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What exactly is ‘sustainable’ about Amazon’s new jet fuel?

Amazon’s fleet of aircraft, which is soon to surpass 80 Boeings, enables the e-commerce giant to deliver everything from dog food to Dysons within two days. It’s an impressive logistical feat, but it comes with a heavy carbon footprint — and is particularly conspicuous given the company’s recent pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040. To start to address the issue, Amazon Air announced on Wednesday that it will buy up to 6 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel, which it says will reduce its aircrafts’ emissions by 20 percent.

While the purchase is a small step that won’t substantially reduce the company’s overall carbon footprint, it may help boost demand for alternative fuels, which are currently too expensive to be competitive with conventional jet fuel.

What makes sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) “sustainable” is not necessarily that it produces fewer carbon emissions than conventional jet fuel when it’s burned in an airplane — it’s that it has a smaller carbon footprint when the entire life cycle of the fuel is taken into account. (In addition, many SAFs burn more cleanly, spewing less soot and other pollutants from a plane’s engine.)

SAFs can be made from a number materials, like various plant oils and crops like poplar and switchgrass. Many of the SAFs under development are made from reusable waste products, like used cooking oil, animal fat, municipal solid waste, and corn leaves, stalks, and cobs. Amazon plans to use a blend of jet fuel and SAF derived from animal fats and oils, produced by the fuel company World Energy.

To assess the emissions reductions claimed by Amazon’s SAF, you need to assess every step of its life cycle, compared to that of conventional jet fuel. Jet fuel starts as crude oil in the ground. It has to be pumped, shipped, or sent via pipeline to a refinery, where it is refined and then shipped again to the airport before it’s burned in an engine. The process for Amazon’s SAF, on the other hand, involves growing and delivering food for livestock, feeding and processing the animals, delivering the fat to a refiner and refining it, getting the fuel to the airport, and burning it in the plane. By saying that this fuel will reduce emissions by 20 percent, Amazon and World Energy are essentially claiming that this whole chain of events generates 20 percent fewer emissions than the one for the crude oil the company would have used instead.

Annie Petsonk, international affairs counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, called Amazon’s purchase an “important baby step” because it could boost demand for sustainable fuels. Today, SAFs are deep in the “valley of death” that frustrates many new energy technologies, she said. Sustainable fuels tend to be more expensive than conventional jet fuel, and investors don’t want to support the innovations that could bring prices down until there’s a bigger market. Some state and federal incentives exist to lower the price, but they still don’t make the price of SAFs competitive with conventional jet fuel, which is especially cheap at present due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Petsonk said Amazon’s purchase will help demonstrate that SAFs work and that major companies are willing to pay a premium for them. Her team calculated that switching from conventional jet fuel to the new fuel could reduce the company’s emissions by about 12,000 metric tonnes of CO2. (Achieving this reduction could be jeopardized if production of the fuel has indirect climate impacts, such as causing other companies that use animal fat to switch to palm oil, thereby contributing to deforestation.)

Given that Amazon’s 2019 self-reported carbon footprint was more than 50 million metric tonnes, a 12,000 metric tonne reduction is a drop in the bucket. But at this point, the options to reduce aviation-related emissions are still relatively limited. There are other SAFs that boast larger carbon reductions, but they are still in the early stages of development. The Illinois-based biotech startup LanzaTech is one of the leaders in the space. It produces a form of sustainable ethanol for jet fuel by capturing the emissions from steel mills. Another company, Velocys, is building a plant in the U.K. to supply British Airways with jet fuel made from household waste that would otherwise go to a landfill. Both companies boast a 70 percent reduction in greenhouse gases compared to conventional jet fuel.

Right now SAFs make up just a fraction of a percent of the fuels burned in airplanes, Petsonk said. But with governments around the world excusing the industry from its emissions reduction goals, Amazon’s adoption of sustainable fuel does move the needle, however slightly.

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What exactly is ‘sustainable’ about Amazon’s new jet fuel?

