Remain to Trouble Us 10/12/16

Dear Editor Fisher,
Thank you for this opportunity to ask Prospect readers to vote NO on Measure B.
We’ve seen the problems and troubles created by the enforcement of the current ordinance, where residents and friends, mostly in District 1, have been put into a position to justify the “legalness” of their houses and homes. Many of our homes are vulnerable to being “legal”. The ordinance gives local law enforcement building department powers, powers so broad they are almost certainly going to be challenged in court.
The ordinance created by Measure B will likely be worse; the county will likely tie up more law enforcement time on people who are known to grow cannabis, and less on solving actual crimes. There will be more legal challenges, and more staff resources consumed trying to enforce an ordinance that is out of step with the times.
Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, is expected to pass by at least 60%. When it passes, everything we currently know about cannabis in California will be washed away. Except for the ordinance created by Measure B. It will remain to trouble us.
Please vote “No” on Measure B. We don’t need ordinance to discourage people from living and investing in Sierra County. We don’t need an ordinance which makes us feel unsafe in our homes, do we?
Laurenc DeVita

Age of Humankind 8/31/16

Laurenc DeVita

Laurenc DeVita

It’s official, We’re in the Age of Humankind, the Anthropocene era, then end of the Holocene.
by The DeVita
An international working group of 35 geologists determined that there is enough evidence in the geologic record to consider this the Age of Humankind, because humans have done so much to change the planet.
A key feature of the Anthropocene is the Sixth Great Extinction, since species are becoming extinct at an increasing rate right now.
The group announced their findings at the 35th Annual Geological Congress; to become final and fully accepted, the determination would have to be confirmed by the International Union of Geological Sciences.
One detail that has to be concluded is precisely when the Anthropocene started. The Sixth Great Extinction is believed by some to have begun 12,000 years ago with the demise of the megafauna; others put the disappearance of the megafauna beginning about 41,000 years ago, before humans became much of a menace.
But the rate of extinction has accelerated as humans have been converting the energy in fossil fuels to increase resource extraction. The release of atomic bombs and the failure of nuclear power plants have laid down a layer of radioactivity which is easy to locate on the span of geologic time, and it coincides with the dramatic increase of population and resource use after WWII. The middle of the 20th Century will likely be determined to be the start of the Anthropocene, though probably the middle of the 18th Century, when coal kick-started the Industrial Age, about 1760, would be better.
When will the Anthropocene end? Long after our species is gone, since the increase in CO2, release of nitrogen and other essential changes we’ve made to the ecosystem will continue after we leave. Welcome to the Age of Humankind!

DeVita Talks Climate 8/24/16

Laurenc DeVita

Laurenc DeVita

Ice Free Arctic; what does it mean to us?                  by the DeVita

The system of Arctic ice is unraveling, as predicted. We will see a “blue water” Arctic this fall. Why is it unraveling/ What are the implications for us?

The Arctic is “sea surrounded by land” while the Antarctic is “land surrounded by sea”. The implications are obvious: ice on land is insulated from the sea, which is salty and tends to freeze at a much lower temperature. The Arctic ice is more vulnerable to the feedback loops which encourage or discourage ice formation.

The Arctic ice pack, as mostly sea ice, is always changing. There are regular seasonal shifts, and there are structural upheavals caused by the weight of ice itself, and then, there are storms which can shove the ice around or add snow. Sea ice is very important to many animals in the Arctic, notably the Polar bear.

Why is that dynamic system unraveling? As any tailgate partyer can tell you, temperature is everything. If you leave your beer cooler in the sun, it gets warmer faster. If it is a dark color, it heats up quicker. If you don’t drain the water and add new ice, the whole thing goes “south” and the beer is warm and flat (unless you drink a good German beer).


One of the energy loops that can warm or cool the Arctic is albedo, the amount of light reflected. Ice reflects a lot of light; ocean water is dark and warms more easily. Less ice, equal warmer water and less ice. That is a negative feedback loop. It is one thing that can lead the Arctic to melt. A “blue water” Arctic sounds pretty, but it is very bad news for the ice.

Also bad news is that the poles are warming more quickly than the rest of the planet. It has been suggested that, while the global average for degrees Celsius above 1750 is about 1.3-1.5 C higher, the Arctic is at 4C. Last January, when the Arctic was supposed to be gathering some cold, the temperatures were alarmingly high, up to 60F, far too warm to support ice formation.

Not all sea ice is equal; old sea ice is more dense, takes longer to melt, while new ice melts rather easily. Old is thicker; new ice is thin and is easily blown about by storms. It was thought that 28% of the Arctic basin was old ice, 10-14 feet thick; now it is estimated that only 14.5% of the basin is multi-year ice. Some suggest it is already breaking up and soon there will be none. The old ice is disappearing in the Arctic, with the implication that an ice free Arctic is possible year-round.

Why it matters.

We will miss the Polar bear, but otherwise, why does this matter to us? There seem to be some good effects: the US and Canada are already squabbling over some land that appears to be suddenly useful. Shipping companies are thrilled at how much time they will save by cutting across the Arctic Sea, the previously forbidding Northwest Passage; it’s even greener because it will use less fuel to get huge containers of plastic junk from one hemisphere to the other.

We care for a much bigger reason, though, weather, and the health of the lower oceans. It is the difference in temperature from the poles to the tropic which helps power the huge thermohaline circulation, the complex currents which move water from one ocean basin to the others, and from the surface to the depths. The thermo (temperature) haline (salt) circulation (THC) relies on the differences of temperature and salinity (warm water and fresh water are lighter than cold water and fresh water) provide the energy, along with winds and tides.

The THC also powers our weather, adding moisture or not to the winds, shaping our high and low pressure areas, and creating the weather patterns we rely on for food and precipitation. The Arctic has profound impacts on the jet stream which bands the upper latitudes and drives our continental weather.

Another significant change will be the temperature of air leaving the Arctic to cool Greenland and Siberia, the other huge reserves of ice. Polar winds, if the Arctic is cold enough, can have a cooling effect on the lower continents. A warm Arctic means a warmer planet.

The warming in the Arctic Circle, including, Siberia and Alaska and parts of Canada also means the release of methane, a powerful if short lived green house gas which might be released in many gigatons, resulting in a warmer Arctic and more methane release, a positive feedback loop.

