I Become an Ecoterrorist

December 24, 2011

Coal. That’s what i am burning, right now, in my fireplace. Lumps of the black stuff, which leave a gritty swathe of chalk noir across the palms as you lay the fuel down with some paper and firestarter (i’m pretty sure this is basically foam soaked in kerosene, for the record). If you get me going on a good day, i’ll regale you with the ills of the coal burning industry and the aggressive fashion according to which Australian coal companies pursue new markets and offer to build new plants overseas. My god, how has this happened to me (he cries, tearing out his hair)? [This is not true. I’m sitting quite calmly at the kitchen table, allowing time to dispense with my erstwhile mane in a perfectly satisfactory manner.]

Coal. That’s what we all burn here, the driver explains, displaying distaste as he unloads ten bags of (slightly soggy) wood. Everything is wet here in Limerick all the time – at least in December – so i guess something that loves to burn, that won’t quit burning, that sits and emanates a warm red glow without much fuss while i sweat and curse over my stupid logs makes sense. Then there’s the old skool ‘turf’ burners, who cut slices of peat out of the land, dry it out and stock up free fuel for the whole winter with the use of a spade and some local know-how. My new colleague Mike told us all about it the other night at dinner. It’s like a sacred right, to burn the turf, and many folk have gone back to it in tough economic times. It won’t be long until i buy a chainsaw and a shovel myself.

Yeah, it’s cold, an Irish winter, so i guess there has to be a way to keep a house warm, and they sure do insulate them well. This place is snuggly within half an hour of getting home to turn the heating on. (Natural gas, btw; you were probably thinking i was heating it up with the use of slave-driven squirrels forced to turn the turbines all day while i feed them mere scraps from the table, a crumb per kilowatt.) I don’t mean to turn mean, it’s the way they light fires here, they use coal, i didn’t ask to become the enemy, it just turned out that way. I like squirrels. And most furry animals. Even some ugly ones (the peccary comes to mind; they deserved to be protected too, right?).

But i digress. Carbon. More of it. In the atmosphere. Me being part of the bad scene. That’s my point. What has to change with this picture? We’ve already met someone local working on a carbon-neutral fuel alternative, but it is so far economically viable only for small industry. The boiler costs 30K, then the fuel is some long Asian grass that grows really well here. It emits only the carbon it takes in as it grows. Smart huh? It’s bloody windy here too. Gotta be potential in that. Something to take revenge on the easterly coming off the coast that always sticks your scarf down your throat when you open your mouth to speak. I’m big on revenge. Channeling it into non-consumption of big polluting industries like oil is my way of not repressing it.

Back to the coal. I read about the Australian companies in The Monthly, i think, from memory. We’ll sell the uranium, too, as soon as everyone gets over the ethical problem with selling it to India, who refuse to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Aussies have gotten used to being rich and they’ll collectively sell out on any remaining ethics of land and fuel use in order to maintain that ‘right’, i predict. I wouldn’t say it is a good thing to become poor; i certainly feel for those over here that are feeling the pinch, times are obviously tough in a way we don’t currently understand Downunder. But getting rich can be a bad influence, too.

Gotta go. Fire needs more coal.



  1. Don’t worry. GM and Cheveron have entered into a joint venture of coal gassification that will offset your primitive and irreparable damage to the heavens.

    • Oh cool. I knew the multinational giants would come to the rescue on their shining white steeds. I feel just like comely maiden, waiting to be rescued now. (Swoon)

  2. I thougt the issue was carbon dioxide. Merry Christmas Geoff may the Good Lord Bless you and your family:)

    • Yup the issue is all about carbon in the atmosphere, for sure (as well as acidification of the oceans, soil erosion due to deforestation, desertification due to overuse of fertile lands, etc etc). I just couldn’t believe i was burning real live lumps of sooty black coal in my own loungeroom! What next? I’ll probably set up a diesel generator in the backyard to power my Christmas lights… Happy festive season Dave, to you and all your families. For me that is all about the solstice, the end of shortening days and the return of life in mid-winter, now that i am a northern hemisphere type and all that. But i know most religious or mythic stories follow pretty much the same pattern, including Christianity. Hope you are all well.

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