Prized as "the best stone in Britain" by Roman invaders who carved jewelry out of it, coal has transformed societies, powered navies, fueled economies, and expanded frontiers. It made China a twelfth-century superpower, inspired the writing of the Communist Manifesto, and helped the northern states win the American Civil War. Yet the mundane mineral that built our global economy - and even today powers our electrical plants - has also caused death, disease, and environmental destruction. As early as 1306, King Edward I tried to ban coal (unsuccessfully) because its smoke became so obnoxious. Its recent identification as a primary cause of global warming has made it a cause célèbre of a new kind. In this remarkable book, Barbara Freese takes us on a rich historical journey that begins three hundred million years ago and spans the globe. From the "Great Stinking Fogs" of London to the rat-infested coal mines of Pennsylvania, from the impoverished slums of Manchester to the toxic city streets of Beijing, Coal is a captivating narrative about an ordinary substance that has done extraordinary things-a simple black rock that could well determine our fate as a species.
Desert News, 11/15/02
An interesting and revealing book on the history of coal as it affects human lives.
....offers an exquisite chronicle of the rise and fall of this bituminous black mineral....Part history and part environmental argument, Freese's elegant book teaches an important lesson about the interdependence of humans and their natural environment both for good and ill throughout history.
Starred Review. The history of coal, that unglamorous substance that environmental attorney Freese manages to buff until it shines like its distant cousin the diamond....Freese’s writing is a bit like coal--smooth and glinting, burning with a steady warmth--though with none of its downsides, for coal also contributed to miserable air quality, black-lung disease, scarred landscapes, and outrageous working conditions....It’s dirty, it’s cheap, and its past--in Freese’s hands--makes for an intriguing, cautionary tale.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by daniel baisley sr not enough reviews I was sorry to see that there were so few reviews. I started reading COAL and could not stop. The only thing I am going to say is that I wish everyone concerned with our planet would read this book. Ms Freese combined history and the human story... Read More
Rated of 5
While this book may have been incredibly factual in content, it elongated many points and included unrelated information. It's information was unorganized and did not follow any sort of timeline which made it difficult to put important events in... Read More
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