9 thoughts on “Victory for conservation of Woodlark Island, Papua New Guinea

  1. PRESS RELEASE
    Ocean City, New Jersey Cancels Order for Rainforest
    Destruction to Fix Their Boardwalk

    Victory for those working to end ancient rainforest logging,
    and a defeat for supporters of forest certification
    greenwashing, as an important precedent is set

    January 18, 2008
    By Ecological Internet, Contact: Dr. Glen Barry, +1 (920) 776-
    1075, glenbarry@ecologicalinternet.org

    (Ocean City, New Jersey) — The city council of Ocean City
    voted last night 6-0 to cancel a $1.1 million purchase of ipê
    timber originating in ancient rainforests. The timber was to
    be used to patch a one block stretch of Atlantic boardwalk.
    The purchase provoked outrage as it went against a ten-year
    old pledge by the council to not use rainforest timbers.

    The mayor and others argued Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
    certification ensured sustainability. Estimates are over 60%
    of FSC timber comes from first time logging of ancient
    forests, with claims only it is “well-managed”. Such
    misleading statements setup a showdown with local group
    “Friends of the Rain Forest” and led them to a year of protest
    with support from Ecological Internet (EI) and others.

    “EI’s network sent over 100,000 protest emails from 80
    countries highlighting the ecological truth that maintaining
    intact primary rainforests is a requirement to address climate
    change and achieve global ecological sustainability,” explains
    Dr. Glen Barry. “The message is getting through — to survive
    rainforest logging must end, with compensation to local
    peoples, and remaining rainforests protected and allowed to
    expand.”

    In recent weeks EI has significantly participated in
    rainforest victories from New York, to Papua New Guinea, and
    now New Jersey — working successfully to end the evil of
    ancient rainforest logging. Dr. Barry notes “it is
    disappointing that Rainforest Alliance, Greenpeace, Rainforest
    Action Network, WWF and other FSC supporters — despite being
    targeted by this campaign — were either on the other side of
    this debate or chose not to comment. Their greenwashing of
    ancient forest logging must end.”

  2. ALERT VICTORY/UPDATE
    ***********************************************
    RAINFOREST NEWS TODAY
    Analysis of a Rainforest/Climate Campaign Victory for
    Woodlark, Papua New Guinea
    ***********************************************
    Rainforest Portal a project of Ecological Internet, Inc.

    http://www.rainforestportal.org — Rainforest Portal
    http://www.rainforestportal.org/news/ — Rainforest Newsfeed

    February 13, 2008
    OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet

    Ecological Internet has deeply appreciated the opportunity to
    participate in a recent string of rainforest and climate
    victories. Given our deep attachment to Papua New Guinea,
    perhaps none has been as satisfying as mobilizing
    international pressure that helped protect precious Woodlark
    Island from near total rainforest clearance for oil palm. This
    madness is the epitome of ecological evil, and together local
    peoples and the world expressed outrage, and for now have
    cancelled the plans.

    We have carried out similar campaigns for over fifteen years,
    with many, many victories. Mongabay — the fantastic
    alternative rainforest media source at
    http://www.mongabay.com/ — has for the first time carried out
    a post-conservation analysis of how local and international
    Internet-based protest stopped Woodlark’s rich biodiversity
    from becoming a toxic oil palm monoculture. It makes for a
    good read, demonstrating conservation campaign methods that
    could be widely replicated. Humanity’s eco-future depends upon
    collaborative north-south protest of ecologically destructive
    activities wherever found.

    To comment:

    http://www.rainforestportal.org/issues/2008/02/analysis_of_a_rainforestclimat.asp

    *******************************
    RELAYED TEXT STARTS HERE:

    Title: Papua New Guinea: How activists and scientists saved a
    rainforest island from destruction for palm oil
    Saving an island: analysis of Woodlark Island’s victory over
    palm-oil development
    Source: Copyright 2008, Mongabay
    Date: February 13, 2008

    How Woodlark Island’s plight went from local to global

    In mid-January, Mongabay learned that the government of Papua
    New Guinea had changed its mind: it would no longer allow
    Vitroplant Ltd. to deforest 70% of Woodlark Island for palm
    oil plantations. This change came about after one hundred
    Woodlark Islanders (out of a population of 6,000) traveled to
    Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay Province, to deliver a
    protest letter to the local government; after several articles
    in Mongabay and Pacific Magazine highlighted the plight of the
    island; after Eco-Internet held a campaign in which
    approximately three thousand individuals worldwide sent nearly
    50,000 letters to local officials; and after an article
    appeared in the London Telegraph stating that due to
    deforestation on New Britain Island and planned deforestation
    on Woodlark Island, Papua New Guinea had gone from being an
    eco-hero to an ‘eco-zero’.

