Sunday, August 29, 2010

Libertarians in Space

World's Biggest Writing
In one sense, Nick Newcomen is a geographer after my own heart -- someone who conceived a grandiose project and then followed through on it. Using a GPS logger, he drove around the United States on a carefully planned route that would allow him to spell out the message, "Read Ayn Rand." By turning off the logger between words and letters, he left a trace of the intended message.

A few ironies appear to be lost on this adventurer:

1) He confined his stunt to the United States. It would have been bigger had he been willing to take this grandiose vision beyond the Lower 48.
2) He relied on Google Earth, which in turn relies heavily on taxpayer-funded maps and images.
3) He relied on GPS, which in turn relies heavily on taxpayer-funded satellites.
4) He apparently relied on public roads, which in turn rely heavily on payers of federal, state, and local taxes.
5) He distributes the entire project on the Internet, which was developed by taxpayer-funded military and academic institutions, and which has swallowed up private-sector imitators (such as AOL).

In the process, he demonstrated that the public sector is not necessarily so bad. What would über-libertarian Ayn Rand think of that?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Target Targeted

This brilliant bit of political theater has been getting a lot of attention among supports of GLBT rights and opponents of corporate financing of political campaigns. Reacting to Target's $150,000 donation to the political campaign a "pro-business" opponent of gay rights, this stunt is part of a small but vocal campaign to boycott Target stores:

Target Ain't People -- MoveOn ad @ Yahoo! Video

Some of my friends have asked why this contribution stirred such a reaction, and others have questioned the effectiveness of this video in particular and of the boycott movement in general. I have a few thoughts to share as a result of these very good questions. (See my Pride page to learn why I am so passionate about GLBT rights.)

First, regarding boycotts in general. These are actions intended to induce a change in corporate or government behavior by refusing to buy their products or products produced within their borders. Government examples have included at least two campaigns against the state of Arizona -- in the 1980s when it was the last state to declare a Martin Luther King Holiday and currently as it imposes a host of dubious immigration-control measures. It is difficult to say how many boycotts I have supported, though I think it is really only one: for years I did not buy anything made by Nestle, as part of a world-wide boycott related to its milk-marketing practices in developing countries. I was surprised to learn just now that the Nestle boycott continues.

I count Nestle because I really did strive to avoid their products, and let the company know why. Several aspects of that experience, however, have made me a reluctant boycotter, at best. I eventually learned that a company such as Nestle is too big for my trade or lack thereof to mean much, I also found that it had too many branches for me to keep track of, so I could not be sure when I was withholding money. More to the point, I learned that a lot of corporations do a lot of pretty terrible stuff, and that by diverting my business from one, I might be funneling toward one that is as bad or worse. I guess this is what eventually drove me toward fair trade and local food and shopping, where I have a chance of making positive purchases, rather than just trying to avoid negative ones.

Still, a few companies have earned my ire so that although I'm not exactly boycotting them, I cannot bring myself to buy from them. These include Coors (helps that their beer tastes awful), Dunkin' Donuts, and WalMart. In the case of the latter two, I like to hope that my writings have some impact, but I know that my funds are hardly missed.

A boycott of Target at this juncture is particularly problematic, because it would be aimed at punishing a single incident already in the past, rather than trying to affect ongoing or future corporate behavior.

My inability to darken the door of a WalMart is part of what makes the Target story so interesting for me. I prefer to shop locally, but WalMart has systematically leveled much of the retail landscape (apparently employing expert, if evil, locational geographers), so for many purchases, I do turn to box stores, and Target has impressed me as the less evil of my options. Its 100% approval rating from the Human Rights Campaign helped make the case, as did its charitable giving and related programs (modest, but far more than WalMart).

Which brings us to the case at hand: Target's contribution to the campaign of Rep. Tom Emmer, an anti-gay candidate for governor of Minnesota. The $150,000 donation caused HRC to drop Target from its Equality Buying Guide. This story answers the question of why the contribution has created a response that some might find disproportionate: because of its previous track record, the Emmer contribution is seen as a  betrayal. Our friends can hurt us in ways that our enemies cannot, after all.

