Patrick Noble’ Books

For new posts (& old) click on “Archives” to the right

Patrick is the author of a number of books, which are available from both best & worst bookshops, or from the author.  The archive to the right will hold new posts of his writing.  His day job is that of farmer.  http://www.bryncocyn.wordpress.com

Towards the Convivial Economy was published by the Smokehouse Press in March 2017

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It is available from the author, or publisher for £7.50 plus postage & packing, or of course, from any good bookshop.

Patrick’s other books include –

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2014)

A Potent Nostalgia (2013)

The Commons of Soil (2011)

The Lost Coefficient of Time (2011)

Romantic Economics (2010)

Notes from the Old Blair and Bush (2008)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was published by Smokehouse Press in November 2014

“Could we dream of a better world? Do we have the imagination to link happiness to places, people closely to our planet? These are epic times, and Patrick Noble sets out how to explore the routes to conviviality we may have forgotten we desire. Creating greener economies will take remarkable effort. Here, then, are some brave solutions.”  Professor Jules Pretty

“Patrick Noble’s writings preserve the organic movement’s authentic radical spirit” – Dr Philip Conford, author of The Development of the Organic Network.

From the author – 350 pages, £8.50 plus postage & packing

Contact onfo@bryncocynorganic.co.uk

Here’s a paypal link – https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=SLUE2BSRZ4VXG

Or from Smokehouse Press –  http://www.smokehousepress.co.uk/patrick.htm

Review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. by Dr Philip Conford, courtesy of the Organic Grower – journal of The Organic Growers’ Alliance –

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The Good Life or the Ballot? Both, you say? I say the Good Life First, the Ballot Second.