    Except for the article in the London Telegraph, the issue of
    Woodlark Island was largely ignored by mainstream western
    media. For many involved this was disappointing, since the
    plight of Woodlark Island so perfectly presented the wholesale
    destruction palm oil plantations have been causing in Asian
    and Pacific forests for years. Dr. Glen Barry, founder and
    director of Ecological Internet, referred to the situation as
    the “epitome of ecological evil” since this “incredibly
    diverse island would be turned over to a monoculture crop”.
    Although the issue barely touched mainstream media, it still
    found its way from local protestors to scientists to global
    organizations, eventually putting international pressure on
    the decision-makers.

    Mongabay first learned of the plight of Woodlark Island from a
    blog entry by the conservation organization EDGE (Evolutionary
    Distinct and Globally Endangered). The organization had been
    contacted by researchers on the ground. After receiving help
    and information from Alexander Rheeney, an environmental
    journalist who covered the issue locally, Mongabay sent word
    to various campaign organizations. Dr. Barry’s Ecological
    Internet took it on, setting up the campaign to flood Papua
    New Guinea’s government with e-mails from around. In the
    meantime, island natives continued to pressure the government
    and the London Telegraph picked up the story. It appears that
    the combined protests and negative attention were enough to
    sway the government to drop the project.

    Opposition in many forms

    There can be no doubt that the most important part of the
    opposition to the deforestation of Woodlark Island was the
    courageous citizens of Woodlark themselves, who decided not to
    allow the government and Vitroplant Ltd. to devastate the
    island’s ecology, resources, and way of life for short-term
    monetary gain. Mongabay had been in contact with one of the
    leaders of the local opposition, Dr. Simon Piwuyes, from early
    on. He had this to say when the government pulled the project:
    “This is fantastic. It is important that the livelihood of the
    Woodlark Islanders and the eco-system that surrounds them is
    maintained. Woodlark Islanders live care-free lives in the
    midst of the ocean and their rich forest land. The forest and
    the animals play an irreplaceable importance in the lives of
    the islanders. It is a great relief to learn that the
    government has spared rare species that our earth desperately
    loves to keep. I, on behalf of the Woodlark Islanders, salute
    the government for the decision.” When asked why he thought
    the government changed its position, Dr. Piyuwes stated:
    “Number one: pressure from the landowners, number two:
    pressure from the NGOs, and number three: pressure from
    international organizations and individuals”. He added, “On
    this note I salute all organizations and individuals for
    signing up for this great issue. Our earth needs such
    cooperation.”

    The cooperative efforts also included scientists and
    researchers. Dr. Kristofer Helgen, a mammalogist who focuses
    on species in the Papua New Guinea and its neighboring
    islands, stated, “I think that this is very good news.
    Woodlark Islanders loudly objected to major oil palm
    development on Woodlark. Their campaign to prevent this action
    involved contacting international researchers to attract
    attention to their cause, which is how I came to be aware of
    the situation.” Researchers and scientists proved instrumental
    in spreading the word and providing continual context and
    information. Without them the issue would never have made it
    to a variety of media sources.

    Forests.org, part of Ecological Internet, was the largest
    organization to take on the issue. Ecological Internet asks
    online members to send out protest letters regarding various
    environmental issues. When asked why he decided to set-up a
    campaign for Woodlark Island, Dr. Barry expressed a personal
    link to the region: “[Ecological Internet's] efforts began
    with Papua New Guinea. The country is near and dear to my
    heart. I married a woman from Papua New Guinea, and my wife
    and daughter are there visiting now.” Dr. Barry also felt
    positive about his organization’s ability to make a difference
    in this situation. “I was quite confident,” he says, “given
    the secrecy of this project with the shady Malaysian company
    that once we exposed it we could either halt the project or
    delay it long enough for further scrutiny and oversight”. Dr.
    Barry describes the power of his organization as ‘the
    boomerang effect': the issue goes out to his over 100,000
    members worldwide—living in almost every nation—and then
    boomerangs back to the local nation involved. Carly Waterman,
    project coordinator for EDGE, believes that the victory for
    Woodlark Island “really highlights the power of the Internet,
    where one person’s voice can turn into millions overnight”

