Annals of global warming: Rio Tinto urges mining companies to act on Paris Accord

April 13, 2019

Rio Tinto mines metals, not coal. Still it’s notable when a mining company threatens action if mining company associations do not act to enforce the goals of the Paris Accord, don’t you think?

Tweet from environmental lawyer Elaine Johnson @ElaineEDO

According to the news article in The Guardian, Rio Tinto’s position has been carefully worked out over the past two years.


Rio Tinto has signalled it is prepared to quit its membership of industry associations, including the Minerals Council, if it makes public statements inconsistent with Australia’s Paris climate agreement commitment.
The company published a global statement on Thursday night setting out its expectations of the industry bodies it belongs to about commentary they make on climate policy.
It includes an expectation that Australian industry associations will publicly argue against government subsidies for coal.
The statement comes after more than a year of talks between Rio Tinto and the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, a not-for-profit group that targets social, environmental and governance issues within large corporations.

Rio Tinto published its environmental statement, urging action against global warming climate change, in 2017. Another giant company using natural resources, urging the rest of us to be wise stewards of the Earth.

It’s a start.


Green New Deal, the actual text of H. Res. 109 (and S. Res. 59)

February 11, 2019

“People don’t grasp the short-term consequences of saving the planet.” Cartoon by Pat Chappatte @PatChappatte, New York Times Syndicate.

From CleanTechnica.com (with additional information added here from the House of Representatives official site):

116TH CONGRESS
1ST SESSION H. RES. 109

Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Ms. OCASIO-CORTEZ (for herself, Mr. Hastings, Ms. Tlaib, Mr. Serrano, Mrs. Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, Mr. Vargas, Mr. Espaillat, Mr. Lynch, Ms. Velázquez, Mr. Blumenauer, Mr. Brendan F. Boyle of Pennsylvania, Mr. Castro of Texas, Ms. Clarke of New York, Ms. Jayapal, Mr. Khanna, Mr. Ted Lieu of California, Ms. Pressley, Mr. Welch, Mr. Engel, Mr. Neguse, Mr. Nadler, Mr. McGovern, Mr. Pocan, Mr. Takano, Ms. Norton, Mr. Raskin, Mr. Connolly, Mr. Lowenthal, Ms. Matsui, Mr. Thompson of California, Mr. Levin of California, Ms. Pingree, Mr. Quigley, Mr. Huffman, Mrs. Watson Coleman, Mr. García of Illinois, Mr. Higgins of New York, Ms. Haaland, Ms. Meng, Mr. Carbajal, Mr. Cicilline, Mr. Cohen, Ms. Clark of Massachusetts, Ms. Judy Chu of California, Ms. Mucarsel-Powell, Mr. Moulton, Mr. Grijalva, Mr. Meeks, Mr. Sablan, Ms. Lee of California, Ms. Bonamici, Mr. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Ms. Schakowsky, Ms. DeLauro, Mr. Levin of Michigan, Ms. McCollum, Mr. DeSaulnier, Mr. Courtney, Mr. Larson of Connecticut, Ms. Escobar, Mr. Schiff, Mr. Keating, Mr. DeFazio, Ms. Eshoo, Mrs. Trahan, Mr. Gomez, Mr. Kennedy, and Ms. Waters) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committees on Science, Space, and Technology, Education and Labor, Transportation and Infrastructure, Agriculture, Natural Resources, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, the Judiciary, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

RESOLUTION
Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create
a Green New Deal.

