Monstrous Carbuncle

Tim Flannery

  • Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese
    Heinemann, 320 pp, £12.99, February 2004, ISBN 0 434 01333 1

Edward I knew a thing or two about coal. He hated its stink, and in 1306 banned the burning of it in his kingdom, threatening offenders with ‘great fines and ransoms’. There are even records of coal-burners being hanged, tortured or decapitated (sources don’t agree on the punishment: it’s possible all three were applied). After reading Barbara Freese’s book, you get the feeling that vigorous punishments may again be inflicted on coal-burners, for their impact on both human and planetary health is becoming dire. Freese is the assistant attorney general for the state of Minnesota, and spent 12 years prosecuting companies for the damage they do to public health.

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