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I've thought a lot about this episode this afternoon. I enjoyed the interplay between Rachel and Bill. Both were saying fundamentally the same, but language and its use is important and can lead to interpretive challenges. My belief is that, on top of all the other challenges of the so-called polycrisis, the crux of it all is a crisis of values and a crisis of meaning. What do we (collectively, individually) value? Where and in what do we find or derive meaning? The word "mainstream" has been and is used to define or label fairly broad groupings and is often pejorative. I think within the conversation, it was akin to status quo. And it felt like Rachel's questioning of and challenges to mainstream were related to status quo while Bill's definition of mainstream was more about who's driving the bus in terms of governance and control - the gatekeepers or, perhaps, technocracy, if you will. But - and admittedly this is very much anecdotal - when you ask folks who are either challenging the status quo or are raging against the gatekeepers and technocrats what they are willing to sacrifice in order to effect change, you generally find that they do not wish to sacrifice anything, at least anything of substance, and least of all comforts or conveniences. And therein lies the problem. We - socially, culturally - have acquiesced to governments and "the market" to show and tell us how to live our lives (and be our best selves) and they did so by driving consumption and defining the good life through comfort, convenience and material possessions. Now, faced with multiple impending disasters, of which climate change is likely the most acknowledged if not the eye of the storm, we want these same groups and organizations to fix the problem while we go about living in the same manner with no disruption. I suspect that even the people whom Rachel highlighted within her network who were making subtle (relatively speaking) changes have not confronted the reality of what will ultimately be required (and could there also be an aspect of virtue signalling incorporated within? I don't know.) At end of the day, I, myself, am still trying to sort it all out and understand it (and accept it beyond the intellectual level) and these kinds of conversations are of immense help in that regard.

On a related not - and not to draw attention away from Planet Critical - there is also some great conversation with Bill Rees and others on the Great Simplification substack which I recommend - https://natehagens.substack.com/p/deeper-ecology-reality-roundtable

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Excellent comment

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Aug 31, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

Thank you for another great episode, such important work and ideas being discussed as usual. I'm commenting because I think I understand a bit about what Bill is saying about the mainstream. Living in Los Angeles the average citizen is not at all concerned about climate change, it's quite the opposite with how they live their lives, multiple natural born children, big pickup trucks, wasteful habits, meat diets, travel, etc. In addition, I think anecdotally of my own brother whom I'm not on speaking terms with because despite how much he and his spouse expound about their cares about social issues and climate change their actions show the exact opposite. From having two natural born children, to eating meat, to flying across the country multiple times a year, they aren't changing their behavior one bit to make a change. I think this is the point that Bill is making. I believe there are a lot of people out there who like your listeners are trying and willing to make the changes necessary but are unfortunately dwarfed by how many status quo mainstream people there are that will almost always choose short term comfort over long term problem solving. For me it's just so hard to see a way out of this besides a massive societal/ecological/global collapse and it breaks my heart every day.

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Bill Rees certainly gave you a hard time, Rachel. I wonder if he deliberately avoided using the term entropy. His answer about the non-recyclability of energy was confusing. The Earth does not have an energy problem; we get more than enough energy from the. We have an entropy problem. I will try to explain that in a future post.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

Global thinking is exactly the problem, not the solution. The global thinking that emanates from the centers of globalization (i.e. the rich nations in the global north) and the global solutions 'offered' (often imposed) by them benefit mainly the centers that devise and offer them. Crises-creation through mental constructs as a result of global thinking has in itself turned into a crisis that's muddling clear thinking everywhere.

When a problem is perceived to be everywhere all at once, there's very little one can do about it in practice, except for pontificating about it on social media and blogs. Issues related to the environment, population, climate, pollution and food production have always been local, national or regional in scope long before were mentally turned into global issues through global(ised) thinking.

What's needed is a refocusing of our attention toward real, tangible, identifiable problems in specific local environments and areas, as opposed to it being directed towards vague, difficult-to-pinpoint unspecified places more or less everywhere. It leads to apathy and inaction and endless discussions that accomplish very little if anything at all.

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Aug 31, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

Imagine if Plant: Critical joined with other like minded groups and extolled the possible short and long term benefits to all existing and all future humans should we decide to cooperate globally. And just to be clear, not the level of global cooperation in use today, but the level of global cooperation that comes with the understanding that all life on Earth depends on our ability to cooperate with one another globally.