    At the time of the protest by Ecological Internet there was an
    opportunity to remind Papua New Guinea of its previous pro-
    environmental statements, namely its desire to receive funds
    for preserving its forests to mitigate climate change. Papua
    New Guinea even made headlines during the Bali conference on
    climate change when one of its members, Kevin Conrad, had the
    courage to stand-up to the world’s super-power. “I would ask
    the United States, we ask for your leadership,” Mr. Conrad
    said, “but if for some reason you’re not willing to lead,
    leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way.” His
    comments were met with applause from leaders worldwide and
    shortly thereafter the U.S. caved to international pressure.
    The article on Woodlark Island in the London Telegraph alluded
    to this very moment in its observation that Papua New Guinea
    was not truly an ‘eco-hero’ but an ‘eco-zero’ due to its
    willingness t engage in deforestation. Dr. Barry also grasped
    the opportunity: “You were leaders of rainforest conservation,
    now you are going to allow an island with endemic species and
    people living in harmony with their rainforest to be
    essentially mowed down.” There is no question that the
    comments made during the Bali conference, and in previous
    arenas, came back to haunt the government of Papua New Guinea.

    What the decision protects: the singularity of Woodlark Island

    Papua New Guinea and its surrounding islands is a region of
    ecological wonders. Woodlark Island alone possesses at least
    twenty-four endemic animal species; the island has been only
    partially surveyed by biologists; each new expedition usually
    turns up a species unknown to science. Most famous of the
    endemic species is the Woodlark Cuscus, an arboreal marsupial.
    Islanders occasionally hunt and eat the Cuscus, but this has
    not affected its healthy population. If Vitroplant Ltd. had
    been allowed to go ahead it is quite conceivable that many of
    Woodlark Island’s species would have become endangered. Dr.
    Helgen noted that “for animal species unique to Woodlark
    Island, including the beautiful Woodlark Cuscus, the island’s
    forests are their only home. The decision not to destroy those
    forests is a clear victory for everyone interested in the
    long-term survival of all of Papua New Guinea’s unique
    wildlife species, which have fundamental cultural and
    ecological importance in this island nation of ancient and
    beautiful forests.” The very ecological systems of the island
    would have been affected as well. Dr. Dan Polhemus stated in a
    previous article that supplanting forest with palm oil greatly
    degrades local water systems. As well, it was believed that
    chemicals and fertilizers used on the island would end up
    contaminating the surrounding coast, eliminating the fish
    supply that islanders depend upon.

    It is not only the ecology of the island that has been
    preserved by the government’s decision, but the islander’s
    unique culture as well. Deforestation of 70% of the island
    would have drastically changed a culture whose subsistence
    relies on the island’s ecology, an ecology that has been
    shaped by the islanders as much as the islanders have shaped
    it. Dr. F.H. Damon, an anthropologist who has been studying
    the Woodlark Island for over thirty years, says that “there
    remains on the island something of a unique example of a
    regional social and ecological system that supported human and
    other life for 2000 and more years.” Employing gardening,
    small-scale hunting, and pig-herding the islanders have built
    a sustainable way of life for themselves and the island’s
    other species within a mere 80,000 hectares (the size of New
    York City).

    It is easy to list off what is being preserved by not
    developing Woodlark Island, but it’s more difficult to fully
    comprehend the agglomerate richness of a place like Woodlark
    Island in its global context. Dr. Barry describes Papua New
    Guinea as “one of four remaining areas of rainforest
    wilderness—in terms of size and contiguous intactness.” He
    says that “as well as Papua New Guinea, the other three areas
    are the Amazon, the Congo, and the Guyana Shield. Unlike
    Europe, China, or the United States, where all habitats are
    small and fragmented, it is very important not to let these
    last four remaining areas become fragmented.”