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The Humane Economy – Wayne Pacelle


The Humane Economy

How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals

Wayne Pacelle

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: April 19, 2016

Publisher: William Morrow


A major new exploration of the economics of animal exploitation and a practical roadmap for how we can use the marketplace to promote the welfare of all living creatures, from the renowned animal-rights advocate Wayne Pacelle, President/CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and New York Times bestselling author of The Bond. In the mid-nineteenth century, New Bedford, Massachusetts was the whaling capital of the world. A half-gallon of sperm oil cost approximately $1,400 in today’s dollars, and whale populations were hunted to near extinction for profit. But with the advent of fossil fuels, the whaling industry collapsed, and today, the area around New Bedford is instead known as one of the best places in the world for whale watching. This transformation is emblematic of a new sort of economic revolution, one that has the power to transform the future of animal welfare. In The Humane Economy, Wayne Pacelle, President/CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, explores how our everyday economic decisions impact the survival and wellbeing of animals, and how we can make choices that better support them. Though most of us have never harpooned a sea creature, clubbed a seal, or killed an animal for profit, we are all part of an interconnected web that has a tremendous impact on animal welfare, and the decisions we make—whether supporting local, not industrial, farming; adopting a rescue dog or a shelter animal instead of one from a “puppy mill”; avoiding products that compromise the habitat of wild species; or even seeing Cirque du Soleil instead of Ringling Brothers—do matter. The Humane Economy shows us how what we do everyday as consumers can benefit animals, the environment, and human society, and why these decisions can make economic sense as well.

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The Humane Economy – Wayne Pacelle

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Unlikely Friendships – Jennifer S. Holland


Unlikely Friendships

47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom

Jennifer S. Holland

Genre: Nature

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: June 15, 2011

Publisher: Workman Publishing

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

The “irresistible” New York Times bestseller that “features heartwarming stories of interspecies love and adorable photographs” ( The New York Times Book Review ). Written by National Geographic magazine writer Jennifer Holland, Unlikely Friendships documents one heartwarming tale after another of animals who, with nothing else in common, bond in the most unexpected ways. A cat and a bird. A mare and a fawn. An elephant and a sheep. A snake and a hamster. The well-documented stories of Koko the gorilla and All Ball the kitten; and the hippo Owen and the tortoise Mzee. And almost inexplicable stories of predators befriending prey—an Indian leopard slips into a village every night to sleep with a calf. A lionness mothers a baby oryx. Holland narrates the details and arc of each story, and offers insights into why—how the young leopard, probably motherless, sought maternal comfort with the calf, and how a baby oryx inspired the same mothering instinct in the lionness. Or, in the story of Cashew, the lab mix that was losing his eyesight, and Libby, the stray cat who began to guide the dog’s way through the house and yard. With Libby, Cashew lived out his last few years with loving support and a lasting friendship. These are the most amazing friendships between species, collected from around the world and documented in a selection of full-color candid photographs. “The feel-good book of the summer—maybe the year—may very well be Unlikely Friendships .” — USA Today “With aww-inducing photographs, the book highlights the most improbable animal connections.” — National Geographic

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Unlikely Friendships – Jennifer S. Holland

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Julián Castro’s Trump-defying plan to save endangered species

Hold your horses, because presidential candidate Julián Castro just came out with an animal welfare plan on Tuesday. The former housing secretary’s proposal may be the first policy proposed by a presidential candidate to highlight the connection between animals, climate change, and extinction (if only because we just learned how bad the extinction situation is about to get). And it arrived on the heels of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

As the effects of the climate crisis — more severe wildfires, floods, and hurricanes — have become clearer, politicians on the left have generally stopped talking about animals under threat and started talking about people at risk. Research indicates that that’s a good thing: Earlier this year, the author of a Yale University study on effective climate change imagery told Grist that the picture of a starving polar bear is pretty much tapped out. After all, most Americans have never even seen a polar bear up close.

But it’s not just charismatic megafauna under threat. A United Nations assessment this spring found that climate change could wipe out 1 million species if left unchecked. Evolution, you see, is hardly a fair match for our fast-warming planet. A new study out on Tuesday from Cornell University shows the climate is changing more speedily than animals can adapt to it. By studying 10,000 climate change papers, a team of international scientists found that normal functions like hibernation, reproduction, and migration are under threat due to shifting seasons and warming temperatures.

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“The climate crisis is accelerating an unprecedented decline in biodiversity, threatening not only the future of animals but human life,” Castro writes in a Medium post detailing his new proposal. “Public policy must also confront the consequences of the climate crisis, including the threat of animal extinctions.”

He notes that much progress has been made on the animal welfare front in recent years: California recently established new standards for farming chickens, pigs, and cows. Delaware became the first “no-kill” state this month, meaning that its shelters save at least 90 percent of the cats and dogs that enter their doors (San Antonio, Castro’s hometown, achieved no-kill status a few years ago). But climate change, he posits, threatens to undermine that progress.

