Prized as "the best stone in Britain" by Roman invaders who carved jewelry out of it, coal has transformed societies, launched empires, and expanded frontiers. It made China an eleventh-century superpower, inspired the Communist Manifesto, and helped the North win the American Civil War.
Yet coal's transformative power has come at a tremendous human and environmental cost, and it now poses an urgent threat to the planet's climate.
Updated with a new chapter describing the high-stakes conflict between coal's defenders and those working to preserve a livable climate, Coal offers a captivating history of the mineral that helped build the modern world but now endangers our future.
Barbara Freese is an environmental attorney, an energy policy analyst, and a former assistant attorney general for the state of Minnesota. She lives in St. Paul, MN.