List of Talk Shows - Episode 400 Onwards

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Angella MacEwen, John Foster, and Francisco Wulff are all economists; Alex Belyakov is a Ukrainian journalist who covered the Chernobyl disaster. There was a debate about whether Canada’s fossil fuels may help Europe transition away from Russian sources or whether nuclear power is a better solution. There was another debate about whether the democratic states should continue trading with regimes that do not try to protect human rights and democracy, or whether “we are all sinners,” and therefore should not discriminate against countries that behave atrociously. 

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Information on this episode will be added in the near future.

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Malcolm Potts is a professor emeritus of public health who, as an obstetrician, was sent to Bangladesh in the 1960s to help thousands of women who had been raped and impregnated by soldiers during the recent war. Males (including male chimpanzees) are aggressive because testosterone increases violence and risky behavior. To create peace, he would like more women to be legislators. He says that when abortion is outlawed there is no change whatever in the numbers of abortions but an increase in the number of deaths from unsafe abortions. 

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Anda Serban is a community organizer and peace activist in Costanza, Romania — near the border of Ukraine. She describes the living conditions and uncertain plans of the refugees fleeing into her country, and the prospect that Putin’s apparently successful use of nuclear weapons as a deterrent will increase the appetite of other countries for such arsenals of their own.

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Andre Kamenshikov was awakened by a bomb falling; that told him that the war was starting in Ukraine. He and Alexey Prokhorenko in Moscow agree that the greatest danger may come when Ukraine is winning so decisively that Putin feels desperate and may use a tactical nuclear weapon. The discussion turned mostly on how to influence Putin to accept defeat; both hope we can prevail on Xi or Modi to use their influence. But Putin’s family might have influence, if we could persuade them – perhaps his daughters – to use it. What could the West trade to Xi: agreement on his suggestions for Internet regulation? 

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Alastair Edgar and Erika Simpsons are Canadian professors of international relations. Borys Wrzesnewskyj has served four terms as a member of Canada’s parliament. They discuss the origins of the current war in Ukraine, including the eastward expansion of NATO and the lack of assertive intervention by the UN Secretary General, for which he is now compensating. Can Xi and Modi influence Putin to refrain from using tactical nuclear weapons? Borys holds that Ukraine’s wheat production and export through Odessa to some of the most vulnerable countries shows that the UN must point out how the whole world will be harmed if Putin’s war succeeds. 

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Katey Walter Anthony is a professor who studies permafrost and methane at the University of Alaska. She scouts the countryside looking for the thousands of new lakes that are forming as the permafrost melts. From some of them, methane bubbles are entering the atmosphere, and she can set fire to them to make sure they are really methane. No one can be sure whether these portend grave risks to our own survival but it is clear that they have serious implications for global warming, though perhaps less than the possible disasters from fossil fuels.

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Tamara Lorincz is studying the military impact on global warming. Paul Maillet is a retired Canadian colonel who works full time now in peace services. Tamara’s analysis of the Ukraine war places most of the blame on NATO – especially the US. Maillet is most concerned with finding ways to protect people now and stop the war. Both agree that the OSCE is a better organization to manage the security needs of Ukrainians, Russians, and other Europeans than NATO. 

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Hilal Elver is a law professor who has served as the U. N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. She points out that Madagascar is the first country to have experienced famine caused entirely by climate change, but now COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine are also causing food insecurity. Many different aspects of hunger (e.g. economic, human rights, agricultural innovation, nutritional, governmental regulation, equal access to markets) should be considered in a unified way if famine is to be prevented. 

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Justina Ray is a scientist who is trying to save all kinds of wildlife. Her specialty is with carnivores, so she has spent time tracking rare wolverines in the Canadian Arctic. There she also was able to see herds of caribou in all directions, as far as the eye can see. Those herds are diminishing now, partly because of climate but also because of development in the region — oil and gas, mostly — so she must regularly inform government decision-makers about the risks. 

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Hugo Benedetti is a professor in Chile who teaches courses about Blockchain and other crypto-currencies. Here he explains how the system works, and answers Metta’s questions about how it can be used to help dissident Russians whose funds are blocked by the sanctions. Evidently this not going to be of much value to oligarchs, for it is easy to trace large amounts of money. 