In order to make public policy match the scale of the crisis, Castro suggests establishing a $2 billion National Wildlife Recovery Fund aimed at protecting animals from imminent extinction. He also wants to preserve 30 percent of America’s lands and oceans, a first step toward an ambitious 50 percent goal by 2050. How does he aim to accomplish this? The proposal doesn’t say. But Castro does write that he’d appoint a conservation scientist to head up the Department of the Interior to clean up “Trump’s environmental disaster.” He would also double the Multinational Species Conservation Fund — an act approved by Congress that gives grants to projects that benefit elephants, great apes, rhinos, and sea turtles around the world.

One of the Cornell study’s coauthors, André Dhondt at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said Castro’s plan seemed like a good idea. Creating a fund to address the crisis, as Castro proposed, “would help everybody,” he said — people and animals included.

Castro’s plan could be interpreted as a return to old school conservation — using wildlife to hook mainstream audiences, or in this case, voters. But it could also be understood as a foray into new territory. By marrying the climate crisis to the extinction crisis, Castro is paving the way for a more enlightened conversation about conservation among the 2020 Democratic hopefuls, two of whom happen to already be vegan (Senator Cory Booker and Representative Tulsi Gabbard). And not a moment too soon.

“Animals have been going extinct forever,” Dhondt said. “The problem is now its happening faster, or will happen faster, than ever before.”

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Julián Castro’s Trump-defying plan to save endangered species

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Beyond Words – Carl Safina


Beyond Words

What Animals Think and Feel

Carl Safina

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: July 14, 2015

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Seller: Macmillan

I wanted to know what they were experiencing, and why to us they feel so compelling, and so-close. This time I allowed myself to ask them the question that for a scientist was forbidden fruit: Who are you? Weaving decades of field observations with exciting new discoveries about the brain, Carl Safina's landmark book offers an intimate view of animal behavior to challenge the fixed boundary between humans and nonhuman animals. In Beyond Words , readers travel to Amboseli National Park in the threatened landscape of Kenya and witness struggling elephant families work out how to survive poaching and drought, then to Yellowstone National Park to observe wolves sort out the aftermath of one pack's personal tragedy, and finally plunge into the astonishingly peaceful society of killer whales living in the crystalline waters of the Pacific Northwest. Beyond Words brings forth powerful and illuminating insight into the unique personalities of animals through extraordinary stories of animal joy, grief, jealousy, anger, and love. The similarity between human and nonhuman consciousness, self-awareness, and empathy calls us to re-evaluate how we interact with animals. Wise, passionate, and eye-opening at every turn, Beyond Words is ultimately a graceful examination of humanity's place in the world.


Beyond Words – Carl Safina

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Supernavigators – David Barrie



Exploring the Wonders of How Animals Find Their Way

David Barrie

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $12.99

Publish Date: May 28, 2019

Publisher: The Experiment

Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.

“Describes in delightful detail the myriad ways in which animals get around.”— The New York Times Book Review Publisher's note: Supernavigators was published in the UK under the title Incredible Journeys. Animals plainly know where they’re going, but how they get there has remained surprisingly mysterious—until now. In Supernavigators, award-winning author David Barrie catches us up on the cutting-edge science. Here are astounding animals of every stripe: Dung beetles that steer by the light of the Milky Way. Ants and bees that rely on patterns of light invisible to humans. Sea turtles and moths that fi nd their way using Earth’s magnetic field. Humpback whales that swim thousands of miles while holding a rocksteady course. Birds that can locate their nests on a tiny island after crisscrossing an ocean. The age of viewing animals as unthinking drones is over. As Supernavigators makes clear, a stunning array of species command senses and skills—and arguably, types of intelligence—beyond our own. Weaving together interviews with leading animal behaviorists and the groundbreaking discoveries of Nobel Prize–winning scientists, David Barrie reveals these wonders in a whole new light.


Supernavigators – David Barrie

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10 Simple Hacks for an Eco-Friendly Bedroom

You might wake up every day with good intentions to take care of the planet. But are you an eco-warrior in your sleep? With some sustainable design choices, your sleep space can be healthy both for you and the environment. Here are 10 simple hacks for a more eco-friendly bedroom.

1. Choose organic bedding

Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Pesticides aren?t just something to avoid on your food. It?s also ideal to look for bedding and other fabrics that are organic and produced in a sustainable manner. ?The cotton industry uses one quarter of all the pesticides that are consumed in the world,? Greg Snowden, founder of the Green Fusion Design Center, tells HGTV. ?For that reason alone, it’s important to support organic cotton sheets and bedding.? Opting for chemical-free bedding also means you won?t be absorbing toxins into your skin as you sleep. ?Be suspect when you see the words ?repellents? or ?proof? on bedding labels, which indicate the product has been treated with chemicals,? HGTV says.

