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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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What gives you hope?

Uploaded: Dec 8, 2019
Early this week I was feeling a little hopeless. I like to play a game when we are driving in other parts of the state (1), counting the number of EVs to see how much progress we are making towards California’s goal of five million on the road by 2030. There are around 15 million cars registered in California, so that means about 1 of every 3 cars needs to be an EV in 10 years. If you’re on 101 around here, progress looks good -- EVs abound. But if you go just over the bay to 880, there is a big difference. It’s maybe 1 in 20. And over the Thanksgiving holiday I was in San Diego (soccer, anyone?), and my little car-counting game was just depressing. Not only were there virtually no EVs, there were few hybrids (I count those when I get desperate), and the cars were generally massive. And this is in California, where our vehicle standards are among the most progressive and our temperate climate is conducive to EVs. What does it look like in other parts of the US? (2)

Then after I got home, I ran into a friend who had just returned from a family trip to the east coast over Thanksgiving and was looking forward to their planned trip to South America over Christmas break. This is a friend who loves nature and spending time outdoors, but travels long distances frequently, almost compulsively, and is constantly thinking about the next trip. Do any of us need to take so many long-distance vacations each year? If well-educated people who love the outdoors and surely understand the climate situation are still not connecting the dots between their values and their actions, how will we ever turn around our emissions?

On top of this, seasonal shopping has been in high gear, with Buy More Friday (in stores) followed by Buy More Monday (online), while everywhere big box stores are packed to the rafters with displays encouraging yet more consumption. How can the average person possibly make planet-first choices in this kind of environment?

But then …

Things happen all the time these days to remind me of the progress we are making and of the growing number of people who are determined to make a difference. Here are a few of the things that happened this week to renew my inspiration.

- I watched a Stanford lecture. Our local university sponsors an enormous amount of climate work in and across many of its departments. Stanford makes much of this information freely available, and faculty collaborate extensively with industry to better validate their work and get meaningful findings to market. Yes, it is their job to do this, but I am impressed with the scope and urgency of their commitment. This week I watched one of their recorded Energy Seminars, and I got a boost being reminded of the very capable people working on reducing our energy emissions.

- I learned of a truly bipartisan effort. Americans of all persuasions are concerned about climate change, yet there is an unfortunate partisan overlay on many of the efforts. So I was intrigued to read this week about a new bipartisan initiative, World War Zero, whose goal is to drive broad popular consensus that addressing climate change is an urgent priority. “The Future is Watching”. Indeed. (3)

- I saw people making changes. Every week I hear about neighbors taking action to reduce their emissions, whether it’s to arrange a carpool, price a heat pump, or eat more vegetarian meals. This week I learned of someone installing an EV charger, another opting for slower online delivery, and another who only just now turned on her heat. Every one of these actions is meaningful, and my heart does a little happy dance for each one.

- I heard from an ambitious environmental leader. Along those same lines of “each of us makes a difference,” I heard Michael Brune talk this week about the Sierra Club’s goals for 2020 (he is Executive Director), and he was crystal clear that addressing climate change “is not an armchair exercise”. The club has seen a groundswell of support this year in terms of funds and volunteers, and they are “going all in” to reduce and eliminate our use of fossil fuels and to notch big environmental wins in the all-important 2020 elections. I loved his determination and ambition, and his insistence that “We expect our members to be active”. Each of us has a part to play.

- I got an email from Toyota. What, you might be asking? Well, I wrote them a while ago. I own a Toyota, and I shared my disappointment that they advocate removing California’s ability to set its own fuel economy standards. I got an email from them one morning this week explaining their stance. It wasn’t the contents that I found inspiring. Rather, it was the fact that enough people wrote to them that they felt the need to draft and send a letter explaining their position. I love that people are speaking up. These fuel standards are one of the most important tools we have for combating climate change. (4)

It can be easy to focus on the negative because there is a lot of bad news. But the positive is where the action is, and is ultimately what is going to make the biggest difference. What has encouraged you this week?

Notes and References

1. In case you are wondering, no, I did not play this game before I got an EV :) It’s fun, though, and we all benefit from EVs on the road, even if we’re not driving them.

2. Below is a chart from EVAdoption that answers most of those questions. We need a sustained 23% annual growth rate in EV registrations through 2030 to hit 5 million vehicles. I’d guess that requires a strong used EV market, more affordable new EVs, and charging infrastructure in a much broader variety of residences, businesses, and public spaces. While the trend so far is good (and it continues through 2019 with around 60% growth over 2018), keeping it going will be a different kind of challenge.



