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... the shit hits the fan.

In 2011 I recorded podcast 071 called "being noble."   And shortly after that, makeitmissoula asked me to massage that into a blog for their site.  

In that article, I state:

Everybody looks cool when the situation is consistently smooth. When things become horribly awkward, we then see 5% stand up and work hard on getting things to be smooth again, while 95% …. uh …. do something else.



Usually make it worse.


The world has problems.  I believe that the solution to most of those problems is permaculture and homesteading.  It seems really clear and obvious to me.   I think a lot of people believe that.  I think that by now most of the people on the planet would think that.   But why have most of the people on the planet never even heard of it?  Why is it that "permaculture" is not a household word?  It seems that permaculture gained a lot of acceptance and then it's growth has been seriously limited.   In my 2014 Keynote at Permaculture Voices I point out the many issues, but I think the most important issue is the infighting.  People within the greater permaculture community get a very strict idea of what they think permaculture is.  They love permaculture so much and are so passionate about the way all the bits and bobs fit into their head, that they are very insistent that all other people must adhere to that very strict idea or "THAT'S NOT PERMACULTURE!"  - the open hostility shown to permies by other permies is nausiatingly bizarre.  At the end of my keynote I asked the audience to repeat this simple phrase:

There are many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella.




Every day this struggle continues.  


More from the article:

In the podcast, I start off relating a story about a woman that wrote a weekly column for the daily paper in Portland, Oregon. The column was about her attempts to become greener. One of her earliest columns was about how she went out and bought a bunch of fluorescent light bulbs. A year later, she wrote a column about how she learned that fluorescent light bulbs are an example of “green washing” and turn out to be not very green at all.

I find this to be a pretty common path. When folks get started on the eco path, they buy in to the fluorescent light bulb thing. After all, it says “eco” right on the package. And they have heard about how good it is from many sources. And then when people get a lot further down the eco path, about 1 in 100 decide that fluorescent light bulbs are awful, and then they eliminate all fluorescent light bulbs from their house.

The noteworthy thing about the columnist is that she received a mountain of ugly, hostile hate mail including death threats. The message was that these people felt that in the name of “green and eco” that advocating anything other than fluorescent light bulbs is unacceptable.

So while the “green and eco” group is usually known for peace, love, flowers, rainbows, and hugs, it seems there are at least a few that are painfully hostile. The columnist feared for the well-being of herself and her family, so she quit the column.




That same bit about the writer was the foundation of the two observations of the wheaton eco scale:







There is a bit of comedy with the idea of teenagers.  Specifically at about the age of 15.   There is an enormous amount of drama and the teenager is confident that they know everything.  Of course, this is not entirely true, but there is a lot of truth to it.   I suspect that the enormous amount of drama is rooted in the teenager beginning to get a grip on how the world works.  And it is not pretty.   And the teenager has figured out a strategy that is "the way" for them.  Since nobody else has "the way", then all other people are, effectively, dopes.  It will take a few more years to learn that there are many possible paths, and a bit of humility starts to sink in.  

Maybe this is how things are in permaculture.   People learn enough to get to a point where they can see all the pieces fitting together.  They then discover "the way" for themselves.   And they then wish to guide others toward this path "to help them." but they are so adamant about there being exactly one path, that the phrase "THAT'S NOT PERMACULTURE!" escapes their lips many times.    And it will take many years until that "permaculture teenager" has grown enough to allow "many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella."  Can we call this last stage a "mature permie?"

If we expand on this idea just a bit further, for each "mature permie" there must be about 500 "teenage permies".   And for each teenager, there might be 500 "newbie permies."  And, at the same time, all of these people are actually adults.    So it would be fair to say that there could be a gathering where "mature permies" could be easily outnumbered by "teenage permies."  

The "teenage permies" send a dissuasive message to the "newbie permies" and a lot of the newbies decide to drop permaculture as "too hostile - I don't need this shit."   And we also start to have our "mature permies" go silent for the exact same reason.     Even some of the "teenage permies" get sick of it and bail.  

And the whole permaculture movement stagnates.


