An older form of Deep Green Resistance rises from the rainforest. Euramericans, ignore this at your peril.

If you want to see something really inspiring, watch and listen to Patricia Gualinga, an Achuar woman from the Ecuadorian rainforest, talking about how her people are standing firm on the frontlines of the siege of the forest by multinational oil extraction companies.

Listening to this indigenous activist, you see shades of all the millions of indigenous peoples around the world who lived in harmony with their environment, respecting and sustainably stewarding their lands.

To say that this balance was altered when the Europeans began their voyages around the world is not to blame or guilt-trip.  It is simply to speak the truth.

To say that the European Enlightenment period, which gave us Manifest Destiny, “I think therefore I am,” the closing off of the commons and the capitalist drive to resource exploitation, was actually a time of deepening darkness, is simply to pronounce the self-evident.

While we contemporary heirs to this 500-year history may be individually blameless, collectively we have been bystanders who have followed the paths of least resistance and allowed the destruction of our planet to proceed apace.

The Pachamama Alliance, on whose behalf Patricia Gualinga spoke last week, is an unusual partnership between Euramericans and these South American indigenous survivors, warriors who are defending the great Amazonian rainforest, the dynamic lungs of the Southern Hemisphere, against rapacious encroachers.

We need another alliance like this between the peoples of the far North and those Euramericans who know that destroying the Canadian boreal forests would be equally catastrophic.

The Pachamama Alliance has developed a powerful model of collaboration across the boundaries of nationality and race in the service of a higher vision of earth-based spiritual activism.

This is a vision that needs to grow exponentially in the coming years.

For too long we have been held captive by the media-induced trance of relentless growth and consumerism.  It’s time to break the spell and allow the pendulum of human evolution on this planet to swing back to balance.

To do this, we need to listen to new voices, heed new calls.  We Euramericans have had our shot at leading the world our way.  It has been a disaster.

It’s time to cede the stage to our indigenous sisters and brothers, and try following their lead for a change.  This is a whole new level of Deep Green Resistance, based on creation rather than destruction.

 It’s time to co-create a new story with the indigenous peoples of the planet, who still know how to live harmoniously with the natural world.

Listen to the Pachamama story, and then it’s up to you–what comes next?  What role will YOU play?

Building on the Keystone “victory”–from endless growth to steady states

In his Op-Ed in today’s NY TimesMichael Levi, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the Administration only agreed to put off the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline because of “not-in-my-backyard” pressure from Nebraskans, which had little or nothing to do with the urgent issue of cutting carbon emissions in order to avert climate disaster.

“For green groups,” Levi says, “the shortest route to blocking fossil fuel development appears to be leveraging local opposition.” The problem with this approach, from Levi’s point of view, is that there is going to be “local opposition” to green energy initiatives like solar and wind farms too.

What Levi, like most Beltway insiders, doesn’t seem to appreciate is that the green movement is not just about opposition.  It’s about positive action.  It’s not just about environmental protection.  It’s about social change.

It’s about a shift from a mentality that seeks to keep growing our energy-dependent economy indefinitely, to a mentality that seeks a sustainable steady state.

Steady states are anathema to capitalism–a quarter without growth is a quarter wasted, as any CEO would tell you.

But steady states are exactly what have made our planet a livable environment for the past several thousand years, during which the human species, along with countless others, has thrived.

Rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline is just a small step in the right direction, towards a society that puts effort and money first into reducing energy consumption, and second into developing energy infrastructure that has the lowest possible impact on the ecological web of life.

The Michael Levis of America don’t understand that this is the real push behind the green movement today.

Yes, we’ll seek allies where we can find them, and make use of whatever sources of power we can find (even pro-oil Republican Nebraskans) to achieve our goals.

But our movement is not about “leveraging opposition.”  It’s about mobilizing support, through raising awareness about the threats to our civilization and our planet if we continue along with business as usual.

It’s also about leading the way towards the alternatives that are already within reach if we choose to veer off the beaten path into new, much more stable territory.

Endless growth is a social model that has proven itself to be highly unstable, whether we’re talking about national economies or energy systems.

It’s time to use our intelligence as a species for the good of ourselves and our planet.  There is really no other way forward.

Pipeline put off, but I’m not celebrating, are you?