We have reached a pivotal moment. I think we can be certain that governments and other powers, such as corporations and their promotional arms, such as the BBC, are set on destruction. The powers have made no appropriate attempts to act on climate change, or on the current ecological catastrophe. It is plain that those in power think climate change is not real – rather it is a bee in the bonnet of just enough of the electorate to make it politically worth the posture of a response. Since the first world climate summit in 1990 carbon dioxide emissions have risen steadily, so that by 2017 they were 60% higher than when nations first pledged to act. Argument within governing systems is without hope of being heard, or even vaguely understood.
But there is hope. It is (as it has always been) in living the good life. Though such a course may fail, until it does so, it remains a source of happiness. It is now the only productive course we have to mitigate the worst of climate change. By all means speak to the powers – you never know – and this writer is frequently wrong – but without rapid and then hopefully fashionable personal change, there’s not a realistic hope in hell…
If political engagement means that we become distracted from the problems of our own lives, then that engagement will be more destructive than productive. To consider that social change comes more from hierarchical instruction than personal consideration denies laws of physics. Crowds, electorates, gangs, or societies are made up of the physics of people – one by one. A crowd is five people, thirty people, a thousand people with those specific weights, energies and substances. But the crowd; the electorate; the corporation; the government are also imagined – they are ideas in our singular heads. The politically-engaged proposition (political influence is more powerful than the good life) suggests that to live well, we lobby an abstract authority to permit us to live how we choose and then, because consensus denies our request, we can continue to live how we do not choose. Oh democracy, we say with a sigh – it’s bad, but not as bad as the alternatives. We propose that we are not moral beings – that we are a part of the moral consent of the crowd. We misname that permission as liberality – we’d do better to accept it as permissiveness.
And so, climate change “authorities” jet to so many climate conferences, that they may be among the most climate-destructive groups on Earth. Likewise, I may vote green, while taking holiday flights. I say that I lobby for the greater good, and propose that my small footprint is insignificant relative to the power of a green cross in the ballot. Meanwhile political consensus (the amoral permission) is an idea. It does not exist. People exist. One by one, we have physics, ecological connections, unique dreams and also, of course – common dependencies. We are responsible for all of those things. Our own causes generate unique effects, which only we can understand. No greater good will remedy them. The greater good cannot see them. We walk in personally-imprinted landscapes.
People cause climate change. Governments cannot do so. Governments are communally accepted ideas (accepted by coercion, violence, inheritance, fearful prudence, or the ballot). Ideas have not the physics to cause anything.
Living the good life in that landscape is the greatest contribution to the greater good, since the greater good is the physical, moral and spiritual addition of our unique experience and contributory action to all the other unique experiences, which together make the whole. Culture is what I do. Of course, I converse with others about my effects. It is cellular. I am both complete and incomplete. I am myself and my society and in the end my species. My species has evolved within groups – as a social species. Ours is a eusocial evolution. Even so, every experience which enters the commons of folk memory, or tradition has first entered the senses of an individual. No-one can experience birth, death, wind, sunshine and rain, but on their own. Yet my and all our yearnings are also to properly belong in family, friendship, neighbourhood, religion, tradition, memory…
Before it is too late, we must pay attention to our unique and lonely senses – to what we love and to what feeds us in taste, scent, sight, sound… We must be attentive. Those things will be modified by our inattention; by our distracted attention to more powerful notions of economic governance. Climate is warming by my actions. The casino does not register it. If we listen we’ll hear the change. Already, at the dawn chorus, some small birds have ceased to sing.
We inherited a living culture. Our lives are the culture. We, not governments, pass that culture to our children and beyond.
The household remains as the model for the economy as a whole. The economy is a collective of households. It is true that the casino of rent, currency manipulation, usury, trade in shares and bonds and so on is not related to the household. But the casino is not an economy. It is a casino. Modern economists – even most green economists live strategically inside that casino to manipulate it for the better. They are misguided. The following are also disconnected from the casino – pillaged soils, pillaged ecologies, pillaged resources – that is: capital is not connected to the casino. But pillaged soil, ecology and resource and also diminishing infrastructure capital are very directly and sensually connected to the household – and to me. They are my responsibility. Their cause is my diminished responsibility.
Listen! – The household is ingenious and fierce and is rooted in family and folk tradition. It is limited to the restraints of wage, local resources and neighbourly opinion and is a dynamo for the pursuit of what we may call the most appropriate distribution of happiness. Isn’t that what we want for an economy?
Yet, modern European and American households have abandoned those restraints for what they see as the larger and progressive world of the governing casino. Even so, modern households are responsible for cascading ecologies and climate change. They provide the physics to the casino’s abstraction. The abstraction can fix nothing and it causes nothing – doughnut economics, or true cost accounting fix nothing. Only by fixing the household – the physical acts of the sensual, sensitive household, can we can fix ecology and economy. Only through the household do we have a landscape which is worth the governing. But here’s the thing – who does not want to come home? We are prodigal sons and daughters unravelling threads to our various and anxious ways home.
Don’t forget that restraints give shape and meaning – borders can be drawn to be beautiful and true. We are placed within them. They trace the possible forms of home.
Rationally (abstractly) climate change is already beyond technological recall and settled cultures are set on almost certain unsettlement. The most populated cities and communities are coastal communities, which must soon migrate to higher land. Nearly all central government offices will be beneath the tide. Yet those government offices are (almost universally) making no attempt to guide their dependent populations to act on climate change.
The miracle could be the household.
Most of us agree that we are part of a collective madness and so attempt to manipulate and reason within the madness – by petition, at the ballot and by consumer-choices. I disagree. Why don’t we school ourselves to be sane? The governing psychosis oversees a changing physical landscape of people and resources. The physics is where we should be. Physics reacts to our tools and teaches us how to belong. People change the physics. Corporations? – they are a part of the governing psychosis and they are also abstract. Has anyone seen a corporation? – they don’t exist beyond an idea and our consent to it. It’s late – but there may still be time to bail out and descend to solid ground.
***
The casino (which we pretend is an economy) will collapse – unless beforehand, ecology, or climate change wreck the culture as a whole. Money flow and the power of what we do – that is energy flow, are directly related. Perhaps 95% of that energy is from fossil fuels. Even so, current debt-created and quantitively-eased money-flow has exceeded even that vast fossilised under-pinning. In a sense fossil fuels had suspended time and negated laws of nature – we dreamed that history had ended. It had not. Instead, history accumulated invisibly in cultural effects, which were quietly sequestered beyond our collective imagination. Most in positions of power and their academic and journalistic sycophants, or critics remain inside that collective. That collective imagination will not be changed. We can reason within its borders, but reason from the real world of sunshine and rain will be treated as nonsense. Inside the casino, it does not rain. Meanwhile, nothing can replace fossil fuels. They came and money-flow vastly expanded. Now they must go and money-flow must dramatically shrink, to within limits of natural physics again. Collapse is inevitable. When the casino collapses, companies fold, unemployment soars, tax revenues crash and infrastructures of social security, health-care, building and road maintenance and so on, crumble. The casino will bring down the real economy.
Once again, households can be lifeboats in the wreckage.
After the crash, what will change? Looking around at fields, crops, houses, roads, bridges, harbours… – nothing – nothing at all. The ideas will have changed – corporate structures, currency values, the complacency or anger of the crowd, the excitement or despair of the stock market… All that is physical will remain, while all that was polemical, coercive, psychotic, or despotic will be in chaos. The same food will be on the shelves, but we may have no wage to buy it. The same crop will grow in my field, but my tractor may be short of fuel to harvest it. The ecological means to the needs of an economy will remain unchanged. The sun will shine and the rain will fall. Trade’s people will have retained their skills. Though money-flow will have lost its fossil power, still, all that is essential will remain – food, shelter, good conversation, people gathering to sing at the piano… Yet, they are a tiny percentage of what we used to buy, just yesterday, as we pillaged the Earth. We can be happy – rich in good things – without asking for more.
If I’ve lost my wage – still, all that is best of what a wage could buy will remain. My friends, family, neighbours, colleagues… will remain. All will be unchanged, but for the money, the governance and the high-pitched shrieking of share-holders and currency manipulators.
That is why, rather than pushing for a more benign casino, which registers natural capital, eco-system services and so on, we should divest from the casino and step by step build a real economy of people and resources, which can emerge alive from beneath the coming rubble. I don’t mean baked bean tins and bunkers. I mean that we shop with businesses which are not financed by the amoral stock market, but simply by me, the purchaser. A community of trade’s people, proper shops, village/corner shops and stores, street markets and farmers’ markets, pubs, libraries, theatres and concert halls, meeting houses, churches, temples mosques, synagogues, council buildings… can be revived in the transition town manner- perhaps with a protective local currency and perhaps via locally issued (non-tradeable) shares, or bonds. If I don’t find what I need by my local pound, then that lack is revealed and it may be to someone’s advantage to learn the missing trade (perhaps myself). Step by step we can divest from the garments of the casino (are we sure it had any clothes?) and put on what we can find in our terrain.
***
Am I fixated on aviation? – Yes – because it is both the least necessary and the most destructive of all our activities. Everyone, everywhere and forever could stop flying with very little effect on their lives. We’ve no need to wait, while we lobby for carbon taxes, air traffic duty, or against runway expansion. Family connections? – jet-propelled connections will impoverish the lives of those we’d connect with. Love? Filial bonds? It’s an easy equation to understand. Trans-oceanic family duties contain a very near betrayal of still deeper bonds. Air freight? – It’s frivolous and unnecessary. Those conferences (business, political, scientific)? – Nothing results without all parties carefully writing and reading the documents – why not begin and end with documents? Air-born climate authorities are not speakers, or performers, but writers, readers, data gatherers and statisticians. Politicians, scientists and business people would do better to turn away from the posturing mirror – they’d achieve more and have more time to do so. Travellers? – Why travel without travel? Why not discover cultures and terrains in between?
Many, or perhaps most of our destructive activities can only be changed in concert with others, but aviation is marvellously different – we can remove it on an instant.
Electric aviation is a fantasy. We’ll have trouble generating enough for more pressing needs, such as domestic heating.
With regards to government – had we had proper governance, then all aviation (apart from the pleasurable hang glider) would long ago have been made illegal. For all their earnest lobbying, those who’d propose this, or that reduction in aviation, will still be ridiculed as lunatic fringe.
Aviation came with oil and must go with oil. The super market, the family car, suburbia and so on are the same, but more problematic in ascending degrees. Many can abandon the super market on an instant, but others may have no alternatives nearby (until they are created). A family car, tied-in to work and pleasure is as destructive as occasional aviation. However, ditching the family car is a more difficult proposition – it is tied to existing infrastructures – such as suburbia, lack of public transport and inconvenient work places. We can only change those things in concert with others and so conversation of some sort (by no means, party political) becomes necessary. Earth has not the capacity to power the electric family car. Wind, hydro and solar generated electricity is the answer to many needs, but within absolute limits. The car is redundant and must be made so by personal change, assisted by communal change.
Suburbia? – Well clearly, that’s an epic adventure – re-centring into new (or revived) towns and villages, accompanied by mass migration to coast and countryside and then re-cultivation of new hinterlands into farms and market gardens.
With regards to climate change, another powerful, easy and instant effect is to switch our general electricity supplier to a green supplier – making sure the source is wind, hydro, or solar – some use biomass, which is utterly destructive. We can also decide on an instant to farm and garden organically. If we are fortunate to have land, we can plant trees on an instant – and we can let our existing hedges grow up – to flower, berry, nut and photosynthesise! For these important things, we need no advice from authority and need lobby no-one politically.
Other good personal activities such as re-using, re-cycling, refusing plastic packaging and so on have a tiny beneficial climatic impact relative to the large impact of refusing to fly, ditching the family car and switching to a green electricity supplier (or contributing to a community energy project). Nevertheless, they do have very important ecological consequences and they are an essential part of the good life.
How do we find a way of life which is not powered by fossil fuels and which sits happily inside its ecology? For me, it is firstly, a society organised so that both work and pleasure are walking, or cycling distance from anyone’s door. That is a society, which has removed the need for personal transport. It is also a more egalitarian society. The wealthy, by the sheer weight of their energy-bloated behaviours and purchases, cause the bulk of climate change, resource depletion, ecological destruction and social depravation. A common ethics, followed by common law may control what is anti-social wealth. So political engagement is a part – but I maintain the secondary part of firstly discovering what is the good life and then living it. That will be a process of trial and error – new truths are discovered by new errors. How do we know where to begin? Why not start with the question – what is happiness? Only my reader can know the answer.
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Christmas Message from the Convivial Economy