What does a blue water Arctic mean to us? Likely, it will result in weather changes, some of which will become trends, or the “new weather”, like rain instead of snow in the winter. Other changes are implied, but we can’t guess what they will be.
More quoting Peter Wadhams:

DeVita’s SOJ Fringe 11/4/15

fringe logoIdentifying the problem: the Sierra Club joins Keep It California
Disgust from the Fringe
by DeVita

The State of Jefferson movement has made a powerful enemy. The Sierra Club has decided to endorse Keep It California because, they feel, the State of Jefferson movement is too anti-environmental.

What the Sierra Club has actually done, though, is to help us identify why it is we need the State of Jefferson, or some more workable formulation.

To be sure, some proponents of the State of Jefferson are pretty wild; the most extreme do advocate strip mining the resources of the North to build a new empire, with Redding as the new LA.

But, those few don’t describe the entire base of the movement to get more representation for the North. Many supporters of division are liberal, would require strong environmental protections. Even if they didn’t, the State of Jefferson would still be in the US; there are federal laws. Finally, there is no market. The problem with timber is only partly the fault of extremist environmental groups; the market itself has collapsed. It’s not likely to come back.

So, why did the Sierra Club, without looking in to the matter, decide that everyone who supported better representation for Northern California meant to harm the environment? I’m going to guess it is because the Sierra Club is an odd and somewhat twisted organization, and they really don’t care what the truth about us is.

The Sierra Club is undeniably anti-human. Understandably, the group sees over-population as an environmental problem, but counter to both a humane response and their supposedly progressive roots, the Sierra Club has also been decidedly anti-immigration.

The issue draws attention to a major, hopefully fatal contradiction in the Sierra Club philosophy, as well. You see, if the problem with the environment in California is over-population, and I would agree with them that it is, then should they not support a lightly populated area? The problem is cities, of course, but no environmental group with a hundred billion urban dollar a year budget is going to turn on the cities.

Instead, they turn on us, rural people, as they always do.

The organization is divided into sections; the Sierra Club itself lost its non-profit status for political activity, like opposing the State of Jefferson. Instead, it’s powered by $100,000,000 a year funding engine, the SC Foundation. The Sierra Club PAC gives a million bucks a year to defeat Republican candidates, or rather, to elect Democrats.

We might remember that when John Muir founded the Sierra Club, he intended a control on development that many of us would support today. But the Sierra Club has wandered from that, and is now a machine that lives on urban dollars, restoring someone’s idea of Eden, and it doesn’t need rednecks living there. It has taken endorsements from Clorox and is busy in the area of buying natural gas. Not real green.

As a supporter of a movement to regain control of the lands around us from Southern urban domination, I’m not surprised that the Sierra Club opposes, without investigation, the issue of representation. As a primarily Democratic, urban organization, it would object to the people of the Sierra actually having any control over it.

The Sierra Club didn’t even write their own disparaging remarks against SOJ, they simply copied Keep It California’s inaccurate rhetoric. Keep It California is, of course, a sham organization. They scarcely have an agenda, accept to maintain urban control over the North and deny Northern California home rule. Early in their rhetoric, they gave mouth honor to the problems plaguing the North under Southern rule, but they’ve produced nothing.

The knee-jerk action by the Sierra Club drives home the need for the State of Jefferson: they don’t know about us down there, and they don’t care.

DeVita’s Grownup Fringe 10/28/15

fringe logoCan we talk like big people?
An outline of the terrain from the Fringe
by DeVita

The Sierra County Board of Supervisors is having public meetings on legal medical marijuana commerce.

1. The county population is getting older, poorer and smaller in number.
2. This is because the resource exploitation and agriculture we once enjoyed are no longer supported by the market.
3. The state of California just enacted three bills which regularize medical cannabis commerce. It classifies cannabis as “agriculture”.
4. The bills are terrible, they create 17 new felonies, they dramatically restrict the ability of fellow patients and friends to share cannabis, and on and on. There are 28 agencies that can stop a cannabis license.
5. The new law was finally passed because it is clear that recreational cannabis will likely pass the initiative process this year, and legislators and regulators wanted a head start.
6. As bad as the law is, we can use it as a starting place to sculpt how we want our county to compete for the billion dollar cannabis market.
7. The law allows, and even requires, counties to have some medical marijuana laws and regulations. Sierra County has a good start; Plumas has nothing.
8. Bad local ordinances will discourage beneficial outcomes of cannabis commerce and encourage negative, illegal impacts. Some actions can’t be taken: you likely can’t stop personal growers.
9. Good local ordinances will encourage small, stable cannabis farms and dispensaries which obey the law and encourage others to obey the law. A good law can help prevent corporate pot growers and ensure small, craft cannabis growers can live.
10. Sierra County is not going to get rich on cannabis; the real growers are warehouse growers down state. Now that growing isn’t illegal any more, it won’t pay to find remote places to grow. There is simply no way Sierra County is going to become a “pot county”, whatever that is. If we are lucky, we might find about 120 jobs, either by creating new jobs or by making existing jobs legal.
11. For nearly 40 years our government told lies about cannabis, even as their own research found otherwise. The government is not your grandpa. The government is a mob of competing interests. Sometimes the government is wrong. In this case, almost everything the government taught us was wrong. No “gateway”, no “amotivational syndrome”, no dangerous pot drivers, no reefer madness at all. Instead, a cancer drug, a seizure drug, a drug for strokes and heart attacks, a drug for neuropathy, a drug which is one of the few anti-inflammatory drugs which crosses the blood/brain barrier. And, it’s a plant, not a dangerous pharmaceutical. Do the research yourself.
12. Our county supervisors listen to the voters (except those that don’t want re-election). If the voters rely on old cannabis mythology, and insist the board pass bad laws, they will.
13. This is our chance to get what we need: a legal income for people in the county who are young enough to have kids.
14. After six years of asking, no one has suggested a better way to bring money in to the county. All the bike races in the world won’t do what having a small, legitimate, stable cannabis industry will do. Every rural place wants tourism.
15. It’s up to you.
A short synopsis of the law is below, from Emerald, the grower’s association. Please try to do the right thing. Good luck.

DeVita Fringe Lament 10/21/15

fringe logoGavin Newsom Shoots for the Governorship by Curtailing Civil Rights
A Fringe Lament
by DeVita

Gavin Newsom, slick former Mayor of San Francisco and now governor in waiting, has moved forward to submit an initiative to the people to seriously curtail firearms rights in California, a state with an already badly crippled 2nd Amendment. It is expected that if the initiative wins, Newsom will use its popularity to give his 2018 campaign for governor a boost.

