Oh, that day I was plotting. Plotting AND planning, and I knew that I was going to need some help to get this chunk of the River back into prime shape for my favorite things in life (riversides and healthy ecosystems).
I'd need a prime mover and shaker. Well, I'd also need to keep people from fucking it up, but to do this whole thing right - I was going to need the aid of the mighty beavers.
Beavers aren't eusocial. I would say that no mammals are, but then I'd be lying, and I only lie when it's humorous or gets me out of trouble or serves to get me some personal gain. So, a lot of reasons, really. But - beavers aren't eusocial. They are mammals, though for Catholicism reasons you can totally eat them on lent! (All my readers are 17th Century Quebecois Catholics, by the way) There's a eusocial mammal - the grotesque and biologically amazing Naked Mole Rat.
Naked Mole Rats, by the way, don't get cancer. You hear people - people who are repeating a dangerous lie - say that sharks don't get cancer. This is not true. Sharks do. Naked mole rats don't. Yet people eat shark cartilage and pay good money for the privilege to endanger a species while gaining absolutely no benefit!
So am I suggesting that you go out there and start chewing on Naked Mole Rats? Yes. Chewing on them live is the only way to get the anti-cancer skin chemicals out of them. This is the only good advice Dr. Oz has ever given anyone.
But, back to beavers. By trapping water in slow-moving shallow pools, beavers prevent all the water from flowing quickly and picking up silt, which is deposited into rivers - on top of the poor mussels, including our prominent local mollusc theologians. The same water-slowing techniques decrease erosion - the process that carries valuable food-growing soil and throws it into the river like so much trash. The deposits laid down by beaver ponds are just the sort of topsoil the world needs.
These rapidly flowing waters also carry loads of biological material - nutrients for bacteria and algae, the true lords and masters of our planet. While I'm almost always in favor of more non-primate scum on the Earth, in a river or ocean or lake they'll take this explosion of nutrition and promptly explode their population. Exploding populations of this sort suck all the oxygen out of the water and kill all the fish, molluscs, and everything else.
Beaver ponds, on the other hand, barricade these nutrients into shallow ponds, marshlands, and vernal pools, allowing water and nutrients to seep deep into the soil.
They live near the Pearl River, so I followed their trail of chewed sticks like some sort of gluten-free Hansel and Gretel until I found a beaver willing to be interviewed.
PRF: "Hi, and thanks for being interviewed. I understand you're secretive about your plans and dams."
Beaver: "The deal was we wouldn't talk about the plans. You know that."
PRF: "I know. We're not. Anyway. So, on the subject of politics."
B: "Yeah, now that I can discuss. One of the things I find most fascinating about human politics is how rarely you all make dams. You get all together, get big groups with tools, and then instead of blockading waterways - you kill each other."
B: "Yeah, but where's the art? The improvisation? Sometimes when we can't get enough wood, we use stones! Stones, man. You can't chew stones!"
PRF: "I will chew anything you allow close enough to my teeth."
B: "That's my line! I'm the chewing one, you son of a bitch! I'm the chewer. I chew bark, I pull bark off of trees with my teeth and I eat that shit! That is what I eat! I eat it with my teeth! Tree bark! Do you have any idea what kind of digestive system you need to digest bark? You don't, do you?"
PRF: "I will admit that beaver digestive tract anatomy is not something I know a great deal about."
B: "This is just like your primary system in Mississippi. You try and pick the guy that might not be the worst to run against the guy that probably is, and nobody's on watch, nobody's sounding the alarm when the dam gets topped, and then all the water runs out, and now you're left with the water level lower than the entrance to your lodge. Then what do you have, Jerome? You've got goddamn coyotes in the house, eating your pups!"
PRF: "Sir, that is an adept metaphor for the situation, I feel. You are as astute as you are hardworking."
B: "You know, I don't even work that hard. Way to stereotype all of us. Speciesist. I bet we all look alike to you, don't we?"
PRF: "I mean, humans have the ability to recognize other human faces, but beavers, well..."
B: "That's what I thought. I bet you don't mix up your precious little dogs. Or those evil little fur-ball things with the claws...."
B: "There you go again."
PRF: "Well I do know plenty about your anal glands. They contain a..."
B: "I know what my anal glands contain, buddy. Weren't you coming here to talk about politics?"
PRF: "Oh, right. Yeah. Look, so I've talked about some of the challenges our local swamp here faces. Some rich assholes want to turn it into a lake, others want to ruin part of it with a marina that hooks to a lake, because you know - we always need a place for yammering uppercrust twits to park their goddamn boats."
B: "Are the boats made out of wood?"
PRF: "No, not usually. And there's no bark, anyway."
B: "Shame. But yeah, we should get organized. Maybe if you were on that Twitter thing everyone's talking about?"
PRF: "Oh man, you should totally follow us on Twitter!"
B: "We're doomed, aren't we?"
PRF: "I think that beavers may actually outlast humans this time. Maybe you'll be the next species to go sentient."
B: "Hrm. Any tips?"
PRF: "Nah, we'll have used up all the fossil fuels at that point, so, uh, just dig down and get plastic out of the ground, I guess? It'll be like a natural resource for you guys."
B: "Well, just keep throwing it in the goddamn river, then."