Whereas the October 2018 report entitled ‘‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC’’ by the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment report found that—

  1. human activity is the dominant cause of observed climate change over the past century;
  2. a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise and an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events that threaten human life, healthy communities, and critical infrastructure
  3. global warming at or above 2 degrees Celsius beyond preindustrialized levels will cause—
    1. mass migration from the regions most affected by climate change;
    2. more than $500,000,000,000 in lost annual economic output in the United States by the year
      2100;
    3. wildfires that, by 2050, will annually burn at least twice as much forest area in the western
      United States than was typically burned by wildfires in the years preceding 2019;
    4. a loss of more than 99 percent of all coral reefs on Earth;
    5. more than 350,000,000 more people to be exposed globally to deadly heat stress by 2050; and
    6. a risk of damage to $1,000,000,000,000 of public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the
      United States; and
  4. global temperatures must be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrialized levels to avoid the most severe impacts of a changing climate, which will require—
    1. global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from
      2010 levels by 2030; and
    2. net-zero emissions by 2050;

Whereas, because the United States has historically been responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions, having emitted 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions through 2014, and has a high technological capacity, the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation;

Whereas the United States is currently experiencing several related crises, with—

  1. life expectancy declining while basic needs, such as clean air, clean water, healthy food, and adequate health care, housing, transportation, and education, are inaccessible to a significant portion of the United States population;
  2. a 4-decade trend of economic stagnation, deindustrialization, and antilabor policies that has led
    to—

    1. hourly wages overall stagnating since the 1970s despite increased worker productivity;
    2. the third-worst level of socioeconomic mobility in the developed world before the Great Recession
    3. the erosion of the earning and bargaining power of workers in the United States; and
    4. inadequate resources for public sector workers to confront the challenges of climate change
      at local, State, and Federal levels; and
  3. the greatest income inequality since the 1920s, with—
    1. the top 1 percent of earners accruing 91percent of gains in the first few years of economic
      recovery after the Great Recession;
    2. a large racial wealth divide amounting to a difference of 20 times more wealth between the average White family and the average Black family; and
    3. a gender earnings gap that results in women earning approximately 80 percent as much
      as men, at the median;

Whereas climate change, pollution, and environmental destruction have exacerbated systemic racial, regional, social, environmental, and economic injustices (referred to in this preamble as ‘‘systemic injustices’’) by disproportionately affecting indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this preamble as ‘‘frontline and vulnerable communities’’);

Whereas, climate change constitutes a direct threat to the national security of the United States—

  1. by impacting the economic, environmental, and social stability of countries and communities around the world; and
  2. by acting as a threat multiplier;

Whereas the Federal Government-led mobilizations during World War II and the New Deal created the greatest middle class that the United States has ever seen, but many members of frontline and vulnerable communities were excluded from many of the economic and societal benefits of those mobilizations; and

Whereas the House of Representatives recognizes that a new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal is a historic opportunity—

  1. to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States;
  2. to provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States; and
  3. to counteract systemic injustices:

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that—

  1. it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal—
    1. to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers;
    2. to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States;
    3. to invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century;
    4. to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come—
      (i) clean air and water;
      (ii) climate and community resiliency;
      (iii) healthy food;
      (iv) access to nature; and
      (v) a sustainable environment; and
    5. to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as ‘‘frontline and vulnerable communities’’);
  2. the goals described in subparagraphs of paragraph (1) above (referred to in this
    resolution as the ‘‘Green New Deal goals’’) should be accomplished through a 10-year national mobilization (referred to in this resolution as the ‘‘Green New Deal mobilization’’) that will require the following goals and projects—