The initiative put forth by Newsom is enough to tank the meaningful right to own and use firearms, something Newsom is not shy about hoping for. It isn’t as though Newsom was starting with the wide open old West; California already has some of the worst firearms laws in the nation; Democratic governor Brown just signed a terrible anti-firearm owner bill. There is a long, arbitrary list of firearms Californian’s can’t have, that citizens of surrounding states can. California Democrats have already passed laws against firearms owners they can’t afford, or don’t have the technology, to enforce. Newsom himself, as Mayor (say “Prince”) of San Francisco, instituted a gun ban which two courts found un-Constitutional.

How can this possibly help Newsom get elected in 2018? The most obvious way is that it will make a name for him as someone who can get things done. Even if the effort fails, it will play well in 2016 to hard core liberals who will no doubt support him during the campaign. And, if the initiative loses, he can always blame the “gun lobby”, which is anti-gunner code for people like my friends and neighbors.

Newsom doesn’t equate the right to own and use firearms with the other rights found alongside it in the Bill of Rights. He has stated he intends to “restrict legal gun ownership as much as possible.” Gavin Newsom envisions a California where only cops have guns.

Is this a gamble for Newsom, is there some way it can backfire? Newsom is used to getting things his way, politically. In San Francisco, he enjoyed huge popularity. Will this work, though?

In California, it is realistic to think of the state as generally Democratic with strong conservative leanings. In most counties, Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans, though “decline to state” is an increasingly large percentage of the population. Independents in California tend toward Democratic candidates.

courtesy of

However, on the issue of firearms, independents and conservative Democrats might easily defect. In the rural places in California, support for firearms ownership is high even among liberals. Of course, the rural places scarcely matter in California, and it can easily be understood that in many elections, San Francisco and Los Angeles, both politically supportive of gun control, are enough; the rest of the state is not necessary, and in recent politics, those two cities have essentially run politics. As evidence of the support for the initiative in the city, San Francisco, as large as it is, has only one gun shop.

But, Newsom and his staff have carefully woven “sensible” firearm language in to the campaign for his initiative, in the hope of catching conservative Dems and independent voters.

He started with re-enforcing the false idea that it is the National Rifle Association which is a problem: “I’ll say this to the NRA, with all due respect: You can intimidate politicians. We’ve seen that. You’ve been effective. But you can’t intimidate the public. That’s why we’re bringing this directly to the public.” . Of course, it is not the NRA, which is a moderate group by some standards, but rather the citizens of California who don’t want to give up the right to meaningful firearms ownership that are Newsom’s problem.

Newsom calls for a limit to magazine capacity. It’s been years since you could (legally) buy a large capacity magazine in California; now Newsom wants to come for the legal ones that are left. A large capacity magazine is part of the “assault weapon” misnomer generated by anti-gunner extremists.

The initiative also calls for background checks for ammunition. This has failed elsewhere, and will fail here, but I pity anyone who has to buy ammo in California anyway.

The initiative contains an element which requires all felons and other prohibited persons to give up their firearms. Except, whoopsie, they are supposed to do anyway, and criminals already don’t obey the law. This is like saying “people everywhere need to stop breaking the law.” Sure, who wouldn’t agree, but on the ground what does it mean? Nothing.

Newsom also called for some privacy-busting changes to the way data on firearms owners is kept. It’s already insulting and off-putting to be finger-printed, pay heavy fees, and then be subjected to rejection by the current system.

Newsom’s laws will do nothing to prevent crime or lower the murder rate in the state; statistical evidence is strong for that assumption. Likewise, it won’t change the way criminals conduct their gun business. It isn’t intended to, it’s intended to place yet a heavier onus on legal firearm ownership, to further damage the meaningful right to own and use firearms.

But, that won’t prevent it from passing. Newsom has statisticians working for him; he knows that anti-gun sentiment is high. It is just possible that we’ll soon be facing yet another attack on our rights by urban California Democrats. Unless conservative Dems and Independents reject the initiative, look for a complete inability to buy ammunition in rural areas, since the cost to retailers of the complicated system will discourage them. Gavin wants Californians disarmed.

That, or we some turn Newsom back. Or, let the Sierra leave California.


Laurenc L. DeVita

I’m a denizen of Sierra-Plumas land, or the “Lost Sierra” as some clever person has named the area, and I’m also a sociologist studying overpopulation and resource depletion, and seeking real world solutions to the increasing problems we face. I’m keenly familiar with the special problems of our little towns and struggling county governments. Success for me would be a healthy Plumas-Sierra area where I could get really, really old, and my kids could live and have families.

The pot of gold at the end of my rainbow is called “resilience”.

Resilience is the ability of a system to recover from shock or misfortune. When the system is our community, it means rapid response, as we have seen in business fires in a couple of our towns, where, after the fire was over, people worked, and other people helped, to re-establish services to the community and income to some of our people.

Resilience is also the ability to carry on daily business during hardships of long duration. For some, the recession is over, but for many small towns in the Sierra, it started sooner and still lingers on. When your community was founded on resource extraction; on gold, timber, and cattle and dairy, and either regulation or market conditions diminish your ability to harvest and sell, then you either find new ways to extract value from where you live, or your children move away and don’t return. Your population gets older, your infrastructure and improvements lose value. There, resilience means you find a way for the next generation to make living in the community.

Sustainability is an important part of long term resilience. Sustainability means to “optimize” rather than “maximize”. Sustainability literally means living within the surplus of the system. It means maintaining healthy soil, and good transportation, and strong community ties.

One big player in sustainability in the local area is Feather River College. Not only do they feature sustainable practices when possible, sustainability is a subject of study there, and many people know Darla DeRuiter, who often organizes students and the community to raise awareness for issues of sustainability and resilience.

We can think of resilience as based on five things: food, energy, commerce, people, and environment. The five are really part of one thing, and there are different names for it depending on what your focus is. For me it makes the most sense to simply refer to the interaction of those elements as “community sustainability and resilience”.

It’s important to note that different approaches identify different elements. If you mostly care about making money, you are going to talk differently than if you mostly care about the environment. I mostly care about the mountains and people and towns of the Sierra, so for me, there is no way to tease out one element: they are part of a whole that doesn’t function without all the parts.