---


The first step in solving a problem is to figure out what the problem is.  Human nature is a thousand times more complex than the "teen permie theory" (TPT).  But maybe if we try to solve TPT then it might just happen to solve a few other things along the way.  Maybe we can make progress even though we don't have the ability to fully understand human psychology.

The problem is rooted in the phrase "THAT'S NOT PERMACULTURE!" and variations of that.  What happens if in all conversations about permaculture, we eliminate this phrase and the variations?  Would things improve?

There are thousands of places all over the internet where a person can talk about permaculture.  And there are at least as many outside of the internet.  For this site, permies.com, we have taken this stance of limiting what is allowed to be talked about and how things are discussed.  Effectively eliminating the phrases we are concerned about.   The goal is that all permies can talk about all permaculture topics and the hostile stuff is removed.  Mysteriously, the site grew and grew ... and eventually became quite massive.  Oh my.  Is it possible that this path has validated the "teen permie theory"?


---


A few months ago I announced a silly thing -  "all of human history and 90% of human psychology fits into one sentence":

Most people NEED to hear their own opinion from all other people and are frustrated that they don't have the might to make it "right."



And it got a response from a psychologist:

I absolutely agree with that statement.  I'd even add to it:  "...and are frustrated that they don't have the might to make it 'right', so instead they transform the problems unique to their brain into everybody else's problems.."

This is pretty much the root-cause analysis of social dysfunction.



This is all people everywhere, not just within the world of permaculture.  

Of course, a big part of permaculture is to try to build community.  Including intentional community - and the myriad of challenges in that space.  So this bit of psychology is going to tested 10 times more than regular society.   Maybe 200 times more in intentional community.   But the advantages of intentional community are huge.  Surely there are ways to solve this problem.


---

My friend Diana Leafe Christian told me about some of the consensus based process at earthaven.  And she talks about it a little in this thread.

While there is five volume book set (never written) to go over all the ups and downs of their experiences, I wish to focus on a small point that happened for a few years:  basically, somebody very loud and hostile would set the direction for the community.   The other community members desperately wanted peace and loveliness and just giving the hostile people what they wanted was the fastest, simplest, quietest path.  And in time, these awful decisions piled up and ...  the community learned that they would have more peace and loveliness if they would take the more difficult path in the short term.  They evicted the hostility.  

Why would anybody be so awful and hostile?  The answer is everywhere:   it works.   It works extremely well.   Our society basically trains people that if they are hostile enough, they can have pretty much anything they want - up to a point.  

From my permaculture velocity thread:

I shared a link to reddit where a permaculture enthusiast replied to a comment about winning a ticket to voices and said "I'm gonna win then I'm going to go a punch Paul Wheaton in the face." I wish to emphasize that this was a person who spends lots of time in the permaculture subreddit - so I think it is fair to say that this person is supposedly a permaculture enthusiast. And checking that person's contributions to reddit you see this:



I suppose we could say that there are thousands of communities and we would rather not have this person in our community.  But this person would do great in some other community?


----

The benefits of community are massive.  Maybe you can bring together a group of people and things will be lovely.  It is even possible that everything between everybody will seem lovely for years.  And then one day, something takes an awkward turn and it will be in the nature of 95% of people to make that situation worse - each of those people will make it worse in their own way.  

In my podcast, I suggested that the people of the 5% could be labeled as "noble" and the people of the 95% could be labeled as "human."

Nearly all community designs assume that all members of the community will be noble.  This makes for a very fragile community.   When there is a bump in the road, everybody discovers that 95% of the community is human.  The community fails.

Community must be designed to continue through those tests.  Maybe with each test, many of the humans will move on.   As new people come and go, the percentage of noble people might eventually grow to be the majority.   And THAT is a very lovely community.










 
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I remember reading a classic SF novel - the Forever war I think it was in which the war was only finished when human kind was effectively all or at least 99% clones. Ie all the same
That's the big issue as I see it how to cope with everyone being different and then having a structure that can cope with that and accepting that without having a strict regime subjugating indeviduality before a "higher cause" like the army or religious order.
But why plans for such a community deliberately , will not such a community naturally evolve if you have enough people interested in Permaculture ? Who live in one area . I see the transition movement starting to have that effect in attracting people to certain villages because of this . Is not evolution a more natural process?
 