    1. building resiliency against climate change-related disasters, such as extreme weather, including by leveraging funding and providing investments for community-defined projects and strategies;
    2. repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including—
      (i) by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible;
      (ii) by guaranteeing universal access to clean water;
      (iii) by reducing the risks posed by flooding and other climate impacts; and
      (iv) by ensuring that any infrastructure bill considered by Congress addresses climate change;
    3. meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources, including—
      (i) by dramatically expanding and upgrading existing renewable power sources;  and
      (ii) by deploying new capacity;
    4. building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘‘smart’’ power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity;
    5. upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification;
    6. spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible, including by expanding renewable energy manufacturing and investing in existing manufacturing and industry;
    7. working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—
      (i) by supporting family farming;
      (ii) by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and
      (iii) by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food;
    8.  overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in—
      (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing;
      (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and
      (iii) high-speed rail;
    9. mitigating and managing the long-term adverse health, economic, and other effects of pollution and climate change, including by providing funding for community-defined projects and strategies;
    10. removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation;
    11. restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency;
    12. cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites to promote economic development and sustainability;
    13. identifying other emission and pollution sources and creating solutions to eliminate them; and
    14. promoting the international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services, with the aim of making the United States the international leader on climate action, and to help other countries achieve a Green New Deal;
  3. a Green New Deal must be developed through transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses; and
  4. to achieve the Green New Deal goals and mobilization, a Green New Deal will require the following goals and projects—
        1. providing and leveraging, in a way that ensures that the public receives appropriate ownership stakes and returns on investment, adequate capital (including through community grants, public banks, and other public financing), technical expertise, supporting policies, and other forms of assistance to communities, organizations, Federal, State, and local government agencies, and businesses working on the Green New Deal mobilization;
        2. ensuring that the Federal Government takes into account the complete environmental and social costs and impacts of emissions through—
          (i) existing laws;
          (ii) new policies and programs; and
          (iii) ensuring that frontline and vulnerable communities shall not be adversely affected;
        3. providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States, with a focus on frontline and vulnerable communities, so those communities may be full and equal participants in the Green New Deal mobilization;
        4. making public investments in the research and development of new clean and renewable energy technologies and industries;
        5. directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing high-quality job creation and economic, social, and environmental benefits in frontline and vulnerable communities that may otherwise struggle with the transition away from greenhouse gas intensive industries;
        6. ensuring the use of democratic and participatory processes that are inclusive of and led by frontline and vulnerable communities and workers to plan, implement, and administer the Green New Deal mobilization at the local level;
        7. ensuring that the Green New Deal mobilization creates high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages, hires local workers, offers training and advancement opportunities, and guarantees wage and benefit parity for workers affected by the transition;
        8. guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States;
        9. strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment;
        10. strengthening and enforcing labor, workplace health and safety, antidiscrimination, and wage and hour standards across all employers, industries, and sectors;
        11. enacting and enforcing trade rules, procurement standards, and border adjustments with strong labor and environmental protections—
          (i) to stop the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas; and
          (ii) to grow domestic manufacturing in the United States;
        12. ensuring that public lands, waters, and oceans are protected and that eminent domain is not abused;
        13. obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous people for all decisions that affect indigenous people and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties and agreements with indigenous people, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous people;
        14. ensuring a commercial environment where every businessperson is free from unfair competition and domination by domestic or international monopolies; and
        15. providing all people of the United States with—
          (i) high-quality health care;
          (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing;
          (iii) economic security; and
          (iv) access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.

      [End of text]

In the Senate, the companion (and matching) resolution sponsored by Massachusetts Sen. Edward J. Markey is S. Res. 59. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (See more information in the Congressional Record, pages S1140-1142.  Senate cosponsors are, “Mr. Merkley, Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Gillibrand,
Ms. Harris, Ms. Warren, Ms. Hirono, Mr. Wyden, Mr. Blumenthal, Mr.
Booker, Ms. Klobuchar, and Mr. Murphy.”

More:

Tom Toles in the Washington Post, June 18, 2018.

Tom Toles in the Washington Post, June 18, 2018.

 


Rachel Carson warned us; you thought it was just DDT?

March 21, 2018

Two hummingbirds in Europe in 2017; will these birds go extinct, soon, due to agricultural use of potent pesticides that kill the insects birds need to live? AFP image via The Nation.

Two hummingbirds in Europe in 2017; will these birds go extinct, soon, due to agricultural use of potent pesticides that kill the insects birds need to live? AFP image via The Nation.

Bird populations appear to be collapsing across France, after insect populations crashed last year.

Neonicotinoid Pesticides generally get the blame.

France? You mean where “deja vu” is the native language?

