2016-06-11 Trip Date
Scouting Trip # 283

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The Sustainable Backyard Tour began in 2010 in Saint Louis.  It’s a grassroots event, one of the first of it’s kind, and it just celebrated it’s 7th anniversary in 2017.  Known affectionately as the SBYT, this is a free event by locals, who throw their garden gates open to the public each year, to showcase best practices in organic vegetable growing, beekeeping, chicken farming, native habitats, water retention and clean energy.  Typically, over 40 hosts showcase their backyards and gardens every year.  Green Spiral Tours took advantage of the SBYT to visit the celebrated Urban Harvest Food Roof in downtown Saint Louis.  The Food Roof is fantastic!

2017 Food Roof Logo

Located downtown near the City Museum, and above Wave Storage, you can easily park on the street next to Wave Taco, which offers a volleyball tournament arena, several tons of white Florida sand, and a tiki bar serving tacos, beer and margaritas.  To get to the Food Roof, enter through the doors at W-ave Storage, and make your way up the stairs to roof.  When you pop up, expect to be impressed by an exceptionally well designed space and vibrant scene.

2017 Wave Taco

5 staff, 15 interns, 300 volunteers, and several master gardeners help make the Urban Harvest Food Roof what it is today.  It’s a beautiful rooftop farm, showcasing best practices while collaborating with a cluster of food partners.   The Food Roof is the brainchild of Mary Ostafi, an EarthDance Farm graduate; Mary is a trained architect, who brings high design and great intentionality to everything she touches.  The Food Roof is the first rooftop farm in Saint Louis, and is growing into a localized network of farms, gardens, educators and food distributors in north Saint Louis.

2017 Urban Food Roof

There’s a chicken coop and greenhouse on the roof, plus hydroponics, a community garden, test garden, and gathering space for events, educational functions and weddings. It’s incredible, and, it’s beautiful.

2017 Food Roof Chickens

70% of the food generated is donated to partner organizations, including the STL Metro Market (the Food Bus), the Fit & Food Connection, St. Patricks and the kids at Flance. Green Spiral has hosted field trips to both St. Patrick’s and Flance in the past.  St. Patrick’s serves under-priviledged populations, and has one of the first “kitchen incubators” in the country. Flance is a Platinum-level preschool – only the 4th such school in the world – and what happens inside the building is as impressive as the green building structure itself.  It’s exciting to watch these world class, cutting-edge sustainability programs grow, right here in Saint Louis.

2017 Food Roof GreenHouse

Now here’s the best part: if you want to visit the Food Roof, and missed the chance during the SBYT, you can drop-in any Saturday morning from 9 – 12, when the Food Roof is open to the public. OR, you can attend any number of special events, such as workshops, Happy Hours, Harvest Dinners, or yoga.  The events serve as fundraisers to help fund the many programs.  Find the time to visit this incredible and beautiful farm –  on a roof! –  in downtown Saint Louis; you’ll be glad you did.

2017 Test Kitchen

Here’s the link to go on your own: Urban Harvest Food Roof

Here’s the SBYT link:  Sustainable Backyard Tour

Here’s Wave Taco on Yelp:  Wave Taco – Yelp

Here’s GPS to Wave Storage: 1335 Convention Plaza; 63103

 

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Trip Date: 2017-02-27
Trip #50
GPS: Address: 5025 Pattison; 63110 (at Kingshighway and I-44)
Search Words:  Chocolate Factory Tours

2017-02-01 Chocolate morsel

Surprisingly, Saint Louis has a high concentration of award winning chocolate makers; probably due to our immigrant roots. There are many chocolate destinations worth visiting in Saint Louis, but the Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Company has the “best” chocolate tour in Saint Louis for kids, only because it’s the shortest and the sweetest, and thus the easiest for busy families to visit.  This is a 20 minute “tour” with a piece of chocolate waiting at the end.  The tour is free.  Over 50,000 people come from all over the world visit this chocolate factory every year.