The modern casino, which politicians and journalists, mistakenly call an economy is not held together by laws of physics – of scarcity and surplus –of laws of nature – or abstractly, by the wishes and ethics of citizen. It is held up by the religious fervour (the blind faith) of its punters. When they doubt just a little, then spending and investments slow. But when the cult’s followers lose faith in sufficient numbers, the whole cult and all its properties crumble. That resources are mined to extinction; that ecologies on which all economies depend are cascading; that climate change is accelerating beyond human recall – has no influence on the casino. All transactions – debt-created capital; usury; currency speculation; trade in shares and bonds are sequestered within the sanctity of its beautiful walls and are pledged at the beautiful altar. Outside, the evils of the world fall at a sordid 32 ft per sec sq and are nasty, brutish, cold, wet and short.

 

Democratically-elected cult followers have formed governments in every developed economy. The cult crosses political boundaries – both left and right are followers. All newspaper, radio and television stations promote the vision. Most of our friends are devotees. Self-professed independent BBC openly mocks all other views. Democracy and the cult are commonly regarded as synonyms – just as democracy and consumer choice are regarded as one.

 

Of course, the preferred measure of cult well-being is GDP – a measure of spending. As climate change parches soils, withers crops, and starves people – or conversely, floods coastal cities and destroys lives, crops and livelihoods, so spending will increase. When my house floods, I spend money to repair it – or pay rising insurance premiums. Funeral expenses, lawyer’s and doctor’s bills – all marvellously add to GDP. So, as assets shrink, cult well-being expands. This madness passes without note.

 

Now the tragedy is (to those who are pinned to the Earth at 32ft per sec sq) that collapsing casinos bring real gravitational economies with them. Companies fold, unemployment soars, tax revenues crash and spending on health and hard infrastructures crumble.

 

A dramatic reduction in spending is needed for economies to sit balanced within the ecologies and resources which must supply them. But such reduction will crash the casino – national currencies, shares and bonds will appropriately fall like a tower of playing cards.

 

So, arguing for de-growth of the casino is the wrong argument. Improving impossible systems can only prolong the impossible. People who still walk on real soil, pinned down by laws of nature, must carry on walking and appeal for others to join them. Life beneath a collapsing casino will not be pleasant, but we must all endure it. We can only endure if we have built an alternative economy which can emerge alive from beneath the rubble. Social connections, independent skills, local currencies and a common story-telling of the lives we’d like to lead – the binding of a mutual and beneficent purpose, will be enough to lead us through a certain amount of chaos. We could be happy.

 

The spending power of Christmas-celebrating nations means that these few days are the most destructive few days in both time and space on our shared planet. A Christmas message of hope and new birth at the darkest time of year is beautiful, true, ancient and perennial – but Christmas celebrations today are – fossil-fuelled travel and the manufacture of useless ephemera – utterly destructive and utterly heartless. They symbolise, not rebirth – nor innocence in a manger, but greed, narcissism and a decision to end future human cultures for a few moments of our own. Grandparents will cross the globe to visit grandchildren adding two or three tonnes weight of CO.2 to a single cross on the shoulder of a grandchild’s future. They’ll not carry it.

 

Those binary symbols are metaphors for the casino (which we currently call an economy) and the real economy of people, soil and resources. I pray that all of us, following a simple, quiet star, will soon set out to discover that new beginning.

 

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The Citizen, the Middle Class and the Government