It’s a serious problem.

Bird populations across the French countryside have fallen by a third over the last decade and a half, researchers have said.

Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, the scientists said in a pair of studies – one national in scope and the other covering a large agricultural region in central France.

“The situation is catastrophic,” said Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the studies.

Some policy makers and scientists appear to have been caught off-guard by the dramatic decline in birds — but anyone watching to environmental news last year probably isn’t surprised. In 2017, scientists and farmers noted the crash of insect populations, the food of the birds.  ‘Where have all the insects gone?’ asked a news story from Science Magazine.

Of the scant records that do exist, many come from amateur naturalists, whether butterfly collectors or bird watchers. Now, a new set of long-term data is coming to light, this time from a dedicated group of mostly amateur entomologists who have tracked insect abundance at more than 100 nature reserves in western Europe since the 1980s.

Over that time the group, the Krefeld Entomological Society, has seen the yearly insect catches fluctuate, as expected. But in 2013 they spotted something alarming. When they returned to one of their earliest trapping sites from 1989, the total mass of their catch had fallen by nearly 80%. Perhaps it was a particularly bad year, they thought, so they set up the traps again in 2014. The numbers were just as low. Through more direct comparisons, the group—which had preserved thousands of samples over 3 decades—found dramatic declines across more than a dozen other sites.

Insect declines were written about in Yale e360, and in news reports from Science. In 2017 scientists and others pondered causes for the decline, with research tending to point at new pesticides used in farming. Severity of the decline was alarming, but few sounded the alarms about birds last year.

Chart showing the decline of insects worldwide, from Yale e360: "According to global monitoring data for 452 species, there has been a 45 percent decline in invertebrate populations over the past 40 years. DIRZO, SCIENCE (2014)"

Chart showing the decline of insects worldwide, from Yale e360: “According to global monitoring data for 452 species, there has been a 45 percent decline in invertebrate populations over the past 40 years. DIRZO, SCIENCE (2014)”

These events are tragedies predicted by ecologists for years; it’s a replay of the “silent spring” Rachel Carson warned us of in her 1962 book — but the effects are much deeper, and moving much more quickly than almost anyone feared.

Can anyone devise a plan to stop the insect and bird decline, and get it up and operating in time to save Europe’s birds?

What if no one can?

More: 

Tip of the old scrub brush to Guardian Environment.

 


110th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s birth, May 27, 2017

May 28, 2017

Rachel Carson at Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania. USFWS photo.

Rachel Carson at Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania. USFWS photo.

Rachel Carson’s birth anniversary in 2017 was remarkably free from attacks by DDT advocates or other people misinformed about her life and work.

Not that those attacks don’t continue on other days, still, but that the critics did not use the occasion of the anniversary of her birth to gang up on news media.

Some of the nice things said on Twitter:

Over the years, Maria Popova at Brainpickings (@brainpicker) collected and republished quite a bit of good biography on Rachel Carson.

https://twitter.com/i/web/status/868644265953558528

 

 

But:

And earlier:


EPA intervenes to clean up mystery toxic dump threatening Texas county’s water

September 29, 2015

Maybe EPA should take Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s advice, and go door to door asking who did it.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday the agency will work to stop a toxic plume of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) that threatens to contaminate well waters in Burnet County.

The source of the plume, and who dumped the stuff, are unknowns.

EPA’s announcement:

EPA Adds Burnet Co., TX, Groundwater Plume to National Priorities List of Superfund Sites

Five hazardous waste sites added, seven proposed nationally

(DALLAS – Sept. 28, 2015)  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the Main Street Groundwater Plume site in Burnet Co., TX, to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites, a list of sites that pose risks to people’s health and the environment. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country and converts them into productive community resources by eliminating or reducing public health risks and environmental contamination.

The site lies about one mile south of the city of Burnet between County Road 340 and County Road 340 A. A plume of tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, was found in the groundwater in this area during monitoring of the Bertram Public Water Supply in 2010. The source of the contamination is unknown.