2017-02-01 Chocolate Sig

Drive to the GPS address at Pattison Avenue listed above, and wind around to the front lobby, which is right up against the highway.  Inside awaits an oasis of delights.

2017-02-01 Parking Lot

Tours launch every 30 minutes from the spacious ‘Chocolate Shoppe’, and everyone is required to wear a “hairnet,” which doubles as a rather cool souvenir.  Guests get a little giddy as they gather, and then enter through the doors marked “Chocolate Heaven”.

2017-02-01 Chocolate Heaven

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate is a third generation family business started by the Abel family in 1981, near the famous Ted Drewes ice cream stand on Route 66. They moved to the current location in 2012 in order to accommodate their expanding business. This is a Greek family who got their start with help from another Greek family, and are thus now continuing the American Dream.

2017-02-01 Factory Floor

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate uses the term “clean chocolate” to describe their products. Listen carefully when they list their ingredients:  chocolate is sourced from the Ivory Coast, vanilla comes from Madagascar, sugar from Belize.  Anything worth doing, like making chocolate, is worth doing well, and making fine chocolate is harder than it looks.

Doing Well

Take special note of the solar panels on the roof, the LED lights throughout the factory floor, and the Goodwill employees to packaging the finished chocolates.  Ask about the creation of jobs, as local jobs increase the multiplier effect of money — basically meaning that money circulates throughout the local economy instead of whooshing away and into the pockets of people who are already rich. Handcrafted local chocolate is an example of “Slow Food”;  every chocolate you buy brings you closer to a “Less but Better” world.

Worker

Keep an eye out for Oompa Loompas on the factory floor.

2017-02-24 Oomp Loompas

Back inside the “Chocolate Shoppe”, be sure to ask about specialties and sample any award winning chocolates. Also ask which holiday drives the most sales.  Don’t miss the “Oops Shelf” which is full of perfectly imperfect chocolates.

2017-02-01 Oops


The science of happiness is a relatively new field, but it’s really, really true that some things make you happy.  It’s not the weather, or your salary, or your kids that make you happy, but rather flowers, dinner with friends and adventures to new places that bring happiness. Take your friends and family on a tour of a chocolate factory, and follow Green Spiral Tours in enjoying all the goodness that Saint Louis has to offer.

Happiness

Scouting Mission: 2017-Jan-06

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The Old Courthouse, located in downtown Saint Louis, is an incredibly magnificent and historic building, and the best time for locals to visit is on January 6th, which is Epiphany, the Twelfth Day of Christmas. On this day, the Old Courthouse comes alive with music and dancing from 1768, as period actors in military uniform, and ladies in long gowns, throw a party for the public.  The event is called the “Twelfth Afternoon Ball” and it comes complete with little cakes and cookies for visitors to enjoy.  The public is also invited to join in the line dancing, which is easy to learn, and a blast. The whole thing is free.

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The party culminates with a sharing of the “King’s Cake” — little cakes that have been baked with three beans inside.  Gentlemen eat the cakes, and whoever gets a bean, gets to be King, which means the honor of throwing the party next year.  It’s a jolly festive atmosphere inside the Courthouse, but the real reason for a family adventure is to climb the stairs of the magnificent rotunda, and get some exercise in winter. Parking is easy in winter, or, ride the Metro to the 8th & Pine station and walk four brisk blocks to the Courthouse.

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Explore until you find the cast iron staircase, and climb each set of stairs — up three ascending balconies, each time hunting for the next set of hidden stairs — until you’ve reached as high as you can go. Most people who visit the Courthouse never climb the balconies, and never get to experience the ingenious design that amplifies sound without electricity.   In this case, music and laughter float up, while you climb ever higher, and peer over at smaller and smaller dancers below.  The Old Courthouse was crafted by hand, at enormous expense, and it’s impossibly beautiful and grand by today’s standards.