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I remember watching a BBC documentary a few years ago about a tribe in Africa.

The community was close-knit, with the exception of one family who lived on the outskirts.

The family on the outskirts had health problems (mostly respiratory based), but we're not ostracized.

As it turned out, that family was the one who processed iron from ore for the village.

The processing was hard, loud, hot and smelly to say the least, but the community needed the metal and the family needed the community.

*******

In my limited Permaculture experience, many sacrafice  the good in the hopes for the perfect, as if "perfect" is ever actually attainable.

I once had a man tell me that ONLY organ diatomaceous  earth could be used in permaculture.

In a "perfect" world, that would be nice.

In reality, I'm 8 miles from a limestone quarry with lots of diatomaceous earth and at dollars per ton vs dollars per bag, I'll take that bet.

*******
Nothing will ever be 100% permies, but I'll take my 50% on my way to 95%


 
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Concerning my DE:

Our local quarry occasionally comes across some thin layers while graveling. What I get is nowhere near food grade.
 
paul wheaton
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David Livingston wrote: will not such a community naturally evolve if you have enough people interested in Permaculture ?



In this thread   I talk about being in a lovely community made entirely of people that had completed a PDC.   Things were quite smooth, until ...   take a look at my second post in that thread.  

I remember there was one guy, who had completed a PDC, moved in.   His rent was something like $460 per month.   Once he was moved in he told me that his rent was now reduced to $200 per month - that was just all he was going to pay.  So I got a piece of paper and gave him his 30 days notice.



There were some really lovely people and there were some icky people.  Having completed a PDC does not guarantee that a person is lovely.  



From the same community:  a person was paying about $410 per month in rent.  He came to me and made a big deal that he was paying too much.  He wanted to know exactly what the rent for the house was because he thought he was getting screwed.   I made him an offer:   I will open my house books to you, and if your math shows that you were screwed, then I will pay that money to you.   If, on the other hand, the books show that I paid more than my fair share, then he would pay that amount to me.   He was wise to not take me up on the offer, because the house owed me about $4000, and the current rent was about $20 per month more than what I paid to rent the whole house.  So if we don't have any empty rooms ever again, I would get paid back in about 200 months.

He proceeded to lecture me on how his rent should never go up if there is an empty room and at the same time, all of the room rents should add up to exactly the cost to rent the house.  I invited him to rent a large house and rent out the rooms and do exactly what he was suggesting.  I doubt he ever did.





 
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When the shit just the fan 5% of people do something I think might help. The rest might think it's a good thing, might think it's a non event ,might blame the fan,the shit,the shit thrower,those sprayed by the shit, an excess of fiber, the power that turned the fan....

Dissolution of a marriage,an election, a pregnancy,these could all be shit hitting the fan,or they could be something else entirely, depending on one's perspective.

Permies often say "it depends". A change of perspective might change mint from a weed to a crop.
Or not.

My problem at my house is not enough food growing,and  THREE city agencies trying to use fines to make me conform to the norm.
Looking at it from their point if view, I'm harboring pests,pissing of my neighbors and bring down property values.

Hey, natural landscapesoffer food and shelter for animals,mice included,my neighbors are entitled to their opinions of what they want to look at,and neatly trimmed grass lawns are what buyers want to see.

Their solution(fines) became my problem(fines), just as my solution to financial insecurity( all food plants,all over the place) was a host of problems to them.


Who is in what 5 percent? What is the shit,and what fan does it hit?

Being a socialist of sorts,a person who believes in the benefits of living within this society, I am taking a stand....for co-operation.

Long "grass" is being replaced by terraced garden beds.

Ancillary structures to house pets (chicken coop)must be 20 feet from every property line,and my proprty is only 30 feet wide?
Chickshaw to the rescue!

Piles of lumber a no-no? Build something out of it!
Again, I see a chickshaw in my near future,and an empty coop waiting to become a storage shed.