So wildly has humanity as a species been blown off her evolutionary course towards a deliberately chosen destruction, that all we can hope is, since our understanding has been so commonly wide of the mark, that today will prove no different – that there may come a chink of surprising natural redemption through our own gathering clouds.
Economic activity has currently affected at least a projected two degrees of global warming – and increasing floods, droughts and storms. Two degrees may, or may not be beyond a tipping point, but unless we utterly change how we live today, then three degrees and accelerating to utter chaos, are inevitable. Nevertheless, today’s consensus remains – that we live today as if there is no tomorrow – that tomorrow is an abstraction, while today is real. We have elected as a society, that our children will take care of tomorrow – our brilliant children. Climate change is an idea. The day to day problems of my life are real.
Now, while GDP is a useless measure of economic health, it remains an excellent measure of economic destruction – the faster we spend – the faster we remove the ground from beneath our feet – as spending increases, assets diminish – as spending continues, so suicidal anthropogenic CO.2 swells in the atmosphere. What’s more, though a two percent annual increase in GDP means a two percent increase in trashed assets, it also means, more or less, a two percent increase in CO.2 emissions – which, in turn, means a step closer to throwing away all statistics as climate balances topple chaotically.
Of course, that climate balance is a life balance. An annual two percent rise of trashed asset only makes mathematical sense when we consider assets as lifeless gases and minerals with isolated and measurable properties. When we consider the ecologies on which all economies utterly depend, then again, we throw away all statistics as species and relationships between species cascade. Man is just one species within that cascade.
That relationship is a beautiful thing – a lacework of immeasurable wonders. It is a source, not only of economic well-being, but of happiness. It could stimulate a renaissance of economic activity – and a hubbub of exited conversation as economies attempt, by both trial and error, to integrate with their ecologies. Fossil fuelled societies had become divorced from Earth. Now that we know our folly, we must suit for a new relationship – without the mirrors and with far, far fewer demands. All that we take must now be returned – biomass for biomass. The web of connections recedes into complexity beyond our limited perceptions, yet when the horizontal sun shines through, as through those spider webs in the early morning grass – invisible at mid-day, all we can say is holy!
Tragically, NGOs, corporations and governments turn away from that relationship towards mitigating our currently bad behaviours. We lower vehicle emissions, green new public spaces, reduce pesticide use, encourage recycling, garden organically, discourage plastic packaging and create markets for renewable energy. But although these activities are benign, they also do real moral harm – they suggest that we can continue our way of life, but in a nicer, less destructive way. They distract from the real problem, which is that our current way of life (however green) is utterly self-destructive. They provide the illusion of transition, but in truth, provide the opposite – a justification for a slightly more benign status quo – in which there is no transition – and in which we stay exactly where we began.
Those benign activities suggest that what is deeply immoral (destruction of future cultures for the temporal comforts of our own) is the opposite – that we are living a personally-considerate and moral life.
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We’ve become so accustomed to bungled “top down” solutions to economic and social problems; to those qualified “experts” arriving on site, that we’ve forgotten that all effective solutions have been “bottom up” – from where a tool actually touches its materials. That forgetfulness means that we do those nice things, such as recycling and refusing plastic bags, while petitioning governments and corporations to contribute what we imagine is their – that is, the important, organisational bit. We believe governments and corporations are the primal tool-makers. Our belief in democracy suggests that a badly-behaved government will (if we lobby hard enough) be replaced at the next ballot by a better one. So, we recycle, sign petitions and continue as before.
Our faith in “top down” may derive from a communal faith in the power of hard-fought democracy – even consumer-choice is a personally-empowered vote for top-down provisions – so that responsive corporations act rather like responsive, democratically-elected governments. We elect, by our purchases what will soon appear on the shelves. Even though our chosen political party is not in government, we say we have done our bit – democracy chose against us, but democracy is important. Similarly, even though as much of our chosen produce as we’d like, is not on the shelves, some is and we’ll continue, by our market signals (as in the ballot), to change all that.
It would be easy to characterise our passivity as positivity – as optimism. In truth it is as black and tragically-negative as any event in history. I go too far? Slightly – there is little deliberate evil done, but nevertheless unprecedented evil is done by that passivity.
Consider this – the passivity is justified by a deeply suppressed lie. We deny that governments and corporations are ideas – that they have no physical qualities. We pretend that they powerfully shape our lives and that we and our personal decisions are insignificant. We deny that cultural and economic changes are affected by people shaping their own lives and work-places – that skill and ingenuity are there, at the bottom – not at the top. We deny that the changing forms of culture are actually the shaping hands and dreams of ordinary people.
And here’s a larger thing – we deny what we do in common – a pub chorus shares the same song – individuals find the pitch, discover harmonies and gain the joy of the whole.
I am not insignificant. I am the physics of the culture.
People exist, but connected by ideas of governance, justice and behavioural codes. That is why we become shocked by the sudden appearance of a governing personality (or dictatorship), whose hubris ignores those codes – Henry VIII, Tony Blair, David Cameron, Donald Trump… All solutions to our current predicament – that is finding ways to live within our means – must be applied by ourselves. Parliament is supposed to be a collection of voices gathered from the constituencies – bringing news of religions, philosophies, pleasures, trade and the trades – to together devise some collective actions (taxation and infrastructure spending), to remedy injustices and to maintain all the colours of a national identity. Currently there is no news from the constituencies, because the constituencies are waiting with rusting tools for never-to-be-released directions from central government.
Slowly and everywhere shops and workshops are boarded-up as corporate sea water washes murkily into the emptying spaces. So, the message to government is what remains – the corporate message and so, in turn, the consumerist message. Our members of parliament are not sent to Westminster with post bags of constituents’ actions and thoughts on trade and the trades; with news of species loss in our regions, or the cultural methods, specific to our regions, which we’ve devised to mitigate climate change. And there are no governmental directions, because government, being but an idea in the heads of citizens, has not the means to affect anything without the physical contribution of those citizens. Economic reactions to changing soils, weathers and resources are frozen in a tableau – a two-dimensional silhouette of the doctrine of “our proud democracy”. So, we have the ballot, consumer right and consumer choice. We’ve desolate town and village centres, where people once gathered for work, trade, study, experimentation, companionship and pleasure. We’ve fields abandoned by the intelligences of real people and occupied instead by a cynical tide of a handful of corporate, patented drug pushers. And we’ve a binding moral idea of overall governance – a governance which does not exist. Imagine the moral landscape as a physical one, in which morally abandoned ground is the low ground and hills are independent thought. Imagine the corporate brine (or low life) slopping wherever gravity pulls it. Look to the hill tops and how far dispersed. What has to be done, can only be done through the dykes, sluices and filters of the moral imaginations of citizens. Yet, dry land is shrinking, with little defence against the turgid waters
This is a nightmare that needs the genius of Charles Dickens as narrator – not Kafka – too narcissistic; too personal; too narrow… George Elliot would do it pretty well, or E M Forster. We need humanity – sticking to English language (like this essay), Shakespeare’s; Chaucer’s words are like bequeathed commons of soil, rock, green growth and moral light in the swirling obscurity of swamp fever. Today, we are as Dickens’s mud larks at the low tide of the dead waters of Victorian Thames. Naming flower, tree, birdsong – actually we need Everyman – you and me. We need to gather at the pub piano – at the community hydro project – at the skills of joiner, cabinet maker, weaver, knitter, farmer, brewer, baker… gathering at the river…
We need to assert commons – commons are those immutable islands in the stream of economic growth and technological progress. What is that progress? It has been accelerating use of fossil fuels. It expands today, by mining tomorrow. It will be the retreat – the rapid deceleration of burning things and the rapid shrinkage of GDP. Then, the progress will be in the diffident resettlement of the always part-mysterious ecologies of which any economy is one small part. An untouched and sacred tomorrow will be the central purpose of progress – that is – the happiness of children. Of course, shrinking GDP will mean collapsing money, share and bond markets – we can endure those things only by the solid physics of renewed earthly connections and by connecting with each other. That also means the collapse of the rent-gathering middle class. The middle class goes as the money goes.
Are we brave? If not, then no bravery will be brave enough to face three degrees of climate warming and rising. That is the current trajectory. IPCC (the world’s middle class) has chosen that trajectory.
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An Open Letter to the Soil Association