2. Go green with your mattress

When it comes to furnishing a bedroom, your mattress is probably the most important choice you?ll make. After all, getting enough quality sleep is vital to your health and well-being. Your mattress should support you through a comfortable night?s sleep ? and it shouldn?t have any qualities that adversely affect your health. ?Choose a mattress that’s toxin-free and doesn’t contain polyurethane foam and fire-retardants such as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers),? HGTV says. ?? Green options include organic wool- and cotton-filled mattresses that are just as comfortable as a chemical-filled mattress. The greenest option is latex.?

3. Avoid down filling

Although some companies are trying to source down feathers via slightly less horrifying methods (such as not plucking live birds), don?t be fooled into thinking down bedding is friendly to the environment or the animals. Buying a down product might mean you?re supporting ?the cruelty of the foie gras and meat industries because many farmers who raise birds for food make an extra profit by selling their feathers as well,? according to PETA. And we know the meat industry is a major contributor to climate change. So choose vegan fillings, such as cotton or buckwheat, for an all around friendlier option.

4. Give old furniture new life

Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

If you?re looking to refresh your bedroom decor, make something old new again. New furniture not only is typically more expensive, but it also takes more resources to produce and ship. So take inventory of what you already have if you?re doing a bedroom redesign. Even if you?re not that handy, there are many easy DIY tactics to give furniture a facelift. Or check local thrift stores and antique shops for pieces that meet your needs. ?You can often find old headboards to upholster or paint, giving a singular look to the bed for less,? according to HGTV. ?An old door turned on its side and wall mounted is another eco-friendly, and rustic, solution.? And try to keep any large furniture pieces on the neutral side, so you can continue to use them even if your decorating style changes.

5. Use low/no-VOC paints and stains

If you are going the DIY route, make sure any paints, stains and other products you use have little to no volatile organic compounds. VOCs are a major pollutant of indoor air and are found in many household products, including paints, solvents, wood preservatives and adhesives, according to the EPA. They can cause short- and long-term health effects, such as headaches, dizziness, breathing issues and cancer. And many of these products are considered hazardous waste that can pollute water and destroy ecosystems. So buy the greenest products possible for your projects. Use them according to label instructions, and dispose of them safely.

6. Reuse or recycle old fabric

It?s not just old furniture that you can repurpose for your eco-friendly bedroom. You also can take a green approach to your fabric choices. There?s a lot of fabric in bedrooms ? sheets, duvet covers, blankets, curtains, etc. And while buying organic bedding is a plus for the environment, don?t forget some other sustainable strategies. ?For inexpensive DIY pillows or curtain panels, visit fabric shops and ask for their leftover material scraps,? HGTV says. ?Or, repurpose old blankets and sheets for a comforter that’s completely your own.? And if you have old fabric items you?re not going to use, either donate them or bring them to a facility that takes textile recycling.

7. Open windows

For your best sleep, experts suggest your bedroom should be somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Sleep.org. But that doesn?t mean you always have to snooze in a climate-controlled environment. Open windows anytime the weather allows it to take advantage of the cool night air (and to chase out some of those indoor air toxins). If opening windows isn?t an option, opt for a fan in the bedroom. ?Buy a stylish ceiling fan to circulate hot and cool air, and save money on energy bills,? HGTV says.

8. Add insulating decor

Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Speaking of windows, the bedroom is an ideal space to hang thicker, insulating window treatments that can block hot and cold outdoor air ? as well as light for those mornings when you want to sleep in. And this kind of insulating, energy-saving decor doesn?t stop at the windows. Adding rugs to the bedroom also can reduce your need for climate control, especially in the colder months. ?We all like the feel of soft rugs under our feet, but did you know that putting down layers of rugs will stop heat escaping from a room?? Ikea says. ?So turn up the rugs, and you could be turning down the thermostat.?

9. Choose dimmer bulbs

The bedroom probably isn?t a place where you need bright lighting. So an easy way to conserve some energy is by replacing all your bedroom lighting with dimmer LED bulbs. ?LED lights last for around 20 years, which significantly cuts down on the number of times you?ll have to change the bulbs,? Ikea says. ?Not only that, you?ll be cutting down your electricity bill too, as LED uses 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs.? And if you fall asleep with those LEDs still on, you won?t have to feel so bad about the energy you?ve wasted.

