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Russia scandal forces Sam Clovis out of a top USDA position.

Poor dumb turtles and fish, always chomping on the ubiquitous plastic in the water by accident — or so the story went, until a handful of recent studies suggested sea creatures may actually be choosing to eat plastic.

In one of these experiments, researchers took single grains of sand and particles of microplastic — both around the same size and shape — and dropped them onto coral polyps. The tiny creatures responded to the plastic the same way they would to a tasty piece of food, stuffing the bits of trash into their mouths like so many Snickers Minis.

“Plastics may be inherently tasty,” Austin Allen, a study coauthor and marine science doctoral student at Duke University, told the Washington Post.

Coral polyps rely on chemical sensors — taste buds, essentially — to determine whether something is edible or not. And they were repeatedly chosing to swallow plastic during the study. Only once in 10 trials did a polyp make the same mistake with sand. In fact, the cleaner and fresher and more plastic-y the plastic was, the more readily the coral gulped it down.

While the long-term effects of the plastic-saturation of the planet are still unknown, this research suggests that accidentally tasty microplastics could pose an extra hazard to already beleaguered corals around the world.

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Russia scandal forces Sam Clovis out of a top USDA position.

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The Clean Power Plan’s health benefits are better than ever, Trump’s EPA discovers.

Poor dumb turtles and fish, always chomping on the ubiquitous plastic in the water by accident — or so the story went, until a handful of recent studies suggested sea creatures may actually be choosing to eat plastic.

In one of these experiments, researchers took single grains of sand and particles of microplastic — both around the same size and shape — and dropped them onto coral polyps. The tiny creatures responded to the plastic the same way they would to a tasty piece of food, stuffing the bits of trash into their mouths like so many Snickers Minis.

“Plastics may be inherently tasty,” Austin Allen, a study coauthor and marine science doctoral student at Duke University, told the Washington Post.

Coral polyps rely on chemical sensors — taste buds, essentially — to determine whether something is edible or not. And they were repeatedly chosing to swallow plastic during the study. Only once in 10 trials did a polyp make the same mistake with sand. In fact, the cleaner and fresher and more plastic-y the plastic was, the more readily the coral gulped it down.

While the long-term effects of the plastic-saturation of the planet are still unknown, this research suggests that accidentally tasty microplastics could pose an extra hazard to already beleaguered corals around the world.

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The Clean Power Plan’s health benefits are better than ever, Trump’s EPA discovers.

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Challenger: An American Tragedy – Hugh Harris

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Challenger: An American Tragedy

The Inside Story from Launch Control

Hugh Harris

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $3.99

Publish Date: January 28, 2014

Publisher: Open Road Media

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC


On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seventy-three seconds after launch, the fiery breach of a solid motor joint caused a rupture of the propellant tanks, and a stunned nation watched as flames engulfed the craft, killing all seven crew members on board. It was Hugh Harris, “the voice of launch control,” whom audiences across the country heard counting down to lift-off on that fateful day. With over fifty years of experience with NASA’s missions, Harris presents the story of the Challenger tragedy as only an insider can. With by-the-second accounts of the spacecraft’s launch and a comprehensive overview of the ensuing investigation, Harris gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the devastating accident that grounded the shuttle fleet for over two years. This book tells the whole story of the Challenger ’s tragic legacy. “This book has all the facts, but more importantly, offers insight into the people. The people are what the space program is all about.” —From the introduction by Robert L. Crippen, pilot of the first space shuttle mission “Finally, the accurate story has been written by one from Challenger ’s Launch Control. Hugh Harris’  Challenger: An American Tragedy  is a masterpiece.” —Jay Barbree, author of Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon “Harris offers a personal—and sometimes painful—look back at one of the darkest chapters in U.S. human spaceflight, as well as its impact on NASA over time.” —Space.com “More than just a personal account of the disaster, Harris punctuates his book with conversations and interactions between himself and some of [NASA’s] key players, bringing the story to life. Throughout, Harris’ love for NASA and the shuttle program is obvious.” —Discovery.com Called “the Voice of NASA” for many years by the world’s television networks, Hugh Harris devoted thirty-five years with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to telling the story of the United States space program. Although he is best known to the public for his calm, professional commentary on the progress of launch preparations and launch of the space shuttle, his primary accomplishments were in directing an outreach program to the general public, news media, students, and educators, as well as to business and government leaders. He also oversaw the largest major expansion (up to that time) in the history of the Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex and tours. Harris began his career as a member of the news media. He worked as a reporter and broadcaster for WMTR in Morristown, New Jersey, and as a reporter and photographer for two newspapers. After his retirement in 1998, he shared his experience in NASA public relations with nuclear industry leaders at conferences held by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency in Europe and Japan and in this country through the Nuclear Energy Institute. He continues to work as a volunteer at the KSC Press Site, as well as for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

