A priest from Michigan is garnering widespread attention online this week for a unique way he incorporated social distancing guidelines into his services at his parish during Holy Week last month.
In the photos, which were first shared by the St. Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park last month and have gone viral on Twitter in recent days, the priest, Father Tim Pelc, could be seen donning gloves, a mask and a squirt gun containing holy water.
The church wrote in the April 12 post: “Adapting to the need for social distancing, St. Ambrose continued it’s tradition of Blessing of Easter Food Baskets, drive-thru style. Yes, that’s Fr. Tim using a squirt gun full of Holy Water!”
In an interview with Today published on Sunday, Pelc said he came up with the idea and decided to go through with it after checking first with a doctor to make sure it was in line with social guidelines advised by health experts and government officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“You can’t double dip into the holy water container,” he told the outlet. “I thought, what could I do that would keep the quarantine restrictions going and give kids the experience of Easter?”
“We didn’t have a lot of notice on it. At noon, the Saturday before Easter, I went out there and there was a line of cars waiting,” Pelc added.
The church’s initial post detailing the effort by Pelc has racked up several hundred shares and likes over the past few weeks. However, a tweet talking about Pelc’s “social distance blessings” has garnered over half a million likes and more than 125,000 retweets in just two days. The photos also picked up traction in a viral photoshop battle on Reddit not long after.https://d-6252475892314059361.ampproject.net/2005151837000/frame.html
Larry A. Peplin, the photographer who captured the photos, told The Hill on Sunday that he has been working as commercial photographer in the Detroit-area for decades and said he has “never seen anything like this happen to any of my photos.”
“Having covered many thousands of imaging assignments including six presidents and now nearing retirement, this is stunning,” he continued. “I’m quite aware that these things happen, and memes get created then passed around the world, but why did it take five weeks for it to take off?”
“I understand now why it’s called ‘going viral,’ and yes, I’m taking that verbal cue from COVID-19,” he added.
Shark fins are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, including China. But because sharks are endangered thanks to human behavior, we cannot afford to kill any more of them. Yet, people are still trafficking in shark fins. In fact, in April and May of 2020, officials in Hong Kong seized 26 tons of shark fins from over 38,500 endangered sharks in two different cases. Luckily, they have a suspect in custody for one of the seizures. But still no word on the other seizure or any official charges on the first suspect.
It’s critical we keep the pressure on to make sure they hold everyone involved with this massive slaughter accountable. Sign now!
The main way sharks are consumed is in a dish called shark fin soup. That means traffickers don’t even care about the rest of the shark’s body. In fact, they often slice off a shark’s fin and toss it back to the ocean to drown and die a slow and painful death. Fins from over 73 million sharks are used in this “delicacy” every single year.
The seized shark fins in Hong Kong were largely from thresher and silky sharks, both of which are endangered. Sharks are predators, playing a crucial role in maintaining sea biodiversity. Losing an entire predatory species would have dire consequences for our planet’s ecosystem. That’s why it’s so tragic to learn of 38,500 ruthlessly slaughtered sharks.
The good news is that this particular crime carries a fine of $10 million and imprisonment for 10 years. We need to demand anyone involved in this horrible act gets that punishment. Please sign on to demand justice for all these poor sharks!moreSHARE6.5KTWEETEMAILEMBED
People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process.
Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines.
Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.
Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding.
D. Rex Miller
NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure.
NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.
Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.
Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore
Bringing Wildlife Back
People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.
For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.
NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.
Andrew S. Wright/USFWS
The Future of NNBF
In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world.
Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet.
Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.
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