England, perhaps more than any other country in the world, was built on coal. The first successful steam engine was invented to pump water out of British coal mines. Coal powered the railroads and ships that built Britain’s empire. It helped the country survive two world wars, and at its height between those wars, coal mines employed 1.2 million people.
So this winter, when the United Kingdom announced its plan to stop burning coal for electricity by 2025, the shift was seismic. The announcement signaled the dethroning of King Coal in a country where it had reigned for more than a century, and where just six years prior it provided more than 40 percent of the nation’s energy.
How did this happen in Britain at a time when leaders in the US were moving in the opposite direction by promising to end the “war on coal”? The answer lies not in technological innovation, but in a profound cultural shift that began decades ago in coal field communities across England. Continue Reading →