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Challenger: An American Tragedy – Hugh Harris

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Why a Kindle Is the Greener (and More Community-Minded) Choice

When I gave my TEDx talk on the benefits of minimalism the audience totally resonated with the overarching theme of my message. But to a person, they all had one driving concern.

?What about books?? they wanted to know, with a poorly masked look of terror on their face.

Letting go of their books was an unfathomable concept to them. Apparently holding an actual book lends a whole different experience to reading. I don?t get it, but given my ?less is more? lifestyle I guess I?m not really in a position to comment.

Still, I don?t believe it’s a good enough reason to hold onto?books. There are exceptions, of course, such as beautifully photographed coffee table books or?dog-eared recipe books covered in flour and tomato sauce (or, is that just me?).

But when it comes to paperbacks, I?m less inclined to empathize. Let me explain.

Books and the Environment

If you?re on the fence about whether to stop buying paper books and use an e-reader instead, then perhaps this will sway you.

A 2006 study found that the US book industry consumed approximately 30m trees in a single year. Of course, producing a Kindle also takes a toll on the environment, but the more books you read on it the more you offset those emissions.

More and more publishers are moving towards sustainably sourced paper though, so if you are planning to buy a book be sure get one that carries the FSC logo. That said, given the rate that we?re losing forests due to urban creep,?perhaps?we shouldn’t be so quick to cut them down.

Okay, so how do you save the trees and still keep reading real books??There are two routes you could go here.

Join a Library

The first is to go old school and join a library. (I know, how very eighties of me.) Regardless of how state-of-the-art it is, you?re bound to find something on the shelves to appeal to your reading tastes. Plus, because you?re not actually paying for the books, you can be a little more risky in your choices. If you don?t like a book, just return it and take out something else.

Spread the Love

The second option is to buy the books you want and then, once you?ve read them you can donate them to your library, a school or an old age home, for example. Most libraries have a wishlist of books they?d like to see on their shelves, so you could check in with them first.

A lot of people struggle with the challenge of letting go of books. In my experience it?s usually for one of two reasons. They either think it?s a waste because they spent their hard earned cash on the book or the story really resonated and they somehow feel that by holding onto the book, they?ll hold onto the story as well.

If you fall into the first group, then donating the book when you?re finished reading it is a win/win. Ultimately, your money will have a far greater impact than it would have if the book remained on your shelf at home.

However, if you?re inclined to keep the book because you loved the story then I?d urge you to donate it to a library close to you. That way you can borrow it back and reread it whenever the mood takes you.

Books and Clutter

It might be difficult?at first, but if you take it slow and remember the good you?re doing by donating them, it will get easier. One approach is to start by identifying the books that spark joy and set those to one side. Knowing that you?re keeping at least some will make you feel more at ease about the task.

Remember, books take up space and they?re heavy. If you?ve ever moved with boxes of books, you?ll know what I?m talking about. Do yourself a favor and unclutter your bookshelf now, your back will thank you.

7?Awesome Things About a Kindle

1. You can read in the dark

If you buy a Kindle with a backlight you can read in bed without disturbing your partner. This feature also comes in handy if?the electricity goes out or when?you?re camping.

2. You can take as many books as you want on vacation

Picking just a couple of books to take with you on holiday is tough. What if you?re not in the mood for the ones you chose or worse, you made a bad choice and the story isn?t nearly as thrilling as the book jacket led you to believe?

3. You have access to a world of books

If you want a new book, the only thing you need is wifi and you can connect to Amazon?s storefront and browse to your heart?s content. As an added bonus, you can download a sample first to see if you like the book.

4. Giving Indie authors a leg up

Nowadays, a lot of emerging writers only publish their work on Kindle. This means?there are countless gems that you?d never have known about if you didn?t have a Kindle. Plus, you?re helping these guys get their work out into the world.