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“despite the best evidence you can possibly come up with in terms of climate activity and so on and so forth, the mainstream has not budged”

Why do we keep trying to budge the mainstream?

We need social innovation to meet the changing challenges of our changing times in the 21st Century.

Not more of the status quo.

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Aug 31, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

Well done Rachel for that challenging interview- I think it’s important to make the hard truths of the future that we face (he’s right after all as you two generally agree) actually PALATABLE. He’s clearly spent many years fighting for the truth to be understood and is incredible frustrated, but we need hope as well as fear, or we simply head to desperation and apathy. Which is seemingly applauded by the powers that be!

Perhaps we could bring the awareness of the Revolution that we desperately need to the general populace via the narrative that you say is so essential: That we are being shafted by a wealthy few, and the whole structure under pinning their extractivist world view is actually harming everyone

.

IF that were the general wisdom of the times we might have a chance for revolutions less bloody 😬

So your efforts at narrative are important. Once again I applaud your work, thank you for bringing this to us week on week.

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The mainstream i.e. governments and businesses are already trying to make the grim reality palatable, and have lulled many into acceptance. We need reality, not the current greenwashing BS about “individual responsibility” equalling collective action such as the EV faux solution, recycling, etc. That is one of the main points Bill Rees is making here.

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By palatable, I mean being able to discuss it without the vast majority turning off their radio. Without watering down the facts or hiding behind greenwashing carbon credits and EVs

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For example, this interview is not one I can easily share with friends and family, they just won’t listen, it’s too confrontational for them, it’s an additional challenge without any clear call to action. I would love to hear an interview with someone who has figured out what a lifestyle within planetary limits looks like, without living off grid in a commune. As wonderful as that might be it’s not applicable to the majority and we need majority solutions as Bill says

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While I agree with your observation that there was some discord between Rachel and Bill particularly over what Bill means by the "mainstream," the truth about the situation we're in isn't "palatable" and real solutions are inconvenient. And that is the whole point of what Bill is trying to convey here: that we humans (due to extreme hubris) see ourselves outside of and separate from the rest of ecology, such that we (think) we have the power to manipulate and control our environment to make it more "convenient" for us. Our irrepressible drive for convenience continues to devastate everything around us, including us. Yet we are not willing to relinquish any of that convenience.

Perhaps Rachel ran out of time to explore solutions with Bill. You can hear him discuss solutions towards the end of this episode with Nate Hagens (who I also recommend):

https://natehagens.substack.com/p/the-fundamental-issue-overshoot?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2

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I agree completely the solutions are not palatable to people at all the point I’m making is that the very out of reach scariness and what I’m not meant to drive or eat meat or fly on holiday yeh nevermind I’ll just recycle more cheers. That turns practically everyone either off and dead against or into virtue signallers or just uncertain what is actually helpful to do. We need a narrative that keeps the reality but engages people with practical on the ground hope and purpose and I hear very few suggestions unfortunately 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼 good luck out there 👍🤙🏄🏼‍♀️

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Oh 100% I agree that individual “solutions” like those you mention are not palatable to many, nor truly helpful in any broader meaningful way because they don’t address the overshoot at the root of the problem! Those however are not the types of solutions Bill espouses.

Hope you find the podcast episode helpful. And thanks for engaging in this convo with me! Always great to read how others see things. ☮️

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Will listen thanks

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Thanks for this Rachel. Bill is a depressing listen because he doesn’t come with the usual positive message at the end. I haven’t seen many change their behaviors apart from the low hanging fruit and I think it is often only a traumatic life experience that leads to people change their behavior. It’s what happened with us anyway. Dropped everything to live a more simple life but I had a lot of privilege to do that, and it’s still far from being a sustainable life. Meanwhile the teeming masses here in the Philippines still look up to the richest as something to aim for, they subscribe to billionaire.com and love having lots of kids. I think Bill is a too dismissive of the indigenous way of thinking. Thank you for doing the good work Rachel. Looking forward to your thoughts on this interview next week. 😁

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Have you ever had a yarn with Tyson Yunkaporta ? I think that would be fun

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I haven't! Got a contact?

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No , unfortunately I don’t know him personally, but I believe he still works at Deakin University, his email and contact phone number are on this page:

https://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/people/tyson-yunkaporta

And if that fails you could try contacting him through his podcast:

https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/tyson-yunkaporta

I’ll keep my 🤞

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Sep 2, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

I've been listening to Tyson a bit lately. He has a wonderfully irreverent take on things and an infectious laugh. He would definitely take the conversation in unexpected directions.