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The skylight at the top of the cupola is called the “eye”, and allegorical figures are painted on the walls depicting law, liberty, justice and commerce.  If you know your architectural order, the columns ascend from Doric to Ionic to Corinthian. Some of the columns are weight bearing, made of cast iron, and some of the columns are decorative, made of wood. Knock on a few to see which is which!

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Look down on the dancers below, and peek inside the old courtroom doors.

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Because it was the setting for the Dred & Harriet Scott case, which helped spark the Civil War, the Old Courthouse stands as a touchstone for the ongoing struggle for Civil Rights. Be sure to visit the Dred Scott exhibit, and look for the underground railroad map.  The Old Courthouse is a local treasure, as well as a National Park, so buy or bring your National Park Passport, and get it stamped. Look for the sculpture of Harriet and Dred Scott just outside the East Doors, which face the river.

2015-dred-harriet-scott-sculpture

Be sure to visit the gift store, which specializes in books on Lewis and Clark, as well as  children’s books on African American history.  From the East Steps, you can see the Arch and stand on the spot where slaves were sold. The Eads Bridge, which inspired the Arch, was also sold on this spot, as well as the St. Louis Dispatch — to Hungarian immigrant Joseph Pulitzer.  This is a good spot for a family photo.

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Because of the Twelfth Afternoon Ball, not to mention easy parking, Epiphany is the perfect time for local citizens to visit the Old Courthouse, to get some exercise and some cultural appreciation at the same time. The event is free and suitable for all; toddlers will get a lot of exercise, and surprisingly, even teenagers will like it. On your way out, hunt for the turtle motif on the fence, an homage to a quirky custodian who once kept a turtle in the fountain.

2015-turtle-fence

Every child from Saint Louis should visit the Old Courthouse at least once, to touch a monument to the dream of equality, and to reinforce the shared value of governance by the rule of law. Go anytime your schedule allows, but if you go on Epiphany, the adventure is twelve times the fun.

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Faucet Water Org

Trip Date: 2016 March & 2016 December
Field Trips #35 & 48

In the wake of the #Flint Water Crisis,  Green Spiral Tours hosted two “Drinking Water Tours” to the water intake & treatment facility at Hog Hollow.

Most drinking water in America, including the city of Saint Louis, is managed by city municipalities, but the facility at Hog Hollow is operated by Missouri American Water, a private company.

Hog Hollow

This facility provides water to the County, and thus about 80% of the region’s population.  Here’s the good news and the bad news:  we have an abundant supply of fresh clean water coming down the Missouri River, with no urgent threat, except for the serious situation at the the West Lake Landfill.

Great Rivers Greenway

Saint Louis is defined by its rivers: the Missouri, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers meet just upstream from the city, and the Meramec River meets the Mississippi just south of the city. (Map courtesy of Great Rivers Greenway.)

There are four water treatment facilities on the Missouri River and two on the Meramec; these six facilities supply all the drinking water to the Saint Louis region. In this day and age, everyone should know where their water comes from.

About  80% of the region’s water comes from the Hog Hollow location, which is located near Chesterfield on the Missouri River:  this facility feeds the County system which includes Saint Charles, Chesterfield, Webster Groves, Clayton, University City,  and some parts of South Saint Louis. North Saint Louis, including Bridgeton, receives water mixed from both the Hog Hollow intake, and the water intake downstream at Charbonnier.

The Missouri River is a fast, deep and fairly clean water source.  In just eleven minutes, we can pull enough water out of the river to supply Saint Louis with a year’s worth of drinking water. Upstream are CAFO farms, industrial facilities,  coal ash ponds, and a handful of nuke plants. The greatest water threat seems to be coming from “nonpoint” sources, including springtime nitrates, nutrient pollution from farm inputs,  and industrial pollution like oil in the parking lot not coming from a pipe.  Interestingly, large pipeline and chemical spills are a valid threat to clean water. All things considered, and relative to the rest of the country, Saint Louis has an abundant supply of fresh clean water,  because we sit on the banks of a fast, clean flowing river. Here’s a nifty new tool that allows you to trace the Missouri river upstream:  Slate.com