The most important is food. Increasingly, in the world in and the United States, we’re going to experience widening food shortages, and the cost of food is going to go up. We are already seeing increasing food prices. In general, food inflation is expected to be about 2.6% a year, though selected items, our favorite protein items like meat and eggs, increased more.

Though there will be ups and downs, we can expect, world wide, for food prices to continue to rise.

This is likely for several reasons. In the short term, the drought has taken a toll on California agriculture, from almonds to cattle.

In the long term, climate change will make farming difficult. The misnomer “global warming” makes us think we’ll just stop trying to grow tomatoes and grow passion fruit instead, but it isn’t like that at all. Global climate change means lots and lots of unstable weather. With unstable weather, farmers don’t know what to grow. It means storms out of season and crop destruction before harvest.

Temperatures are increasing, and winters in some places like the Sierra have been getting generally milder. In temperate zones, winter is a factor in restraining some populations of pests, for example some insects don’t survive deep cold, and small mammals may experience a population bloom if long winters don’t deplete stored rations.

Weather has long been a driver of human history, from the ice ages which created Beringia, the land bridge which allowed modern humans to enter the Americas from Asia, or the migrations of humans out of Africa, which were often influenced by weather, evidence suggests. Indeed, some believe that weather change due to volcanic eruption in the late Cenozoic period reduced the planet’s total human population to less than 15,000.

We bounced back pretty well, since there are now almost seven and a half billion humans on the planet.

There are other factors besides weather that will impact food availability. It’s no secret that most of what we buy in the supermarket is corn. There is high fructose corn syrup, which we don’t have time to discuss. There is corn starch in many products. Unless you are lucky enough to have Sierra grown grass fed beef, you likely buy beef made from corn, in a sense. The problems of mono-crops, where one has many, many acres of land planted in just one type of one crop, that is a kind of food fragility. It’s putting all your eggs in one basket, if you like.

Our agricultural process and dietary habits are blamed for a lot of environmental problems, like climate change. Many modern crops, like the wheat that is in many, many foods to make them cheaper, can’t really grow on their own. Throw a fifty pound sack into a healthy Sierra alpine meadow, and chances are few or none would survive to create new seed. Please don’t do that, don’t plant seeds that are completely alien in our alpine meadows.

Those crops need oil, and plenty of it, to make chemicals and fertilizers. We have to rely on them in once sense, because they are cheap. They are also available most of the year, which is also thanks to oil.

Indeed, it is oil that makes it cheaper for us to buy bananas, which don’t grow here, than apples, which do. There is a complicated reason why that is, but at the base of it is oil which makes it cheap to move people and things around the globe.

But, oil is, without a doubt in my mind, responsible for climate change and many other negative effects, such as acidfication of the seas, which will also dramatically impact food price patterns, as 25% of the 7.5 billion eat primarily or significantly from the sea.

Many criticize eating meat, since meat requires much more water and oil because most market animals eat corn and soy. I’m not going to speak against eating meat. We should be eating more goat and less beef, but we can still have meat.

Oil also makes it easy to move pests around the globe, a factor that might link with climate change to modify what we eat. For example, we don’t often think how dramatically the European earthworm changed the forests of the Eastern Seaboard, from the mid 18th Century to today.

So, weather, unwise agricultural practices, and the availability of fossil fuels, all impact our current food resilience.

What is our current state? Compared to a village of a similar size, Quincy is not well situated, and is quite fragile. Most supermarkets only store enough food for a few days or a week; most people don’t have much more food than that stored themselves. The climate in the Sierra varies widely, but for most areas, Northern European crops grow best: potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbages, turnips, cool weather beans. Quincy, as most people know, has an odd season; if the August freeze doesn’t kill your stuff, you’ll get something green to harvest until October.

What would it take to make the 5,000 people in Quincy (metro and East) food resilient? It would take a huge effort.

Happily, there are many people already working on that effort. We’re a long way from feeding the population of Quincy, but we’re closer than one might think at first glance.

The secret is, of course, to grow more food. Across Sierra-Plumas, from Vinton to Loyalton (great community market there) to Sierraville and Calpine (master gardeners and canners there) to Sierra City, where many full time residents garden, to Portola, where gardens and farms contribute to the Portola Coop, to Quincy to Taylorsville and Greenville, and on, people are growing more food.

The Plumas-Sierra Food Coop is a group which is peopled by staff from the counties, particularly Plumas, and a lot of work is done by Zack Ravene and Kristi Jamason. There are often other local people like Holly George of UC Davis extension, who is literally a treasure of agricultural and land use information, and Laura Rodriguez, who represents the Plumas Farmer’s Guild. The group is responsible for some wonderful work, including pro-local food policies for Plumas and Sierra Counties, and also for stitching together a food network which, if nurtured, could realistically lead to a food resilient Sierra-Plumas.

From my perspective, the local foods haven’t found a sustainable market by competing with corporate ag yet. There are outlets: the CSA High Altitude effort is a good one. That is also a project of the fabulous Sierra-Plumas Food Coop Council. There is a farmer’s market. The Coop (Natural Food Store?) buys locally grown food. Safeway does, but it considers anywhere in Northern California to be local.

I’m talking about building a well saturated market among the people of Plumas-Sierra. There are impediments to that, but people are working on it from the production position.

We could do more as consumers, though. I’d like to go farther yet.

Feeding Quincy would be easier if people didn’t need pink bananas. It would be an easier task if we would eat what grows here. Purslane is a food in many places in the world. It has several nutritional values. Yet, here, we pluck it out and compost it.

Likewise, sunchokes, or sunroots; some call them Jerusalem artichokes. They grow like crazy in the lower reaches of the Sierra, and they provide a healthy alternative to starchy foods. They make some people fart, that’s the only downside. It’s probably something many kids would find to be a benefit.

Kale grows well here, as do chard and joy choy. Cabbage does well, and it is possible turnips would be a winter crop. Chokecherries are often abundant; they are great for many things, and I’ve been told they actually make a good pemmican, though I’ve not tried it.

If we all grew the food we could, if we buy from our local small farmers, and if we all ate foods that grow well locally, we would still have want in late winter and early spring. That is often how life is for food sustainable places. However, as the years went by, we would all get better and better, and we’d pool our resources to create local food storage, and before too long, we’d work our way up to the early 1900s. We’d still buy some things on fossil fuel, flour and sugar and things like that. But we would all have our own yeast, most likely, and our own gardens. Even then, people liked oranges and things grown elsewhere.