Shortly after the story broke in late July, Target's CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized for the contribution. His response reads like one of those "I'm sorry you were offended" apologies, but in the full text of the apology he promises both a thorough review and some kind of summit with other business leaders in the fall, so the final outcome of this controversy remains to be seen. Stockholders were outraged by the contribution and are demanding reforms in the company's approach to political giving. Stockholders do not seem to be complaining so much about the particular politics of the donation; rather, they are complaining that Target did not account for the controversy that would ensue.

This is an encouraging sign that stockholders might effectively do what the Supreme Court would not: the court rules that direct contributions from corporations to campaigns are legally unlimited, but for many publicly-traded companies, shareholders may impose very real limitations. Target is trying to tread a middle ground of bipartisan political activity, but it remains the case that Target is not a person. The fundamental issue raised in the video at the top of this post is that humans have both rights and responsibilities, whereas a couple of key court decisions have allowed corporations to have just rights. In the logo for the film The Corporation, notice that the "suit" has both a devil's tail and a halo. The problem is not that corporations are evil, it is that they are amoral, which is not a good characteristic for entities with growing political power to have. As one of my friends pointed out, the current controversy is not about Target having power in the sense of actual control over policy. It has, however, been granted the same right of expression that the founders originally intended only for actual humans with a pulse.

Part of the ire surrounding the contribution comes from Rep. Emmer's association with -- and contributions to -- a more radically anti-gay Christian rock band. Bradlee Dean, the leader of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, in turn, has suggested that Muslims who execute homosexuals are morally superior to Christians who do not. He later tried to back away from those statements, but clearly Emmer's association with Dean increases the level of concern people have about him. His own stated positions may be run-of-the-mill homophobic, but his close association with Bradlee raises concerns about radical -- even homicidal -- homophobia.

This story broke just as journalist Jeff Sharlet has been exposing the U.S. roots of murderous anti-gay movements in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. His work has recently been presented on NPR's Fresh Air and published in Harper's and elsewhere. It is tragically ironic that the "war on terror" has conflated Islam with Islamic fundamentalism, even as its most ardent exponents are Christian fundamentalists who have much in common with the most theocratic mullahs, ayatollahs, and Taliban.

Fortunately, leaders have emerged in Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi, where the Advocate has identified four strong organizations worthy of support.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Last Saturday we had a luau in recognition of Hawaii's statehood anniversary, as part of Pam's year-long Celebration of the States. Learn all about the food, film, and reading on her Hawaii - August 21, 1959 post. My Wait, There's More post adds a bit about geology, energy, and of course coffee (hint: it is not all Kona). This is one of only four states that neither of us has visited, and we enjoyed learning a bit about it. We are very keen to visit Maui now!
Photo: Haleakala National Park

Enforcing the Labor Provisions of CAFTA in Guatemala

For the past several decades, the United States has entered into a virtual alphabet soup of trade agreements. Some are at a global scale such as GATT and its successor WTO, while others include smaller regional groupings, such as NAFTA and CAFTA-DR. Originally, trade agreements promoted trade by reducing or eliminating tariffs, especially high import duties that served to protect domestic production from international competition.

Once tariffs had been substantially eliminated, attention was turned to other policies and practices that could be seen as giving domestic producers an unfair advantage. The agreements sought to create "level playing fields" by eliminating differences in laws that affect the cost of doing business, including health and safety, environmental, and labor laws.

Regional trade agreements began in Europe, first among the small and economically similar countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. As European agreements expanded in scope and size, more diverse countries have been included, but the Europeans have worked toward homogeneity among member countries in their various pacts, notably in the European Union. In the Americas, agreements such as NAFTA, CAFTA-DR, and proposed agreements such as the FTAA, would include countries with much wider economic disparities, since income levels in the United States and Canada are much higher than in any other countries in the region.

In that Americas context, then, the health, labor, and environmental provisions are of great potential importance. Agreements that seek a "level playing field" among very disparate partners could set standards that are equal but quite low -- a so-called "race to the bottom." In theory, a level playing field could exist at a high or a low level with respect to health, safety, and the environment, but a "race to the top" has not really ensued.