5. Moving house is a breeze

You may well own hundreds of books, but all you have to do is slip your Kindle into your laptop bag and you?re done moving them. How easy is that?

6. Look Ma, no hands!

You can balance you Kindle on your lap, leaving your hands free for important stuff like drinking hot chocolate and munching?on Oreos.?(I’m not the only one who snacks and reads, am I?)

7. They’re easier to clean

Okay, obviously if you spill the entire contents of your coffee cup directly onto your Kindle things aren’t going to look too good. However, cleaning greasy fingermarks and cookie crumbs is a breeze.

Related:
What Does Watching TV vs. Reading a Book Do to Your Brain?
7?Books to Read For Spiritual Growth
20 Ways to Reuse Old Books

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Why a Kindle Is the Greener (and More Community-Minded) Choice

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The Ends of the World – Peter Brannen

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The Ends of the World

Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions

Peter Brannen

Genre: Nature

Price: $14.99

Publish Date: June 13, 2017

Publisher: Ecco

Seller: HarperCollins


As new groundbreaking research suggests that climate change played a major role in the most extreme catastrophes in the planet's history, award-winning science journalist Peter Brannen takes us on a wild ride through the planet's five mass extinctions and, in the process, offers us a glimpse of our increasingly dangerous future Our world has ended five times: it has been broiled, frozen, poison-gassed, smothered, and pelted by asteroids. In The Ends of the World, Peter Brannen dives into deep time, exploring Earth’s past dead ends, and in the process, offers us a glimpse of our possible future. Many scientists now believe that the climate shifts of the twenty-first century have analogs in these five extinctions. Using the visible clues these devastations have left behind in the fossil record, The Ends of the World takes us inside “scenes of the crime,” from South Africa to the New York Palisades, to tell the story of each extinction. Brannen examines the fossil record—which is rife with creatures like dragonflies the size of sea gulls and guillotine-mouthed fish—and introduces us to the researchers on the front lines who, using the forensic tools of modern science, are piecing together what really happened at the crime scenes of the Earth’s biggest whodunits. Part road trip, part history, and part cautionary tale, The Ends of the World takes us on a tour of the ways that our planet has clawed itself back from the grave, and casts our future in a completely new light.

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The Ends of the World – Peter Brannen

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Zinke doesn’t want to eliminate our beautiful national monuments, so he’s shrinking them

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday delivered his long-awaited recommendations on the fate of 27 national monuments that the Trump administration is considering opening up for mining and drilling. Zinke’s verdict, it turns out, is a confusing one.

The Associated Press was first with the story, with a headline that originally read, “Zinke Won’t Eliminate Any National Monuments.” That seems to suggest good news, but the story goes on to note that Zinke said he is recommending that President Donald Trump make changes to a “handful” of monuments. Conservationists say this is exactly what they feared: They don’t know what those changes mean or which monuments will be targeted, because Zinke has been vague on what’s in his report to Trump. But the administration may intend to shrink monuments in New Mexico, California, and Utah — including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, monuments that are important to Native Americans.

“First and foremost I think this news shows how arbitrary the process has been,” says Dan Hartinger, the Wilderness Society’s deputy director for Parks and Public Lands Defense. “Talking about them as a ‘handful’ of monuments is something that’s neither acceptable or respectful of the critical cultural and sacred sites.” Hartinger noted that Zinke’s phrasing seemed to try to frame the decision “as some generous gift or compromise,” when the threat of shrinking protected lands is actually a major blow to conservation. Aaron Weiss, a spokesperson for the Center for Western Priorities, agreed. “A handful could be two; a handful could be eight or 10,” he said. “An attack on one monument is an attack on all of them.”

Conservationists predict Trump intends to shrink some existing monuments to open up lands for new mining and drilling operations, a potential move that Friends of the Earth’s Ben Schreiber described as a “blatant handouts to the oil and gas industry.” Any such land would still be federally managed, but losing monument status would strip it of national park-like protections, which forbid new leases for grazing, oil, gas, and mining.

If Trump does attempt to shrink any monuments, he will invite the first constitutional test of the 1906 Antiquities Act, a law signed by Teddy Roosevelt giving presidents the power to create land and marine monuments. In over a century, no president has attempted to reshape national monuments in the way Trump is attempting to do. In 1938, the Department of Justice opined that the president has the power to create monuments but not revoke them. While a few presidents have shrunk predecessors’ monuments — Woodrow Wilson did, for example — those moves weren’t challenged in the courts. Trump’s decisions will almost certainly be challenged both by Native American tribes and environmental groups.