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Real Lavergne has been head of Fair Vote Canada and Alexandre MacIsaac worked on elections for the government before becoming CEO of the World Federalist Movement of Canada. We discuss whether voters are astute enough to make good judgments — and if at all, under what circumstances. Clearly, deliberation is a big part of effectiveness, and Real favors the use of many such groups, chosen by lottery to be representative of the general voting population. Such groups can generally reach better decisions than experts and politicians — a fact that is called “the wisdom of the crowds.”  

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Peter Wadhams and Paul Beckwith, both climatologists, note that the IPCC has changed its attitude about the urgency of handling global warming, partly because the astonishingly rapid melting of ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. Some experts say they never expected to see warming in their lifetime like we’ve seen in the past week. Paul tells us about the stupendous amount of water in atmospheric rivers, which may turn north and melt the ice, revealing lower levels of volcanic debris from generations past. 

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Richard Denton, a leader in the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, had introduced me to a California lady who had led over 100 tours of Russia to teach Americans that “Russians are not enemies.” We invited Richard to join us in the chat with her and, when she did not turn up, he and Metta chatted as old friends in the Canadian peace movement. Although they did not disagree, Richard expressed the more optimistic views, for example, about the power of cross-border friendships as a means of preventing war. 

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Adele Buckley is a retired physicist and Pugwash activist who manages a listserv of articles on Arctic security issues. David Harries has served as a military officer in the Canadian Arctic. Adam Wynne is Metta Spencer’s assistant. we discuss the vulnerability of the undersea cables and the weakness of Canada’s presence with equipment in the Arctic, though Russia is expanding there and other countries see their own interests there. UK is holding naval exercises now in the Barent Sea, with some 35,000 participants from many different countries. Although the “”World Order”” that is familiar will probably be replaced, it is unclear what we should expect the “”new normal”” to be. 

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John Kirton is a political scientist a U of Toronto who studies the G7 and G20. For many years he has headed a project to monitor the effectiveness of these two organizations. At their meetings, the member states each make over 500 commitments, many of which are quite specific, with real numbers promised. His research group checks to see how well they have each kept their promises, and apparently people in Ottawa and the other countries take their “ratings” seriously.  

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Andre Kamenshikov is a Russian-American living in Kiev. Alexey Prokhorenko lives in Moscow. The Russian attack on Ukraine began over a month ago, and both report on military situation. So far, the bombings in Kiev have spared the southern suburb where Andre lives. Alexey recognizes that his hardships are minor compare to those of people in Ukraine, but he says there are shortages as people stock up on buckwheat and other staples. The most important stresses are the broken friendships, though one never knows whether one will be the one in 10,000 who gets arrested and jailed for 15 years, e.g. for holding up a sign saying “Two Words.” Saying “No War” is forbidden, but even “two words.” We give him our warm wishes and expect to stay in touch.

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Mary Ellen Francoeur is a Sister of Service who works against war. Neil Arya is a physician who has chaired the peace organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Canada. He also maintains a clinic for refugees in Canada. They are both appalled at the war in Ukraine – not least at the fact that it is drawing our own resources and attention away from equally urgent issues. But the conversation reveals another disappointing truth: that during a war, peace activists find their usual long-term recommendations ineffective in stopping the bloodshed and protecting the victims. The desire of the Ukrainians for weapons is understandable, yet tragic, for in the long run, militarism does not create peace.

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Paul Werbos is a “founding father” of artificial intelligence. His friend Jerome Glenn is head of the Millennium Project, an organization devoted to studying future global crises. Glenn describes the plans of UN Secretary General Guterres to revise the UN and make it oriented toward futurology. Guterres would like to transform the Trusteeship Council into a body representing multilateral stakeholders, which might include nations, business corporations, and unions, among other global entities. Werbos is more concerned about the possibility of a collapsed internet, for crucial information is not getting to the decision-makers who need it. 

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Paul Dorfman has worked for UK, Ireland, and France as an adviser on nuclear energy, and he assures us that it is no solution to our climate change problems. It is too expensive, too slow to build, and too dangerous for too long a time. It will be vastly quicker and cheaper to develop wind and solar. Yes, the intermittency is a problem and we may have to adjust our behavior to live within its constraints for a time, but there is no real alternative. And that transition is occurring, and quicker than most people realize. He notes that the International Energy Agency report that by 2026 the world will have built enough wind and solar power to almost equal the amount now being produced by fossil fuels and nuclear combined. 

