Blog Post on Extinction Rebellion for LUCSUS

Together with Stephen Woreniecki we wrote down some of our thoughts about Extinction Rebellion, the new wave of climate activism sweeping not only Europe but also Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We had some intense experiences participating in a demonstration that really opened up how we see direct action playing a role in decision making, especially as current decision-making is dragging us closer to climate disaster. This post was published by Cecilia von Arnold on the LUCSUS Blog in December.

Jesse Jones

Many readers may have noticed the increasing frequency of climate protests organised by Extinction Rebellion (XR) across Sweden. But what do these protests represent? Is this just another group of tree-huggers being a public nuisance? Or is this a needed development in taking our climate goals further? Two Lund University researchers argue that there are critical ideas to take away.

The Extinction Rebellion is a non-violent direct-action movement challenging inaction over dangerous climate change and the mass extinction of species which, ultimately they argue, threatens our own species. XR originated in the United Kingdom and has spread to more than 35 countries including Sweden in under 6 months. People are taking to the streets to express their incredulity that the climate crisis has been left unattended so long by the international community; inaction that dramatically increases the risks and leaves us with ever diminishing timescales and range of options. One of the key tenets of Extinction Rebellion is challenging the political class for its deep lack of commitment to addressing these very real problems.

We have had the chance to get to know the activists in Skåne and found that overwhelmingly XR comprises articulate, caring, well-read and surprisingly normal people; amongst them nurses, engineers, receptionists, teachers and a biologist. Many have never been involved in protests before. They have one thing in common however: the feeling of urgency to take peaceful direct actions to halt the growth obsessed paradigm of capitalism that is destroying our common future. From their perspective responding appropriately to the scale of the climate crisis as self-evident. None of them can comprehend why the so-called decision-makers have not responded appropriately, why the world is not taking climate change seriously.

For instance, it’s not commonly acknowledged that emissions reductions in Sweden have to occur much faster than currently to keep us on track. Neither is it common for the media to address the mass extinction we are currently facing.  XR draws attention to the scale and magnitude of damage and loss that we can expect if the world warms more than 1.5 degrees.  At this point all coral reefs will be lost, crops will fail, millions of people displaced. Many of these changes are becoming slowly inevitable through repeated inaction.

The sorts of responses that XR have been involved with in Sweden have been blockading roads by displaying banners, singing, dancing and handing out fliers and cookies, with breaks to let the traffic flow. XR have also brought attention to companies who blatantly ignore environmental responsibilities. These actions have been warmly received by the public, with bystanders expressing their support of these efforts, especially the home-make cookies. One driver wrote to XR Sweden afterwards saying “I was stopped by your demonstration in Malmö today. I wanted to say that I like your initiative and the way you met me was friendly and nice. It was a good reminder that I need to improve myself even more for the sake of the climate and environments, which I promise to do.” (Translation by authors).

Jesse Jones

These sorts of peaceful protests are part of wider social movements to make normal people’s concern over climate change visible. People taking to the streets can be a powerful way to not only share values, but also give a mandate to those in positions of power: to show politicians and business leaders that citizens are ready for change. They are prepared to start questioning our everyday assumptions around carbon intensive activities such as eating, transport, housing and leisure activities. Since starting just six months ago the movement has already witnessed some significant environmental policy successes, including Ireland divesting from fossil fuel and London declaring a climate emergency.

XR are right in that current efforts to protect the earth are not ambitious enough to match the scale of the threats. A new global deal for the earth, backed by concrete commitments from global leaders and businesses to tackle those threats, is imperative. There are answers to the climate crisis. But these answers don’t mean much if the rules and structures for organising society don’t change. We need to out-build – eliminate – carbon from society. But not without reference to social inequalities.

There was a strange symbolism a couple of weeks ago when cities on either side of English Channel were locked down by – at least superficially – matters of climate. XR shut down the bridges across the Thames in London, whilst at the same time Paris was on lockdown by the Yellow Vests, resisting what they saw was a regressive carbon tax hitting the poorest hardest. To be relevant, XR needs to acknowledge these politics and recognise that top down action like Macron’s carbon tax has consequences. Like the impacts of climate change, the poor can be hardest hit. Climate politics cannot be separated from the politics of inequality.