After decades of wasted time, when the Soil Association could have been a respected voice, calling on citizens to live within their ecological means, we’ve finally come to a cliff edge. We’ve but three or four years remaining to change how we live and change utterly – or to continue as we are and be changed both as a culture, and as individuals, by catastrophic flood, drought and storm. Those effects are apparent now, but will swell during just a few decades to unbearable proportions.
I’ve been speaking of this for so long, you may say that the stylus on my original (you say, laughably antique) gramophone is stuck in the groove. That groove has remained as a perennial truth and so – yes, I’m stuck.
Self-congratulatory voices proclaim (for instance) 100% electricity generation for Scotland by Scottish wind on a windy day, or the spread of solar panels in California, where the sun always shines, but this is meaningless – it was always going to be easy to generate current electricity demand by true renewables (wind, solar, hydro), but heat, transport and industrial/agricultural machinery? – Heat will be a struggle -the rest are out of reach. No renewable source has that much energy. The only solution is to abandon those demands and to find other ways to live.
Carbon capture and storage, wild hopes of future green technologies and equally-wild claims of accumulated carbon by a variety of farmed crops (the worst being grassland) all combine so that we do nothing to change our lives. Meanwhile, climate change is caused by how we live.
Here are some things that can no longer be – suburbia, super markets and retail parks, the family car, aviation (yes, all aviation), large container shipping and related road transport, fossil-powered field systems… My list is not really disputed by anyone who does the sums – it’s just that most hang on to the comfort of CCS and also to a fantasy of more beneficial land-use (mass forestation) and to geo-engineering.
Here is something I wrote in reply to a friend who regularly and helpfully comments on my writing –
Your understanding of permaculture is as deep – in love, gratitude and loyalty, as mine has been of organic systems – both formed in receptive, searching youth. Perhaps we both did find moral, ancestral codes to which we remain obliged – even though those ancestral voices were themselves very young! Of course, in maturity we can trace permaculture and organic tendencies in almost every period of history. When you were drinking at the good well of permaculture, “organic” voices had already become corrupted, opportunistic, consumeristic, branded, disconnected and shallow. I still drank (I thought) at the original spring. That accounts for my reactionary tendency. The leaders of the Soil Association have trampled carelessly over my holy ground – over my soul.
I reckon, permaculture can easily embrace the organic architecture without change – that is, an economic system which integrates with its ecological effects, by imitating the behaviours of organisms. That includes, not only rules of return – biomass for biomass, but an attempted (that is active) understanding, moral, spiritual, practical and scientific, of a natural world integrated with an economic world. The primal organic spring, like the permaculture spring, irrigated thoughts on trade and the trades and on households, as much as on farming systems. Such a spring is a perennial source of delights.
That such a source of delights was spurned, by the organic movement itself is a wound, which has never healed in me. To integrate an economy into an ecology is a difficult thing – with much leakage and cumbersome mismatching. We are fortunate that natural systems are so forgiving and that we are given such a wide leeway for mistakes. As a farmer/grower, I think the best I can aim for is a near enough balance – and so a permaculture. I’m reliant on a little leeway (principally sunshine). Recently there have been outrageous claims of farming systems, which accumulate carbon – and keep on accumulating it – the worst example being the grassland alchemists. Both permaculture and organic movements are polluted with them.
Yes. In disturbing natural systems, we cannot but be disruptive. It is fortunate that good growing techniques can aim for a near enough balance. We cannot be more ambitious than that. (It is a high ambition) Actually, where we fall short, the beneficent linear, non-cyclic contribution of sunlight may contribute to fill a little of our cyclic deficit. All good farming land in UK is cleared, natural woodland (or reclaimed coastal/wet lands) and only as undisturbed (unburnt) woodland can we consider it to be a net carbon sink. Our justification for disruption is the growing of food – we cannot add carbon sequestration to the list of our indulgencies. Similarly, our justification for disturbing the forest is for timber, but there again we must temper our sequestration dispensation.
Those sequestration claims are made to delay acceptance of this truth –
The ways we’ve chosen, or have been coerced to live are causing climate change, (& cascading ecologies & pillaged resources). The only method to restore a climatic balance is to change how we live. That is the only solution – not just a part of the package. We must search for ways to live within our ecological means.
Searching for ways to green how we currently live is futile. Our demands are too great. Searching for ways to green the supermarket is futile. Its demands are also too great. Though every super market is clad in solar panels, and though all the food sold is organically-grown, yet still – its demands will be too great. Pursuing the greening of those demands leads to three degrees of warming and soon. Those vast organic acres, which supply the super market, will draw down carbon into their soils only to the optimum point, where they stabilise after years of substance abuse. They cannot balance out centralised distribution (including internet purchases), suburbia, commuter culture, the family car, aviation, the manufacture of useless consumer goods…
The Soil Association should be side by side with the transition town, permaculture and agroecology movements in transition towards ways in which communities can live within their means. That is – as agricultures. That is also towards re-centred suburbia, and revived village and town centres, in which work and pleasure are walking distance from anyone’s door. Those infrastructures are decayed, but still present – awaiting occupation – proper shops and trades, appropriately-sized factories and workshops, market squares and also the pleasures – library, church, temple, mosque, concert hall, theatre, pub, café… That is, if you remember, the original and convivial organic dream of the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s. To appropriately-sized factories, we may add appropriately- sized fields.
For the past twenty years the Soil Association has been actively working against her own dream – chasing an ephemeral realism that super markets are (to quote her leaders) here to stay.
Well, if they are here to stay, then it will be to witness their own destruction – that is the end of settled human cultures and the overwhelming of every coastal city on Earth within decades.
We have seen at COP23 that governments of developed economies (fixated on economic growth) are incapable of assisting the changes necessary to remain within two degrees of warming (1.5 degrees are now beyond reach). As Kevin Anderson says, “Twenty-seven years after the first IPCC report, emissions this year (2017) will be 60% higher than in 1990” (economic growth has considerably outstripped the growth of wind turbines and solar panels) The future is entirely in the hands of civil society. Those organisations, such as the Soil Association, which were created by that civil society, may return to the places where they were born. I propose that, as those prodigals return, the richness (and innocence) of their natal soils should prove both a relief and a pleasure to them. After years of inappropriate anxiety, they may grow and breathe properly at last – as they (and nature) first intended.
Patrick Noble