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He's booked in!

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Can’t wait! I need to listen to more of him. I don’t know why but it always lifts my mood regardless of what he’s going on about

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One of the things I like about this podcast is Rachel's willingness to push back on the guest. In this case I think Bill Rees unintentionally came across as a bit condescending. If he'd just taken a quick look at previous guests he would've seen that a lot of this ground has been covered already, although he has his own pessimistic/realistic take on things.

A couple of points stood out to me:

1) Indigenous peoples (some or all?) throughout history have initially had detrimental effects on their local ecology, and after some sort of collapse, have had to find some way to steward the land somewhat symbiotically, or else die out. Our current civilisation is following this pattern writ large on a global scale, and will follow the same pattern. I think Bill was suggesting that it remains to be seen whether enough is left of a niche for humans to remain.

2) The mainstream doesn't get it. I don't think Bill was talking about media specifically, but about actual people or culture, and I think he's right. This got me thinking about how that could change, or how could the '3rd attractor' as theorised by Schmachtenberger and Hagens emerge. The problem as I see it, is that the subjects discussed on podcasts such as Planet Critical can seem too intellectual or complex. Saturation of news about extreme weather, extinction, together with misinformation in mainstream and social media have left people apathetic and confused. What is a simple message or idea that could be communicated, maybe by popular culture, music/art/comedy, that is so compelling that people instinctively get it?

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Sep 2, 2023·edited Sep 2, 2023

As always Tim, your thinking is on point and it's nice to see you commenting on this.

I do cut Bill some slack, he's been trying to get his story across to people who have no idea what's actually happening in the world. I would suspect that he's been frustrated countless times by clueless questioners, which may be the reason he often uses rather simplistic generalisations to get as many ideas across as succinctly as he can.

I think Rachel did us (her regular supporters/listeners) a service by pushing back on those statements to try and get a bit more depth and insight into his reasoning.

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I totally appreciate your theory. I used to think in similar ways. However, I'd like to respectfully suggest that this idea of better messaging is, unfortunately, unrealistic. We humans have a built-in resistance to contemplating our own mortality. Of course denial is a defense mechanism that, like all others, can be either useful or harmful, depending on context. In any case, we will never succeed in convincing a critical mass soon enough to avoid catastrophe. We are built to respond first to immediate needs. Only once the downfall is fully obvious and undeniable will enough people be convinced. Our best hope then is for some small portion of us to survive and help seed Earth's next major evolutionary era.

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founding

Rachel, thank you for persevering with Dr. Rees. I was perturbed not by his ideas - most of which I agree with in essence, if not always the specific choice of words - but rather by his lack of research about you and the Planet Critical community (which you appropriately said to him at one point). He "lectured" us in a way that had me fast forwarding through his vast sermons to find the next time you were able to get a word in to challenge or redirect him. As a woman, I find his style cumbersome and rather patronizing. I respect the man, his knowledge, his ideas, and the truth he is trying to put forth in the world (a truth we *do* need to hear and internalize). And, I think you, Rachel, deserve a medal for the way you handled the interview. Again, thank you.

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I'm in total agreement. Rachel is a very patient host.

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This was a difficult listen as Rachel seemingly struggled to understand that “we” in the purpose of this conversation referred to “humanity” and what her friends and even the Welsh government are doing is pitiful against the collective “we” who are effectively doing nothing meaningful to stop climate change. I felt she was disrespectful to her guest, rude, and even pig headed on minuscule points. The idea that we need positive messages on climate change is just nonsense. We’re adults - we need to the truth from the best minds and experts on the topic, not feel good talking points. I personally have invested $30,000 in planting thousands of trees and restoring wetlands, stopped flying, etc but it’s pointless against the collective “we” who do almost nothing. My efforts, and Rachel’s friends efforts etc, are nothing against governments and industry who are basically turning a blind eye to what the climate experts are telling us. If Rachel is going to continue to be combative with these experts she’s only undermining the value of what’s she’s achieving as a host.

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I agree with what others pointed about Bill Rees. He's likely right in his assessment and makes very plausible predictions but his tone can come off as lacking empathy, and his talks often leave me feeling a lot of despair. I wonder if his age plays into it. Meanwhile, I'm 30 years old, and I have to brace myself for the future ahead, meanwhile he will likely pass before the worst of his predictions come to pass. So I find myself automatically feeling defensive of his message, especially when he is dead set on saying there's nothing to be done but suffer towards extinction.