In late April, Trump directed Zinke to review 27 large land and marine monuments created since 1996, a date that was meant to include two controversial monuments in southern Utah: the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante, created by Bill Clinton in 1996, and the 1.4 million-acre Bears Ears, created by Barack Obama. Native American tribes were among the leading supporters of the Bears Ears monument, which Utah Republican officials fiercely opposed.

Environmentalists have been particularly dismayed by the Trump administration’s bizarre process for reviewing the monuments. “Secretary Zinke’s so-called review of parks and monuments has been a complete sham, with arbitrary criteria for ‘pardoning’ some national monuments while attacking others,” League of Conservation Voters’ President Gene Karpinski said in a statement.

Zinke’s review often seemed to be more focused on pageantry than on preparing for the inevitable lawsuits that would come his way if his recommendations are implemented. The former Montana congressman and self-styled Roosevelt conservationist often came under fire for tightly controlling his public appearances while he spent four months visiting some of the country’s most beautiful monuments. Interior’s social media feeds are filled with photos of him kayaking, flying on a helicopter, and hiking. He surveyed Bears Ears on horseback.

“This exercise was nothing more than a pretext for selling out our public lands and waters as a political favor to Big Oil and other special interests who want to pad their profits,” said Karpinski.

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Zinke doesn’t want to eliminate our beautiful national monuments, so he’s shrinking them

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Researchers took on Exxon’s dare to prove it misled the public about climate change

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Two years ago, Inside Climate News and L.A. Times investigations found that while ExxonMobil internally acknowledged that climate change is human-made and serious, it publicly manufactured doubt about the science. Exxon has been trying unsuccessfully to smother this slow-burning PR crisis ever since, arguing the findings were “deliberately cherry picked statements.” But the company’s problems have grown to include probes of its business practices by the New York and Massachusetts attorneys general and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Now, science historian Naomi Oreskes and Harvard researcher Geoffrey Supran have published the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis of Exxon’s climate communications that adds more heft to these charges. Exxon dared the public to “read all of these documents and make up your own mind,” in a company blog post in 2015. The new paper, “Assessing ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications,” in the journal Environmental Research Letters, takes up the challenge. Oreskes and Supran systematically analyze nearly 40 years of Exxon’s scientific research, reports, internal documents, and advertisements, and find a deep disconnect between how the company directly communicated climate change and its internal memos and scientific studies.

“The issue of taking things out of context or cherry-picking data is an important one, and one all historians and journalists deal with,” Oreskes tells Mother Jones. “When ExxonMobil accuses journalists of cherry-picking, there is a way we can address that. There are analyses we can do to avoid these issues. Well, if you think the LA Times is cherry-picking [examples], we’ll look at all of them. Nobody can say we are selecting things out of context.”

Their content analysis examines how 187 company documents treated climate change from 1977 through 2014. Researchers found that of the documents that address the causes of climate change, 83 percent of its peer-reviewed scientific literature and 80 percent of its internal documents said it was real and human-made, while the opposite was true of the ads. The researchers analyzed ads published in the New York Times between 1989 and 2004. In those ads, 81 percent expressed doubt about the scientific consensus, tending to emphasize the “uncertainty” and “knowledge gap,” while just 12 percent affirmed the science.

The same pattern holds for how Exxon has addressed the seriousness of the consequences of climate change. Downplaying the impacts is another tactic climate deniers tend to use to call for more delays in implementing policies that curb fossil fuel use. Sixty percent of Exxon’s peer-reviewed papers and 53 percent of its internal documents acknowledge serious impacts — a 1982 internal document lists flooding and sea-level rise and a 2002 paper lists coral reef bleaching and the disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet among them — but Exxon’s ads were more likely to claim, “The sky is not falling.”

Oreskes and Supran write that Exxon “contributed quietly to the science and loudly to raising doubts about it.”

This distinction is important, argues Supran. “Exxon’s response to the allegations from journalists and investigators was a kind of gloss or straw man,” he says. “They were contributing to climate science. The problem was the company still had a much louder doubt-promoting position in public. It was the discrepancy that confused people.”