Bill MicKibben: We won a temporary victory on Keystone XL, but the fight goes on | Grist.

It’s hard to feel elated about President Obama’s decision this week to kick the can of the Alberta tar sands extraction down the road a ways, until after the 2012 election.

Yes, any victory is a good victory, and the environmentalists who took the trouble to go to Washington and raise a ruckus in opposition to the proposed pipeline deserve our accolades and thanks.

The cranes who use the Nebraska Sand Hills refuge will have another year or two of peace.  The Ogllala aquifer is protected for the moment.

But it’s discouraging to see how the Administration is trying to limit discussion to the pipeline, as if it, in itself, were the problem.

No, the pipeline is just a symptom of a much larger problem: the potential destruction of the Canadian boreal forests, with their countless species of flora and fauna, and their tremendous carbon-trapping properties.

Without the Alberta forests, global warming is a done deal.

Does anyone there in Washington understand what that means?

Earth to Washington: do you copy?

Go ahead, Earth.

We haven’t got much time left.  The temperature is rising.  Once the climate destabilizes, we won’t be able to turn things around for a long, long time.  We’re talking geological time here.

Copy that, Earth.

So can we get some serious action there, Washington?  Can we light a fire under those politicians and get going with solar energy already?

Copy that, Earth.

Like–now?

Washington to Earth, connection is down.  Can you repeat?  Over.

Yes, that’s right.  Over.

A teachable moment at Penn State?

What is most shocking to me about the current scandal at Penn State (sports and sexual abuse of boys, in case you hadn’t heard) is the response of the students to the announcement last night that longtime head football coach Joe Paterno was fired.

Do the hundreds of students who poured into the streets to smash car windows and pull down lamp posts believe that it was OK that the coach turned a blind eye to the repeated rape of boys, some as young as 10 years old, in the university’s football locker room showers?

Do they want to be part of an institution that condones this kind of behavior?

If anything, the students should have taken to the streets to demand Paterno’s resignation, along with that of his boss, Penn State president Graham Spanier.

But no.  To these rampaging students, what happened in those showers with the pedophile assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was less important than hanging on to their beloved head coach.

This is reminiscent of so many other, similar scandals, in which men’s loyalty to social groups, whether it’s the military, a fraternity, a gang, or a football team, is so strong that it completely skews their independent moral compasses.

If you presented a group of unaffiliated students with a scenario like what we’ve just witnessed at Penn State, and asked them whether assistant coach Mike McQueary was right to blow the whistle on Sandusky after witnessing him rape a 10-year-old boy in the football locker room shower late one night in 2002, I think most of those students would say McQueary was in the right.  They would also most likely come to the conclusion that it was the duty of McQueary and Sandusky’s boss, Joe Paterno, to report the crime.

But obviously things don’t look so clearcut when various conflicting loyalties come into play.  When McQueary realized that Paterno and other school officials were not going to report Sandusky, should he have pursued the matter independently–even when it might very well have cost him his job?

Of course, the answer is yes.  How could McQueary and Paterno sleep at night knowing that Sandusky was using university facilities to lure in boys?  Boys, who, by the way, he met through a charity he belonged to, the Second Mile Foundation, which purports to help disadvantaged children in Pennsylvania.

It saddens but does not surprise me that the students at Penn State who protested the firing of Coach Paterno are willing to put their team loyalty ahead of the pursuit of justice and integrity in this case.

It’s very similar to the loyalty of the Catholic priesthood, which chose to protect its own rather than stand up for the rights of the young children, mostly boys, who were being molested by pedophile priests for years and years.

Or like the loyalty of fraternity boys who would never rat out a “brother” who raped a girl during a party.

I’m sorry, guys, but this is not brotherhood.  It’s bullying: one person taking advantage of someone with less social power or physical strength, and a whole bunch of bystanders letting it happen.

This is what the Penn State students are proud of?  They should be ashamed.

At least Joe Paterno, at 84, does seem to be showing some signs of moral rectitude.  “This is a tragedy,” he said yesterday. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

Yeah, Joe.  You may have had more football game victories than any other college coach, but you sure could have done more.