Jesse Jones

What can we learn from XR?

  • Combatting climate change needs to be part of everyday discourse
  • We need to fight the climate crisis together
  • Grass roots governance has potential in tackling climate change in a socially inclusive way

We can only hope that actions like those that are becoming increasingly more frequent across Sweden can help shift the conversation and help establish inclusive, forward facing climate policy. Regardless of what you might think of XR’s tactics, climate change impacts, or the social movements that arise from the recognition of such impacts, will change the global environment. In a world struggling to come to terms with climate change, one thing is sure: leaders need to look to the people.

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Response and Responsibility

I have just participated in a panel on ‘everything is going to hell and we just go on like normal‘ at Sweden’s Architects Association, with two other very interesting thinkers. Obviously there was a very interesting discussion about working towards sustainability, and how designers can create sustainable systems and stories. One comment, however, really provoked me. One attendee let out some frustration, arguing that architects and designers are seen as the good guys, caring about the environment and society, but that they don’t actually have that responsibility. Doctors, for example unlike designers, take the Hippocratic Oath to make people healthy. Designers only have to build a house that won’t fall down, or a car that won’t crash. I think that facing the environmental challenges that are looming, requires us all as human beings to respond. Whatever line of work we find ourselves in, and whatever skills and knowledge we gather along the way, make us uniquely response-able. Being able to respond by choosing sustainable materials, suggesting eco-alternatives, requesting our unions to act and pressuring politicians to implement sustainability policies are all valuable in shifting the discourse around what is expected of our line of work. The ability to respond is also the responsibility to do so. I think we should all stop going on like normal ‘towards hell’ and start to respond and be responsible for sustainability.

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Things I can see through the window

I have to send my PhD thesis to the printers in four weeks, and right on cue nearly anything else seems fascinating. The view through the window for example. I can see the turning torso. It’s hard to miss. Two cyclists heading toward Västra hamnen. Four cranes. There is a lot of construction going on. I should probably open word and do some work on my kappa. Is that someone walking their dog? Yes! How nice. What is that up-side-down ice-cream-cone tower thing to the right? It’s covered with leaves and looks so beautiful in Autumn. I wonder what they are going to do with that beautiful old factory? Not more luxury flats I hope. But there are lots of people who want to live in Malmö. It’s an amazing city. It looks like an amazing day. I wish I was outside. No, I want to be writing my thesis. I have so much left to write, my supervisors probably think I’m an imbecile. Maybe I can write something really interesting and surprise them! I hope I am as opposite-to-imbecile, interesting and accomplished as they are one day. There are so many interesting and accomplished people in sociology. Especially the PhDs, we have a super quirky and also passionate cohort. I hope they all come to my defense party. My family are coming, it’s going to be so much fun. I should book a venue! Maybe after I send my thesis to the printers. Only four weeks left!!!

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Do less to save the environment

Indolent koala picture courtesy of Koala Worlds

Alison and I have been exchanging emails the last few days. We are both weary of Tim Jackson’s adage of “being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about.” We are both aware of looming sustainability problems and lifestyles, and we are both trying to live low impact lives. However despite my best attempts I am using more than my fair share according to the WWF Footprint calculator.  We are not alone; a study published this year shows that conservationists often engage in environmentally harmful behaviours.

We are sharply aware of the impetus to save water and energy, emit less carbon and live more sustainably. Wanting sustainability drives us to engage with society. Between the two of us we subscribe to local veggie boxes, drink fair trade coffee from keep-cups, cycle, ride-share, train commute, carbon off-set flights, go to concerts and festivals, live collectively, use green energy tariffs, eat at vegan restaurants, buy organic cotton clothes, attend seminars with international speakers, travel to participate in sustainability conferences, write articles, teach in sustainability courses, blog… There is a lot of doing stuff.