So, growing more of our own food, changing our eating and food buying habits, and working together to maintain a community food store would help us be more food resilient, and food sustainable.

Energy resilience is both the most difficult, and simplest, of our problems. It is the most difficult because it is a long way by horse to anywhere in the Lost Sierra. Until we have electric vehicles which store enough power to go up Yuba River canyon, or at least generate some going down, we’re stuck with energy dense petroleum products.

On the plus side, we have a lot of things going. Large hydroelectric projects are environmentally damaging, but a network of small ones spread any damage out and minimize it. We especially have a lot of sunlight. Everyone should have a solar roof. Saving energy is also important: everyone should know how to regulate their home’s exposure to sun to reduce cooling costs in the summer and heating costs in the winter. It isn’t hard, it is a system of passive solar use that was pioneered by the Romans, once they’d deforested everything.

We could, except perhaps for travel, be locally self sufficient and sustainable regarding energy. There are electrical contractors and solar contractors all over the Lost Sierra.
The next element of sustainability is economic. This is really almost as important as food resilience.

I would be thrilled, if the very next time a listener spends a dollar, or waves the plastic, they think about where that dollar is going to go.

If we spend a dollar on a service from a local business, or buy food from a local farmer, a little of our dollar leaks away because of taxes, vehicle and fuel costs, insurance costs and other expenses to the service provider, but in general, most of that dollar stays in the area. A big part of that dollar will be spent here, in the local community.

If we spend a dollar in a local business that sells retail, then the wholesale cost of that item, and all the taxes and so on, leave the area, but a lot of it stays. If it is a large corporation, then a lot of the profits also leave.

Buy something online at Amazon and cheat everyone in the community of the reuse of any of your dollar.

We can’t get everything in Quincy, let alone in Calpine or Taylorsville. But, it is amazing what we can get, because it is traditional for rural business people to do more than one thing. We see that in many of the businesses in the Lost Sierra. Even Quincy, which is a pretty big down by local standards, features main-street businesses which, for example, sell stationary and violins.

I don’t need to tell local people what the Sierra Valley Home Center carries, but you can buy a firearm there, or Sierra hardware in Downieville, which also carries a nice selection of fishing gear.

Part of the magic of spending money locally is that business people can afford to branch out. Convince them there is a market for something, and chances are they’ll try to find a way to sell it. You have to give them a chance against internet retailers, though.

Having said all that, let’s turn it around: we should sell everything we can outside the county, and the internet is a big part of that. There is no doubt we might find some outside markets for local products that travel well, and bicycling and even farm tours are proving to be profitable and those activities and events are often sold on line.

There is more we can do to help our local economy strengthen. We have several agencies and organizations locally to help do that. In Sierra County there are two chambers of commerce that do a lot of work both with buy local and outside marketing efforts. Quincy has Transition Quincy, which is part of a nation wide, comprehensive effort to restructure how we live.

The Transition concept includes all the good things people want to see in resilient communities. Food security, right livelihood, strong community connections. It doesn’t happen over night, and local efforts like Transition Quincy compete for volunteers with lots of other valuable local efforts. Even so, Transition Quincy has the essential blueprint for resilience in Sierra-Plumas.

If there is one strength Plumas-Sierra has, its the people. There is no way to mention everyone who puts effort and good will in to making our communities better. In Sierra County, Lee Adams works hard for the county, and for all rural counties with his leadership in the Rural County Representatives of California. In Plumas County, Lori Simpson is an almost tireless worker, looking for ways to knit the community together. Michele Pilar, from Plumas Rural Services has given some creative leadership, doing good work in Sierra and Plumas counties.

Many of the people who deserve thanks are retired, but we still enjoy the benefit of the work they did on behalf of our community. That is the nature of doing work for resilience: it outlives you.

There are more small groups and organizations than I know about who organize volunteers to do a thousand tasks which are necessary but unsupported by government. All the organizations and people I’ve mentioned, they are extremely valuable to our effort of community resilience. You can’t swing a bunch of carrots without hitting someone doing good in the Plumas-Sierra.

Even so, they don’t work in a vacuum. We need to provide a healthy community for them to work in.

I have a suggestion for all our people in the PluSier: say it, this is my community This is my hometown. For me, I say, “these little counties are my home; these little towns are where my friends and cousins live. This is where home is for me.”

Quincy is a wonderful home town; so is Portola and Loyalton and Chester and Chester. We’re lucky to live in these little towns, to see people we know every day, and to have the forested mountains surround us.

Let’s claim our homes, and realize they work because we care about them and about each other.

This is my hometown; I am dedicated to making it work.

At the heart of everything we do, is the environment. Our community can not find resilience in a damaged environment.

The environment is implied in every discussion, and was mentioned in the discussion of food, which brings us full circle.

There is a lot of room for discussion on this topic. I’ve taken at least two sides myself, one as a person willing to work for the environment, and another as a rural person who lives in the “environment” that is just a buzz word to many people. We need to be mindful of everything we do, to think about the lasting consequences.

We are often not aware of it, but the woods, meadows and streams we love and are familiar with are, in many cases, already very different from what they were a hundred and fifty years ago. Back then, resource extraction began in earnest, and hills were stripped for timber for the mines or sluiced for gold. The world seemed endless even a hundred years ago, when many bad decisions were made about the environment.

Resilience depends on a healthy environment, and sustainability that doesn’t consider the health of the natural world can’t be taken very seriously.

I tend to be selective. Not every “environmental” effort is really meaningful in what many are calling the Sixth Great Extinction. We need to focus our efforts to save our environment locally. Even then, we have to ask ourselves what the hoped-for outcome is, how likely it is to succeed, and what the negative impacts to local people are.

Even so, there are many on the ground examples in Sierra and Plumas of people working to preserve both the land and the rural culture which cares for it. The Feather River Land Trust springs to mind, though there are many others.

If we approach our food in a sustainable way, make and use energy wisely, invest our dollars in local businesses, give and volunteer in support of local groups, and view our beautiful Sierra as the rare and wonderful thing it is, we are on the way to building resilience in to our community.