2016 Flint Water Crisis

If you’ve been following the Flint Water Crisis, you’ve been watching a catastrophic failure of government at every level, and a lot of finger pointing, as residents muddle through the days (and now years) on bottled water.  Clearly, there is no easy fix in sight, and the story has turned a spotlight on aging infrastructure, corruption in government and weakening water regulations across the country. Here’s what Erin Brokovich had to say about Flint in March 2016, and the situation is getting worse:   We Are All Flint

Indeed, the Flint situation prompted the testing of local Saint Louis schools, and many of them popped up with lead troubles before school started in 2016.  We all know that lead is damaging to young brains;  it enters the water supply at the end point, where the house pipes meet the water main, for example, or where the drinking fountain meets the child. Lead is easily handled and not an issue for our water supply, per se. stl today Aug 2016

west lake landfill overlay

For those just tuning in, we have a landfill loaded with a huge amount of nuclear waste in Saint Louis, and an unstoppable fire now within “hundreds of feet”, so there’s quite a lot of concern about radioactivity slipping into the drinking water supply.  We know from the EPA that radioactivity is currently leaching into the groundwater, and that the groundwater under the landfill is now it’s own Superfund site. The groundwater is expected to seep into the Missouri River by ? 2030? If it’s not escaping into the river already.

Missouri American Water Tower

In March 2016, and again in December 2016, Green Spiral Tours took twenty reasonable and skeptical citizens on tours of the county facility at Hog Hollow, operated by Missouri American Water.  This facility is located upstream from the landfill and the tours were informative and interesting.  Our hosts were clearly professionals who take great pride in their work, and their transparency and candor were comforting. After both tours, Green Spiral participants had not big concerns, and pretty much agreed that the water supply from the County facility is mostly “safe”.

Treating water for drinking is both a mechanical and chemical process. The water is drawn from the river, and then delivered by pipe to settling ponds.  Chemically sticky positive ions, (like lime softening agents and carbon) are added, which cause large particles to clump together as colloidals, and sink to the bottom. This is how most of the heavy metals and radionuclides are removed from the water: they clump together and  “settle” as sediment.

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2016 Best Photo

After leaving the settling ponds, the water is treated with chlorine and ammonia to kill microbes and pathogens, and then disturbed with aerating paddles, again to cause particles to knock together, clump, and fall to the bottom as sediment. Fluoride is added thanks to standards that has not been updated since 1950, and the young mothers were keen to know we have relatively more fluoride in Saint Louis (at .6mg/L) than other cities.  (By the way, fluoride is a tiny molecule, which can be removed by reverse osmosis; the Lancet Journal has come out with this not so great news about the damaging effects of fluoride).

2016-12-09-anthraciteIn the final stage, water passes through a final filter (of anthracite, sand and pebbles) to remove the smallest particles before moving by pipe directly to the consumer.  A dense network of pipes runs beneath the streets of Saint Louis, and the county has the ability to swap water with the city in order to handle the “Super Bowl Flush Rush” or the filling of too many swimming pools in early summer. The county water pipes interface with city water pipes somewhere around Skinker Blvd. As a final note: Missouri American Water adds extra carbon for taste, odor and color, and probably due to a high mineral county,  Saint Louis wins awards for having great tasting water!

West Lake MapWhile Missouri American Water operates the county water intake facility upstream from the landfill, the city of Saint Louis operates two intake facilities downstream from the landfill (and also one intake facility upstream from the landfill). Refer to the hand-drawn map. It’s all a little confusing, but the point is that the city and county can switch pipes and swap water at any time, and thus, we all drink the same water.  The city has denied Green Spiral Tours a visit for security and safety reasons.