    Still not safe: the future of palm-oil

    Unfortunately such fragmentation may still occur in Papua New
    Guinea. Most people involved with Woodlark Island believe that
    the island is still not safe from palm oil plantations or
    other forms of destructive development. “It is very likely
    this issue will appear again in the near future,” Dr. Barry
    said, “any rainforest is never truly protected.” Dr. Damon
    agrees, “In the scheme of things this is a small decision
    amidst massive movements which may yet overwhelm the island’s
    ecology and culture, a culture that has been being eroded for
    150 years. Yet the people of the island said no to one
    possible direction for their future. That is a courageous
    act.” Dr. Simon Piyuwes is aware of the danger. He said that
    while the islanders welcomed the government’s rejection of the
    project they stilled demanded the company’s official
    withdrawal. “This is because the land lease has been granted
    to the company,” Dr. Piyuwes explained, “we would like the
    lease to be nullified.” It seems the future of palm oil
    remains strong, even though this ‘green’ biofuel is no greener
    than gasoline.

    A recent study of biofuels and carbon sequestering has proven
    that virtually all agricultural biofuels actually increase
    emissions that drive climate change. This report has received
    worldwide attention. In a comparison with various biofuel
    crops, palm oil proves to be the most environmentally
    damaging, especially as it is usually produced on cleared
    rainforest and peatlands. According to the study, it would
    have taken Woodlark Island eighty-six years for the palm oil
    plantations to make-up for the amount of carbon their
    development released in the atmosphere, and yet the lifecycle
    of a palm oil plantation is around thirty years, meaning that
    it could never overcome its carbon debt and would be a net
    source of CO2.

    Despite these reports, scientists believe that biofuels, and
    in particular palm oil, will continue to threaten Papua New
    Guinea’s forests. Both Malaysia and Indonesia, the kings of
    palm oil, have felled so many forests and peatlands for the
    crop that few places remain for expansion, which is one reason
    why Papua New Guinea is suddenly under great pressure to cave
    into the palm oil industry. “I am sure that palm oil
    plantations will continue to expand in Southeast Asia and
    Papua New Guinea, at least as long as global demand for palm
    oil remains high,” says Dr. Helgen. “This demand is linked to
    strong interest in… ‘biofuels’ as alternative and
    inexpensive sources of energy, and especially by demand for
    biofuels in the rapidly growing economies of China and India.”
    In addition, Dr. Barry points out that the Prime Minister of
    Papua New Guinea, Michael Somare, never commented on the
    government’s decision to pull Vitroplant out of Woodlark
    Island. Barry says that Prime Minister Sumari’s “interest in
    logging and bad environmental record has shown him to be a
    hypocrite. I have seen this happen in Uganda, a minister
    cancels a project while the Prime Minister does not comment on
    it. It means that it will be likely that palm oil production
    and logging will be seen again in Papua New Guinea.” Dr. Damon
    adds a further warning for the future: “until we devise new
    energy sources and models of the human good, [palm oil
    production] is a track to destruction. Monocrop agriculture is
    not a viable future but so many things have to change before
    we have a realistic alternative that it is almost hopeless to
    think about a different future.”

    Some scientists believe there are ways to counter the current
    biofuel rush. “I think that part of the solution to countering
    the ‘blitzkrieg’ expansion of palm oil plantations into former
    rainforested lands across Asia and Melanesia is getting the
    word out globally that the global biofuel industry,” says Dr.
    Helgen, “especially those parts of the industry that involve
    massive tropical deforestation, involve catastrophic losses of
    biodiversity… and may have a huge negative impact in
    worldwide efforts to counteract the acceleration of global
    climate change.” With more attention placed on biofuels by
    researchers and governments—the EU has already taken notice—it
    is possible the palm oil industry will begin to wan in South
    East Asia. Dr. Barry sees hope in current trends, “I think the
    kind of unfettered growth that we have seen in the last few
    years as biofuels and oil palm were heralded as climate savior
    is being legitimately questioned.” He adds that “as we
    approach 7 billion people, countries will have to choose
    between adequately feeding and adequately transporting
    themselves.” Such choices will hopefully lead to further
    research studies and a greater focus on more effective ways to
    fight climate change.