Student-driven learning: Diversity Day at Simon’s Rock

Tomorrow is Diversity Day at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, a day when regular classes are cancelled so that the whole student body can attend workshops prepared by students, with some faculty guidance, on a range of topics related to social difference.

I am participating in three workshops: “Bros Before Hoes: When Male Loyalty Becomes Oppressive,” which comes out of my Explorations in Gender, Culture & Society class, in which we recently read Michael Kimmel’s Guyland; “Sex in the Media,” about the objectification of women (and men) in the media; and “The Green Belt Movement: Planting Trees, Saving Lives” about the life and legacy of environmental activist Wangari Maathai.

There are a whole host of workshops I wish I could attend, if only I could clone myself!  For instance, “The Prison Industrial Complex,” “Occupy Wall Street: A Discussion on Political Engagement,” “I Don’t Do Black Girls,” and many more.

As someone who regularly teaches classes in world literature, human rights, gender studies and related topics, I sometimes have mixed feelings about trying to cram so much politically charged information into a single day.  The danger is that we stir up a whole host of raw, unprocessed ideas, emotions and opinions, and then go back to business as usual, leaving many loose ends and open questions dangling.

The hope is that students who would not otherwise be drawn to explore issues of social class, race, ethnicity, gender, etc. in an academic class will at least get some exposure through these workshops to what their peers are thinking about or experiencing, and may be inspired to continue the conversations outside the classroom, or even to take a class in sociology or gender studies in a future semester.

What’s most positive about this annual event at Simon’s Rock is how it encourages the student workshop leaders to put to good use all the pedagogical modeling we’ve done for them in our classes. I am always so impressed at how carefully student leaders prepare for their 90-minute sessions, and how easily they are able to use the tools and skills we’ve been working on since Day One at Simon’s Rock: focused freewriting, small group discussion, coming to consensus, reporting back to the big group, sharing ideas in a thoughtful, respectful manner.

Once in a while things I’ve seen things get out of hand at a Diversity Day workshop, if a group is too big and rowdy, or the chemistry between the session leaders and some of the students in the class just clashes.  But that is very rare.  Most of the time students are respectful and kind, appreciative of each other’s efforts in sharing their knowledge and experiences.

Andrew Revkin of The New York Times blogged recently about progressive secondary education, citing with approval a Long Island high school student’s call for “project-based learning,” which is “designed to put students in the driver seat.

“No longer is the teacher the only hub of information,” writes student Nikhil Goyal. “No longer do kids work in silos, isolated from their peers and the community around them….Projects drive the curriculum, rather than the reverse. And they incorporate a wide range of interdisciplinary subjects to achieve real-world relevance. Learning isn’t supposed to be boring and a process of nailing facts in students’ heads. It’s hands-on, it’s practical, and it’s creative. And project-based learning offers constant feedback and revision to develop higher quality work.”

So true!  Diversity Day at Simon’s Rock is a great example of just this kind of student-driven, project based learning, as the student workshop leaders define the topics that interest them, work on structuring the class time, put together audio-visual aids, and then go in to lead their sessions.

Could there be any better hands-on training for life in the real world?

Sexual harassment, from 7th grade to Herman Cain

Observing my total lack of interest in Herman Cain’s sexual peccadilloes, I find myself amused, in a sad, resigned sort of way.  Another wanna-be politician trips himself up in his own boxer shorts.  Ho hum. What’s for dinner?

Something far more upsetting than the image of Herman Cain groping under a woman’s skirt while forcing her head in his lap was the recent report that more than half of American girls in 7th to 12th grades were sexually harassed in person–as opposed to online–in the past school year.

“The report documents many forms of harassment. The most common was unwelcome sexual comments, gestures or jokes, which was experienced by 46 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys. Separately, 13 percent of girls reported being touched in an unwelcome way, compared with 3 percent of boys; 3.5 percent of girls said they were forced to do something sexual, as did 0.2 percent of boys. About 18 percent of both boys and girls reported being called gay or lesbian in a negative way.”

Should it surprise anyone that a culture that tolerates these kinds of conditions in public schools gives rise to politicians, from Bill Clinton to Elliot Spitzer to Herman Cain, who feel entitled by their power and success to indulge themselves sexually with subordinate women?