3. The Atlantic has an interview with John Kerry about World War Zero.

4. There are many news articles on the car industry’s response to the administration’s weakening of our fuel standards. Here is one. In case you are curious, the main reason Toyota cited in their email was concern that California’s proposal would increase the cost of vehicles, which could in turn slow the rate of vehicle turnover (to cleaner vehicles). I’ve put a copy of Toyota’s email here if you want to read it.

Current Climate Data (October 2019)

Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

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Comments

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 9:26 am

What gives me hope is the knowledge that so many changes are being made by people in so many countries of the world to do their part in making a global difference, both by government legislation and by individuals doing things like coastal cleanups, walking or biking just a little more to make their driving habits just a little less.

What takes away my hope is stupidity.

1. On a recent trip through SFO to fly internationally, buying Duty Free goods means you have to buy a plastic bag to be sealed until you get on your plane. They have to charge you for the Duty Free bag for local bag laws and they have to seal it for federal laws. On a similar note, SFO will no longer sell you a plastic bottle of water beyond security but they will sell you a glass bottle to take on the plane with you. I have no idea what the airlines think of that idea. Yet, you can buy a plastic bottle of soda to take on the plane! Both of these ideas are stupid and do nothing to help anything.

2. No matter what we do in the West, the countries who are causing the biggest problems - China, India, Brazil, are in fact increasing their emissions. All the protesting by individuals telling their own governments to do something to save the world for the future generations are not doing anything to stop the polluting countries and more efforts should be done to make these countries reduce their emissions. Otherwise, what we do here is pointless - not that we should stop, but it does make our efforts moot.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Stupidity?, a resident of College Terrace,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 12:45 pm

Stupidity? is a registered user.

What gives me hope? Climate-friendly governors (and policies) in many of our states.

I don't understand the comment above. Stupidity? What kind? International flights are ... not stupid? And how can our emissions efforts be moot? We are the second biggest polluter today, the largest of all time by far, our emissions went up even more in 2018, and we are withdrawn from the Paris agreement. Yet the commenter thinks what we do is pointless? It has no direct effect on overall emissions, and we have no impact or influence whatsoever on what others are doing?


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 8, 2019 at 4:18 pm

I think it is more stupid to read my comments and take a couple of points completely out of context.

I never said international travel is stupid, I did say that some of the efforts at SFO are stupid as you would have seen if you had read my post properly.

I never said our emissions efforts are moot or that what we do is pointless, only that compared to countries that do nothing our efforts are not going to balance what emissions are coming from elsewhere.

Not reading or not listening is a big problem when it comes to comprehension.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Alta Mesa Bound, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 6:52 am

> What gives you hope?

^^^ Knowing that I will be deceased before the effects of climate change & Millennial + Generation Y mentalities fully impact & control the global universe.

As an aging Baby Boomer (68) I recall the World War 1 generation as our grandparents & the World War 2/Korean War generations as our parents.

Today Baby Boomers represent the 'old farts' from a demographic standpoint with the GenXers now in their late 40s & early 50s.

Being 60 is not the 'new 40' & America now has a higher mortality rate (78) than other advanced/modern countries (i.e. France & Japan at around 82+).

Perhaps Roger Daltrey said it best 52 years ago..."Hope I die before I get old."

In any event, hoping to sell my originally-priced $950K home in CP for $10M+ & moving to Montana or Hawaii.

The newbies can have Palo Alto all to their own.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 10:09 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@AltaMesaBound: Oh geez, does "I'll be dead" really count as an answer to what gives you hope?? I'd love to hear more about your take on the mentalities of the younger generations, and what you think is needed mentality-wise (is that a word?) to address climate change.

Re the earlier comments, yes!, global actions and state policies are great reasons for hope. I'm not as sure that stupidity is at the root of much of our problems. I certainly think we have an educational challenge, but I expect that corporate greed and/or individual or national insecurity are more important factors that will lead to problems.

I'd encourage all of us to be careful about the pot calling the kettle black when it comes to pointing fingers at other countries. As one commenter points out, we are the second largest producer of greenhouse gases today, and the largest over time by a long shot. (All the global warming we are seeing is caused more by us than by any other country.) I'd rather we lead by example than play a deadly game of chicken :(


 +   2 people like this
Posted by eileen , a resident of another community,
on Dec 9, 2019 at 1:19 pm

Like AltaMesa Bound, I am an old fart, but I am not pessimistic. What gives me hope? The younger generation who don't seem to take "no" or "we can't" for an answer - they give me hope, despite a member of said generation saying I was wrong. I hope to see an outpouring of youth as in Hong Kong when climate change really hits home. It will and I don't think it will be too late.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Resident , a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Dec 10, 2019 at 2:59 pm

How did you get to San Diego?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 10, 2019 at 4:01 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

We flew. More context below, if you are interested.