So far my accommodating attitude has won me extra time to "conform"and the personal sympathies of the regulators.
Oh, it's made my wife happy as well.
I chaff at the requirements,but I also thrive under them.

95% of humans have different priorities than you do.
Find out where you can make common cause with them and you will be a long way towards getting the shit off of your fan,and theirs,and into a nice compost pile.

I don't think having different priorities necessarily  makes them,or me, more or less noble. Just human.

 
David Livingston
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Maybe its a scale thing as I think about successful community's built around work in the UK we are talking about villages with a couple of hundred people in them eg Quaking houses , Newcastleton, Salthill etc you seem to be talking about one house  ( or enough people to fill one house ).

David
 
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paul wheaton wrote:There are many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella.



I felt this needed to be illustrated. It's such a beautiful quote.
permaculture-umbrella-paul-wheaton-copy.jpg
There are many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella - Paul Wheaton permies meme
There are many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella - Paul Wheaton
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

paul wheaton wrote:There are many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella.



I felt this needed to be illustrated. It's such a beautiful quote.



Beautiful Nicole!
 
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I think it can't work with consensus. You need a strong captain and a clear hierarchy, like the deleted poster noted in your thread ten years ago. People move by their own self-interest. Ideals in the abstract may appeal to the "nobles" but normal humans are not moved that way. They want to know what's in it for them, and they also resent anybody who got a little more. Like hens fighting over a hamburger, they need their keeper.
 
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But why have most of the people on the planet never even heard of it?  Why is it that "permaculture" is not a household word?



I think the real reason is that there is no BIG money behind.

Consider recycling. It's an eco practice, right? What's more, there are companies making profit by recycling. Big profits. So that's an eco practice that is likely to get done, right?. Here in Spain, we have a corporation called Ecoembes, which is created by the biggest container producers and polluters. For every plastic bottle Pepsico produces, that's a plastic bottle that Ecoembes will benefit from recycling. On the surface it looks good, but there's a perverse economic outcome. More bottles produced is more benefits for the recycling company. The effect of all this is more plastic bottles made than ever, many of them not being recycled.
Is anyone aware who cares? Only a few activists. Meanwhile, you can read sponsored articles about the benefits of recycling, and how the average spanish person is very responsible since he has learned how to separate trash. Sponsored by Ecoembes, which means sponsored by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle and the like. Once a month you can watch a few commercials on the national news rejoicing about how green we have all become. Sponsored by Ecoembes, of course. If you are an ecological activist and you speak foul about recycling in our country, you will not receive sympathy from the general people, not even from the average eco person. How can be recycling bad? Get out of my sight!

Can you permies do that? Can you add commercials on the national news? Can you fill the sponsored articles in respectable media? No, because you don't have that kind of money. That kind of money is only available for professional white collar thieves.

Why are 'eco' lightbulbs popular? Because there's money behind. It's now even enforced, you can buy no more an old lightbulb in Europe. Bulb makers made big profits by forcing everyone to change their bulbs before they were broken. If something is not advertised, sponsored, it doesn't get to people.
Permaculture has its niche of attention in YouTube, where specific commercials can be sold to mind-alike people. Film an inspirational video of a garden which will never work unless you spend thousands of dollars on it, and it's going to create some income just from visualisations. But this marketing target is small, it cannot grow without further investment on the big companies which are not interested in a bunch of people whose interest is to stop buying things.


Then we have the issue that not everything that is sustainable and ecological fits under the term Permaculture. Permaculture is what Mollison and Holmgrem defined. You could be doing some other sustainable and ecological practices that do not fit in (especially if you are not sold on the 'fair share' aspect of it, you communists! :P ). Unless you want to coin the Permaculture movement as something else, based on the Mollison's book but more open. The risk of that is then being too much open. One thing is to admit people who switch to fluorescent lightbulbs as wannabe greeners, and another one is to advocate switching to fluorescent lightbulbs as a greener thing to do just to please more people who might join us.
Anyways, let's suppose that the umbrella is wide enough so that any person that wants to be greener fits in, where they can choose between good and better practices. Even then, most people will not find it. They will find Greenpeace and Ecoembes instead, both having well financed campaigns.
If you found permies.com it is because you made the right questions (to Google), and if you were able to make them, that's because you are already on the path.