DeVita Fringes Suction 10/14/15

fringe logoGovernor Jerry Brown is delighted to announce that he has signed a bill, SB637, into law. That bill, at first glance, provides permits for motorized suction dredging. Suction dredging used to mean a yearly living for some people in our area, and many people “paid for their vacation” by dredging. At second glance, the bill simply cuts an end run around a court decision that was threatening to end California’s fiat ban. Instead, the new law provides permits, and then makes them impossible to get, achieving their ends without a nasty conversation about rights.

For a very long time, about 150 years, the waters of the Klamath river have been used and abused in every way. Prior to that, the various tribes, Yurok, Karuk, Hupa, Shasta, Klamath and Modoc people cooperated and warred over the river’s rich resources. A steady increase in resource exploitation resulted in continued degradation of the river. Logging, agriculture, gold mining, and of course state control contributed to the decline. Of all the problems, dredgers are a small one, and easily regulated. But, not well regulated.

The Karuk Tribe tried unsuccessfully to get the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which issued and oversaw the permits, to tighten down and enforce existing laws. To be clear, that stretch of the Klamath has taken a real hit as a hot spot for suction dredgers who ignored the real and obvious problem it created. To no one’s surprise, the DFW didn’t respond adequately.

But, at that instant, what was a local problem became a cause for “environmental” groups. The groups shoved each other to get involved, to mobilize their constituents to “save” not only a river, but a Native People. When it was the Karuk struggling against jerks and the DFW it was a common local Northern California issue; the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Fund, and countless others, including our own anti-human, HSRA followed their schooling instincts to harp on suction dredging it was a statewide problem. What was a problem on the Klamath suddenly because a cause and therefore worth money to “environmental” groups. The DFW felt the pain, then, but by then the problem effected the entire mass of California.

The press release we received was from the Sierra Fund. The Sierra Fund is a large, successful organization which seeks to return the Sierra to it’s pre-historic purity. While it poses as a moderate group, claiming inflated responsibility for the creation of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, its primary goal is the decay of private property rights and the right to use public land. SF proposes the Integrated Sierra Investment Strategy, known as ISIS, a probably coincidental but still humorous similarity to the terrorist group. ISIS hopes to create money to fix the Sierra. Sierra Fund does this by ignoring those most effected by it’s projects, and instead serves a different master altogether:
• Build a statewide constituency for a Sierra Nevada conservation agenda, with particular focus on urban voters and non-traditional allies. In other words, people with money but no skin in the game.

Groups like Sierra Fund often form for very good reasons: there is a lot of degradation out there. There are things we would all like to see cleaned up. But, groups like these shift and morph, following funding, becoming extremist as they go To get funds from their urban supporters they have to have heart rending stories, tales of unbelievable horror; in short, they have to make dredgers seem like monsters and dredging seem universally bad. The Sierra Fund claims to represent the Sierra, but they certainly don’t represent most of us. Now, the Sierra Fund is set to destroy all traces of mining in the Sierra. Miners once made money mining; the Sierra Fund is making money on dead miners.
California has been struggling for almost a decade and a half to arrive at a fair way to asses the impact of dredging on the environment. For a time, extremists felt they had the issue resolved, but then a lawsuit threatened to change that illegal ban, so the groups mobilized one of their own to construct a new law for the North of California.
They chose, of course a California Democrat, a group which has become as famous as The Tea Party for extremism. Their choice was a senator from a part of California with lots of gold, but of course no dredgers, Santa Monica, which includes gold drenched Beverly Hills. This teeny little district, 26, has more people and more money than most of the North. “…with particular focus on urban voters.”
Once again, the rural North is under the thumb of the urban south, thanks to a group which serves the “Sierra”.
The bill Jerry signed is founded on really, really limited and really bad science. There is just enough “science” in the claim for the groups to repeat over and over untruths and worst case scenarios. Most people interested in the issue are familiar with the “methylated mercury” argument. Historic mercury poses a health hazard to wildlife and people. Everyone agrees on that, they even agree on a solution: dredge the mercury out. Dredging retrieves the majority of liquid mercury, and mercury bound with other metals. It also removes fish hooks, tire weights, spark plugs, bullets, and anything else made of lead. The average person, and even the feds, agree, dredging is the right way to get the mercury out. However, dredging sounds too much like making money off the environment to some, and their urban supporters agree. See a background article here:
Of course, there are those who spoke against the ban and now against the new law, but they are few and most of them find much more gold than they own. One successful dredge miner has tried to take a stand against the tide of land use in the Sierra. Shannon Poe, who mourned the bill as intending to pronounce dredging dead, told me:
“The primary thing with 637 is that you need a clean water permit. (This assumes you add something to the water.) Suction dredging lifts the gravel and separates heavy elements from lighter ones in the the sluice box. The legal argument was put forth by Sandra Day O’Conner that you can’t be held for water quality if you add nothing. If you dip a label in to a soup pot, you don’t add anything.”

So, with pale science, with urban dollars, with no real representation for the rural North, we now have a dredge ban.

Anyone wishing to read the bill, which is beautifully crafted to pretend one thing, but do another, it is available now on line.

DeVita’s Fringe Reality 10//15

fringe logoWhy What You Wish For is Not What You Want
The Sad Tale of Reality from the Fringe
by DeVita

As the candidates line up and burn through the “loony” phase of our elections, just to show we CAN imagine large changes to government, even though we aren’t going to actually adopt one, more and more people are taking stands.

George Bernard Shaw said something witty about democracy being where a mass of incompetents select a leader instead of having one appointed by a corrupt few. Shaw gave democracy too much credit by far, since the corrupt few choose which candidates we’ll have, but one thing is true, most of us are incompetent to govern. We suffer from the most natural of impairments: the belief that we can use linear means to accomplish complex goals.

Let go of a glass bowl from shoulder high, it follows its “world line” to the floor, increasing stored energy until it hits the floor and releases the energy by shattering the bowl. Pretty freaking simple. That’s because it is linear. If you took a thousand bowls and dropped them, largely the same thing would happen.

I say “largely” because even something as linear as the trajectory of a bowl to the ground is fraught with non-linearity. Even identical bowls have minor differences in density; each release would have to be precisely as every other release; a change in air temperature (and so humidity and density) will have a very minor effect; a heavy truck on the street outside would effect the outcome. The differences appear when there are increases in the system; in the case of the bowl, distance to the floor would allow differences to be detected; likewise doing, many thousands of drops would reveal a pattern of differences.