Sexual harassment of women by men is remarkably constant across cultures–it varies only in degree.  Some cultures deal with it by demanding that women cover themselves from head to toe; others pressure women to go around half-naked and inure themselves to the catcalls and feel-ups.

What few, if any, cultures do is demand that men be accountable for their own behavior and keep their hands and their whistles to themselves.

I admire women like the defendant in the DSK incident, or the Cain accuser who had the guts today to come forward on the record and in front of the cameras to tell her story.

Why should women make it easy for men to get away with blatant sexist bullying?

More to the point, why does our society make it so easy for men–all men, not just the rich and powerful, though those are the ones we hear about most frequently–to shrug off incidents of sexual harassment, or even assault, as minor, unimportant issues, hardly worthy of mention?

That was certainly Herman Cain’s position, until the tenacity of the women he had abused made it impossible for him to continue to play innocent.  The same playbook was used by countless politicians before him–which is why it’s so hard to get excited about any of it today.

I’m just relieved that the swampy pit of Republican contenders for President will almost certainly be shrinking by the end of tomorrow’s news cycle.

Or maybe I shouldn’t take that for granted.  Look at Clarence Thomas, after all–our Supreme Court Justice, for crying out loud!

Women of the world, unite!  Our silence on sexual harassment and assault will get us absolutely nowhere.  If you care about the mental and physical well-being of your daughters, your sisters, and yourselves, you need to condemn this destructive social norm in the strongest possible terms.

And then let’s get on with that dinner.

Activists circle the White House; Obama plays golf

Mainstream media reports that some 8,000 people showed up in Washington D.C. today to link hands around the White House to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and the development of the Alberta boreal forest (aka “tar sands”).

The energy and determination of this crowd is wonderful. But It’s heartbreaking to learn that President Obama “missed most of the protest while he played golf at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.”

Last week I went for a walk on a golf course near my home, and was reminded again of how terrible these private parks are for the environment.

If lawns are destructive monocultures, just imagine the exponential scale of the golf mono-lanscape: acres and acres of closely cropped, artificially bright green  turf, with not a single broad-leaved plant to be seen.

Golf parks are anathema to butterflies and other insects, of course, since they are regularly treated with pesticides and herbicides.  They suck up precious water for a use that is 100% non-necessary: a pleasant game for the 1%.

I admit it, golf courses are one of my pet peeves.  I have never liked them, and never will.  So I suppose it was a sort of trigger to hear that Obama was off golfing this afternoon, instead of paying his respects to the thousands of activists streaming into Washington to communicate with him–the man we sent to represent us in the White House.

He is not the first American President to dodge attempts by the citizenry to communicate our wishes.  I think of President Bush off on his ranch while activists like Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in the Iraq War, tried to send him an anti-war message.

Mr. President, if your citizens make the effort to go all the way to Washington DC to speak with you, I think the least you could do is show up.  We are depending on you to make the right decision on the tar sands/pipeline issue, which is clearly NO PIPELINE, and no development of the boreal forest.

We expect you to make a decision in favor of the health and well-being of your citizens.  Instead of investing in tired, dirty old energy platforms like oil and pipelines, we should be investing in solar and geothermal.  We need an Apollo Project for renewable energy, and we need it now!

Sure, you deserve your R&R on a Sunday afternoon, Mr. President.  But if you make the wrong call on this issue, those luxurious golf courses you enjoy may soon be relics of the wasteful bygone days.

Future social historians might point to golf as one of the many foolish 20th century habits that left us crouching bewildered in the 21st century in the midst of a full-blown climate crisis.

You’re the Decider now, Mr. President.  We are expecting you to make the right decision–for your precious children, and ours.

Challenging the culture of (white male) entitlement: Come on, Occupy, let’s do it!

I spent several hours today listening to a friend tell me, with much anger, sadness and frustration, the story of how her marriage of more than 20 years has crumbled.

Then I went up to see my son’s soccer game, and could not bring myself to say more than “hello” to my own ex-husband, who chose freedom and autonomy over his 25-year relationship with me, and the satisfaction of living in the same house as our children.

When I got home, I checked the Occupy Wall Street website and found a statement from the “sexual assault survivors team,” describing and condemning the recent attack on a female protester by a man who apparently already had a record of sexual assault.

