Bill Carter Talks Copper and His Book, Boom, Boom, Bust

Categories: Books, Interviews

billcartercover.jpg
Courtesy of The Neo Com Group
Bill Carter

When Bill Carter was living in Bisbee, Arizona, he decided to plant a garden to grow his own veggies. When he got ill from eating the fruits of his labor, Carter did a little investigating and found traces of arsenic in the soil. The arsenic was residue from a century of copper mining in the small Arizona town, and after that discovery Carter decided to learn as much as he could about the metal. What he found was staggering, including how pervasive the metal is in everyday life, how much we don't know about what goes on in the mining industry, and how dangerous the potential effects of it are on the environment and our health.

Carter talked with Jackalope Ranch about how one goes about researching such a monumentally large topic such as copper and its mining, what he was most surprised to learn about, and why Congress refuses to touch the issue.

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Carter hasn't led what you would call a normal life. After college, events in his life led him to Bosnia, where he found himself in the middle of the Bosnian War. Desperate to help his friends that he had met along his journey, and the people of Bosnia, Carter enlisted the help of Bono and U2 by faking documents to make them believe he was part of Sarajevo media in order to get an interview with them. After he wrote his first book on his experience in Bosnia, Fools Rush In, and a subsequent film titled Miss Sarajevo, which was produced with Bono and Ned O'Hanlon from U2, he found himself fishing in Alaska.

It was in Alaska as a salmon fisher that he first came into contact with the mining industry and became involved with trying to stop the Pebble Mine [from being constructed] in Alaska, which Carter and other opponents believe will be disastrous for the Bristol Bay watershed and the fishing population. The experience with the mine had left Carter intrigued to further his knowledge of the industry, and when he came home to Bisbee and started gardening, finding arsenic in the soil that was from runoff due to a century of copper mining, Carter had a pretty good reason to start looking into the mining industry even further, particularly the copper industry, which turned into his latest book, Boom, Boom, Bust, which is now being released in paperback (originally published in 2012 in hardcover).

Carter will be at Changing Hands, on Thursday, May 29, at 7 p.m. Books are for sale at Changing Hands for $15.

boomboom.jpg
Courtesy of The Neo Com Group
Your books have all been issue-related. How do you choose which ones you want to do a book on -- because I'm sure there are a lot of issues and topics out there that you'd like to talk about.
Yeah, yeah it's crazy, I know. I think that I have found myself, in terms of the books, these big projects that take years have been something that's been close to me in my life. I'm not going to do a book on something that's happening in Sudan, 'cause that would be hard with me and my kids and family. It's usually something that's happening near or around in some way that I can kind of get a pulse on. That tends to influence me in terms of writing about it. But the one thing I've noticed, it almost doesn't matter, there's always going to be an interesting, fascinating story out there, once you unpeel it a little bit. With copper I thought, 'Eh, I don't know,' but man, it was one of the most fascinating things I've ever done, for me, personally.

Well, I know you started gardening at your house in Bisbee, and you got sick, and found high levels of arsenic in the soil, but what about that compelled you to want to write about it and take on this huge research project regarding what would become copper?
Well, at the time, I had just ended fishing in Alaska, so the [Pebble] mine was on my mind, to learn about it, get more involved in it -- I was already involved but I wanted to get more involved in it. So all the sudden I was thinking, man, I live in Arizona which is this the world-class copper belt, and I don't really know anything about it, and most people don't know anything about it. And that's ok, but it's kind of this big, huge thing that's around us in Southern Arizona that we don't necessarily look at directly. We kind of just go around it. And I thought well, maybe I can link the two, and research the thing and learn about the history, 'cause Arizona's or, especially, the whole West is littered with history in terms of copper and gold. So I just started looking more and more into it, and it just sort of grabbed my attention and started to realize, I live in a town where I have a very, very small, topical sense of its history. Why not check it out?


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Changing Hands Bookstore

6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe, AZ

Category: General

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