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Good Ordinary Time

All true, beautiful, good and useful works of art – both (so-called) high art and folk art, become worthy of passing between generations only when the artist expresses – not a vision of herself, but of common and timeless humanity. Once and future humanity is expressed in a common voice, which the accumulating generations discern, understand and pass on. In that regard the simplest nursery rhyme is often more potent – more alive – than the latest time-laden, time-frozen, fame-endowing arts-prize winner. Fame gives identity. Identity trivialises art.
The finest artistry is shamanic – a personality, with complex name and possessions sheds both by rite of passage to become simple humankind – Everyman. In that state, the pen begins to flow…
What is good ordinary time? It is lived experience. Proper artistry discovers and becomes not a personality but the species herself – in a renewed and of course, utterly contemporary sensuality. Inherited and bequeathed moral patterns both undermine and transcend the tyranny of time – the brutality of Iron Age chariot, offshore bank account and other pernicious and hopefully – soon to be ridiculous ephemera. The central form of every work of art is its moral form. Even in a simple chair – function, elegance and the growth of the wood which supplied the tree combine as a moral story – of what is fitting – of how our lives can happily endure.
What is extra-ordinary time? It is unsustainable experience. It is in contemporary licence to live as others cannot – in both time and space – by our descendants and by our neighbours. It ignores what is fitting in time and space. It defies the common humanity of ancestors and descendants. It says to viewers, listeners and readers of a contemporary piece, bring yourself – interpret as you choose – I have no binding moral – both past and future are dead.
Today, living in extra-ordinary time, we’ve decided – we’ve consciously chosen – to end settled future human times, because of the time-pressing importance of grasping some pleasurable and extra-ordinary time of our own. That is a simple truth. Move with the times, we say – this is the twenty first century. Actually, what we say is, “Forget what you see, or, at any rate, don’t look.”
Again, where is good ordinary time? In the palpable evidence of climate change – in the hole in the Earth, from which I’ve taken my materials – in the outraged cry of timeless Everyman at the sensual evidence of the cascading ecologies of living time – in all that is lovely about the sights, sounds and scents of an ordinary progression of days, nights and seasons.
Though it’s man-made, climate change is not ephemeral. It lives in deep and recurring stories of hubris and nemesis; of forbidden fruit; of bells tolling from sunken towers… Oh Everyman!
Here is Kevin Anderson speaking of his constant brushes with extra-ordinary time –
“There is a very clear understanding amongst virtually all of the academics I engage with, whether directly on projects or simply through discussions following seminars etc. that “growth” is sacrosanct. Economics trumps physics – and given, from a funding and career perspective, it is unwise to suggest that our scientific conclusions beg questions of the ‘immutable economic logic’ of modern society, we find ways of reconciling the two. Not by fiddling data but typically by adopting expedient assumptions – from the ubiquitous use of BECCS and very early global peaks in emissions through to using increasingly low probabilities of meeting 2°C and recourse to magical build rates and technical utopias. Perhaps most disturbing of all – the more we reluctantly subscribe to such expediency the more we begin to forget we’re doing so reluctantly, and the more the rhetoric becomes the only ‘reality’ – very Orwellian!” – Rambling thoughts on 1.5 Celsius, economic growth and academic freedom, Kevin Anderson
Yes – the more we reluctantly subscribe to such expediency the more we begin to forget we’re doing so reluctantly, and the more the rhetoric becomes the only ‘reality’ – with no ear for the passage of the ordinary and proper time which we witness in the mutations of space, or for the knowledge, as we receive those surprises, that we too are Everyman, who can search for the good, true, beautiful and useful.
The more we reluctantly subscribe to the expediency that gross domestic product is more imperative than the collapsing ecosystems on which all production depends – so the more we subscribe to the notion that though economic collapse is inevitable – it is in the future – and the future is abstract – and that when the future arrives, the future (our own impoverished children) will take care of it.
It’s an old tragedy that economic well-being, measured by spending (GDP) will blossom as war, flood, storm, drought and fire remove capital assets – including the lives of citizens. Costs of rescue operations, funeral and hospital services and a surge of rebuilding bring a resurgence of spending. Actually, in all developed economies, the same is happening now and un-noted. Assets shrink, while spending increases. No one measures assets, or the natural ground eroding beneath our feet.
We can measure the effect in the atmosphere – as spending increases – biomass and biodiversity shrink – and atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, just as GDP swells in the bank. GDP is exactly proportional to increasing atmospheric CO.2 – and to decreasing terrestrial assets – the inhaling breath of the Earth. GDP measures unhappiness.
The roll of good ordinary artistry is to sing the passages of good ordinary time which brings before us the current and passing mutations of currently-diminishing space. It can sing the species – their songs, scents and sights and it can sing of once and future homo sapiens. If an artist finds nuance in the self-permitted pleasures of a holiday flight balanced by the refreshment it brings to her artistry – or similarly a climate scientist – her flight to a climate conferences, balanced against her self-importance as a messenger – she argues against the species and against Everyman. She lives with the property (land, status and intellectual) narcissi – whose re-assurance is not terrestrial evidence, but the mirror. The mirror shows no children; no ecology; no economy – only the justified identity, behind a legal enclosure.
To homo sapiens, the species, and to the good ordinary artistry that speaks for her, that identity is no less than the devil. I am devilish. My friends and I move between good and evil. I regularly do wrong. There is no nuance in that. It cannot be balanced by a contrary right. We can forgive, but It is done. At night I sit and listen to the song of Everyman. Where beauty chimes with truth the tears come – or if we remain in mind and supress the heart – we shake with wild laughter. Open both and we laugh through the tears.
For a dramatist, today is the most epic of all human times – which is why no dramatist can face it. But what of Everyman? What of good ordinary time? Good ordinary footsteps will find good ordinary ground. All are capable of them. There could be a fashion for it. The sensual rewards are immense, for instance, that blackbird singing in that apple tree and then, you and I dear friends, sitting together with some good ordinary wine. Narcissus, the muse of nearly all contemporary art, is lost in labyrinthine images of himself and explorations of so-called profound fears that ordinary gusts of wind may, at any time, disintegrate the reflection.
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More on Status Enclosure and Climate Change