10. Make space to hang clothes

Clothing is a whole other category that impacts the environment. And one way you can make your bedroom more conducive to eco-friendly choices is by setting up an area to hang clothes you don?t want to put in your closet. This can be a spot for air-drying clothes. Or it can be a place to keep clothes that simply need to air out a little, rather than a full wash. ?Hang trousers or tops up on hooks overnight and you won?t need to wash them so often, saving water and time spent ironing,? Ikea says. Along those lines, aim to keep your closet decluttered. Know what you have in there, so you can shop your own closet instead of wasting resources on extraneous purchases.

Main image credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

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10 Simple Hacks for an Eco-Friendly Bedroom

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Design in Nature – Adrian Bejan & J. Peder Zane


Design in Nature

How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization

Adrian Bejan & J. Peder Zane

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $6.99

Publish Date: January 24, 2012

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

In this groundbreaking book, Adrian Bejan takes the recurring patterns in nature—trees, tributaries, air passages, neural networks, and lightning bolts—and reveals how a single principle of physics, the Constructal Law, accounts for the evolution of these and all other designs in our world.   Everything—from biological life to inanimate systems—generates shape and structure and evolves in a sequence of ever-improving designs in order to facilitate flow. River basins, cardiovascular systems, and bolts of lightning are very efficient flow systems to move a current—of water, blood, or electricity. Likewise, the more complex architecture of animals evolve to cover greater distance per unit of useful energy, or increase their flow across the land. Such designs also appear in human organizations, like the hierarchical "flowcharts" or reporting structures in corporations and political bodies. All are governed by the same principle, known as the Constructal Law, and configure and reconfigure themselves over time to flow more efficiently. Written in an easy style that achieves clarity without sacrificing complexity, Design in Nature is a paradigm-shifting book that will fundamentally transform our understanding of the world around us.

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Design in Nature – Adrian Bejan & J. Peder Zane

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Animal Communication Made Easy – Pea Horsely


Animal Communication Made Easy
Strengthen Your Bond and Deepen Your Connection with Animals
Pea Horsely

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: September 18, 2018

Publisher: Hay House

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

A practical and inspiring introductory guide to communicating with pets and wild animals. Your step-by-step guide to forming a deeper connection with animals. Do you love animals but wish you could understand what they’re trying to tell you? Do some of their behaviours leave you baffled? In this book, world-renowned animal communicator Pea Horsley teaches you the essentials of animal communication to enable you to communicate intuitively with the animals you love. Pea leads you through grounding preparation processes to calm your body and release your mind, and then her effective five-step method to create a deep, spiritual connection with your animal. Drawing on her many years of experience teaching people to communicate with both wild and domesticated creatures, Pea’s unique blend of exercises, affirmations and meditations will empower you to connect with all living beings. Communicating with animals is fun, profound and healing. It’s the best thing you can do for both yourself and your animals, and will transform how you experience life.

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Animal Communication Made Easy – Pea Horsely

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How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls – David Hu


How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls

Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future

David Hu

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $17.99

Expected Publish Date: November 13, 2018

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Seller: Princeton University Press

Discovering the secrets of animal movement and what they can teach us Insects walk on water, snakes slither, and fish swim. Animals move with astounding grace, speed, and versatility: how do they do it, and what can we learn from them? In How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls , David Hu takes readers on an accessible, wondrous journey into the world of animal motion. From basement labs at MIT to the rain forests of Panama, Hu shows how animals have adapted and evolved to traverse their environments, taking advantage of physical laws with results that are startling and ingenious. In turn, the latest discoveries about animal mechanics are inspiring scientists to invent robots and devices that move with similar elegance and efficiency. Hu follows scientists as they investigate a multitude of animal movements, from the undulations of sandfish and the way that dogs shake off water in fractions of a second to the seemingly crash-resistant characteristics of insect flight. Not limiting his exploration to individual organisms, Hu describes the ways animals enact swarm intelligence, such as when army ants cooperate and link their bodies to create bridges that span ravines. He also looks at what scientists learn from nature’s unexpected feats—such as snakes that fly, mosquitoes that survive rainstorms, and dead fish that swim upstream. As researchers better understand such issues as energy, flexibility, and water repellency in animal movement, they are applying this knowledge to the development of cutting-edge technology. Integrating biology, engineering, physics, and robotics, How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls demystifies the remarkable mechanics behind animal locomotion.

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How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls – David Hu

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