Monday, March 16, 2015

Review - Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, the Metal That Runs the World by Bill Carter

At one time, I lived in Arizona. On weekends, wanting to get to know our new home, we explored the state.

On one particular trip, as we wound down a mountain road, we came upon a fenced area with tons of warning signs. Do not enter, Danger, No Trespassing signs were huge and placed everywhere. The ones with a scull and crossbones made me shiver! We wondered what we had stumbled upon ... and whether we were someplace where we shouldn't be. I checked the map to be sure that we hadn't wandered off our course and determined that we were on the right road. Still ... it was rather creepy.

As we drove on, we saw what all the fuss was about. We were driving by a working mine. What I remember, most, was the huge hole in the earth ... so large that huge trucks, running on roads which circled downward, looked like toys. It all looked like something straight out of a science fiction movie.

I later learned that, in 2012, the US was the world's fourth largest copper producer, and Arizona was producing more than any other state in the country.

Simply put, copper was, and remains, big business!

Review - Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, the Metal That Runs the World
I was invited to read Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, the Metal That Runs the World by Bill Carter.

Bill Carter lived in Bisbee, Arizona, a mining town and home to the famous Copper Queen Mine. Active mining operations ran from the 1880s until 1975.

Bill, like many of us, decided to grow food in his backyard. And that's when trouble started.

His fresh vegetables made him seriously ill. He later learned that his soil contained higher-than-allowed levels of lead. Worse, it contained 100% more arsenic than allowable levels. These toxins were a direct result of previous mining operations.

This began Bill's quest to learn more about copper mining. A quest which has taken him all over the world and given him insights to both the problems and benefits of mining operations. Most of us are aware of at least some of the problems with mining. It destroys the land often leaving huge scars and holes in the earth. What you might find surprising is that there are legitimate reasons to continue extracting and using copper.

My Thoughts

Bill Carter is a true story teller. He takes what could be a very dry set of facts and turns them into an interesting personal odyssey. He writes with passion so that we feel his delight in starting a vegetable garden, his concern for the health of his pregnant wife, his affection for the eclectic people of Bisbee, and his distrust of the "new" soil in his yard.

It was no surprise, to me, to learn that mining is hard on the environment and potentially deadly to humans. And I wasn't surprised to read how those who benefit, financially, aren't anxious to see the industry die. These aren't the big guys (although they are certainly protective of mining) but rather regular people doing regular jobs.

What did surprise me is how prevalent copper is in our world. Copper is a natural inhibitor of decay. It is conductive, malleable and cheap, so it's used in a lot of products. For example, pressure treated wood contains copper. So do electronics, cell phones, cars, and our homes.

Another surprise is that copper's germ-killing properties is making it a desirable surface material in hospitals. Using it for door knobs, bed rails, etc. may help prevent MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), a deadly staph infection which kills thousands of people a year.

With so many pros and cons, I was afraid that the book would leave me feeling confused and powerless. Not so! Toward the end of the book the author suggests that it's not copper, itself, which is the problem but rather the way in which it is extracted and processed. He stresses the need to find alternate, healthy, and environmentally-sound methods of extraction.

I think that this book has something for everyone. If you're interested in copper mining, you'll come away with a lot of good information. If you are concerned about the affects of mining on the environment and our health, you'll learn the facts. If you've ever debated the positive attributes of a material versus the negative cost of production, you'll find the conversations enlightening.

I enjoyed Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, the Metal That Runs the World by Bill Carter and think you will too!

To get your copy and learn more about the book, please click HERE.

And, for an interesting interview with author, Bill Carter, please click HERE.

I received a copy of "Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, the Metal That Runs the World" in order to write this review. I received no other compensation. All opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and reflect my honest opinion of the material reviewed.