For this reason, the Obama Administration's decision to sue the government of Guatemala for egregious violations of the labor provisions of CAFTA-DR is potentially quite significant. The United States is essentially charging that the treatment of labor in Guatemala creates an unfair trade advantage for that country. A human-rights case can and should also be made, but using the trade agreement to pursue complaints of worker mistreatment is a signal that the U.S. will resist a race to the bottom. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs examines the case in detail in Alexander Brockwehl's report, Obama's Hard Stance on Guatemalan Labor. He also offers two possible explanations for the policy shift: either the United States really is trying to signal a new commitment to labor fairness, or the Administration is angling for passage of future agreements in Colombia and elsewhere.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Equality & Brazilianization

It is said that money cannot buy happiness; within a certain range, this is demonstrably not true for individuals. Desperate poverty is quite an unhappy condition, and each step up from that provides comforts and security that do enhance overall well-being in a way that we can describe as happiness. Beyond a certain point, however, individual happiness is neither directly nor inversely correlated with income. Last year, Pam and I read the book Geography of Bliss describes a quest to identify societal factors that do relate to happiness, and excessive wealth certainly is not among them.

São Paulo: Geography All the Way
A more recent book, The Spirit Level, takes moderate wealth as a starting point from which to examine the influence of income disparity on various aspects of well-being at a societal level. That is, authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, identify developed countries in which "economic growth has done as much as it can to improve material conditions," and within that set of countries they look at the effect of variations in income level. As reviewer Lynsey Hanley writes in The Guardian:
We know there is something wrong, and this book goes a long way towards explaining what and why.

The authors point out that the life-diminishing results of valuing growth above equality in rich societies can be seen all around us. Inequality causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives; it increases the rate of teenage pregnancy, violence, obesity, imprisonment and addiction; it destroys relationships between individuals born in the same society but into different classes; and its function as a driver of consumption depletes the planet's resources.
For a while, this work was drawing a lot of interest in Great Britain, even among more conservative politicians. Eventually, however, the backlash ensued. By this summer, professional "idea wreckers" were circling around this work. In today's polarized political discourse, there seems to be little room to the left of unbridled capitalism, whose defenders pounce on any suggestion that the extreme concentration of wealth may be harmful.

Incidentally, the image above is an example of extreme wealth disparity in São Paulo, Brazil, a city I have visited quite a few times. Although Brazil was not included in the study, the disparity of incomes -- particularly in its great cities -- serve as an object lesson. In fact, the word Brazilianization refers to the process of increasing the concentration of wealth in any society. It is not difficult to find luxury condominiums immediately adjacent to favelas (slums), and it is therefore not difficult to see the problems -- for rich and poor alike -- that result from such abrupt juxtapositions. As I left the famous Rosinha favela in Rio, for example, I saw prestigious American School, where I learned that most students are picked up by armed guards. I later learned that the school was moved to a new location to avoid the stress, danger, and expense of this situation. In São Paulo, I observed police officers patrolling the wealthier neighborhoods (they do not bother much with poor neighborhoods) only in groups of four. I have enjoyed myself in both cities, and have spent time both in a variety of ordinary and luxurious locations in each. It is definitely the case, however, that the extreme poverty does interfere with the enjoyment of extreme wealth. In fact, the wealthy of each city have taken to moving about their cities only by helicopter and to sending their families for extended stays in Florianopolis, a city with less extreme but much more evenly-distributed wealth.

Over the past decade, the government of Brazil has taken a number of steps to reduce the disparities while achieving impressive gains in overall wealth. Even though wealth there is still more concentrated than it is in the United States, the trend is gradually toward more equality. Meanwhile, Brazilianization is a process that continues apace in the United States.


Thanks to librarian and cinephile  Martin Raish
As a fan of librarians in general and spouse of a librarian in particular, I really appreciate their role in communities and schools. In the community at large, we have seen the many benefits of a strong library, as our town library offered a variety of excellent programs when our daughter was young. This has made her an ardent defender of the institution!

I have had the added advantage of taking a library course in graduate school, and I guess my connections started even earlier than that. At Brentsville District Middle-Senior High School in Virginia, I hung out at the library before classes most days. Because audio-video equipment was handled by the librarian, I was able to earn a sort of A/V "driver's license" to operate all kinds of projectors -- a sort of super library card for those days.