What does a falling bowl have to do with what we want and what we wish for? To cling closely to the example, if all you want is a broken bowl, your wish and your wants are easy to align. If you want bowls to break a certain way, for example if you are a glass blower, then what you want and what you wish for can diverge, and if the bowl breaks wrong, it goes into the recycle bin.

Now, let’s jump from the extremely simple process of stress fractures in homogeneous, lattice organized structures to something extremely complex, like the global society.

We live in the everyday world. We share a culture that says the government is “us”: of the people, by the people, for the people. That is easily demonstrated to be a mythology: only 8th graders and those operating at the 8th grade level will believe the mythology propagated by a cursory education in “civics” or a cartoon piece of rolled up paper singing. Adults know that our laws are made through a system which has raised special interest and corruption to an art form. We like to think our government began in 1776 but this is naive; most of our governance was inherited from Britain, and from France, and much of it is residual power structure. Our elite is the same elite we inherited from Europe, and today more than ever there are global citizens. (Ever wonder why for a while the king of England didn’t speak English and the court of Russia spoke only French?)

Citizens get involved in politics, meaning they post on facebook, sometimes give money, and vote. Most Americans don’t know why we have the two party system, and assume it is “natural” like good and evil, Republican and Democrat. Pick your own devil, they are virtually interchangeable.’s_law

Because political party, like sports or religion, is about affiliation, taking part with others, belonging to a group, it predisposes one to group values and thinking. When one belongs to a group, particularly a political group, one generally assumes the platform of the group.

Neglect that Americans are particularly susceptible to the two party system, which means that half of us instantly reject the solutions of the other half. That’s a poor way to start. Neglect, as well, the tremendous power marketing has over us. Professionals have been mining human behavior for well over 150 years, literally making a science of influencing people to feel or say or do this or that. How else can one explain a decent, fair minded, generous person who hates this or that minority? Our minds are not our own, but neglect that.

Neglect all the frailties and associated justifications and mythologies, there is still the essential problem of linearizing, and oversimplifying, essential and complex social problems. We all live in the social world; we feel it is transparent and well familiar to us. Our emotions are genuine, and when called on, we typically have some kind of logical rationalization for our belief, even if it is only “because God says so.”

Based on our affiliation, and the accepted dogma on each issue, we take a stand for or against this or that. We understand what we think should happen, we see some solution in a straight line from it, and we think all we need to do is instruct the government and they will carry it out. Out across the complex and reflexive maelstrom of the social world we cast the line of our law.

Surely we all see the comedy of this?   It isn’t even that the “other side” will struggle with us; there is always a supporting cast of thousands, people who have their own interests, who are willing to exchange this for that. People do the right thing for bad reasons, like pharmaceutical companies who create a wonder drug to eventually addict a generation because there is good money in anxiety.

Most problematic are people who do great harm with the intent of doing good. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Prize winner and Father of the Green Revolution is a clear example. Looked one way, Borlaug is a hero who “prevented a billion deaths from starvation”. Looked at in a less linear and more complex way, Borlaug is the comic tragedy, a man who saw a global population of a few billion with a million hungry, and contributed to what we now have, not a billion saved from starvation, but a billion living with starvation and seven and a half billion people. Borlaug saw a problem: hunger, and applied a linear solution: feed the hungry, but he acted in a dynamic, complex reality, and this Revolution led to overpopulation and extreme resource deprivation, particularly and ironically in the ancient aquifers in India, where he taught people to grow wheat, and which are being rapidly depleted because India now seeks to export wheat.

That mistake is magnified: multinational corporations expect to benefit hugely from a new food revolution, one which will somehow take us to 11 billion people, an estimated 2.5 times what the planet can actually support. The humanitarian intention of his actions were laudable, but his linear solution simply created more of the problem. Linear thinking is often like that; good intentions are often oversimplified and linear. That’s why the road to hell is smoothly paved with them.

So, how can we effect change, (neglecting the huge and powerful machine of politics and media we have to “manufacture consent”)? We examine the problem to see what we really, bedrock, object to. Typically, it is something someone is doing. Usually that “someone” is either a deviant group, or a lazy and failed government bureaucracy, or maybe a vaguely described but strongly hated foreigner.

Ask your self, “what do I hate most about this?” Maybe you are simply bigoted, but more likely you hate it because others you affiliate with hate it, or it violates some essential truth you feel exists in the universe, or at least in the verbiage of this or that contract or law. For example, I hate it when people violate the long held American ideal of individual sovereignty, kind of like the “rights over your own person” that feminists demand, but for everybody.

I’ll further use myself as an example. For over 40 years I have been working in large and small ways for the decriminalization of cannabis, as food, fuel, fiber, and medicine, at least for the soul. My original thought was simple: free the herb, make no laws regarding cannabis.

During that 40 years the government stepped up their support of a prohibition which was clearly founded on first racial bigotry, and then social bigotry. There is no reason cannabis was ever illegal except as a means of social control, and, perhaps as some believe, Dupont didn’t want natural fiber competition with modern plastic fibers. The “Dupont” explanation is plausible, but not as clear and obvious as the motivation of racial prejudice and bureaucratic over-reach. Even so, the government stepped up the groundless propaganda: gateway drug; only losers; your brain on hot fat. Meantime, real drug problems arose which the government was equally unable to cope with, including crack and meth, and now bath salts and especially abuse of those wonderful and lucrative approved pharmaceutical drugs. Drug policy in the US is a quagmire of entrenched special interests encouraging broad social ignorance.

Still, I kept my eye on the prize: decriminalization.

Eventually, I realized that was never going to happen. No one in power, no cop, no bureaucrat, no one made money if cannabis was just decriminalized. That meant it had to be legalized, which meant a thick net of regulation and a squabble among state power groups for purview. I worked towards that pale shadow of my actual goal. Eventually, Prop 215 passed, (and then the feds stepped up pressure) and then AB420 passed (and the feds grew increasingly punitive) and then more and more states signed on. When about 40% of the states had med can, the feds began to back off, to speak out of both sides of various cabinet level mouths. Then, Colorado and Washington and impeding recreational legalization in California, and finally the government power groups began to scramble. Now, we have a medical marijuana law that will give an ounce of flesh at every one of several state and local levels.

Is it the freedom I imagined? No. Is it the freedom we get, like women get, still making less than men, and Blacks get, still earning less across a lifetime than a White with the same qualifications. It’s a freedom of sorts, the response we could get from a complex system of individual interests. It wasn’t nearly as simple and linear as my first vision: why doesn’t the government just leave us alone on this.