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Paul Maillet is a retired colonel from the Canadian military and a full-time peace activist. Sam Lanfranco is a retired professor of economics and a member of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). We discuss the lessons and dilemmas for policymakers from the unexpected invasion of Ukraine. He fully expects the Ukrainians to prevail eventually because it would take a million soldiers to occupy a country of 44 million if they fail to cooperate. But in the meantime the destruction may be ghastly. We discuss nonviolent resistance strategies and the new way of fighting with economic measures. Sam Lanfranco joins us late but can report on discussions within the Internet governing bodies as to how. best to use the Internet during and after this conflict. 

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Ted Kesik is an engineer who teaches in the architecture faculty at U of Toronto, where he specializes in building materials and constructions that contribute to social resilience. With 300,000 immigrants coming to Canada each year, new dwellings must be built and the deteriorating infrastructure repaired and expanded. Urban drainage systems are inadequate, so we must either rebuild or use less water per person. As high-rise condos age, there will be more incentive to clad them with insulation and replace windows. Concrete and steel are going to be produced with zero net emissions, partly because of the competition with mass timber construction. 

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Ernest Thiessen’s Ph.D. thesis was a search for an algorithm with which to solve conflicts by seeking to maximize the preferences of all parties to the dispute. He found one independently, not knowing that John Nash had already solved the problem (and Nash won a Nobel prize for it). Now he has a company that provides a software that can be used to find the optimum solution to a dispute that is locked in a stalemate. He can always improve on the status quo, though in real life hardly ever achieve 100 percent satisfaction. 

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Ellen Thomas held a vigil outside the White House for many years. She favors a bill that is brought to Congress every year but never voted on: to shift money from nuclear weapons to a useful economy. Canadian activists Robin Collins and Earl Turcotte disagree about the best policy for Ukraine. Turcotte thinks it is realistic for Ukraine’s allies to defend it militarily, while Collins considers Biden right in holding back, since Putin might respond with nuclear weapons. Both agree that there is a confluence of two contradictory impulses because of Putin’s threat: a desire to abolish nuclear weapons because their risks are made so apparent, but also a demonstration that they can be valuable deterrents. NATO will not go to war against Russia because he has nukes, and if Ukraine had kept theirs, he would not have attacked them. This is a terrible message but convincing.

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Ben Rawlence is a British writer whose recent book, The Treeline, recounts his tour of the world around the Arctic circle, as he visited indigenous people living in all the northernmost countries. Their lives are being affected adversely by global warming, which is allowing trees to grow farther in the north than before. Different countries are forested with different predominant species, but the effects are generally negative, for the trees exacerbate the warming. Even caribou cannot survive in some of their former habitat. Rawlence has created a college in England that offers programs on topics relating to the environment and climate. 

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Harriet Friedmann is a sociologist, expert on the world food system. She worries that there are economic factors limiting the opportunity for farmers to adopt the newest and best methods of farming. Tom Newmark, who lives on his regenerative farm in Costa Rica, was formerly the head of a multinational food corporation, and he believes that all the major corporations are fully aware that the standard current agricultural methods are failing and must be replaced. He believes that these companies are taking the lead in promoting the changes that are inevitable because essential; there is no alternative. 

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Erin Hunt explains why the meeting is unable to proceed for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons: the Russians cannot arrive because the airspace is closed to Russian planes. Talk shifts to the causes of the Ukraine War and how to end it. David Burman sees it as caused largely by Western obliviousness to Russia’s security concerns. This view is generally qualified by the notion that Putin would have attacked anyhow, and just uses NATO as an excuse. The talk gets more animated when there is a discussion about having Ukraine surrender but continue the conflict with nonviolent Civilian Based Defence.

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The February Town Hall found activists dispirited over Russia’s attack on Ukraine, with only Abraham Weizfeld offering justifications for it. Some were concerned about the risk of radiation from Chernobyl and Ukraine’s other nuclear power plants, which Russians now control, but possibly not properly. Finally we discuss the changes that need to be made to renovate the “world order” that had been fairly successful since World War II but which has not prevented this calamity. 

