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October 18, 2005

Ralph Waldo Emerson on Coal

From Barbara Freese (2003), Coal: A Human History (New York: Penguin: 0142000981):

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, all kinds of people--engineers, plant scientists, businessmen, and theologians--were inspired to write books and articles in which they waxed poetic about the glories of coal. Even transcendentalist philosophers... Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this about coal:

Every basket is power and civilization. For coal is a portable climate It carries the heat of the tropics to Labrador and the polar circle; and it is the means of transporting itself whithersoever it is wanted. Watt and Stephenson whispered in the ear of mankind their secret, that a half-ounce of coal will draw two tons a mile, and coal carries coal, by rail and by boat, to make Canada as warm as Calcutta; and with its comfort brings industrial power.

Posted by DeLong at October 18, 2005 03:58 PM