    The necessity of celebrating victories

    While Woodlark Island is still threatened, while so much of
    South East Asia’s forests have succumbed to palm oil, and
    while every year more and more effects from climate change are
    seen, some might believe that claiming any victory is
    premature. However, Dr. Barry who has seen both victories and
    disappointments in his organization, says, “I don’t know how
    else to sustain a movement and grow a movement than
    celebrating positive developments.” Such celebrations, whether
    of preserving Woodlark Island or ending the use of rainforest
    wood to make New York City’s benches, are important “to
    sustain ourselves, and give ourselves hope… We live to fight
    another day.” Dr. Barry concluded that for environmentalists,
    “A lot of this is fighting a defensive action. When the moment
    comes where the world finally begins to focus on the necessity
    of large-scale ecological renewal the seeds of habitat will
    remain to make this restoration possible.”

    For Dr. Piyuwes, and the inhabitants of Woodlark Island, there
    is no question that this is a victory. When asked what advice
    he would give to those participating in future struggles for
    conservation, he had this to say: “We need to preserve our
    forest from deforestation. There are other alternatives to
    development. There are many organizations and individuals
    nationally and internationally who are willing to support you
    on the issue of deforestation. My advice is to engage the
    international organization and media to battle the issue.” Dr.
    Piyuwes is now able to imagine a much more celebratory future
    for his native island than anyone could have a month ago.
    “Number one,” he says, “we will demand the Government to give
    back the land to the islanders (woodlark is state land).
    Number two, declare woodlark as protected land. Number three,
    encourage eco-tourism.” Only the victory over Vitroplant
    allows such happy plans to be realistic.

  3. ALERT VICTORY
    ***********************************************
    RAINFOREST PROTECTION NEWS TODAY
    Oil Palm Companies Pledge to Stay Out of Indonesian
    Rainforests
    ***********************************************
    Rainforest Portal a project of Ecological Internet, Inc.
    http://www.rainforestportal.org/ — Rainforest Portal

    May 14, 2008
    OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet

    Palm oil companies operating in Indonesia have pledged to stop
    expanding plantations into rainforests. In late 2006
    Ecological Internet was the first to launch a large
    international protest campaign on this matter — bringing to
    the world’s attention how oil palm plantations on carbon rich
    tropical rainforest peatlands were destroying biodiversity,
    global climate and orangutan habitat. Over 11,000 protestors
    from 114 countries sent one quarter of a million protest
    emails to the Indonesian government and many other responsible
    parties at http://www.rainforestportal.org/alerts/send.asp?id=indonesia_peatland
    On another occasion similar numbers brought the
    matter to the attention of every UN climate change national
    focal point. Others including Greenpeace later followed our
    lead (below).

    Together we have achieved these pledges to keep oil palm out
    of rainforests, and this is a tremendous victory for
    rainforest and climate protection movement. Certainly more
    remains to be done. It is still questionable to use food for
    agrofuel. Indigenous and other local peoples may still lose
    their land to corporations. Already cleared peat soils that
    should be reflooded and restored to hold their carbon are
    likely to be developed. And the Indonesian government is
    notoriously fast and loose with promises to disarm
    environmental campaigns, and enforcement may well lag. Without
    continued monitoring, this pledge will be disregarded and oil
    palm will continue to expand even into protected areas and
    orangutan habitat (see below). Yet what makes this victory so
    savory is that it is the companies buying the palm oil
    themselves that have made the pledge — it will be hard for
    them to renege.

    Ecological Internet brought Indonesian rainforest destruction
    for oil palm to the world and our key demand to keep
    production out of rainforests has been met. This makes four
    victories for our Earth Action Network in the past six months,
    six in the last year. From Papua New Guinea to Indonesia, the
    Congo to Australia, and all along the East Coast of the U.S.,
    the message is being heard that ancient forest destruction and
    diminishment must end to maintain the world’s biodiversity,
    ecosystems and climate. See more of what we have achieved
    together at http://www.rainforestportal.org/kudos/ . We are
    successful even though we are not afraid to confront difficult
    issues like FSC greenwash, and over-population and
    consumption. And realize action alerts are but one of the free
    services we supply; others including the only true green
    search engine, news tracking, biocentric blogging, exhaustive
    links and more.