For me, anything that requires a non-renewable resource as a critical part for working cannot be sustainable in the long term. Plastics you can use them, as long as your system doesn't depend on them to continue working. But I see lots of projects that depend on non renewables that are advertised as permacultural, things that are greener than the current practices, but not really sustainable. I don't think they are wrong, taken as first steps on a search for real sustainability, we might even need them until we are able to switch to truly sustainable, but I hesitate to consider them as permaculture, if this should be something we can be practicing for ages.
I like to use the metaphore of a building with elevators without stairs. Would this building be useful if the elevators stopped working? If the answer is yes, then the elevators are a nice addon. If the answer is no, then your building depends on a non-renewable system for being useful, it's unsustainable. Even worse if the building has no physical stairs, only elevators, you could be trapped inside by a simple blackout, that's a very fragile system.
Well, we are currently building our world without stairs, and that frightens me.


 
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You make good points, Abraham.

It's often that putting good works into practice requires figuring out how to not only make such good works pay for themselves and support the people making them happen, but also support a third idea: profit.

That word, in itself, isn't bad. As with everything else, what matters is why the profit is needed, where it is allocated, and how it is derived from the system.

One idea that I would love to make happen, or to get together on with a group of permaculturally-minded people, is to buy some land in an appropriate place, adjacent to a reserve or local indigenous community, and ask to start a venture where we rewild the area as an active zone 4-5, with bison being the main focus.

The way I see it working is, in coordination with the local band or bands, we buy bison to inhabit our land, and we employ interested individuals to tend them. We build up a rich, vibrant, and layered wild system that people benefit from just living on the edges, and side-operations develop organically while bison are raised primarily for their seasonal coat, along with an annual culling of the male population to the 1 bull to 15 to 20 cow ratio.

So in my mind, what would happen is that we set up a nonprofit, see that everyone involved gets paid, sufficiently and regularly, from the outset. There would be an agreed-upon sharing out for all animal products, net profits (costs to include recapitalizing for the next season) calculated annually and split evenly between the company and the indigenous community, with an agreed-upon percentage invested every year in ethical green funds until enough was earned to expand the land project. Rinse and repeat.

In my mind, I see this all going brilliantly. There are social and cultural issues baked into this plan that would make it challenging from the start, but honestly, I decided that this was a good idea based upon the hardiness of the animal and its status as an ecological keystone species. I would set it up to happen all by itself, if I could. Adding in people, to my mind, is only necessary to guard against other people. To make them care beyond the paycheque, they need inclusion beyond immediate financial concerns.

In reality, every little bump in the road could be destabilising enough to end it all before the end of the first year. And it's unfortunately, in my opinion, not as simple as, "until something goes wrong, everyone is industrious and stoic, working together for the common good," which is a little of what I get here. In my view, 95% are angling for a better deal for themselves from the start. It doesn't mean that they don't put in their work. It might mean, though, that they put time rather than effort into "common good" work, and save all the heart for their own aims. And yes, when there's destabilisation, they might try to take the reigns, or joggle the elbow of the one in control in their own favour.

I think one thing I would suggest as alternative to your conclusion is that BIG MONEY cares less about systemic health than it does about regular quarterly gains. Creating externalities of social and environmental costs is evidence of this. And permaculture cares almost exclusively about the health of systems, if we look at the larger picture. BIG PERMACULTURE means assigning dollar values to wastes that BIG MONEY has, for centuries, been given a free ride on. It's like trying to take away something people have felt entitled to for centuries, whether it is objectively right or wrong today. Every societal reaction to progress is evidence of this.

So what do we do?