Water is Life

This brings us down to test results, as well as the question of what is being tested, and what is not being tested for.  For example, drinking water is not being tested for a variety of pharmaceuticals, which are known to be there. Safe Water Standards are set by the EPA and enforced by the State.  Lots can be written about the EPA and the MDNR (Missouri Department of Natural Resources), and you could spend your life lobbying for clean water; thankfully, many people do.  Bear in mind, for context, that the biggest threat to safe drinking water (by far) is e.coli, also known as “poop”.

2014-01-19 Water towersHere are some of the specific questions from our December group, along with answers:  What about testing for specific radioactive isotopes associated with the West Lake Landfill, like radium 226 or thorium 230? Answer: The water tested in 2015 at the downstream Charbonnier facility revealed no detectable gross alpha or gross beta results. Water was also retrieved from the point where Cold Water Creek enters the Missouri River and no gross alpha or gross beta were detected. What about gylphosate? Answer: according to testing results, no glyphosate was detected in the raw water. What about radioactive particles leaking into the pipes? Answer: low emitter radioactive particles cannot penetrate pipes, and the water supply is a closed system. Which water system serves InBev and thus Budweiser Beer? Answer: County water, the Missouri American water treatment facility we visited at Hog Hollow. Question: How much of a problem are pipeline spills, as highlighted by Standing Rock situation, for example? Answer: Actually, kind of a problem.  What about chloramines? Answer: Chlorine and chloramines seem to be a necessary evil.  What about Chromium 6? Answer: Health standards are no feasibly attainable, but clean drinking water standards are met. Like I said, a person could spend a lifetime looking at test results and lobbying for clean water, and thankfully, many people do.  Take a moment to look through the test results of your drinking water by entering your zipcode here: Water Quality Reports

Testing for radionuclides is required every nine years by the EPA, but due to the unique situation at the West Lake Landfill, all four water facilities on the Missouri River were tested in 2015, and here are the results: http://www.amwater.com/ccr/STLSTC_rads.pdf

It is my understanding that the Missouri River is now being tested every year for radionuclides.

Water Gives Me Potatoes

Here are a few articles you may or may not want to read:

Erin Brokovich in Time Magazine: Feb 2016

Half of all US Rivers too polluted: The Wire 2013

MegaBanks: Buying up the World’s Water

 

DOE dumps radioactivity in Missouri River 1993: First Secret City

Water beyond America; Thank you Water.org:  Water.org

Shut Down the Dakota Pipeline on the Missouri River: Before it Spills

Surprisingly, after long insisting that fracking does not contaminate groundwater, the EPA has now come out and said, “actually, it does”: Eco-Watch

i-am-the-riverIn the end,  we all live downstream, and I encourage citizens to learn by doing, by organizing your own “Drinking Water” field trips.


This is a good field trip for middle school students,  high school students, and scout troops. Take about 12-20 people with you when you go, and make sure they are over age 10; names must be submitted for security reasons. Call the main number at Missouri American Water and ask for a tour: 314-469-6050. The tour takes about 2 hours and there is some driving out to the river.  Go in March, when the leaves are just starting to turn green, or go in November, saving your best weather for planting in your garden or exploring the green world with kids. Tell them Green Spiral Tours sent you, and bring Saint Louis chocolates, or other suitable gifts when you go. Now here’s your homework:

Visit your Drinking Water Treatment Facility: Create your own tour or follow Green Spiral Tours.  Visiting a place in real life is entirely different than reading about it on the internet.  You’ll be surprised at what you learn, and what sticks with you. Bring friends who will ask questions you would never think to ask.  Take a moment to blog out or reflect on your experience to integrate the learning into your understanding of the way things work.

Use less fertilizer:  Everything you put on your lawn, garden or driveway eventually ends up in the river, and over-fertilizing lawns is a major offender. Use native plants, which require far fewer fertilizers and almost no pesticides.

Salt is a problem –  lobby your school or government to use salt wisely, and investigate new spray applications, which use a fraction of the amount of salt.

