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Boom, Bust, Boom

In following the time-honored journalistic tenet that the best stories are the ones you find in your own backyard, author Bill Carter begins this account of the all-pervasive presence of copper in our lives and its cost on our health, economy, and our environment with a simple personal discovery: the presence of arsenic from leftover mine tailings in his backyard garden in the former copper mining town of Bisbee, Arizona. This revelation led him on a quest to find out as much as possible about the mineral copper, its wonderful and mysterious properties, its history in human evolution, and its omnipresence in contemporary life, being found in everything from toothpaste to cellphones. Carter explores several mining areas, past, present, and projected both in the United States and around the world, and details the environmental and health implications involved in open-surface extraction of copper ore. From boardrooms of investors in London to the mountains of Indonesia, Carter connects the dots from his humble backyard garden to the CEOs of the multibillion-dollar global copper industry, confronting a resource that is so vital yet which has the potential to cause horrendous and irrevocable damage to our planet and ourselves.

Reviews and Comments

"Boom, Bust, Boom, if you pardon the wordplay, booms. It pops off the page as adventure, troubling history, ecological warning, travel narrative, even a bit of horror. If one can write horror suffused with joy of place, joy of language. Utter abandon and delight in story. Jim Harrison calls the book "hearty." I second that."

Luis Alberto Urrea, author of "The Hummingbird's Daughter" and "The Devil's Highway"

 

"Bill Carter has extracted something that remains all but unnoticed by most people—copper—and told an incredible story about this amazing metal. Boom, Bust, Boom is the best sort of journalism: beautifully written, rich in detail and impossible to ignore. I particularly loved how Carter wove a personal story into a topic of global scope. I know, as a writer, how hard that is to pull off, and as a reader i am always amazed when someone does. It is a superb book."

Sebastian Junger, author of "War" and "The Perfect Storm"

 

“Bill Carter’s new book is utterly engaging. I want to use the words fabulous and hearty.  We often think we know the world but then we read a book that tells us we didn’t.  Carter is a hard man and he humiliates the copper industry and the grave dangers they carelessly expose us to.  A necessary read for thinking Americans.”

Jim Harrison, author of "Legends of the Fall" and "Dalva"

 

“Copper is the curse of the southwest. Bill Carter’s blazing book takes us to the crime scene where our lust for things murders the earth. Time to kill the cellphone, leave twitter to the twits and listen up.”

- Charles Bowden, author of “Murder City”

 

“Boom, Bust, Boom, Carter’s powerful narrative about his pursuit of “the metal that runs the world” and how far we will go to get it. Carter is not a preacher of environmentalism nor a corporate apologist. He just wants to understand.”

Daily Beast, Peter Madden


“In his travels, Carter chatted with locals, mine workers and mine company personnel....he paints a vivid and truly horrific picture of mining operations in Africa and Indonesia, and he delineates the growing impact on the worldwide copper market of burgeoning economies such as those of China, Brazil and India. Carter’s scope is large, but his storytelling technique is up-close and personal. In the end, the author decided to move his family out of his beloved Bisbee to escape the threat of a reopened copper mine, but he makes it abundantly clear that there is, for our modern society, no escape from dependence on copper. A well-told, fact-filled story written with a touch of fury and a dash of regret.”

—Kirkus Reviews


“Face to face with environmental risk, Mr. Carter determined to learn more about copper. He quickly stumbled upon a paradox: Copper mining may be an environmental disaster, leaving behind mountains of waste laced with heavy metals and polluting rivers with the remains of the chemicals used to separate copper from ore, but it is also an environmental necessity.”

Necessary evil: a review of Boom, Bust, Boom - High County News
A book review of Bill Carter's Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story about copper, the metal that runs the world
Arizona is known for the five C's -- cattle, cotton, climate, citrus and the king of them all, copper. Bill Carter's book Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, the Metal that Runs the World is more than just an academic foray into the complexities of global copper supply and demand. As copper mining threatens to resume near his home in Bisbee, Ariz., Carter's concern for his family's welfare grows. Bisbee, from the turn of the century through the mid-1970s, was the "Queen of the Copper Camps," until all mining operations ceased in 1975. Now a thriving alternative culture community, Bisbee still bears the scars of its copper mining heyday, including soils tainted by fallout from the smelter used to melt copper ore. Carter's personal experience with arsenic poisoning from vegetables he grew in his own yard is the impetus behind his investigation. This well-researched narrative describes how copper is found in all corners of the world and every facet of our lives. The author journeys to towns in Arizona and Alaska where the specter of new copper mining has drawn battle lines between people who are concerned about the loss of beloved landscapes and those interested in boosting the local economy. Most notably, Carter highlights the controversial Pebble Mine proposal in Alaska, whose waste could taint Lake Iliamna and harm the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery. Carter's own experience with commercial salmon fishing in this area, as told in his 2008 book Red Summer: The Danger, Madness, and Exaltation of Salmon Fishing in a Remote Alaskan Village, makes this potential mining disaster even more poignant. Boom, Bust, Boom is written like a good documentary, exposing the author's struggle to find answers through his own personal journey. "By leaving Bisbee, I am conceding that my wife, kids, and I need more than what the town can offer, and what it can't offer, which is a promise the mine won't reopen." Through Carter's eyes, we are reminded of our inextricable link to this landscape-altering resource -- and the consequences of our dependence.
Written by: Mark Apel
Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, the Metal that Runs the World
Date published: 04/29/2013

—Wall Street Journal


“Masquerading as the story of his personal journey from Bisbee to Flagstaff, Boom Bust Boom is a riveting expose of the bounty and devastation that is copper—one of the most ubiquitous elements in the modern world. From copper’s myriad everyday uses to the inevitable contamination that accompanies its production in the most massive open-pit mines on the planet, Carter skillfully lays out the arc of his investigation, seamlessly woven into a series of stories, full of personal, historical, and technical information, that lead inexorably to the question whether we can control our appetite for this critical element in order to protect the people and natural resources that make life on Earth worth living.”

— Joel Reynolds, Huffington Post


“Threaded through his richly textured account are two existential questions. The first, prompted by his anxiety about Freeport’s future plans, is like the old song by the Clash: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” The second is whether he can reconcile his mounting disgust with copper with the reality that avoiding it “would take nothing short of a monastic effort.”

—George Black On Earth, NRDC Magazine.


“Bill Carter’s Boom, Bust, Boom is an idiosyncratic but compelling examination of the mining of copper, which is vital to modern communications, but at a daunting environmental cost.”

—Seattle Times


“Bill Carter’s third book, Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, the Metal that Runs the World, does indeed tell a story, one that is so squarely in front of our collective faces and yet so hidden from view that the fact that’s it’s never really been told is simultaneously bewildering and perfectly understandable. Like copper, it’s a conundrum and a paradox: and that, in and of itself, is one of the central themes of this provocative, maddening and moving book.” 

—Zocolo Magazine


“Boom, Bust, Boom makes for fascinating reading about an industry and a mineral most of us take for granted.”

—Booklist Online