I also sometimes wonder if his perspective lacks a femminist lense, despite the bio-ecological limits of the biosphere, some things in life (like starting a family) are still deeply meaningful to us humans who are wired to form attachment. And there is perhaps more to existence than fading into the background of one's own life to fully minimize one's impact.

And two final points, as a psychologist I'm highly critical of the sweeping generalization that Rees' makes about human nature and our incapacity to change. So many human traits and tendencies are moderated by circumstantial variables. When suffering keeps increasing throughout the next century, I wouldn't be suprise to see deep, cultural change occur very quickly. Even someone like Vaclav Smill repeatedly says that the future is not set in stone, he often mentions his great suprise at how quickly the USSR fell (within 48 hours) and how much of the 21st century will be determined by demographic trends (e.g., a planet of 10 billion humans vs 4 billion by 2100 would be two fundamentally different stories).

TLDR (my opinions); Rees' accurate science lacks compassion in it's delivery. The kind of pessimism he espouses leaves one in despair. There's hopefully more to life than trying to achieve total asceticism. human culture is indeed very malleable and the human niche is very flexible (up to some bio-physical limit of course, but I personally believe it's not too late).

Very curious to see your email exchange Rachel! Keep up the great work!

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Thank you for this perspective Miguel. It is helpful to me. While I am 65, not 30, I have two 30 year old children, a 4 year old grandchild, and another on the way. As you brace for your future, I brace for the future my family will have. And so I also defend against Bill's "nothing to be done but suffer toward extinction" message. I agree that he lacks a feminist lens (this is part of what really got under my skin), and I'm also critical of his sweeping generalizations of human nature. As you say, deep suffering has a way of catalyzing change. And fast. Thanks for articulating well so much of what I was feeling after the interview.

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I know some will say my comment is "hopium" filled but "we" must all find a way through this. no matter the outlook! Glad I'm not alone in my perspective Pat!

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https://youtu.be/hV91pH8HORo?si=fY3IZNXS3G3GNje6

Michael dowd discusses the seesaw of hope and fear. His channel has other interviews discussing the dangers of hope. Retaining hope isn’t worth it if reality has to be watered down or made more “empathetic”. Also discusses what he calls the “almighty we”. He does have a much more positive and upbeat way of discussing collapse though if that’s your preferred flavor. Personally I value Bill’s “rip the bandaid off” tequila shot of reality just as much.

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In the most respectful way I can say this, I've heard and read some of what Michael Dowd has to say...his predictions of near term human extinction are beyond the realm of even the most alarming science and he has no scientific credentials to back up his claims. I personally find him even more alarming than Bill Rees and would not consider his predictions valid at all. It's weird to me that his "job" is to make money spreading what amounts to apocalyptic prophecies telling people to loose hope and just accept near term death. Hope is not pretending that things are all right then they are not, hope is not choosing to believe that something one desires to be true is true in defiance of evidence to the contrary, hope is not grasping at slender chances. Genuine hope is an attitude of acceptance and defiance. Genuine hope accepts and assents to what can be known and considers all possible outcomes, including the worst ones, but hope is defiant by insisting on the perpetual here now, with all the possibility of the present moment and grieving what cannot be.

I think Bill Rees provides a very robust perspective but he also remains one scientist with very little who replicate his dire predictions. While I can acknowledge that some of that might be due to socio-cultural denial, one should also remember that following and trusting the limited data points that support one's narrative is the confirmation bias.

The biosphere and human civilization are both in dire peril but I don't see the point in accepting a possible dreadful future when it has not yet come to past, nor when it's not set in stone.

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Sep 4, 2023·edited Sep 4, 2023

I too have listened to a fair amount of Michael Dowd, Miguel, and here we agree again. I think perhaps there are people who need that particular dose of doom to awaken them. But there are others - and I would put myself in this category - who are wide awake, and who feel its important to (as you say) "accept & defy" simultaneously, not with naivete, but rather a fierce commitment to working for way through that minimizes suffering and preserves what we can. I see no other way to live life. And I will not diminish this stance by giving it a "drug name" that implies that any of us are addicts to magical thinking.

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Rachel you handled the situation of a model builder who has tried to explain the problem but faces “ do you understand?” as his limit.