This is a phenomena observed by Veronika Kalmus, Margit Keller & Maie Kiisel who write. “Green Consumerists have developed a critical awareness of problems and hazards inherent in consumer society and are trying to adjust their lifestyle and everyday practices to come to terms with the late modern ethic of sustainability… These people are, however, also active consumers who willingly purchase non-green goods and for whom self-expression and lifestyle are, to a large extent, linked with consumption of goods and services.”

Maybe we could have a better environmental footprint by doing less. Less food, less entertainment, less travelling, less energy use, less time at the office, more time snoozing in trees. I think the koalas have it figured out.

And evenings steep’d in honied indolence;
O, for an age so shelter’d from annoy,
That I may never know how change the moons,
Or hear the voice of busy common-sense!
John Keats, 1819

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Article in Sydsvenskan Newspaper

A recent article exploring how the increasing cleanliness affects water and energy consumption in Sweden. My conclusions are that we should ‘Shower less often, Wash dishes less often and do laundry less often.’ (Click on the image to go to the Sydsvenskan page).

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Experiments with washing less – Anna’s story

This week I had a really nice correspondence with Anna who emailed me about her experiments with washing less. I was very much touched by her enthusiasm and curiosity and asked her to write about her experiences. Here is what she sent.

Hi there, my name is Anna, I am a 18 y/o girl living in France. I follow a horticulture training and I hope to become a gardener and landscape designer. I am a vegetarian and I love animals (deeply involved in animal protection). I feel also strongly concerned in environmental protection, saving resources and sustainability. I am also involved in charity and help to homeless girls.

As an example of my ecological commitment , I constantly try to decrease my energy and water consumption as much as possible by wearing warm clothes when cold (so maintaining 18-19°C at home), switching off light when lighting is unnecessary and limiting the frequency and duration of showers. In fact, I usually shower twice a week, more if necessary but also less in winter and during weekends and vacations.

I exclusively wear heavy cotton sweatpants (so comfy!) with soft hoodies, and blue jeans and sweaters. I am aware that such garments made of cotton are not environment friendly to make. For this reason I mainly purchase unwashed dark blue denim jeans (the making of which consumed less water) rather than stone washed jeans. Moreover the way they naturally fade and become well-shaped and worn on my body make them unique(so cool!). I have a limited number of clothes: 2 blue cotton sweatpants and hoodies (one for home and sleeping, the other for sport training)   and 3 pairs of jeans and 3 sweaters,1  jean overall and a blue work coverall. In my ecological approach, I also decided to space out their washing. I must admit that they go for a wash only when looking really dirty and stinky. No problem for that since I have no washer in my small studio flat! As an average, I wash those pants and sweaters only after wearing them 3-5 months each. Although they get a strong smell of me, they do not seem to be too messy and stinky. I must admit that I do not keep them all so longer for environmental reasons only but also because I love the way they look and smell, the smoothness of their fabric and the history they keep and bring. I was even wondering if I could simply keep them all unwashed… Should save much water and energy!

Of course, I tried to convince my parents however they are quite reluctant to reduce showers and laundry frequency. My little sister (16 y/o), who is a low washer too, was keen to keep her jeans, sweaters and sweatpants bottoms unwashed for longer time and even for not washing them at all. Actually she has to deal with our mother and she got used to wash them every other month (and less frequently when possible). My cousins also accepted to decrease showers and laundry frequency to the strictly necessary as did some of my friends as well. We frequently meet wearing dirty jeans and if it is true that we noticed that their smell is more intense after 3 months, nobody found that disgusting. Jeans and sweatpants smell like our bodies though they tend to concentrate smell. Somebody told us that (when meeting in a room) it smelled like dirty linen, but this was not really bothering.

From this viewpoint, I mainly got derogatory remarks from my mother who stated that my unwashed clothes smell bad but most of those who were asked about found that the smell was rather “strange”, “human” or “not bad at all” and defined it as “intense and mysterious”. Presently, one of my jeans is turning yellow-grey on the thigh, the butt and the pockets edges with a strong smell of dirty linen and the fabric has got a “cold” touch which means (I fear) that time has come to wash it. My two pairs of sweatpants have also reached the “go to wash” point however I hesitate to put them to the laundry because they are too comfy (I do not mention my blue work coveralls which are filthy as any coverall must be ;). Any comment will help me to take the decision ;). Anyway, I keep to the low washing style and try to communicate about that in order to popularize these laundry habits because it is cool and it contributes to reduce our impact on the environment.