At the moment, I am thinking about the role of libraries in higher education because of a few blog entries I read recently, related to the broader debate about tenure in higher education. Tenure is often understood simply as job protection, but in reality it protects creativity and dissent while ensuring that professors are deeply invested in the success of their institutions. On Andrew Sullivan's blog, one reader's attack on the idea of tenure for librarians reads as a virtual catalog (no pun intended) of common misconceptions about librarians and what they do. Sadly, many of the arguments he/she makes are all-too common, even among academics who should know better.

Fortunately, the responses of librarians and their more sympathetic defenders provides balance, and explains why librarians have not been made obsolete by the Internet. In fact, because the Internet makes available far too much information for most users to comprehend and far too little information on the validity of sources, librarians are more essential now than ever!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Local Agrotourism

In "Home-grown fun," the Boston Globe reports on the growing popularity of tourism on farms south of Boston. Colchester Neighborhood Farm, of which we are CSA farm-box members, is quoted in the discussion of the many benefits of this kind of activity for farms and the families that visit them.

When I was doing conservation work with at-risk youth in Maryland many years ago, I was struck by the cognitive disconnect between the youth I worked with and their food. By bringing people to farms in their own regions, agrotourism provides both a cash flow that helps to sustain open space and a much-needed connection between people and the land that sustains us.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Better than No Impact?

Humans have disrupted certain critical environmental cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen, and more) so fundamentally that continued damage to health, habitat, and economies is inevitable. Fortunately, a lot of creativity is being applied to reducing or eliminating human impacts, such as the No Impact Man project (my article on this will be forthcoming this week on Wiley GeoDiscoveries and I will update the URL when it is).

As Colin Beavan himself has pointed out, some impacts are unavoidable, so having no net impact means that some restorative measures should also be undertaken -- planting trees, restoring wetlands, replenishing eroded beaches, picking up trash, and so on.

Given the scale of the human impact on the atmosphere, it would be especially helpful to develop restorative building technologies. Fortunately, researchers are working on some interesting ways to employ buildings in the cleaning of the air. At a regional scale, designers in Hong Kong (perhaps the most densely-populated place on earth) have proposed a building coated with titanium dioxide and special solar panels, enabling it to neutralize smog-forming chemicals on a 24-hour basis.

With current technologies, the production of concrete is a major source of climate-changing carbon dioxide. Concrete and Carbon is a Science Friday segment that explains why this is and -- more importantly -- describes the possibility that concrete formulation could be altered in a way that would allow it to sequester carbon, allowing each building, roadway, or sidewalk to have a positive net impact on the global environment.

My friend Wing-kai let me know about another emerging technology that seems almost a hybrid of these two: using titanium dioxide in concrete to offset local pollution. As some of the online comments have suggested, even the most promising of these technologies are potentially fraught with trade-offs or limitations, and they do not provide any excuse to back off on the most important environmental strategy of all: conservation!

Romania Partnership

This morning I gave a presentation to a small group at my church about our partnership with the Unitarian congregation of Haranglab in Transylvania -- a partnership from which I have learned a lot and that I would like to see strengthened in the future.

Science Building on Google Earth

Progress continues quickly on massive renovations to the Marshall Conant Science Building, where I am spending my career as a geography educator. The LEED-certified renovation is by far the largest academic construction project currently underway in the eastern United States.

In a multi-phase expansion and renovation, the section where I work (facing Park Avenue) will eventually be demolished, so that the giant new wing will be visible from the street. Although most of us will end up with smaller offices, we will have more and better teaching space, with labs that are up to current ventilation codes. The larger building will allow all the current science departments to be joined by math and computer science, along with the dean of our new School of Science & Mathematics. (Yes, I was on the committee that proposed a School of S&M and we did consider other names.)

My office will be in a relatively small "tab" extending off the north-center of the building; progress on this section is not yet as extensive as on the larger wing. The destruction of the Park Street wing was necessitated by the need to provide greater space between floors (our 1964 construction is out of code for laboratory space, and could not be brought into code). The perpendicular wing will be kept for office and general (non-lab) use, and will be thoroughly renovated. The result of the new footprint will be a nice, green space between the bulk of the building and Park Street, with the preservation of the beautiful botanical gardens to the immediate west. In fact, garden plantings will continue right into the main atrium of the building (which is at the west-most end of the new wing). As with most artist's renderings, however, the image above does exaggerate the surrounding green space -- for example putting a forest in the location of the Kelly Gymnasium.

