China, Barbara Freeze, Darren discussed on BBC World Service

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You go underground, you could be travelling to six kilometers from the bottom. So usually when you could Dona main you will get on a train underground trains. Teague? If about half earning walking for twenty minutes to half, not actually get the goldfish. And if this had been one hundred years ago conditions for that mine, and we just heard would have been considered luxurious. Hello, I'm Roger data and welcome to the forum where experts share their knowledge with us in today's program. We'll be looking at coal and those who dig for it this humble black rock that has led hundreds of thousands of miners to risk their lives in the cause of fuelling industrial revolutions and powering empires. And whilst this lump of energy has been the catalyst for unprecedented, wealth and material comfort. It's also brought devastating pollution and scarred. Landscapes joining me to discuss the history of coal and its legacy are from South Africa. Don't of Mattew from Gibbs university of Pretoria in Johannesburg. Dr schilling Xiaowu, a specialist on China and author of empires of coal, the American environmental lawyer Barbara freeze who's written coal a human history and Darren count the manager of Kent mining. Museum in southeast England. Welcome all. And now you each represent four countries that have been hugely involved in the coal trade briefly. Let me ask you all how his cO shaped the destiny of your own country. Darren how about the UK I think you compare coal back in the day as the same as uranium and plutonium now it should actively. It was that the wonder fuel of his age. And if you go back three four hundred years, the UK was probably the the seat of technology and developing the use of coal, you're right. The way through to the eighteen fifties nine thousand nine hundred and exporting that technology around the world as well and its peak in the early twentieth century, we're talking about huge amount of coal coming up in this country, yet ninety nine hundred thirteen two hundred ninety two million tons of coal and about a third of that cold actually been exported around the world as well. And Barbara give me a couple of examples of the difference coal is made to the USA. Well, coal certainly made an enormous impact on the United States. It brought about our industrial development at a time when we were a very young country without many institutions actually built. So it had a huge effect in shaping our corporate structures, our labor structures, and it played a major role, for example in the north winning the civil war. How did they do that? It did that because the north really was the seat of industrial production and the north had something like a thirty eight to one advantage over the south in coal production that meant it could have more factories produce more iron produce, more guns and more railways, and obviously that played a major role in winning the war and chilling. Tell me how is Cole connected to Chinese history and culture Chinese have mind call for several thousand years, but in the last century the possession of. Large deposits of coal really field. China's rise in the recent decades is rise as an economic superpower. So that today China uses more coal than the rest of the countries in the world combined and of South Africa is a big producer of coal. How how's it affected your country? I the Corby produce twenty five percent is exported. That's great developmentally. Now, our DP, and we have got a lot of poor people in this country who depend on Roku for cooking and heating the pace that is something which if there's no coed don't know how these people survive, and we only have coins Africa. We don't have co in many other. Parts of the continent. And it has been the unique. And I believe that even today South Africa has the biggest export terminal for coal in the world. Yes, we have the biggest called, Tom. No. At least as vehicle and we are getting crews followed out by the protocol Newcastle in New South, Wales, straight it. Okay. Well, let's take a closer look at this black stuff. What is coal exactly? And how's it formed? Barbara told me not because it can arrived in cool the carbon different age, and that was the time when vegetation came onto land in and gave the planet millions of years of stored energy. Yes, the carbon Niffer was hundreds of millions of years ago. It was a time when there were some lush forests finally covering the continents. And it was also a time where geologic forces had not lifted up the land, very high. So as for example, the polar ice caps. Melted. Or we froze and there were climate changes way back then water would step forward and cover the forests and then retreat again in the forest would would March forward again in the course of that process. These forests would be buried by water and sediment, and so the natural processes of decay did not occur. So all of the carbon that those forests had absorbed as they grew and all of the energy that they had absorbed from the sun ended up getting buried and slowly slowly compressed and turning into Pete. And then to various forms of coal, some call has been produced since then, but