Much of environmental and also left-wing conversation has been led into a class war. We must educate the uneducated – enlighten the darkened – civilize the barbarian.
Yet that whole landscape (& social-scape) is a delusion. Actually, the so-called, educated middle-class is the largest contributor to both climate change and inequality in both wealth and opportunity. The equation is direct – the more we spend – the more we consume – the more we cause climate change. And then again – the more we spend – the less another can spend – and so the more we become the barbarian who undermines the culture.
The first step to mitigate both resource depletion and climate change is to shrink our needs. The first step towards a more egalitarian society, in which all can happily participate, is also to shrink our needs. The proper question to ask in that process is, what is happiness? Let’s re-educate ourselves by that question. For most of us, at home, there’s so much to change and change utterly, that shaking the lapels of climate change deniers is a waste of fast-diminishing time.
What is happiness? Even the most defensive must know that it is not in property, or achievement – it is in what we see, smell, taste, touch hear… – in what we do. And which of those sensory things most evokes happiness? Presence of family, friends, food, scents, sights and sounds of nature…? None of those things should be denied to anyone. Of course, inequality can remove the possibility of even such simple things.
It’s well to remember that our behaviour today is not yet palpable in effect. Inertia in ocean, ice cap and in the swell of ecological vibrations means that all is worse than we can currently sense. This year’s storms were built from last year’s consumption. Next year’s storms have already been created by what I did yesterday. Similarly, the warbler in the hedge who so delights me with his song, may be gone from the Earth in a season by the way I currently live – diminishing lovely complexity towards the lifelessness of mere elements. The balance of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been achieved by a massively complex, balancing and re-balancing of all living things.
It’s fair to say (physics says it) that our problem is not the climate change deniers, it is the self-satisfaction of the climate knowledgeable middle-class. The care, ingenuity, dexterity and complex responsiveness of the trades have been enclosed and boarded up – just like those boarded-up town centres – once the hub of a wider community of trades and husbandries. There is now no one to respond to the natural physics – the ecologies on which all economies depend and are a part. Community has become blind. As laws of physics and biology unfurl, there is no one of professional status to note them. If professional has come to indicate status enclosure, then anyone, who wishes for a pleasant tomorrow, must understand – today calls for the time of the working amateur – of those who love – and who may eventually make a profession of it.
Today, the world’s leaders are gathered again to discuss measures to communally mitigate climate change. That is, the world’s middle classes – civil servants, politicians and climate scientists. In spite of regular gatherings over the years, since 1990 carbon emissions have continued to rise and are still rising. Nation states will present their targets and outcomes for what is convenient and simple – that is electricity generation – It will be easy to supply all current electricity needs with true renewable sources – for UK that means mostly wind – and it can be done quickly and cheaply. Future electricity demands (imagining current transport and heating needs supplied by electricity) are a different story. In short, those demands will not be met. Earth does not provide that much energy. At COP 23 a handful of true professionals will profess that to resolve impossible demands, we must remove those demands – that economies which consume too much must shrink their consumption. But that will not be discussed at a government level and that is why carbon dioxide emissions will continue to rise.
Behind the lucrative enclosures, the title of professional has come to imply – one who is discrete, taciturn, guarded… I hope that new amatory professionals from every cast and class will begin to sing without restraint – to profess their common human souls. There’s a commonwealth to reclaim and fences to grub up – both a part of the pursuit of happiness. Living on less has been the central pursuit of just about every religion, or philosophy since human cultures grew complex. It could become fashionable – if we remove that fixed gaze on our properties, we can watch the world expand.
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HOW DESTRUCTIVE IS THE MIDDLE CLASS? – STATUS ENCLOSURE (and the voice of Edgar McGregor)