Plans call for a cafe to be located adjacent to the atrium, at the apex of the final building configuration. My students and I have proposed a model for that cafe that is still under consideration. It is probably too late for some of the proposed elements to be included by the building's opening day in fall 2012, but we are hopeful that university officials will approve the Benjamin Linder Cafe as a unique teaching cafe in this innovative new building.

Click the "larger map" link below the satellite image to explore the building and its surroundings.

View Larger Map

Born in the USA

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby always calls them as he sees them, usually annoying those of us on the left.If the online comments on today's column are any indication, however, he has really stirred up a hornet's nest on the right (and its most extreme fringes) this time.

He stated a few simple truths: the country is not being overrun by illegal immigrants and the effort eliminate the 14th Amendment to the Constitution is political grandstanding. Most important is his observation that "the players change in the immigration wars, but the rhetoric remains the same."

Private Sector is not Paradise

Ziggy, August 15, 2010

As writer Tom Keane admits in his column in today's Boston Globe, he is generally not averse to government-bashing. In "The (too) easy road of tax cuts," he argues persuasively, however, that anti-tax activists in Massachusetts are going too far. Aside from  fringe libertarians such as Carla Howell, few such activists are willing to enumerate the programs they would willingly cut in order to achieve the dramatic and admittedly attractive savings they advocate.

Rather than specifying cuts, most of those pushing to slash taxes claim that the elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse would be sufficient to have the tax cuts without any pain. More main-stream republican governors have made such claims in the past, but rather than identify the painless savings, they have savaged state services. It is taken as an article of faith on the right that government is riddled with waste, while the private sector is always more efficient. Ironically, such arguments have led to the shoveling of billions of public dollars into fraudulent and mis-managed private firms (such as Halliburton), but the myth continues to be believed.

However much waste, fraud, and abuse exists in Massachusetts government -- and surely there is some -- the anti-tax crusaders do not quantify it, nor do they have a plan for eliminating it. The elderly, police and fire departments, schools, the poor, and college students will take up the slack if this autumn's tax-repeal campaigns succeed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Immigrant bashing is, sadly, nothing new

This week I found two stories -- one on the radio and one online -- marking the anniversary of the 1834 destruction of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown (near Boston) by an angry mob. Fueled by rumors and stereotypes, a mob vented its hostility toward the newly-emerging Irish community by burning down the convent and surrounding buildings. Punishment of the perpetrators was minimal: one conviction, followed by a pardon.

I recommend listening to the Megna Chakrabarti's interview with Salem State University professor Nancy Lusignan Shultz. One of the listener comments posted online provides an overview of anti-Catholic violence that continued in the region for another century. The stories are important for understanding why some members of the now dominant Catholic community in the region continue to view themselves as a persecuted minority. The account from Mass Moments provides more details of how the events unfolded on August 11 and 12, 1834.

For me, the episode is a tragic reminder that immigrants have always borne the brunt of societal stresses, and that pretexts can always be found to justify their ill treatment.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Contested Public Space

Bridgewater's former skate park
Last week, unnamed Bridgewater "officials" permanently closed the skate park on Bedford Street. According to an August 11 newspaper article, they were "forced" to do so, but I would argue that they had choices, and simply chose the most expedient option. The subaltern position of the park's primary patrons -- relative to those who participate in more mainstream sports -- undoubtedly contributed to the course of action that was chosen.

What does this have to do with geography? Everything.

In August 2008, the Bridgewater Recreation Commission issued the following press release:
The Bridgewater Recreation Commission, at their [sic] meeting on August 4, 2008, unanimously voted to close the Skateboard Park effective August 5, 2008 due to recent acts of violence brought to the attention of the Commission by the Bridgewater Police Department. The Skateboard Park will remain closed until the Recreation Commission has the resources available to ensure a reasonable level of safety for its users.
Prompted by these recent acts, the Recreation Commission has established an 11:00 PM curfew for all of Legion Field. The Recreation Commission has the full support and cooperation of the Bridgewater Police Department. Trespassers will be prosecuted.
Neither this release nor contemporary reporting in local media suggested that a permanent demolition was being considered. As of today, the commission's web site makes no mention of the demolition, so no explanation is publicly available. The only resource mentioned on the commission's page is a rather expensive, privately-operated skate park in New Hampshire, nearly two hours away by car.