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Ole Hendrickson is a retired ecologist who also spends a lot of his attention on the risks of radioactivity. Here we talk about the renewed danger of Chernobyl and other Ukrainian reactors, which have been taken over by the Russian invaders. Then there is a conversation about Canada’s forests — especially the wonderful potential for urban forests and urban national parks. Hendrickson also explains the controversy over reprocessing waste fissile material.

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Olivia Ward has been the Toronto Star’s reporter from previous Russian wars – especially Chechnya. Erika Simpson is a political science professor specializing in NATO. Alex MacIsaac is the new director of world federalism in Canada. Real Lavergne was the head of Fair Vote Canada and Martin Klein is a professor emeritus of history, U of Toronto. We discuss the four-day-old war in Ukraine and its causes, including early enticement of Ukraine to believe they might be admitted to NATO, and even whether Putin is mentally unhinged. We consider various possibilities for a solution, including the Minsk Agreements, and the possibility of becoming a neutral state. 

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With Russia’s war against Ukraine underway, four guests discuss the notion of creating a zone of peace, not only in Ukraine but also in the south Caucasus. Christopher Mitchell, who has studied peace zones as an academic, meets with two of his former students: Irakli Kakabadze, who now runs a Gandhian institute in Tbilisi, Georgia, and Guguli Maghradze, formerly a member of Georgia’s parlliament and now director of a peace program at Tbilisi University. A Canadian peace activist, Lyn Adamson, joins in the discussion, much of which involves an assessment of the potential for creating a zone of neutral countries. 

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Ingeborg Breines worked in UNESCO on issues relating to gender at the end of the Cold War. UNESCO’s mission includes the development of a culture of peace. In retrospect, that period seems remarkably optimistic, for with the onset of the war on terror with the crash of planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, culture of peace dwindles in significance. We can see the effects of that loss now, with the onset of the war against Ukraine. 

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Metta Spencer was invited to speak to the fellows of McLaughlin College, York University about climate change. Her title, “How to Subtract”” reviews five of the possible methods of either shielding the planet from the sun’s heat with whiter clouds or removing carbon from the atmosphere to store it in the soil or concrete. Spencer chose these as the most promising partial solutions, though of course the essential solution will simply be to cease emitting greenhouse gases. Wadhams and Petersen were participants in the zoom meeting and explained their approaches during the Q and A period. 

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On the day following Putin’s decision to recognize the breakaway Donbas republics of Ukraine, both James Simeon and John Foster are preoccupied with the apparent imminence of a major war in Europe. Simeon studies forced migration, which he attributes largely to the prevalence of protracted wars. We don’t need another new war! Foster studies pipelines and explains the risks that will come from canceling the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would supply Germany and other countries with gas at a time when the supplies are already low.

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David Miller, a former mayor of Toronto, now is founding an institute for C40 Cities, an organization of global megacities cooperating to reduce climate change. David Hochschild, the Commissioner of Energy for California, is also fully engaged in the reduction of global warming by his own state. Here they compare notes about their respective efforts, which have been more successful so far than the work of their national governments. 

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Lorraine Rekmans, the president of the Green Party of Canada, complains that the police, as can be expected, have treated the protesting truckers vastly more leniently than they normally treat indigenous protesters, who are normally far more civil in their acts of disobedience. David Webster, who has engaged in protests in Canada and on behalf of the East Timorese independence movement, concurs. Jill Carr-Harris, a Gandhian organizer of protest movements in India, notes that the farmers’ protest has been influenced, as all movements in India still are, by the Gandhian tradition, which is highly disciplined. All the guests are concerned by the loss of democracy, notably in the US, but also in Canada. The failings of Canada cannot properly be attributed to American white supremacy.  

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Ann Frisch worries most about the possibility of nuclear war, including by unintended escalation if the current war between Ukraine and Russia intensifies. Kehkashan Basu, a student at the University of Toronto, notes that she had been told not to go to campus, lest there be problems with the protesting trucker drivers who are attempting to stop Canada’s requirements for vaccination and mask-wearing. This leads us into comparing the strictness of police in protests against these right-wing rowdies with their treatment of minorities who protest more civilly. Subir Guin mentions his chief worry: the Modi government of India, but we lack enough time to discuss that. 

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In this monthly town hall, we spend an hour discussing the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, plus the Swiss Without and Army movement, the search for a place to bury nuclear waste in Canada, the Humanity Rising project, the protection of habitat in urban areas for grey foxes, and a game theory strategy that is helpful for mediators. 

