The fall and triumph of the Connecticut River salmon.

This is, ultimately, a success story. But in order to have success, you've got to have challenges.

If you're a wild Atlantic salmon, these last few hundred years have definitely been challenging.

The Connecticut River had been dead for over 200 years.

Dead to wild salmon, at least. Atlantic salmon used to spawn in the river, nearly 40,000 of them each year. Though salmon spend most of their adult lives out in the ocean, they always return to streams and rivers to breed — not just any stream or river, either, but to the exact streams or rivers where they were born. 

By the end of the 1700s, pollution and damming had essentially killed off all the salmon who called the Connecticut River home. The pollution made them sick, and the dams physically stopped their migration in its tracks. The combination of those two obstacles ensured that no salmon would ever be able to return to the Connecticut River.

By the time this postcard was made, circa 1900, the salmon had long disappeared. Image from The New York Public Library.

Unfortunately, this is a common problem throughout the Atlantic. Many historic salmon runs in places like Scotland are seeing salmon disappear, no thanks to overfishing in both fresh and salt water.

Losing the salmon isn't just sad for people who like to eat them — it's sad for the river's ecosystem as well.

When a salmon's finished laying eggs, it dies. That might seem like a raw deal, but that's how it goes for salmon. But that does something marvelous for the ecosystem. That salmon's body is full of nutrients stored up from its life in the ocean. When it dies, those nutrients are released back into the stream and surrounding environment.

The entire river benefits from what the salmon bring. Image from NPS/Wikimedia Commons.

Salmon are, effectively, a pump moving nutrients from the ocean into the forest. In the Pacific Northwest, where salmon runs are common, one study estimated salmon provide as many nutrients as a layer of commercial fertilizer.

So yeah, it's important that we keep our salmon populations alive. 

For years, people tried to revive the Connecticut River salmon ... and failed.

There were programs in the 1800s, and then one started again in the 1960s to revive the salmon population. People cleaned up the river. Passageways were built around dams to allow the fish to migrate again. But the salmon were gone. And because wild salmon only return to the river of their birth — and no wild salmon had been born in the Connecticut River for years — no salmon returned.

Instead, biologists focused on stocking the river with salmon eggs, hoping that the fish would be able to find their way back once they had grown up. There was some success, but budget cuts and a devastating hurricane put that program in danger. In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped participating in the program. A few legacy projects hung on, but it looked like the end.

GIF from "Finding Nemo."

But remember how I said this was a success story?

In November 2015, biologists discovered THREE salmon nests, complete with eggs, in the Connecticut River!

This is huge news for salmon, people, and the environment!

It means that not only are salmon returning the river, but the water is clean enough for them to successfully breed as well. 

Juvenile salmon live in freshwater rivers and streams before migrating out to the ocean as adults. Image from The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons.

This is great news! Salmon have been an important food supply for people for millennia, and they're an important species for anglers too. Not to mention all that work keeping that nutrient-pumping cycle in the river's ecosystem going.

Now, three salmon nests isn't a lot, but it might be the start of something beautiful.

Maybe a return to something like this? Image from NOAA Photo Library/Wikimedia Commons.

This is something that hasn't happened in over 200 years

"It's the first time since probably the Revolutionary War," Peter Aarrestad director at the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection told the Hartford Courant.

A lot of people have worked hard for a long time to make the Connecticut River home to those three little nests. And it goes to show that we don't just have the capacity to hurt the planet — we can help heal it as well.

Hopefully those three little nests are the heralds of a time when we can return to seeing a Connecticut River filled with 50,000 salmon.

GIF from "Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog."

President Biden/Twitter, Yamiche Alcindor/Twitter

In a year when the U.S. saw the largest protest movement in history in support of Black lives, when people of color have experienced disproportionate outcomes from the coronavirus pandemic, and when Black voters showed up in droves to flip two Senate seats in Georgia, Joe Biden entered the White House with a mandate to address the issue of racial equity in a meaningful way.

Not that it took any of those things to make racial issues in America real. White supremacy has undergirded laws, policies, and practices throughout our nation's history, and the ongoing impacts of that history are seen and felt widely by various racial and ethnic groups in America in various ways.

Today, President Biden spoke to these issues in straightforward language before signing four executive actions that aim to:

- promote fair housing policies to redress historical racial discrimination in federal housing and lending

- address criminal justice, starting by ending federal contracts with for-profit prisons

- strengthen nation-to-nation relationships with Native American tribes and Alaskan natives

- combat xenophobia against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, which has skyrocketed during the pandemic

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Gates Foundation

Once upon a time, a scientist named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet that he had discovered a link between autism and vaccines.

After years of controversy and making parents mistrust vaccines, along with collecting $674,000 from lawyers who would benefit from suing vaccine makers, it was discovered he had made the whole thing up. The Lancet publicly apologized and reported that further investigation led to the discovery that he had fabricated everything.

Keep Reading Show less
via TikTok

Menstrual taboos are as old as time and found across cultures. They've been used to separate women from men physically — menstrual huts are still a thing — and socially, by creating the perception that a natural bodily function is a sign of weakness.

Even in today's world women are deemed unfit for positions of power because some men actually believe they won't be able to handle stressful situations while mensurating.

"Menstruation is an opening for attack: a mark of shame, a sign of weakness, an argument to keep women out of positions of power,' Colin Schultz writes in Popular Science.

Keep Reading Show less