The press release indicates that the Recreation Commission did not have sufficient resources to operate the park. Given the scale of public spending on the commissions facilities and activities, the real question is not whether resources are available, but whether skate-park users are a priority.

The skate park had become a problematic, contested space. Activities were taking place there that the community could not tolerate. This is common, and communities can address the problem in a variety of ways, such as community policing, neighborhood watch, or involving users of the space in creating a more positive sense of cooperation around it. Unfortunately, in this case, a much simpler solution was found: those entrusted with the power to do so have simply erased the space. The space is still there, of course, but the constructed space has been eliminated. This tiny corner of the heavily-used Legion Field complex (see below) is likely to be replaced with space that will foster conformist activities at the expense of transgressive expression.

View Larger Map

I want to be very clear here: I do not condone the vandalism and assault that triggered the park's closing. In fact, I worry that the decision to close the park will simply displace the illicit activities to other parts of the town, or to other towns. The behavior itself has not been addressed; if anything, a level of alienation has been created that makes such disturbances all the more likely.

In case the abrupt demolition did not send a clear enough message, the commission has really added insult to the park's former users by posting the link to the far-away, private skate park. It is not willing to spend public resources on this sport, and it provides a referral that is useful only to those with substantial private resources.

In a town that has sharply reduced its library hours and continues to over-crowd its schools, the vice is tightening on young people, and we should not be surprised by any resulting increase in the sightings of sullen, roaming teenagers.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Cafe: Private or Public Space

Image: Edwin's Cafe in East Harlem
Yet again, "Dear Abby" is fodder for this blog. Because I have given a lot of thought to the geography of coffee shops, I see the third letter in yesterday's Dear Abby column as a good starting point for some geographic ruminations.
DEAR ABBY: Once a week I meet with three friends at a coffee shop/restaurant. We sit for at least an hour chatting and catching up about our families. I'm the only one in the group who orders anything, and it's usually just a beverage. It makes me uncomfortable that no one else orders and we take up the table for an hour. This has gone on for a while, and I have not found a way to say anything. Can you help? -- FRIEND IN SACRAMENTO

DEAR FRIEND: If the owner or manager of the place objected to the fact that you are taking up the table, something would have been said by now, or a notice would have been printed stating that customers must place a minimum order per person. However, because you feel awkward being the only person having something, tell your friends how you feel and that you'd feel more comfortable if they ordered something, too.
In this case, writer "FRIEND" grasps something important that Abby does not. Coffee shops and restaurants are private spaces, and recovering the rent on those spaces is a very important part of keeping the shops profitable. The owner of a coffee shop is often literally paying rent, often on a square-foot basis, to a property owner. Even if the cafe and its real estate are owned by the same person, the prevailing rent is an important benchmark, since a business that does not meet that rent could presumably be replaced by some other use that does.

Although the land rent is described on an square-foot basis averaged over the entire establishment, it can be refined to differentiate the value of spaces within the shop. The counter space immediately next to the cash register, for example, usually has a particularly high rent value, which is why high-turnover, impulse items are usually placed there.

The writer intrinsically understands that the tables have a rent value, and that a single beverage at a table for four is literally not paying the rent. I can think of several reasons that the management has not responded, none of which make the behavior of this group acceptable. It could be, for example, that these visits take place at an off-peak time, when the "rent" of the table is lower. It could also be that this cafe -- like many that offer wifi -- errs on the side of accommodation, taking the occasional loss in return for some gains overall. Everyone involved, however, should consider this question: would the space be available for these weekly gatherings if every customer brought along three free riders?

In this blog, I frequently write about the value and importance of public spaces and resources, so my defense of private property in this case might seem incongruous. Quite the contrary: the writer and her friends clearly need to take their activities either to a more private space (i.e., their homes) or a truly public space, like a park. By treating this private space as a public space, they contribute a bit to its demise.

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