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Stämmer tidskrifter överens med vardagen?

Photo: Lisa Vanovitch

Som en del av min forskning har jag läst 5 populära tidskrifter från 80-talet fram till nu, och analyserat deras innehåll. Nu undrar jag på vilka sätt tidskrifter överensstämmer med vardagen.  För att ta reda på detta ska jag genomföra fokusgrupper där vi kommer att läsa och diskutera olika tidningsartiklar och jämföra dem med vår verklighet.

Fokusgrupperna genomförs i mars 2017. Jag kommer att sätta samman grupper om mellan 5 och 7 personer och intervjuerna kommer att pågå i 1,5 timmar inklusive fika på sociologiska institutionen, Paradisgatan 5, Lund. Deltagarna får en ICA kupong (värd 50 kr) som ett litet tack. Låter du spännande? Anmäl dig till vilken grupp samt vilka tider som passar dig via doodle (tänk på att du kan anmäla dig till båda ‘kvinna’ och/eller ‘alla’):

Alla 18-35

Alla 36+

Kvinnor 18-35

Kvinnor 36+

Män 18-35

Män 36+

Välkommen att kontakta mig på eller 0722805145.

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My word for 2017?  Solidarity.

In the last years compassion has been slowly cannibalising solidarity. Sympathy numbed by terrorism clickbait: children dead on Turkish beaches, children buried under Alleppoean rubble, Yemeni children bleeding to death. It’s becoming impossible to feel any sort of connection with this plethora of foreign images. My life is far removed, the only dead person I’ve ever seen is my grandfather. I can’t relate. I feel no solidarity. I feel only pity.

“Distant suffering” is how Boltanski (1999) refers to this outcome of exploitation and repression in places seemingly far away from the “West”. Solidarity is hard to muster even if people suffering in these (not-so-far-away) places are actually similar to us. They have parents, siblings, friends, lovers. They study, work, think, write blogs, probably binge on chocolate just like me. But there is some difference, some removal and I can’t see myself in their position. The suffering is distant. I can’t relate. I feel no solidarity. I feel only pity.

Even local suffering is hard to relate to. I am becoming more used to walking briskly past the beggars at Lund Central Station. They seem so different to me. I don’t need to offer them a cup of coffee or to use my washing machine. They are distant. Used to their suffering. I feel no solidarity. I feel only pity.

Pity is one way of dealing with undeserved privileged. Washing one’s hand with donations to the deserving poor. Recreating social stratification. Not dealing with the need to create a society where everyone has equal worth, an Australian ‘fair-go’. A society where there are no poor, deserving or otherwise. If you feel pity you are a good person, there is no urgency to tackle our in-egalitarian system. Compassion exonerating the need for solidarity.

Solidarity is not a moral obligation of the privileged to feel compassion for those in need. It’s the ability for people to feel each others’ feelings. Solidarity is empathy plus unity. To feel and then share: to be able to see from others’ perspective and create mutually beneficial outcomes. Understanding those with more privileged is just as important as understanding those with less. How else are we going to deal with the Trump palava in the coming years?

How else are we going to deal with the coming climate change challenges? As a researcher I’m interested in the social repercussions of climate impacts. Unlike predicting responses from natural systems, there is a risk with social science that the way in which we discuss social responses to climate change may contribute to self-fulfilling prophecies. The sea will rise, regardless of the political discussion, but the social response is very much tied to dominant discourse. If we don’t feel solidarity with different forms of humanity, the way we talk about responding to climate challenges will exclude certain ways of being, and lead to oppression of groups who are not like researchers.

This is happening already. Up to 50,000 people in Sweden are paperless. Without claim to legal employment they work on the black market, often under poor conditions. To handle this, parliament is currently discussing lowering legal working conditions. The people deciding seem unable to imagine themselves in the precarious position, and so use pity, and economic forces, rather than solidarity to frame the discussion. However, if we do widen gaps between working conditions there is a clear danger that this will only legitimise inequalities, and not provide a better life for all. Not create a society where everyone has equal worth. We need solidarity to create rules that care about everyone having the best chance to contribute.

