I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve found this year to be an especially difficult one. Everything from the past 8 months has left my head spinning. The night after the election I couldn’t help but feel like I’d woken up in a strange opposite world where Donald Trump could win a presidency. Then things only got weirder and weirder as preposterous budget cuts were proposed, violent deportations began and air strikes were ordered. To make matters even more personally stressful, organic chemistry and physics have decided to overwhelm my mind and consume most of my free time. It seems like all our problems have been slowly gaining momentum over the past year, and now they’re rolling down a mountain so fast that I don’t think I’d be able to catch it. Since the election, I’ve found myself being chronically tired, upset over the deteriorating air of tolerance, and fearful of the fallout, economic or warlike, that will result from a Trump presidency.
My only relief from the anxiety of a Trump presidency can be found by the Raritan River. My job at the Rutgers Marine Science Lab is to catch and tag American Shad, a migratory fish that was once so prevalent George Washington could catch enough of them in the Delaware River to feed all his revolutionary soldiers. Last year, we had only found about thirty of them over the course of three months. Many blame New Jersey dams, invasive species and climate change for this extreme decrease in population. When I began sampling this year, I expected the same small sample size but for some reason the fish are flocking to us. Several severe rain and thunderstorms have hit New Jersey in the past two weeks, and part of me thinks this much needed rain is helping the shad migrate up the Raritan River, and hopefully all the way to their breeding grounds. Now, these wonderful showers don’t imply that climate change is no longer an issue; in fact these unusually strong storms that occur after long bouts of drought are likely a side effect of climate change. The fact that there are more shad this year than last year does not imply that the dams are no longer a problem or that invasives are no longer detrimental. But these things do provide a small bit of hope. The shad are still here, and we can still help them. These events seem insignificant in the long run, but they are small victories that should be celebrated; just like our small victories.
True, frightening things are still happening but there have been accomplishments. The women’s march was an unparalleled success. The horrendous health care bill has not been passed. The immigration order has been halted. Towns in Illinois have elected more democrats for local positions than was ever expected; stealing seats from republicans in most cases. Arizona conservation groups have recently teamed up with the governor Raul Grijalva to file a lawsuit against trump over the ecological impact the wall will have on wildlife. The fish seem to be returning. Individually I am overwhelmed and anxious, but seeing all these little victories piling up is proving to me that together we can still improve our country. I wouldn’t say we are out of the woods yet, but we have had our triumphs and there are small bits of hope to be found within them and we must let these motivate us to keep moving forward towards a better tomorrow.