Understanding doesn’t impact our knowing how to rank a strategy for creating the social change. Maybe he is resigned to the collapse because we refuse to change given the facts.

System design and deployment strategy seems the smartest level but education cannot bring itself to make that the curriculum, for the students that wish the change maker responsible. This is a status problem.The market will not produce solutions that evolve and change the marketplace design itself because that is imposed limits to its “ vision or ideology , dominant narrative “. Where can solutions be deployed? Who can build them ? Who funds this ? What ideological agendas Will describe successful design?

This is the level of inquiry I’m left with after Bill describes the real problems. Not a solution, or set of solutions but a sharp questioning of designing solutions and the design of that strategy and the structures for that.

Very frustrating for you Rachel to get brilliant real contributors like Bill to address different level’s clearly & consciously. Kudos to you both for spiciness - the real problem seems like level confusion and discussion orientations.

Real Gratitude for your work.

It has deeply assisted in my progress in level definition not just problem description.

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Wow, that was a tough interview! Thanks Rachel, for pushing back where needed and setting boundaries.

• Bill is right to point out that those embedded within industrial culture have internalized a predisposition toward taking as much as is possible. This was the upshot of the book Ishmael which made me leave chemistry grad school in favor of environmental activism and ultimately the life of an educator

• Simultaneously, Rachel, you are spot on pointing out that there are in fact indigenous peoples who have learned to balance human with ecosystem needs, more on that below...

• If we go back to Simon Michaux, when he described a division of societal responses to the crisis with 4 categories and called the 4th as Arcadians (who I ascribe to) who look 100 years to the future and “how to redo society”, then Rachel’s point is that there are, in fact, segments of global society who we should be begging for guidance on how to do this. I stand with you, Rachel, there are remnants of humans that are not entirely selfish and whose thoughts, feelings, and cultures we can be using as models for “redoing” industrial humanity. This is essentially Derrick Jensen cored thinking plus the solution, Thanks!!

• The whole thing about energy sources being nonrecycleable is most easily described (by a mentor of mine) as arriving at low-grade heat. Yes, electricity can turn an electric motor, which can spin thread into cloth, but once that process is done, low grade heat (often from friction, in the loom, the electric motor, and the electric cables ) is unusable except maybe to heat the room a bit, and within a day or two that heat is mostly gone, or as Rees says, “dissipated”. Yeah, energy conversion and the losses due to non-100% efficiencies are not understood by the vast majority of society. You've interviewed numerous experts that have given numbers on the poor efficiencies. So depressing. ICE car... 25% efficient, the rest is lost as low-grade heat. Yikes! I taught this to Denver kids in my HS classroom.

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Caveat: I have admittedly paused the episode to comment before finishing it. Apologies for that.

I am new to you and your channel and thank you for the work you're doing. I recently lived with a rare and confusing fatal diagnosis that was reversed after more than a year. Confronting death for an extended period left me open to seeing all of this with vastly greater openness. This has taken me by surprise.

When I watch you and Bill debating, in terms of substance I see you as the voice of where I was before and Bill as the voice of where I am now. It is utterly uncanny to be hearing so many arguments from each of you that I've made out loud or in my head. I humbly offer that the single most radical change in my orientation has been to let go of blame and of believing that any moral code can ever be reasonably applied to (or instilled in) humanity as a whole. One person or group isn't innately better than another. It's all wildly circumstantial.

I can't effectively explain my current perspectives here, but I will share what has convinced me to focus on acceptance of catastrophe as highly likely in place of fighting for a *comprehensive* solution. First, innovating is instinctive. All the harm that's been done by industrialization is due to our inability to have foreseen long-term impacts. We are built to solve problems in the now, whatever the assignment or challenge, but we are too massive a species to collectively understand and respond to downstream, if you will. (Key word: collectively) Second, I simply do not see any possible way around the feedback-loop tipping points that have already been set on motion. No thought experiment I can conceive of spares is from devastation, though I can imagine some level of survival that is short of total extinction.

Having been forced to sit with death myself, I do not blame anyone for resisting a sense of inevitability or criticizing these ideas as pessimistic. That's entirely normal. And I still believe fighting for better outcomes makes as much sense as anything. Even an ounce of mitigation will mean more time for some number of us. I also know now that it is possible to endure the acceptance of near-term mortality without living in permanent abject despair.

I am so sorry for the length!! I keep adding but I'll stop now.

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