We need solidarity to make us care about positive global conditions for everyone. To create a world where we all have equal opportunity to thrive. And equal opportunity to contribute to improving the human experience. As evolutionary biologist Gould (1979) put very nicely ‘I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.’ More solidarity will provide better chances for everyone to make an Einsteinean contribution. Let’s have more solidarity in 2017.

Solidaritet Värmer – a Swedish solidarity initiative from Kontrapunkt.

Moments of solidarity

Having dinner with a new friend at Open Table Melbourne

Hanging out at Kontrapunkt Malmö

Reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini


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Field notes from being human

I want to have a conversation with someone, not the social script. One can only ever interact with the script. We are inaccessible. The script is always already there. The script subsumes.

Talk about how busy you are.

Tell people how things affect you. Defend identity with life. Attack identities that jeopardise yours. Border security. Create identity in difference with the other. Substitue solidarity with shallow compassion. Criticize the other at every opportunity. In the name of trying to understand difference. Scripted.

Family. Partners, friends: scriptulous social value.

Struggles. Fighting diseases. How I overcame… struggle with cancer, being bullied at school, the death of a loved one. Follow the script.

Eating. Relationship with food. Weird masquerading as normal. Normal masquerading as normal. Normal is relative.

Sport. Run a marathon. Individualisation of wellbeing.

Things: computers, apartments, not having things, I just want a nice suit and that’s enough for me.  ‘This old thing? It’s just from H&M I don’t usually shop there but they are good for basics’ Yes that’s flattering, how to get a bikini body? Wear a bikini. Resistance.


Beautiful people. Credible.

Religion. Free shot.

Critiquing somnambulist following of socially acceptable scripts is still following scripts.

Wake up! Haraway’s trickster.

Standing on the shoulders of giants. Scripts as short cuts for greater reflexivity. As long as you discard the raft once you cross the river.

Truth? Resonance? Reflexivity? Scripted.

Materiality – scripted? Light – wave particle duality. Materiality of light. Realism constructivism. Particles are heterogeneous. Post humanities ontology: the world and ourselves, we are co-construing us with semiotics. Relational ontology. Quasi objects. Quasi subject positions. Long live Barad.

(Pre)scripted materiality – asymmetry of access to the physical through layers of discourse. Laclau’s discourse is more ontological than relational ontology, materiality is part of discourse (thank you Liv). Hegemony is produced in different contexts. Power aspect lost in post-humanities research – the focus on ontology and using the right language, the right scripts = self-referencing analysis. We are operating in a scripted vacuum. Who said that? Did I?


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Virtual gated communities

A friend of mine, Devrim, who grew up in Turkey, posted his mind dump during the aftermath of the recent failed coup. His thoughts struck me as spot on in describing our silo societies and tendencies to form our own virtual reality bubbles. I am posting him word for provocative word.

DevrimMy thoughts on the popular claim that the military coup attempt was fake; it was staged by the Turkish government to design suitable conditions for a political system change:

Chomsky once commented that in this so called information age we started to create – more than ever – political islands, where we use social media as primary information source and we rely on Twitter and Facebook feeds constituted by people whose opinions are similar to us. We do not want to be disturbed by the alien thoughts; we pursue harmonic havens. Contemporary news websites are also organized in a similar manner, it is becoming rare to see conflicting columnists/opinion builders within the same organizational frame. This is sure a part of bigger trend; we witness more and more examples of increasingly homogenous gated-communities; physically, socially, politically and virtually. These partial and multiple realities make a direct impact on how we ‘read’, interpret and experience major social and political events.

