Boom, Bust, Boom
A Story About Copper, the Metal that Runs the World
From “a first-rate writer in the fascinating tradition of Junger and Krakauer” (Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall), a sweeping account of civilization’s complete dependence on copper and what it all means for people, nature, and the global economy.
A SWEEPING ACCOUNT OF CIVILIZATION’S COMPLETE DEPENDENCE ON COPPER AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR PEOPLE, NATURE, AND OUR GLOBAL ECONOMY
COPPER is a miraculous and contradictory metal, essential to nearly every human enterprise. For most of recorded history, this remarkably pliable and sturdy substance has proven invaluable: not only did the ancient Romans build their empire on mining copper but Christopher Columbus protected his ships from rot by lining their hulls with it. Today, the metal can be found in every house, car, airplane, cell phone, computer, and home appliance the world over, including in all the new, so-called green technologies.
Yet the history of copper extraction and our present relationship with the metal are fraught with profound difficulties. Copper mining causes irrevocable damage to the Earth, releasing arsenic, cyanide, sulfuric acid, and other deadly pollutants into the air and water. And the mines themselves have significant effects on the economies and wellbeing of the communities where they are located.
With Red Summer and Fools Rush In, Bill Carter has earned a reputation as an on-the-ground journalist adept at connecting the local elements of a story to its largest consequences. Carter does this again—and brilliantly—in Boom, Bust, Boom, exploring in an entertaining and fact-rich narrative the very human dimension of copper extraction and the colossal implications the industry has for every one of us.
Starting in his own backyard in the old mining town of Bisbee, Arizona—where he discovers that the dirt in his garden contains double the acceptable level of arsenic—Bill Carter follows the story of copper to the controversial Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia; to the “ring” at the London Metal Exchange, where a select group of traders buy and sell enormous amounts of the metal; and to an Alaskan salmon run threatened by mining. Boom, Bust, Boom is a highly readable account—part social history, part mining-town exploration, and part environmental investigation.
Page by page, Carter blends the personal and the international in a narrative that helps us understand the paradoxical relationship we have with a substance whose necessity to civilization costs the environment and the people who mine it dearly. The result is a work of first-rate journalism that fascinates on every level.
After becoming violently ill from eating his own garden vegetables, journalist Bill Carter (Red Summer) was shocked to discover that his yard was laced with heavy metals. High levels of lead and toxic amounts of arsenic were present in Carter's soil courtesy of the copper mines that once operated in and around his town of Bisbee, Arizona. It turns out that modern civilization is entirely dependent on this mineral, which can be found in everything from cell phones, cars, stoves, to even fabrics. Therein lay Carter's problem: it's something we can't live without, yet something nobody wants to live near. Carter struggles with this Gordian knot, talking to scrap metal dealers that pay top dollar for salvaged and often stolen copper, those who live and work in the mining towns, and the oligarchs who run the companies. The book becomes something of a circular discussion as Carter hears the same platitudes of environmental and fiscal responsibility bandied about by one mining company after another, only to find the opposite in many cases, but it makes for fascinating reading about an industry and a mineral most of us take for granted.
A banjo player of a writer.
Bill Carter makes the story dance and dosi do until you've found yourself in a new world were the truth punches you in the face