Let’s help Millie and Moe

Published 10:34 am Wednesday, June 2, 2010

There it was a tiny, living water creature doing what tiny water creatures do – scurrying along the sand underneath the waters of a Louisiana marsh.

Unfortunately, the going wasn’t easy on this day and its struggle appeared in a video playing on the nightly news.

Of all the pictures from the BP oil spill, this one haunts me most. The image of this little critter, slipping along the sand its shell and legs covered in oil hit me right in the heart.

Now I don’t know exactly what kind of sea animal this might be. I’m pretty sure it is a species of mollusk, which is one of the smaller marine animals. I also don’t know if it’s a Millie or Moe mollusk or if mollusks come in different genders.

What I do know is it lives its life in our coastal waters and depends on the condition of the marsh to keep it alive. One morning when it awoke, if mollusks awake, it found its shell full of gummy oil and ended up sitting in a human hand while its picture beamed into my living room.

Why that particular image hit me is hard to say but it did. Therefore, I wanted to learn more about mollusks and their role in the circle of life. What I learned is scientists are also interested in what is happening to Millie or Moe. In fact, they are collecting and analyzing three different mollusk species from the Gulf coast to see if contaminants from the spill are invading their shells.

That is important because mollusks continuously build their shells, and if pollution is present in the environment they may incorporate the contaminants into their shells.

As one story said, “Over time the researchers will measure growth rate and survival of the species to determine how the spill is impacting the mollusks, which, as primary consumers, will be among the first animals to begin showing contamination.”

So, my mollusk friend has a lot to tell us about what’s going on long term from oil coming into its environment.

While that is certainly important, it didn’t fully explain the wave of sadness I felt seeing the creature bathed in black gunk. No what I felt was something at the soul level, a connection to the life flowing through its body, which also flows through mine.

As I contemplated this, a passage from the Bible popped into my head. It comes from the creation story.

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

There it was – the reason for my emotion. I felt like I’d done a disservice to this mollusk and all of its cousins, well, maybe not me personally but members of my human family. Perhaps sometimes we aren’t doing so great with the “dominion over” everything role and now other living creations are paying the price.

What I’m thinking is Millie or Moe, if he or she could talk, has but one request of its human siblings “help me.”

I guess the sadness I felt when I saw this shell-bound creature covered in oil is because I don’t know how I can personally answer that cry for help.