Planting a new legacy

Published 9:21 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whatever one thinks about the environmental movement — and there are plenty of strongly held views from both supporters and detractors — it’s clear that humans have a responsibility to the next generation, at the very least, to take reasonable pains to minimize the negative effects of their existence on Earth.

As rather basic examples of the premise, we build landfills for our garbage, or we burn it and use the heat to create electricity, rather than just tossing bags from the kitchen into the woods or dumping them into the river. Or at least that’s the case for all but the least civilized of modern men.

Higher up the chain of ecologically responsible actions is the drive to repair the damage that we did to our environment when we understood less about how our actions affected it.

Email newsletter signup

A good example of that impulse is the continuing work that environmental organizations are doing around Hampton Roads and other Chesapeake Bay communities to restore oysters to their former prominence.

Locally, the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance and the Oyster Reef Keepers of Virginia have begun a project with area high schools to help teach students some basic lessons about ecosystems, about river history and even about math. Teachers, Girl Scouts and other volunteers have built floats this summer that will be seeded with 2,000 baby oysters waiting for a new home on the Nansemond River.

The oysters’ growth will provide students and other participants in the Schools Restoring Oysters to the Chesapeake project ample opportunities through the coming year to learn some important science lessons. And by the time the school year is over, the oysters will be ready to place the shellfish in restoration reefs, moving a step closer to bringing them back to prominence on the Nansemond River.

A similar project in operation on the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach since 1997 has increased the oyster population by a factor of 10.

Oysters were a major part of Suffolk’s economy for many years. The loss of the Nansemond as a fertile area of harvest has been an unfortunate legacy of man’s carelessness here. This project is a good step toward changing that legacy.