I had hoped to carpool. It is much cheaper (especially since otherwise you have to rent a car and pay to park it when there), it doesn’t take that much longer, and it’s a great way to bring along our scholarship players (as well as our bag of balls, our coach would add). I successfully arranged a carpool a year or two ago, and it was fun except for some minor carsickness. But this year, since it was over Thanksgiving, I think a lot of people were traveling with family and/or had time constraints that precluded carpooling there and back. So we flew. Emissions-wise, for two of us, it was about the same as driving, though added players would have made it a win.

FWIW, we are not a “no fly” family. But we do have a (not very big) flight budget, so this kind of flying bugs me. I would much rather choose where we go. One day I’ll do a lively post on what soccer has become these days...

There are many, many ways to fly less that don’t involve going cold turkey. I’ll talk about that more in 2020. Did you have thoughts you wanted to share on that? Some people have more flexibility than others. Our family has a good amount (it's relatively easy for us to fly less).


 +   3 people like this
Posted by MP Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Dec 11, 2019 at 9:12 pm

What gives me hope? 2016 was hopefully the last election where the Boomers control the outcome. As they slowly die off, we will have a chance to actually focus on solutions [Ed note: removed antagonistic generalizations about Boomers]


 +  Like this comment
Posted by AllTrendsGoAgainstHope, a resident of another community,
on Dec 12, 2019 at 12:10 pm

We all have to continue to live our lives and uphold our responsibilities to society even as it is torn apart to prevent the elites at the top from being questioned or overthrown, but the trends I see are all in the wrong direction. To continue to participate in a game that we are all losing we need these continual pep-talks so that things do not disintegrate completely ... at least until the elites have solid future plans. I see most hope out there as false hope or offered to sell something for profit.

Climate change ... wrong direction.
Food production ... wrong direction.
Environmental Protections ... wrong direction.
Social Networking ... being looked at but continuing in the wrong direction.
Health Care ... wrong direction
Education ... wrong direction

I could go on and on.
I'd like to hear one thing from commenters than they thing is significantly heading in the right direction?

As a math major the only possible hope I see is if the exponential effect of technologies can help make our industrial and agricultural and management methods cleaner and more efficient. But even though some technologies are already there the social, economic and political systems often keep them from being used. An uncomfortable example of this might be nuclear power. The nature of the choices we have, and the cost-benefit analyses we use, with a citizenry that does not understand business or science divides us and leads to conflict and inequality.

Until I start to see a few markers moving in the right direction, and some good reasons from others to break out the hope, I'll keep my hope at bay.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 12, 2019 at 1:13 pm

What gives me hope? Tuning out all the negative coverage by doomsayers pushing hysteria in "news" and "social media" ... political, economic, religious, "social justice", etc. When the news "business" has to be 24/7 they have to come up with something to fill the dead time. The more negative and inflammatory the story, the better. Hence if you are a news junky, the whole world appears to be going to hell. Manage what you can control, enjoy your network of real life friends and family and think about how comfortable and long you would have lived if born 200+ years ago. Stay away from faceless facebook, twitter, instagram...

Also, the comfort of knowing that while climate may change, some things never change ... each generation thinks it is better, morally superior, and smarter than those who came before them. Given that each succeeding generation is superior, human progress is a given.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Tartuffe, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Dec 12, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Tartuffe is a registered user.

Ed note: "Tartuffe" refers to a hypocrite (me, in this case)

> but travels long distances frequently, almost compulsively, and is constantly thinking about the next trip...are still not connecting the dots between their values and their actions, how will we ever turn around our emissions?

You got an EV. Assuming you only charge it on fully renewable energy, your total carbon footprint from that EV car is about 1/3 of a conventional car. Lithium isn't easy to mine, transport, process ... and then recycle by shipping them all the way back to China.

You are talking, "almost compulsively," about your EV ... but "still not connecting the dots between" your values and actions. Why not take public transportation or bike instead of foisting emissions and parading it as virtue?

Also, it's a really small town, I know the person. They almost never use their car at all, rain or shine which means they could fly around the world and still emit less carbon than a combustion car commuter, or assuming it's an electric car scrupulously never charged on non-renewable power, fly over 10000 miles per year.