Yesterday I read in the social media that many people in Turkey claim it was the French State who was the mastermind behind the recent Nice attack, because they needed stronger reasons to expel all ‘migrant’ communities from the country. Similarly many claimed in Turkey that the government was behind the ISIS attack in Istanbul because they wanted to rule a country based on fear. The ‘alternative’ readings and interpretations of events, in our time, got a bolder ‘conspiracy’ tone, I argue, as a result of proliferated mentioned opinion and life-style enclaves. Some like to talk about Illuminati and New World Order, while some believe it is the Jews who rule the world, some truly argue without direct consent of White House nothing major thing can ever happen on Earth. However, for instance, when one reads cables revealed by Wikileaks couple of years ago, what is exposed was lame and mundane everyday politicians/state officers who were trying to make sense of what is going on around them, often enfolded beyond their control, understanding and their interference capability. The coin side of overstating the organizational and mental capacity of power-holders is, it encourages pacifism while fueling pessimism. Continuously depicting a world inspired by dystopias of fictions like Matrix and 1984 clearly blocks a possible imagination of a social change because it attributes supra-human abilities to the organizational organs of inequality.

When it comes to ‘readings’ of the unfortunate and horrible course of events last night, I recognize a similar pattern. Many claimed that, even in the ‘western’ mainstream media, it was a staged coup by the government, referred as mistakenly self-coup, to pave the way for Erdogan to fasten his grip on the country. Some others reminded that without USA’s consent no coup could be realized in Turkey so it was the White House who ordered the coup. Others believed it was UK who was orchestrated the turmoil. I consider we humans are much more mundane and we function in a much more colorless manner than what all these circulated meta-readings and conspiracy theories imply. I cannot imagine that Erdogan has Star Wars’ emperor-like organizational capacity to design and perform complex ‘scenes’ with bombings and fighting jets involved resulted in around 200 dead including members of the governing political party. I actually believe no-ever government has ever had such power. As far as I know from my history readings such things happened only in smaller scales under military governments for manipulation the public opinion. Actually we have had multiple similar failed military coup attempts in Turkey’s history, the most famous ones happened in 20 February 1962, led by Talat Aydemir, and in 9 March 1971, Cemal Madanoglu was the protagonist. They carried many common qualities with the attempt yesterday with seemingly amateur organization and their limited ground capacity. So it is not for the first time a clique in the military tried to take the control of the rest of the army to settle their rule in the country and eventually failed. In addition when we examine the high rank army officers detained today and last night, we see no ideological link to the government in any possible way. There is no solid evidence backing such claim, apart from pro-coup soldiers disorganization, limited capacity and Erdogan’s arrogance.

The official claim from the government side is coup attempters belonged to outlawed Gulenist movement, but no evidence has yet been presented on this issue either. I personally have a difficult time believing that Fetullah Gulen followers had that much power in the army. Nevertheless, the army in Turkey has long believed that they are the real owners of the land and it is their duty to interfere if politicians fail to defend some core Kemalist values, such as laicism, westernisation and nationalism. In other words the Turkish army has a specific institutional history augmented with repetitious practices. At the height of his 14 year-old rule, Erdogan has never suffered such a bad reputation in the ‘western’ world as today, and pro-coup soldiers might have thought that they could therefore enjoy ‘international’ support as was partly the case with Sisi in Egypt. One common thing among some of the high ranking commanders detained today is that they were reportedly expected to be retired this summer; it might to some extend explain the premature condition of the coup as well as its timing.

Luckily the coup was not successful this time, just like the majority of coup attempts in the relatively short history of Turkey. However it is obvious that Erdogan and the current government are the ‘winners’ of the night, they played the major role, with the help of their supporters and the police, in defending parliamentary democracy – as much Turkey has claim to it – against military rule. It is very likely that they will tighten their rule as an outcome, just like many commentators claim. I think, it would have been much better if opposition (both secularists and pro-Kurdish) was also protesting intensively last night against the attempted coup; so they could also claim a share from the democratic ‘victory’ and could hold a stronger position against future authoritarianization of the government.

At a time when instability has become the transnational norm, wars are tearing down existing social orders and people’s lives, unjust global order pushes war-survivors to richer countries to claim their share from the global wealth, organizations such as EU and USA are increasingly leaning towards xenophobia, isolation and mass manic-aggressive paranoia, the last thing we needed in Turkey was a military coup. Albeit the near future looks still dark.

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