“Texans understand how precious water resources are for families and businesses,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Addressing contamination helps alleviate the risk to the community and return property to economic use.”

The plume released into the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer, and contaminated two public water supply wells and seven private wells. Monitoring indicates levels in drinking water wells are below EPA’s health-based maximum contaminant level (MCL). Two wells that exceeding the MCL are used for irrigation and livestock watering. Exposure to PCE could harm the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system, and may lead to higher risk of some types of cancer.

EPA regularly works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the extent of the contamination before assessing how best to treat it.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program. Superfund’s passage was a giant step forward in cleaning up legacy industrial waste sites to help ensure human health and environmental protection. The Superfund law gives EPA the authority to clean up releases of hazardous substances and directs EPA to update the NPL at least annually. The NPL contains the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing both enforcement actions and long-term EPA Superfund cleanup funding; only sites on the NPL are eligible for such funding.

Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the final and proposed sites:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

Information about how a site is listed on the NPL:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm

Superfund sites in local communities:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/index.htm

More information about the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program, can be found at:
http://epa.gov/superfund/policy/cercla.htm

More about activities in EPA Region 6 is available at http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.html

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Tetrachloroethylene is a commonly used solvent, often used in dry cleaning of fabrics and degreasing metal parts.  The chemical is also known as perchloroethane, or perc. It was first synthesized in 1821 by Michael Faraday. It is volatile, but highly stable and not flammable.

EPA documents say, “Effects resulting from acute (short term) high-level inhalation exposure of humans to tetrachloroethylene include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and neurological effects such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconsciousness.” It is classed as a Type 2A chemical for carcinogenicity, which means it is a probable human carcinogen, but not a potent one.

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Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

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Annals of Global Warming: Warm the oceans, raise the sea level

September 15, 2015

Svein T veitdal is one of those rare scientists who can explain why science observations are important in effects on people in just living their lives. A good man to listen to (you can follow his Twitter account: @tveitdal).

Recently he sent this notice:

Critics of the science of climate change and the work to slow or halt warming don’t like charts like that. Sea level is something measured by humans, worldwide, for a long time. That’s real data.

And it’s scary.

T veitdal’s Tweet was just a small part of a very large graphic from NASA, explaining the observations that tell us sea levels rise, how the observations are made, and what it means to you and me.

NASA infographic on sea level rise

NASA infographic on sea level rise: We know seas are rising and we know why. The urgent questions are by how much and how quickly. Available to download, this infographic covers the science behind sea level rise, who’s affected, how much melting ice is contributing, and what NASA is doing to help.

Yeah. “Your planet is changing. We’re on it.”

As Ban-ki Moon said the other day, there is no Planet B. We have only one Earth.

General science teachers, geology teachers, physics and chemistry teachers, history, geography and human geography teachers should see if someone at your school has a plotter and can print this thing out for you, poster size.


Cute pictures of polar bears, masking tragedy

March 17, 2015

It came from @planetpics on Twitter.

A beautiful picture of a polar bear cub getting a lift across the water from its mom!  Life on Earth/@planetpics

“A beautiful picture of a polar bear cub getting a lift across the water from its mom!” Life on Earth/@planetpics

Couldn’t help but wonder if that cub will survive the next few months, let alone to adulthood.

Generally, polar bear mothers den on pack ice, and the cub would be kept on the ice while the mother hunted from that platform.  Polar bears can swim, but not well, and not far, usually.  They cannot hunt while swimming.  To eat, they wait on the ice for seals to come up for air, then grab the seals.

Lack of hard ice platforms, pack ice, means mother polar bears can’t hunt to feed their cubs.  While an adult polar bear can swim a distance to find ice, the cubs can’t. And if the adult doesn’t find hard ice, they perish.  Long swims are deadly to cubs.

It’s a cute pic, and we hope momma bear is swimming to an ice platform and can feed that cute little cub so it grows and flourishes.

We know the odds are against it.


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