  4. PRESS/SOCIAL MEDIA RELEASE
    Papua New Guinea Rainforests Deeply Threatened

    – Future carbon payments for avoided deforestation in
    doubt. As a global leader in promoting such payments, the
    PNG government would be well advised to focus upon better
    protecting its rainforests, if it wants to fully access
    carbon monies based upon their continued carbon storage

    February 22, 2009
    By Earth’s Newsdesk and the Rainforest Portal
    Projects of Ecological Internet

    http://www.ecoearth.info/newsdesk/

    CONTACT: Dr. Glen Barry, glenbarry@ecologicalinternet.org

    (Seattle, WA) — An important new study in the journal
    “Biotropica” finds that between 1972 and 2002, a net 15
    percent of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) rainforests were
    cleared and 8.8 percent were degraded through logging[1].
    The clearance rate of 1.1 to 3.4 percent/yr in
    commercially accessible forests is much higher than
    reported previously by the FAO.

    PNG — located in the South Pacific, northeast of
    Australia — holds some of the world’s largest and most
    important intact and contiguous forests. Their fate has
    important implications for local livelihoods and
    biodiversity, and both local and global climate change.
    The new study quantifies forest loss PNG for the first
    time with a high degree of accuracy. And the findings are
    not good.

    Some 36% of the accessible forest estate has been
    degraded or deforested. This finding raises the question
    of whether the PNG government — as a welcome leader in
    promoting avoided deforestation payments — is pursuing
    the necessary policies to ensure large rainforests
    continue to exist as the basis for their country to
    receive large and continuous international payments for
    their carbon storage?

    “You cannot industrially log, and clear forests for
    biofuels, and expect to receive avoided deforestation
    payments,” says Dr. Glen Barry. “As a nation PNG is going
    to have to choose between continued once off rainforest
    destruction, mostly for foreign advantage, or being paid
    more, essentially forever, for maintaining the national
    and global benefits of fully intact rainforests.”

    Ecological Internet calls upon PNG to immediately
    reappraise its logging, biofuel and agriculture policies;
    to ensure maximum amounts of fully intact forests are
    available for anticipated international carbon market
    funding to stop deforestation and diminishment, and for
    continued non-diminishing traditional local uses. First
    time industrial logging of primary forests releases huge
    amounts of stored carbon and permanently reduces the
    forest’s carbon holding potential. Clearly industrial
    forestry, certified or not, is a dying industry with no
    future.

    ### MORE ###

    The study found that change in PNG rainforest extent and
    condition has occurred to a greater extent than
    previously recorded. The study assessed deforestation and
    forest degradation in Papua New Guinea by comparing a
    land-cover map from 1972 with a land-cover map created
    from nationwide high-resolution satellite imagery
    recorded since 2002. In 2002 there were 28,251,967 ha of
    tropical rain forest.

    Between 1972 and 2002, a net 15 percent of Papua New
    Guinea’s tropical forests were cleared and 8.8 percent
    were degraded through logging. The drivers of forest
    change have been concentrated within the accessible
    forest estate where a net 36 percent were degraded or
    deforested through both forestry and nonforestry
    processes. Since 1972, 13
    percent of upper montane forests have also been lost.

    It was estimated that over the period 1990–2002, overall
    rates of change generally increased and varied between
    0.8 and 1.8 percent/yr, while rates in commercially
    accessible forest have been far higher—having varied
    between 1.1 and 3.4 percent/yr. The study concluded that
    rapid and substantial forest change has occurred in Papua
    New Guinea, with the major drivers being logging in the
    lowland forests and subsistence agriculture throughout
    the country with comparatively minor contributions from
    forest fires, plantation establishment, and mining.

    “Sari tumas. Nogat bikpela bus, bai yu no kan kisim win
    mani long lukautim em,” says Dr. Barry. In Melanesian
    pidgin: I am very sorry, if you don’t have large
    rainforests, you cannot be paid to take care of them.

    ### ENDS ###

    [1] ” Forest Conversion and Degradation in Papua New
    Guinea 1972–2002″, Biotropica, 10.1111/j.1744-
    7429.2009.00495.x. Corresponding author Phil L. Shearman
    (to request copies), shearma@ozemail.com.au

    DISCUSS RELEASE:

    http://www.rainforestportal.org/issues/2009/02/release_papua_new_guinea_rainf.asp

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