I think there are a number of people making livelihoods by developing and popularising their niches of permaculture. I think the ones that are most useful to the furtherance of permaculture as a societal philosophy going forward are literally the ones helping farmers to convert from conventional agricultural methods to places further along the permacultural spectrum, not for ideological reasons, but by taking permacultural tools for their clients' specific sets of challenges and goals, and tailoring appropriate solutions in which human activity paired with natural process results in systems that save money, generate new revenue, and improve quality of life.

I think it's also possible to use the dynamic you've described with recycling to make sure any programs we put into place have beneficial commercial outcomes.

Let's take packaging for shipping, for instance. Work has been ongoing for at least a decade, with some commercial success, on shipping materials based on mycelia and wood and paper waste, with a focus on cutting down on plastic and styrofoam use.

So why is styrofoam and plastic still in use? It's cheap, and being made so artificially because the costs of disposal aren't linked to the producer. They could use something that lasts as microparticles forever in the ecosystem and interferes with biology across the biotic spectrum because it's a cheap way to achieve their ends. Which is why it's important that we make that cradle-to-grave connection mandatory, in some views, as it is that we have right-to-repair made a basic industrial standard by which everyone operates.

On a side-note, I like to remember that there's a good reason that recycling is the last of the 3 Rs. It is very much, in my opinion, a blanket term that the developed world uses to bundle up and dismiss a large, complicated, and dirty array of issues that we don't want to think about. That means we don't engage with what it means necessarily to recycle, and so we disengage with the issue of waste because we're recycling.

So companies are let off the hook for packaging things we need in ways that produce waste that is either costly to recycle, or in fact is so difficult or costly to recycle that it is landfilled by already-stretched municipalities.

And because we're recycling, it's completely fine to allow companies to continue to profit off of the manufacture of packaging that is creating ecological harm in reality.

Humans are fun. But we are, in my opinion, in no way as mature a species as some would like us to believe we already are. I know we're striving to be, and I think the 5% that Paul was speaking of is the portion of us that sees the vested self-interest in the long-term, systemic view, and can hold that thought, sometimes the vision of some other person, clearly all the time, no matter what the individual concern at that time.

In any case, I think human nature's a bitch, but that's what we're dealing with, rather than any especial type of selfishness. If the part cannot function, it cannot service the whole. I can't donate to the cause if I have neglected my own well-being in donating to the cause already. And I think we let ourselves get to these places where we don't acknowledge what we are doing to ourselves until it's time to make a bigger commitment on that basis. Paul's bump in the road could easily be such an added cost.

In short, I think it's a dynamic particular to human nature that must be accommodated and planned around, like energy loss in a system through heat or friction, or conversion losses.

I think it might translate to something like, 5% of people can be counted on as leaders in any such endeavour when the road gets bumpy. We should try to identify that 5% early enough to deputise them, and to institute emergency, or bump-in-the-road planning, probably under the guise of emergency procedure. Regular events like roads being closed due to snow or hurricanes could serve as models to describe how authority is disseminated in the event of breakdowns. This, in turn, could also serve as a distributed decision-making and arbitration structure, with a focus on feedback and reward. We account for need, greed, and ambition in the scenario by making sure the system allocates enough per person for some kind of rude plenty (you might get a lot of variations on dishes that use a smaller number of basic ingredients, you might eat a lot of potato, dairy, and meat), and so that greed fuels ambition in a scenario where doing what they are supposed to be doing to make the system work is actually what will get them the furthest, and it's both obvious to them and what they'd want to be doing anyways.

Because people care. It's not just because people deserve to be treated well. We need to all function together to make the systems work, so we need to be able to function as individuals within and without of society.

These words, greed, ambition, they carry negative connotations, and I am not one to turn them into virtues, but I do think that it's reductive to eliminate these aspects of personhood. I think to design a human system properly, it's necessary to take into account these impulses and their like in the human psyche and harness them, or at least account for their possibility, and for why they might be, what legitimate concern or need could they seek to describe.

Great thread, though. Disenhartening in some ways, but it definitely makes you think.

-CK
 
Been there. Done that. Went back for more. But this time, I took this tiny ad with me:
trying to save the world with a "pay it forward" attempt
https://permies.com/t/159778/save-world-pay-attempt
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