I also got a blog post from a student in my gender studies class, about an organization called About Face, which strives to get viewers to question the fashion industry norm of presenting emaciated women as “beautiful.”

What connects these dots?

A culture in which men feel more interested in following their own selfish desires for personal fulfillment (aka, sexual fulfillment) than in upholding their roles as fathers and husbands.A society that makes it easy for them to choose this route: why struggle to please a demanding wife when you can have sex with someone else with no strings attached?

A society that tells women that the more pale, limp and weak-looking they appear, the more beautiful they are in the eyes of men.

A society where women have to be guarded, even at protests that supposedly entertain no gender disparity, because there could be sexual predators around any corner.

A society that makes it terribly difficult for women to find independent means to self-respect.

Too often, in previous revolutions, women have supported the movement but found that the men in charge were not willing to give women’s issues equal footing with class issues.

If the young men and women of the Occupy movements are serious about creating true social change, they must put the issue of entitlement squarely on the table.

Not just the entitlement of the 1%, but specifically male entitlement, and white entitlement.

We will not be able to bring a new social structure into being unless we hit these areas of privilege and entitlement head on.

And no, we are not substituting women’s empowerment for men’s.

We are after another world entirely, in which gender, class and race are not the arbiters of power.  In which power flows from the collective wisdom of the group, rather than top-down in hierarchical fashion.

The Occupy movements are on to this shift with the general assemblies and the consensual mode of decision-making.  Breaking with the gendered conditioning of Western society, which gives men all the power, all the time, is not going to be easy.  But if anyone could achieve it, it’s the young men and women of the Occupy movements.

I want to see these young people make this an explicit focus of their movements.  Because otherwise, on a certain level, it’s just business as usual, no matter if the masters of Goldman Sachs come out to lick your boots.

Change the disrespectful attitude of men towards women, and you REALLY change the world.

Let’s give it a try, and see what happens.  Things could not get much worse, and they could get a whole lot better if men and women worked together for the good of ALL.

Sweet stirrings of a new world: fringe politics overturning the barricades

The venerable social critic Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker contrasts the Tea Party with the Occupy movement in this week’s magazine, and finds the Occupy movement lacking in precisely what has made the Tea Party so strong: a willingness to get involved in (and take money from) the established American political parties.

“Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party are both protest movements, not interest groups,” Hertzberg says, “and while both are wary, or claim to be, of established political figures and organizations, each welcomes their praise, if not their direction. Both have already earned places in the long, raucous history of American populism. But only one, so far, has earned a place in the history of American government.”

Are we supposed to be proud that the Tea Party has “earned” an infamous place as the launching pad for the new cadre of rightwing Republican zealots who have spent their time in Congress obstinately shooting down and stampeding every effort by President Obama and the Democrats to steer this nation towards a more compassionate and forward-looking political stance?

In its few years of existence, the Tea Party has happily wormed its way into the main arteries of American political power.  Hertzberg offers an apt metaphor of this tea as a new wonder drug, “injected into the scarred veins” of the GOP, which has quickly become addicted to this mainlined source of entranced, stupified frenzy.

“Now the Democrats are hoping the drug might be available as a generic,” Hertzberg continues, eying the Occupy movement as a way to enliven its own moribund political base.

I firmly hope that the Occupy movement does not allow itself to be used in this way by the political establishment, and I think it’s a reasonable, if remarkable, hope.

Remarkable because for so long Americans have been asleep, indifferent or unaware of what Hertzberg calls “the astounding growth of what can fairly be called plutocracy.”

Why it took so long for the sleeping giant of American popular opinion to wake up is a question for historians of the turn of the 21st century to ponder.

Why is it that Americans have been voting against their own class interests so long?  Why is the persistent myth of American equality, liberty and justice for all so teflon-coated?

We all want to believe that our country represents the moral high ground in the world, and that our leaders in government are as invested in upholding our idealism as we are.

Our public education system, which is responsible for the education of a great portion of the 99%, aids and abets this self-delusion by giving students the most doctrinaire and uncritical version of American history and civics, and teaching docility and proficiency at standardized testing above all.

Our media doesn’t help much; with the exception of a few poorly funded but stalwart independent outlets, the vast social landscape of contemporary media is focused at best on distraction, and very often on outright deception.