In many instances, insisting on a linear approach won’t give you the result you want, and could easily make things worse. Increasing sentences doesn’t actually deter crime, when the crime was committed for an underlying social or personal reason. Instead it creates a prison industry with powerful friends and expensive lobbyists urging for more harsh laws. It creates a social “prison class” of people who find it very difficult to ever become mainstream, because they have a record. Harsher laws do not prevent crime, at best the defer it, as when a ban on guns results in a decrease in firearms related deaths, but no over all decrease in murder.

It’s still possible to have firm, well organized opinions, and it’s still possible to bring social change, but if we want to solve more problems than we create, we’ll need to have a complex view, and ignore simple solutions.

What do you really want?

Good luck!

DeVita Doesn’t Know 9/30/15

fringe logoThings I don’t know
False admission from The Fringe
by DeVita

I’m sure all my readers are used to people calling them know-it-alls; after all, only the intellectually discerning read the Sierra County Prospect. Still, your Fringe Editor is a target for that name more often than most. To prove I’m not a know it all, I’ll list a bunch of things I don’t know.

I don’t know why poor people vote Republican. It doesn’t make sense, since Republican policies perpetually disadvantage the poor and benefit the wealthy and wealthy want to be. I know many poor people are conservative, they want values they understand and an economy that is simple and works, and the Republicans promise all that, but clearly they don’t really care. Yet the poor often support Republicans who openly serve the wealthy. Why do they do that?

I don’t know why liberals perpetually want to see more government. It is as though they can’t force people through argument to do what is best for them, so they want government to enforce it. Do they also perpetually forget what government does when it’s large, and when it goes bad, and governments always go bad, they go for the intellectuals first. Liberals often claim to be for human rights and human dignity, yet they are often eager to give rights away. Why do they do that?

I don’t know why people care who loves whom. It makes no sense to me. Were they hoping to have sex with everyone? In my life, people loving each other has typically increased the peace, given stability to communities, given people an essential joy that no one should miss. When people want to tell other people who and how to love, don’t they fear that one day, when all the wrong people no longer love each other, attention will turn to the right people, and do they love each other properly, and enough? Why do they do that?

I don’t know why we tolerate lawyers. We’re told that we need lawyers because the modern world is so complicated, but it is so complicated because of lawyers. Lawyers tout themselves as the keepers of the rules of the civilized world, and that is precisely why we should turn them into the streets. Rome always sent lawyers in to conquered territories first, to lay down Roman Law, which is why when the Barbarians frequently rebelled, they killed tax collectors and lawyers first. There is no section of life, from conception to beyond death, that is not the fodder of lawyers. For every necessary thing we do in this life, a lawyer takes a drop of blood.

I don’t know if string theory is true, but I doubt it. I doubt it because of the inelegant way it came to be, because of its helter-skelter, shaggy dog manner of creating the rules. I think the beauty of nature in all the universe is that everything arises from many iterations of elements with just a few degrees of freedom; often just two. The tangled mop of string theory seems more a product of physicists and mathematicians struggling to create a job than a carefully considered approach to the simple beauty of nature. But, I don’t know.

I don’t know if there is any way to save humankind. I’ve studied it for nearly two years now, and I don’t know. If there was a way, I don’t know what it would be. Sometimes in nature something grows and grows and consumes and there is no way to stop it until it exhausts its resources and dies. I guess for the global economic system, which is the powerhouse driving destruction of the environment and even over population, there is no answer until the last of the resources are gone. The UN certainly is not going to save us. Science will absolutely make things worse until the very end. Jesus won’t save us from this one. We might save ourselves, by reducing the distance to our food, reducing the use of anything made with or from fossils fuels. Maybe we have a chance of not crashing in the next 80 years, but I don’t know.

I don’t know why we allow killer cops, or cops that are inept, or cops that wear the badge like it’s about them, and not the public. We invest in cops the authority to kill in our name; we should demand more accountability. I don’t know why a cop who kills someone is treated differently than if you or I killed someone; since they are highly trained, they should be held to a higher standard. I don’t know why we allow cops to have official opinions on social issues. I don’t know why we allow charges like “resisting arrest” where no arrest or threat of arrest is present, or why we allow “conspiracy” charges against people who don’t actually conspire to do anything.

I don’t know why the sexes are not equal. There are sexual differences or “sexual dimorphism” throughout the mammalian kingdom, and the sexes often have different roles, but there are also many instances of relative sexual equality, though it is not common among the great apes. In no realm in the world that I know of are women less than men, except for those which require bulk. Women are as likely to be emotionally strong; as likely to be wise or crafty, as likely to be kind or relentless. Can we really afford to relegate half or our people to second class status? Don’t we need first class people of every kind, regardless the weight between their thighs? How can we afford this ignorance? I don’t know.

I likewise do not know why people want to have control over the bodies of women. Why do some value the life potential in a fetus more than they do the life realized of the mother. In a world populated with nearly 7,500,000,000 people, we do not need unwanted humans. Until a way is found for men to carry a child to term, I don’t know that they should have a say, unless it is their child, and they are willing to pay the cost of care and delivery and raising the child to adulthood. No one else, really, should have say over whether a woman carries a pregnancy to term, and yet they do; I don’t know why.

I do not understand why we allow so few to have so much while so many have so little. I am not asking for communism, nor any other radical thing, I only ask if the system is really square when so few can become so wealthy, and hold so much power. I know how it happens, but why we allow it, I do not understand.

I do not know why some people want us to be defenseless. I don’t know why those people want us to be without adequate firearms. History does not support their point of view; indeed no science does support the view that helplessness, among mammals, is a good thing. If those who want to steal our right to own and use firearms are afraid, why are they afraid of us? Why do they trust the government to have guns, and allow the president to be surrounded by people with guns, but they don’t want others to have that same protection. Half of all firearms deaths are suicide; I do not understand how people feel they can deny others that most basic right: the right to choose to live, or not. I do not understand people who hold that point of view, and I do not know why they do.

There we are, things I don’t know!

OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I do actually know most of those things, they are generally explainable social realities. But, somehow a “things I don’t know list” with only three things on it seemed egoistic, so I had to fluff. It’s a hazard of being a know it all.

Good luck with what ya don’t know!

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