that was the era when most of it was produced now, I'm actually holding a piece of cola here in my hand, needless to say, it's actually dirty. My my hand ready, but it is kind of beautiful in its own special way. And there are different types on their this piece is from a former coalfield in Newcastle in the northeast of England. Darren just explained to me what I've got here and the different kinds of coal that also exist. What you've got what looks like bitchiness co. So that's what we'd core a middling coal. So would use that for producing coal gas for coking for other industrial processes for heating. But then you've got the the much harder the anthracite coal, which are really dense. They're really actually really hard to light. But the ironic thing about anthracite coal once you've got it burning. You have a difficulty putting out, and there's many stories of coal forest, particularly in American Barbara could probably pick up on that places like Centralia, which is a very famous case where these coalfires of bone for years and abandoned towns, and then we've got the very the younger coaster the lick nights, the Brown coals, and that's the sort of coal they produce in Poland, for instance, as well. So it's a very very dirty coal actually will the anthracite scribble come into play later on when we talk about the USA. You're right. We know Barbara that Cole was formed in our pre. Prehistoric past. But what are the first recorded uses of coal by humans. Well surprise. It will be one of the earliest uses and this was in ancient China some six thousand years ago, or so was carving. They found the call to be very beautiful, and there's evidence some archaeologists have found something they called Neolithic ear piercing ornaments. And so they were carving the coal. They were wearing the coal. And this also happened in Britain during the Roman era. Call became famous and was written about by the Romans as something that could be carved into jewelry. An interesting about where you believe it was cold that made China a superpower as early as the eleventh century. Yes, there was a an amazing period of a kind of military industrialization that took place in ancient China about a thousand years ago. China had already been very advanced in its iron production and about a thousand years ago, they figured out how they could use coal to produce iron, which was a little tricky. But they they did figure it out. And at the time they were fighting off invaders horseback riding invaders, and and they militarize to the extent that they would have thousands of workers producing with iron, and with coal thousands of spears and swords and shields something even called horse decapitating swords. So it was a pulse of industrialization made possible by coal, and in now since China, I suppose was way ahead of what Britain achieved several centuries. Later, and we'll come to that in a second. But just staying with China in the seventeenth century their commanding was so prevalent, it even made its way into the writing of the time is that right? So this is a scholar named Sony. Shing he was born in the late sixteenth century. And unlike many of the scholars of the time he also paid acute attention to many of the crafts that he saw in his travels observing the uses of call in various crafts for on porcelain making to metallurgy, and he also described various methods of coal mining, including the uses of bamboo pipes to pipe out poison gas into us s ventilation in coal mines now by this time Darren seventeenth century. It wasn't just China using coal. Tell me why countries would were turning to it to us for fuel. We've got a whole series of things going on during the Cromwell in peer too. That's the period in British history where you've got the civil war, and there's a predominance of charcoal law the sort of the. Biproduct of charcoal burning from timber is used for metalworking for I'm production, and that's a really precious resource. The woods would disappearing so quickly in the south of Britain that there was an act of pollen stopping them from doing this because there wasn't enough which to build warships anymore. So there's this going on. And then also you've got in the middle of Britain playschool, coal brookdale, the Darby start experimenting with colza means of producing all in as well. So there's a whole series of different socio economic and industrial things happening at the same time in different pressures pushing everyone towards coop pointed only really been the northeast of Britain where they've been a lot of co exported, but we're not just talking about right now we were talking about other parts of the world other parts of Europe. Oh, yes. Because of the forest depletion. Yes. The early coalfields in northern France in Belgium, they slowly start develop Germany as well. Because there's a realization gradually that there's. Colin Mambi belts across northern and western Europe. So they start to work on idea. Well, let's look at the UK which is associated with the dramatic technological developments. Brought about by coal from the eighteenth century onwards. And Cole was transforming cities from Newcastle to London to Manchester..

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