters may only be known to our universal creator, there is one answer that brings great comfort:
We are all one—mussel and human—created by God, Buddha, Jehovah, Allah, Goddess—to operate in sync with every other species. The re-birth of a once-extinct form of life is cause for jubilation. It is cause for taking a moment to express gratitude that circumstances came together on that June day for Kreeger and her crew to haul in those nets of mussels.
Their haul is our hope.