I also assume you travel by air a great deal too and will not give that up. Maybe people are connecting the dots but realize that only technology will save us and neither you, your friend nor the not so huddled anymore masses of Asia are going to live lives of purity and virtue, except in our imaginations of self.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 12, 2019 at 4:16 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Hmm, that’s the second personal attack in this set of comments. I realized the comments on air travel could come across as judgmental, which I expect is what is behind this. Many of these changes are difficult and what is hard differs a lot between people. For example, I would have a very hard time, at least initially, living in a city, though it is arguably much less carbon-intensive. And I rarely take transit because it is so slow. I love all kinds of dairy. I’m sure I buy too many things. And I do fly some. The list goes on. While the personal attacks are going to come with the blog to a certain extent, I hope you can keep them to a minimum. We should all be aware that to most people around the world, and even to most in the US, we all live a very carbon-heavy lifestyle. Do we want to change that?

I think the comments about generational differences are really interesting. It’s funny that although older people were mainly responsible for electing Trump, they are also the group most in favor of impeachment, at least according to two recent polls. @Dan, I loved your comment as well on generational succession.

I also think the comments on technology are insightful. It does seem much easier to change technology than to change behavior. But how long does it take, what level of investment do we need, and should we put all our eggs in that basket? That’s a great topic for a future blog post.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Tartuffe, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Dec 12, 2019 at 5:44 pm

Tartuffe is a registered user.

Sorry, and I'm going to let this go, but it's easy to look out and not in, that's my peeve.

My comments and the phrasing of the article are judgmental. I care a lot about climate change, I do what I can w/o impinging on my fun. Go figure, I'm a hypocrite and so while I want to encourage others to do what they can, I'm not going to judge (that's a lie!), but I can't assume a high moral position from which to command.

What we really need are (wise) politicians and policy changes and funding/initiatives for technical solutions. So donate a LOT to encourage these, including donating time if you've got it. Take it from a hypocrite, but I do those things.

The rest is obvious from this exchange: we are both high on the distribution of awareness, concern, and action about climate change, but yet are not willing to actually do enough personally to fundamentally stop it. We're Palo Altoeans, so lots of skiing, travel, sending dozens of kids 1000 miles for a game or robotics meet, and maybe a second home somewhere. Give them up? Climate change will have to (and may) pry it from my warm, dead hands. But, that's the inclusive truth we start from. Sorry.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Tom, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Dec 12, 2019 at 7:52 pm

What gives me comfort is working on solutions. I've enjoyed transitioning to have mostly sustainability related hobbies and that gives me comfort. I've even made my regular hobbies more sustainable by biking to them. I like to see what progress I can make in reducing my footprint and yes I recognize it's still bigger than is sustainable. I notice my defects and my failings without dwelling on them. I figure "Hypocrisy is the first step toward real change". As someone still transitioning from fossil fuel usage to clean electric usage to power my luxurious lifestyle I empathize with folks just thinking about starting. I figure as a boomer, I've laid up some significant carbon legacy in the atmosphere from my past actions and now I'm at a life stage where I can try to lead by example and make the transition toward lower footprint solutions. Making that progress gives me comfort and satisfaction too.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Pangloss, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 12, 2019 at 8:56 pm

[Ed note: "Pangloss" refers to an unrealistic optimist (Tom, in this case)]


@Tom Lithium batteries are carbon expensive to make, especially since so many come from China manufactured (and recycled!) using coal based electricity. So, if you don't charge with renewable energy, you quite literally may be better off using oil or especially gas. Palo Alto uses clean energy, but once you drive your Tesla outside, you are at about the same level as a Prius after you charge.

I think in Menlo Park, you have to opt in to "Peninsula Clean Energy", not PG&E at least from what I read, I don't live there. Using dirty energy for lithium battery is a losing proposition -- they are dirty to make and then you lose 5-15% (double if very cold) when you store and then release dirty power.

I'm not saying it's bad to go electric. It's good, because once the electric economy is in place, we only have to clean up the sources. It's just not to pat ourselves on the back too soon. It looks like $100 a kilowatt-hour for batteries will be hit in 2025 which makes the upfront cost equivalent to ICE cars. By then, battery demand will have more than tripled and we may have to move to different battery tech since it's not clear where all the raw materials are going to come from. It's going to be interesting times.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 12, 2019 at 9:05 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Tom, @Tartuffe: Yes, exactly!! I think that when we start making changes, we naturally (and appropriately) do the easier things first. For our household, it was a no-brainer to get an EV (we had a very old car), to fly less (we are lousy travelers), and to eat less meat and more veggies (we weren’t that addicted to meat, though I’m still a lousy veggie cook). We are still working on some easy things (heat, water, solar). And of course policy-related work, like voting and donating. But we haven’t remotely contemplated the hard things (e.g., moving to a small apartment in a city with no car). Does that make us, and all of us in the “working on it” phase, hypocrites? I love @Tom’s suggestion that hypocrisy is the first step towards real change, except I’d say that it is the first step *of* real change. And I’d say it’s an awful long step. I hope everyone jumps in :) Hypocrisy for all! And even better if you can encourage others to do the same, though that is a tricky business!