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Alexander Likhotal has been one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s closest advisers and now is a professor in a Geneva school of diplomacy. Here he discusses various of Vladimir Putin’s possible motivations, none of which are very praiseworthy. He says that the current Russian threats of war against Ukraine are not really about Ukraine, but are motivated by Putin’s concern about his country’s status in the world, especially vis a vis the West. Likhotal also believes that Belarus is more important to Russia than is Ukraine. Maintaining significant military bases in Belarus would be strategically important in any attempt to separate the Baltic states from the rest of NATO. 

 

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Pervez Hoodbhoy is a physicist in Islamabad. Pakistan. M.V. Ramana is a physicist from India now living in Vancouver. Both are concerned about the potentially catastrophic effects of nuclear war and even the non-explosive but detrimental effects of radioactivity on health and the environment. They discuss the political relations among the nuclear weapons states and the prospect for nuclear disarmament — which they both consider bleak. They also worry about the effects and economic prospects of the widely-proposed small modular reactors, which are expensive and unlikely to be as numerous as some suggest as a solution to climate change.

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Pavel Palazhchenko has been interpreter and close aide for Mikhail Gorbachev since early in Gorbachev’s tenure as Soviet leader. Before that, he served as interpreter in the foreign ministry, especially to Eduard Shevardnadze. He interpreted all the international negotiations in which Gorbachev played such a historic role in ending the Cold War. He remains in close touch with the 91-year–old Gorbachev. who remains in isolation because of the pandemic. 

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Ellen Judd is an anthropologist specializing in China; Barry Stevens makes films, mainly about war; and Zachary Jacobson is a mathematician concerned about global warming. As a schmooze day, this conversation was unplanned; everyone gets to discuss a favorite topic, and the discussion turned to the difficulty of addressing China’s obvious human rights violations within a fair abd constructive context instead of exacerbating tensions. Is it right to consider the current forcible integration of the Uyghurs as “genocide”? 

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Jenni Harris’s family owns White Oaks Pastures, a farm in Georgia USA that raises and processes animals in ways that sequester more carbon than they emit. Cows, for example, are allowed to graze and are rotated from one paddock to another, day by day, thereby adding their excretions and stirring up the soil just the right amount. The slaughter and packing of meat occurs on the farm, which offers an organic restaurant, general store, guest lodging, and training programs on regenerative agriculture. We discuss the health and climate impacts of this approach to farming. 

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Alan Haber was the first president of Students for a Democratic Society; William Geimer was a lawyer who defended some of the leaders of that 1960s movement against the Vietnam War. They worry about the descent of the US into Fascism. Doug Saunders and Oswald Petersen tend to agree that the support for democracy is on the upswing in Europe and will win every election that is honest; the right is winning only by twisting the voting system. Petersen’s own work is the removal of methane from the atmosphere with the dispersal of nanoparticles of iron salts.

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Vasily Yablokov is a staff member of Greenpeace in St. Petersburg. He notes that there has been a significant change in Russian public opinion about climate change during the past two years — but that nevertheless the majority of the population remains rather oblivious to the issue, though Russia is the country that already is suffering most from it. There are only 30 monitoring stations along the long Siberian coast. Greenpeace may be doing research with Sergey and Nikita Zimov, the Siberians who maintain Pleistocene Park and who are concerned about the emissions of methane from thawing permafrost.

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Sandra Leigh Lester advises architects about ways of making buildings more sustainable, healthful, and beneficial for the wider community. Claire Adamson is a retired architect in Montreal. They both have issues with the fashionable ways of renovating homes. Adamson dislikes the trend toward “open kitchens.” Lester says some of her clients want granite countertops and other things they don’t need; they should pay more attention to such things as valves to keep sewage from backing up into their basements.

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Ashrith Domun is a chemical engineer working on the de-carbonization of vehicles. Craig Smith is a retired engineer who served as president of a construction corporation and more recently cao-authored a book with William Fletcher: “Reaching Net Zero..” Ashrith reports that the larger the vehicle, the more difficult the challenge in making it move sustainably. But trains are fairly easy to decarbonize; they just change over to. green hydrogen, and this can be done within the next five years. 

 

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