Wednesday, March 10, 2010
What is Coal?
The fossil fuel known as coal is the largest source of energy for the generation of electricity worldwide. And, as it just so happens, Kentucky's chock-full of the stuff. It's sprinkled throughout the state but is especially pocketed in two major deposit areas that take up half of Kentucky.
But what is coal?
According to Wikipedia, "Coal begins as layers of plant matter accumulated at the bottom of a body of water. For the process to continue the plant matter must be protected from biodegradation and oxidization, usually by mud or acidic water. The wide shallow seas of the Carboniferous period provided such conditions."
Everything we do today, around the world, depends on the continued mining of this dessicated metamorphosized prehistoric plant material from the days of the proto-dinosaurs.
But coal is essentially carbon, which is in itself the basic building block of all life on Earth. Although it's theoretically possible that there could be other forms of life out there in the Universe, such as silicon-based life, it's purely within the realm of speculation. For our purposes here on Earth, everything is based on carbon.
In very ancient times, mankind's world was revolutionized by the simple discovery that carbon could give us Carbon Black, a material derived by charring organic materials such as wood or bone, for the purposes of ink for writing and pigment for art. From this man progressed from the spoken word to the written word, and language and communication took a quantum leap into becoming something tangible, something you could save and have and hold and touch. Veritably, "the word made flesh".
Those who find significance in the number 666 as being representational of evil and Satanic forces might then find it troubling to know that the atom of elemental carbon is comprised of 6 electrons, 6 protons, and 6 neutrons. As they say, the Devil is in the details.
And since the number 666 is supposed to be connected to a future "Mark of the Beast" that is placed on every person's body, it's also interesting to note that most black tattoo inks use carbon black ("the word made flesh" again). Could the Mark of the Beast be, literally, a tattoo that inserts carbon into your skin cells?
(Short answer: yep. Take a look at U.S. Patent 5,878,155, issued to Houston inventor Thomas W. Heeter, described as a "Method for verifying human identity during electronic sale transactions" — by tattooing a bar code on an individual.)
And what does this Satanic interpretation of coal mean when symbolically applied to the notion of Santa Claus who, like Krampus before him, places coal in the stockings of "bad" children?
Meanwhile, some researchers in China have discovered that coal specifically from the Permian-Triassic mass extinction is especially toxic and harmful to humans today. As the American Chemical Society press release puts it: "The volcanic eruptions thought responsible for Earth’s largest mass extinction which killed more than 70 percent of plants and animals 250 million years ago is still taking lives today." Interestingly, part of what is making the extinction-coal-dust so harmful is the high level of silicon.
Coal dust, being essenially carbon, is forever lodged in not just the lungs but many other internal organs of many Kentuckians. It also has a tendency to remain trapped in the skin and other tissues. Just as I wonder about the ubiquitous corn molecules that are permeating all human tissues, I also wonder about the long-term consequences for us as a species having greater and greater amount of coal being permanent parts of our own personal ecosystems. It isn't just for coal miners anymore.
The Algonquins tell us that all substances and all things have a separate spirit, an entity that represents that thing and pervades it, called a Manitou. If so, the Manitou of carbon, the Manitou of coal, and even the Manitous of the prehistoric plants who once were these atoms are inside us, touching us, within us all even as we speak.
And what is their intent for us?
If there is an answer that we have chance of gleaning, it probably lies deep underground, in the coal's natural habitat, where dust-drenched Kentuckians endure the sulphurous reek of the hellish subterranean mines.