Exxon did not return a request for comment on the study before publication, but in the past it has dismissed similar criticisms by pointing to its decades of promoting climate science research, which the paper does not dispute.

Of course, Exxon’s media strategy has shifted over time, and the company adopted a more uniform position where executives acknowledged climate change is human-made when it became untenable to say otherwise. Oreskes and Supran also included one issue that’s caused more recent trouble for the industry than its advertising campaigns. There’s intense debate over what are known as “stranded assets,” a term used to describe assets that have become anachronisms when faced with new business realities. In this case, it is the serious risk that Exxon’s business model is overvalued and incompatible with the world taking serious action to limit global warming. Two dozen of the company’s publications and internal documents acknowledged stranded assets, but it is not mentioned in any of the ads through 2004.

Shareholders actually sued Exxon last fall over stranded assets, claiming the company was aware it would not be able to extract all its fossil fuel reserves but its public statements dismissing the risks were “materially false and misleading.” And shareholders have stepped up the pressure in other ways, too: This May, two-thirds of shareholders voted to force the company to publish an annual report on its climate impacts. The moment was a rare defiance of Exxon’s management, which opposed the report, and maybe a step toward more transparency.

Oreskes, who’s written extensively about industry campaigns to undermine scientific findings, says that Exxon’s message inevitably changes over time as it adapts to new circumstances and old positions become discredited. But Exxon is still following the same general playbook. “They are promoting a different kind of doubt,” she says. “It’s a doubt that says, ‘There’s climate change, but we have to still use fossil fuels because there’s no alternative.’” But, Oreskes adds, there are alternatives.

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Researchers took on Exxon’s dare to prove it misled the public about climate change

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Have what it takes to be a Grist fellow? Don’t miss the application deadline!

Listen up, procrastinators: You have a few days left to apply for Grist’s fall 2017 fellowship. The application deadline is Monday, July 31, 2017.

If you’re just now hearing about the fellowship, here’s the gist: We’re looking for early-career journalists to come work with us for six months and get paid. This time around, we’re looking for all-stars in two areas: environmental justice and video. You’ll find a full program description and application requirements here.

Our dynamic duo of current fellows just keeps raising the bar for excellence. Senior fellow Emma Foehringer Merchant reports on a shuttered army base in West Oakland that’s the source of a controversial redevelopment project. (Emma’s story is the second installment of our ongoing Extreme Community Makeover series.) And video fellow Vishakha Darbha tells the story of East Chicago, Indiana, which has been called “the next Flint” due to widespread lead contamination. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: We ❤️ our fellows.

So what are you waiting for? Oh, right, the last possible minute. As long as we receive your application by 11:59 p.m. PT on July 31, no judgment here.

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Have what it takes to be a Grist fellow? Don’t miss the application deadline!

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Caesar’s Last Breath – Sam Kean

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Caesar’s Last Breath
Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us
Sam Kean

Genre: History

Price: $14.99

Publish Date: July 18, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.


The fascinating science and history of the air we breathe It’s invisible. It’s ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell. In Caesar’s Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it. With every breath, you literally inhale the history of the world. On the ides of March, 44 BC, Julius Caesar died of stab wounds on the Senate floor, but the story of his last breath is still unfolding; in fact, you’re probably inhaling some of it now. Of the sextillions of molecules entering or leaving your lungs at this moment, some might well bear traces of Cleopatra’s perfumes, German mustard gas, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, even remnants of stardust from the universe’s creation. Tracing the origins and ingredients of our atmosphere, Kean reveals how the alchemy of air reshaped our continents, steered human progress, powered revolutions, and continues to influence everything we do. Along the way, we’ll swim with radioactive pigs, witness the most important chemical reactions humans have discovered, and join the crowd at the Moulin Rouge for some of the crudest performance art of all time. Lively, witty, and filled with the astounding science of ordinary life, Caesar’s Last Breath illuminates the science stories swirling around us every second.

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Caesar’s Last Breath – Sam Kean

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The Stranger in the Woods – Michael Finkel

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The Stranger in the Woods

The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

Michael Finkel

Genre: Nature

Price: $12.99

Publish Date: March 7, 2017

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality—not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.   A  New York Times  bestseller In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.

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The Stranger in the Woods – Michael Finkel

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