Firstly, I’ve no wish to define people by accidents of birth and then condemn them for the effects of those accidents – by accent, dress, or other filial habits. Whichever class we’ve been born into will remain as our original soil. Parenthood, love, loyalty and some behavioural codes, remain on that sacred ground. There’s nothing we can do about our entry into the world, or about our remaining gratitude for it. However, as adults (if we accept that rite of passage) we must look about at the wider world – our connections to and our effects within it.
I’d like you to consider that the current middle class is a defended enclosure by those whose income is largely composed of rent. Perhaps as powerful as land enclosure, I ask you to contemplate a modern enclosure – status property. I leave aside the historical middle class – the yeoman, guildsman, bourgeoisie… I think they may have passed away.
The negative effects of land enclosure are copiously documented by well-known economic philosophers, dating back at least as far as the Reformation (Thomas More). The negative effects of what I’ve chosen to call, status enclosure, as far as I can tell, are not documented at all.
Status enclosure is the means to a monopoly of services. Lawyer, dentist, GP, architect and so on have gained right of enclosure to impose a large rent for their very existence – not for what their labour may provide. Rates such as £250, or £300 per hour are commonly demanded from those who must seek their services. Rent payers may be earning less than £10 per hour. I propose that right for rent has created a new class division – so much so that the middle-class has become a class enclosure. It has accumulated wealth by demanding rent from those who have fast become poorer. The equation is direct. That a whole class has grown rich by gathering rents from another is a plainly shaky foundation for a stable future. It is now evident that rent payers have been bled so dry, that professionals have become anxious at the dry river beds of their once-seemingly perennial spring. The middle-class has bitten too hard on the hand that feeds it.
Another and highly significant element of both status property and land property is the right to behave as we choose behind the fence – home as castle – trespassers will be prosecuted – my qualifications speak for themselves – in the sanctity of the home… Enclosure defines a right to irresponsibility, whereas commons (now lost) had defined rights to responsibility. That right to responsibility provided a place in larger society and a self-respect. Commons, which once maintained both personal dignity and social well-being, (the common good) have become almost entirely enclosed into other peoples’ properties (both land and status). Loss of place and self-regard has fermented an ill-defined yearning which, in turn, has penned the following tragedy, containing spun characters such as Mr Immigrant, Mr Wastrel and so on. A more productive view may be comic (tragedies and comedies share identical plots).
Yes, it’s both tragic and comic that the super-rich (who own most newspapers and radio/television stations) have managed to stir an inevitable class resentment away from reason and justice and into a right-wing revolt. That is apparent in the Trump and extreme right wing Conservative Party victories and in Brexit. The middle class – often Blairite, or American Democratic (but still neoliberal) have been outraged by the folly of it all! The so-called working class has revolted. Yet, in truth, how can ordinary people not revolt? – They have no more space to breathe.
The comedy lies in a historically recurring banana skin – monarchy’s appeals to “the people” against the machinations of the barons. The modern comedy is evident in that same plot and so it seems that brutal history continues. New monarchies have emerged. Equally, they appeal to the people against a wily middle-class of civil servants, politicians, professional people and law makers. The oligarch, or billionaire is an individual – flesh and blood – Look – you and I are the same, says oligarch to crowd. Yes, says crowd to oligarch, we are the same. The laughter is of the mind. The same plot, felt with the heart, may easily break it.
Royalty (not the preserved and mostly harmless museum people) lives and the people love it. That’s the Daily Mail’s front page.
But recent disturbances originate with neither oligarch nor people. The oligarch has been opportunistic. They emerge from those nice status enclosures. Though oligarch stirs the people to pull down the fence, the problem began with the essential amorality of the middle-class. (decadence)
Those status enclosures had fenced out the responsibilities of the trades and they’d simultaneously fenced-off, or boarded-up the eyes and ears of the trades. Our boarded-up town centre is a metaphor for everything. There is no one to notice that resources have been pillaged and that climate change has probably accelerated beyond human recall. All we can hope, is for less destruction. Liberal minded subscribers to Friends of the Earth will still regularly jet to holiday and work destinations. They will mock climate change deniers, while merrily causing climate change. Behind the enclosure we can live a fiction that behind other enclosures appropriate specialists are beavering away at preventing climate change. They are not.
Here is seventeen-year-old Edgar McGregor with the truth about us all:
Dear Children of Planet Earth,
Driving, to me, is one of the coolest things I have ever done. It isn’t the power, it isn’t the responsibility, and it isn’t the mobility that has captivated my love. When I roll down the windows and I feel the wind on my face, it feels as if I am free from my everyday worries. The wind allows me, in addition to being free, to be hopeful for change, and, it is almost as if I feel like I can breathe once again. I feel as I am leaving something behind that I am disappointed in, as I am chasing after the sunset at a wicked pace. No other entity has a power on my mind like that. As I look in the rearview mirror, however, I see what I was disappointed in. I see adults. I see them fighting, bickering, name-calling, blaming, destroying, framing and terrorizing. I see nasty political fights, angry mobs, and corrupt leaders. I see divided countries, violence and war. Among those terrible things I see something that I treasure dearly. I see something I cannot go forward without. I see Earth. I then realize, on my adventure to success with a face full of freeing winds, I have left behind my home planet. In the same cage as those fighting, bickering, name-calling, blaming, destroying, framing and terrorizing adults is our very own Earth. They are using it to their advantage, and they are overusing its resources. It is the object that gives them life, and they have total disregard for it. It is almost as if they do not care whatsoever about it.

Now, I used to love meteorology, the study of weather, with a passion. The wind was part of that deal, but so were the rains, thunderstorms, clouds, hurricanes, tornadoes, oceans, life and everything you can think of. As the years progressed, I watched as the weather started to change. I watched as my beaches collected trash. I watched as winters disappeared and summers lengthened. I watched as the ice caps melted, and hurricane after hurricane made landfall. I watched as wildfires devoured my beautiful mountains, while storms eroded my beaches. Maybe I should stop saying “my”….. These mountains and beaches, oceans and lands, jungles and deserts are not mine, but rather, they are ours. They are for the old, the young and they are for the unborn. It is our duty to protect them from the fighting, bickering, name-calling, blaming, destroying, framing and terrorizing adults. We must stand up to those who want to profit off of our planet.

Fellow teenagers and kids, it is our turn to solve this issue. Clearly, our parents cannot handle the one job they were given. We, the smartest species on the planet, failed at protecting our very own young. Any animal can do that, so why couldn’t they? We, however, refuse to do the same to our future children. If we fail, it is game over. We are the children Carl Sagan told them to protect the Earth for, and somehow, they told him no. They told him their bank accounts, vacations, and avocados were more important. They may have been too shy or scared to make this transition to a cleaner world, but we are not. Whether or not they will help us, support us, or care, we will fix this issue. We will set the first example for future worlds to look up to, to remind themselves that they too can unite their people to fix a common issue. We will take the dangerous roads. We will make the difficult decisions. We will make the necessary sacrifices. We will take the biggest step for mankind, and we will do all of that in the name of our own kids. They are our top priority. If our parents do not believe that you and I can change the world forever, all they have to do is just watch us.
Edgar McGregor’s rallying cry is to common humanity – beyond class and beyond enclosure. Europeans and Americans are distracted by a class war of their own making. Had liberal, middle-class values prevailed and elected a Hilary Clinton, or an Ed Milliband, then we’d still be blindly hurtling towards utterly degraded soils and catastrophic climate change. Nevertheless, it has become convenient to blame Trump, Brexit, or Theresa May and forget that our own trajectory was identical. The illusion created by status enclosure is that someone of status is in charge – we say, at £250 per hour it’s a gold-plated certainty. (Well, 25 to 1) But there is no one.

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