@Pangloss -- I think the EV comparisons are better than you think. Here is a calculator you can try, though there are others depending on how various things are modeled (see here for more on the complexities). To answer your question, PCE is the default in Menlo Park, at 90% clean. The option is for 100% clean (ECO-100). Battery composition and lifecycle are a real challenge. The prices are plummeting, but it's pretty clear that the technology is not where we need it to be. But there is a lot of research, so I'm hopeful.

Ooh, great comments everyone.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by carsNburgers, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Dec 12, 2019 at 10:53 pm

Ed note: Comment removed due to frequent switching of names/identifiers on your posts. It's fine to re-post using a consistent name. Re EV emissions, see the longer writeup I shared. Re manufacturing lifecycle, I use a rule of thumb that I've seen that the EV lifecycle takes one year of driving to equate. YMMV. Please share references when you post.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Dec 13, 2019 at 2:37 am

25,000 geophysicists traveled to San Francisco this week to discuss climate change (among other things). Even Mike Bloomberg and Jerry Brown participated.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 13, 2019 at 7:02 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@musical, thanks for the pointer. I understand that there was a big virtual element to the conference, which is nice because so much information is online. You can find videos of some of the lectures here. The overall program is here. Please share if there is anything you find notable.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by burgersANDcars, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Dec 13, 2019 at 4:05 pm

I missed the post that the denier "carsNburgers" had before it was deleted.

But........

One thing about his identifier.... were it not for cars, I would have consumed a lot LESS burgers!!

;)


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 13, 2019 at 6:44 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

FWIW, I don't see that commenter (Tartuffe/Pangloss/carsNburgers) as a denier. He says he cares "a lot" and donates "a LOT" of time and money to the cause (esp policies and tech, both of which can have a lot of leverage), and I have no reason to doubt that. He is making a meaningful and sincere contribution. He just says that he doesn't take actions that will "impinge on (his) fun". Is that denial, or an expression of values, or an expression of what he thinks it will take to address climate change? He spells his "line" out more in his last paragraph, though his projecting that same line on others is not appropriate. He is not a troll, he took the time to express (sincerely, I believe) his approach, which I found others to have as well in the earlier personality survey.

Sometimes I think climate change is a lab experiment run by some ruthless Morality Professor on high. How do we define winning and losing? Who are the winners and losers? What is fair? Can we wealthy Americans / Palo Altans buy our way out of this? Should we? Could it even be the best thing for us to do? If so, at what price?

It's particularly interesting getting your kids' feedback, if you have any. I read that comment to my kid to get her take. I'd love to hear from some others. I would love even more for a teacher to assign it for an essay or something and report back. This is a rich vein.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Tartuffe, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Dec 16, 2019 at 3:21 pm

To spell it out, I am not a denier, I wrote specifically against denialism of the sort that many (most?) people who accept global warming do: Rationalize anything I do but I don't apply that same rationalism to others. People deny that they themselves also refuse to give up their own fun. I meant to be inclusive. I have yet to meet a single other person who does not defend their fun as necessity, even virtue, but it is they who are in denial.

This sort of reasoning goes like this:
"I traveled 6000 air miles this year because I have a carefully limited air travel allowance and needed to see family and had one splurge on name-it. But, you traveled 10000 miles this year, so clearly at a minimum 10000 - 6000 = 4000 miles of your travel was irrelevant, greedy and non-environmental."

Ah, but maybe the other person bikes everywhere and I don't because of [health, time, overcommitments and all-excuses]. But the truth is, we absoluely can bike everywhere rain or shine up to 60 miles per day if one adds an electric assist bike. We choose not to because it is not fun for us and so we exclude that from our moralizing.

In fact, everything that is not fun or convienient for us we exclude from our moral reasoning but will sacrifice like hell on some other area that we deep down feel is NOT so important. I claim by long observation of human nature that this is almost universal. It is just our "fun" that differs and seen often as not "fun" but "practical, pragmatic necessity" whereas what someone else refuses to limit is seen as "luxury, irrelevant" and something they should cut back on.

Then I make a final step and claim that while it is good an moral to consider and minimize activities that are peripheral to your core fun, I know you(s) and I will not limit our fun much, so we better create tech and policy fixes or we are indeed doomed.


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