Under the pressures of this kind of social conditioning, it’s remarkable that the young idealists in the Occupy movement have had such success in galvanizing the country to wake up, shake ourselves, and stare around us with new eyes.

Hertzberg obviously intends his column as a signpost for the Occupy movement, pointing towards Washington D.C. as a more important battleground than Wall Street.  “Ultimately, inevitably, the route to real change has to run through politics,” he concludes; “the politics of America’s broken, god-awful, immutably two-party electoral system, the only one we have.”

Here is a glaring example of the kind of civics mis-education that has made our country so hard to reform over the years.

Who says our political system is limited to two parties?  Or at least, to the two parties we have now?

The Republicans and the Democrats have shown themselves to be chronically unable to lead this country out of the morass of special interests and ruthless corporate-driven capitalism that has bulldozed right over our cherished ideals of equality, not to mention the sacred ecological web that forms the real foundation of all our wealth and prosperity.

The Occupy movements are showing their intelligence in shying away from engagement with the established political system.  If anything, their political allies are more likely to be found in those perennial political organizations that have always camped out on the fringes of our electoral parks: the Green Parties or the Rainbow Coalitions.

Remember Ralph Nader, for example?  Remember how Big Media colluded with the established parties in denying so-called “outside” candidates a seat at the table at the televised Presidential debates?

This year the Ralph Naders of the political world have suddenly swelled their ranks dramatically, but without the figurehead of a single leader at the head of the crowd.  As Nader knows only too well, one man at the head of a true opposition movement is open to all the slings and arrows that the establishment can muster.  Even Gore and Kerry have felt the force of the muddy vomit pitched their way out of the far-right Republican swampland.

Far better for the Occupy movements to stay plural and collective, strong in the anonymity of the multitudes.  Those of us who are serious about doing more than simply rearranging the deck chairs on the great hulking Titanic of American politics realize that “America’s broken, god-awful, immutably two-party electoral system” is exactly what has to go.

OK, Hendrik, it may be the only one we HAVE HAD, but now the veil has been torn down, the people are awake, and we realize that another world is possible.  As Arundhati Roy famously put it, “on a clear day, I can hear her breathing.”

That clear day has dawned.

Fighting for Change with Hearts Wide Open

The environmental philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore looks out at the Occupied social landscape and sees “The Big One”–a movement that will bring all the disparate struggles of our society together on common ground, and effect deep, lasting, structural changes.

“The lines that connect climate change to jobs to the environment to education to health to justice are strong and undeniable,” she says. “The time has passed for an environmental movement. The time has passed for a climate change movement. The time has passed for isolated grassroots movements. We stand on ground that trembles with tectonic movement. Along the straining fault lines of our civilization, we feel the forces building for justice, sanity, and lasting ecological and cultural thriving.”

She’s certainly right that isolated movements are not going to change the world. That’s what’s been so great about the Occupy movements–they’ve been widespread and inclusive,a big big tent spread out over a lot of ground, coast to coast.

As Moore says, the moral ground of the Occupy movements is quite simple and clear: “it’s wrong to wreck the world.”

That’s something I knew instinctively as a child, as most children do.  Part of the great tragedy of our society has been the way we slowly deaden and numb the compassionate, empathic instinct of our children, teaching them to ignore pain and injustice, to just keep walking and mind their own business.

I know that’s what I was taught as a privileged young American growing up in a deeply unequal, unjust and exploitative society.  I know now that it was wrong.

And thanks to Occupy Wall Street and the other Occupy movements, I am beginning to know what to do about it.

We need to stop going about our business as usual, and relearn how to see and feel suffering and inequity.

We need to think outside the box of our normalized capitalist assumptions, making well-being rather than profit the goal of human effort.

We need to make protecting our planetary home our highest priority, because without a healthy environment, we will never build a healthy society, and things are so far gone that bringing back ecological balance will take everything we’ve got.

One of the reasons that revolutions are almost always carried out by the young is because they are closer to the instinctual compassion of their childhoods.

If only the stuffed shirts in Congress and in corporate office buildings all over America could remember what it was like to live with their hearts wide open, we might start to see the great boulder of social change really start to pick up steam.

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