Clean up pet waste – Interestingly, dog poop creates an e.coli problem, so if you want to drink clean water, clean up after your dog.

Eat Local and Organic. Yep, it always seems to keep coming back to that. Farm policy matters a lot, because nitrogen and phosphorous inputs run off the land, into the wetlands and rivers, and ultimately into the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, (which is already quite large and  getting larger). It’s sad, because the degraded habitat kills so many fish and animals.

Sign PetitionsHere’s a bunch of petitions you can sign from Food & Water Watch.  Yes, petitions and phone calls do matter!

Comment below – put your questions below and I will write to Missouri American Water to see if they can be answered.  Here’s a picture of me, Jessie, with an American bald eagle at the water intake facility next to the river.

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During Year Two of Green Spiral Tours, families experienced many magical moments, and learned directly from local entrepreneurs, farmers, educators and leaders in the sustainable field, at a wide variety of locations throughout the Saint Louis area.

Experience really is the best teacher!  Plus, bringing friends along is more fun and helps create a vibrant learning community.  At Green Spiral, we especially welcome adventurous families who like to write and photograph, will reflect and debrief online, and will share the learning via social media.

Green Spiral hosted 10 field trips in Year Two, (up two field trips from Year One).

Field Trips Include: 

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Pie Making at BEGIN New Venture Saint Patricks Center

We learned how to make pies with “Pie Oh My!” entrepreneur Jane Callahan, at the BEGIN New Venture “kitchen incubator,” a cutting edge program for local food entrepreneurs, located downtown at the Saint Patrick Center. 

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IMG_2358Bocce Ball, Herbaria and Ravioli Tour of “The Hill”

One mother’s testimonyI’ve lived on The Hill for seven

years and didn’t know all this stuff was here!”

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mail“Living Building” Tour at Tyson Learning Center 

Saint Louis is home to one of the very greenest buildings

in the world, a “Living Building” built by Washington University as a lab

and learning center. We got to see it on a rainy day. Closed to the public.  

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2011-05-20 Loden BradstreetStrawberry Picking at Thies Farms at the Creve Coeur location

Still the best place for u-pick strawberries within easy reach.        

Don’t let your kids grow up without strawberry picking at least once!

The best strategy for organic strawberry picking in Saint Louis is still DIY.

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mailRue Lafayette Cafe and Lafayette Park Pond and Playground

Saint Louis has a rich french heritage and it’s important to know at least a little something about it. Renting sailboats for the Lafayette Park pond and eating chocolate croissants is a nice way to start! This was our third year to Rue Lafayette Cafe on Lafayette Park.

 

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2011-06-09 Earthdance (4)Farm Tour at EarthDance FARMS

One of the primary movers in the Saint Louis food movement, 

EarthDance FARMS hosts regular tours on Sunday afternoons in the summer. 

If you want to explore to the front edge of the food movement, it’s a must visit!

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A river runs through it...Arrowhead Hunting 

The historic drought made this year an excellent year for arrowhead 

hunting, and it’s fascinating to hunt for artifacts from past civilizations,

which may be hiding surprisingly near you!

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Crawdad Fishing 

Missouri is home to the biggest spring fed rivers in the world,

and this makes us a biodiversity hotspot for “crawdads” (crayfish). 

We went to catch a few with very young children in Forest Park.

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Schlafly GardenworksSustainable Sensory Tour of Maplewood

The City of Maplewood is a hotspot for sustainability, 

anchored by the Gardenworks at Schlafly Bottleworks. 

We went to visit the gardens, along with sustainable

chocolate maker Kakao, and two healing arts centers:

The Salt Room and Cheryl’s Herbs. 

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mailMetro Journey to the Whispering Wall at Union Station

Union Station is again in transition, and so the annual

Metro Journey to the Whispering Wall was cancelled this year.

We are holding a bright candle for Union Station and know

that this rich cultural landmark will continue to be part of Saint Louis’ living legacy,

well into the future.