Story type: Essay
For six million years, during the carboniferous period, the tree ferns dropped their pollen dust to the earth forming coal beds which now cook our dinners and incidentally make J. Pierpont Morgan so prosperous.
A good deal of useless anxiety has been devoted to the questions:
What will the human race do when the coal gives out? Shall we freeze, or begin planting huge forests of wood, or what?
In the first place, coal will not give out for a long, long time.
In the second place, its disappearance will not make the slightest difference, for in the few cubic inches of the human brain nature has stored up treasures greater than all those hidden in the depths of the earth. The creation of the human brain took more years than the creation of the coal fields, but the brain’s resources are inexhaustible.
A German workman now comes along who has discovered a chemical substitute for coal, better than coal in many ways, and before this German shall have been dead many years some other will find a further substitute far better and cheaper than his.
There is endless heat power in the action of the tides, in the rush of Niagara, in the winds, and in endless chemical combinations. Heat is motion, and the Universe is motion. Men will soon cease lighting tiny bonfires to obtain crude heat in a crude way. Electricity or the sun’s own rays, concentrated for heating purposes, will do the work without any digging in mines by men, or delving in ashes and clinkers by women.
The story of antiquity, more or less fictitious, of the burning of a fleet with the aid of a glass and the sunbeams, will be matter-of-fact reality long before the coal shall have been exhausted.