The other day, I was clearing out an old woodshed and discovered under a pile of logs large lumps of coal left by the previous occupant. I burn local logs in a new wood-burning stove which I’m told is carbon-neutral because the amount of carbon given off by burning the logs is equivalent to the amount of carbon the tree producing them captures from the atmosphere during its lifetime.
Well, turning over the beautiful lumps of jet-black coal in my hands, I not only thought of the miners who had spent so much time in the darkness and had gone to an early death, but of the millions of years that the earth’s crust had taken to create this beautiful material from primeval forests. And like oil and gas, it will never be replaced in the long future of the earth which will probably see the early extinction of the human species.
What are we doing to the earth? The Kogi in South America thought that extracting gold from the earth was like taking out the congealed menstrual blood of Mother Earth, a living symbol of her fertility. If so, is coal part of her organs, and oil her blood? And what will be the long-term effects of all those vast caverns and subterranean chambers we are creating – empty,silent and dead – on the health and life of our wondrous planet Gaia?