Review of 'One Round River: The Curse of Gold and the Fight for the Big Blackfoot'- page 2 | History | Smithsonian

Review of 'One Round River: The Curse of Gold and the Fight for the Big Blackfoot'

Review of 'One Round River: The Curse of Gold and the Fight for the Big Blackfoot'

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(Continued from page 1)

Yet ranchers must also rely on the land. And some, it turns out, are dedicated range stewards — like the aptly named Land Lindbergh, son of the aviator — striving to ranch profitably while pioneering the use of nondestructive techniques.

So it goes in this book: we meet the "enemies" and they have no horns. But then Manning comes to Seven Up Pete and gold. "I haven't the slightest interest in providing balance to this story," he states unapologetically. "I don't want to talk to them, because they are evil."

He does not mean individual miners. He introduces an apostate mining engineer, who announces: "I'm not going to tear down any more mountains." But unlike logging and ranching, and maybe even the despised ranchettes, gold mining's damage, Manning says, is irreversible. Gold mining gouges up toxic metals, concentrates them, oozes them into the water table. "How can you ask me," inveighs Manning, "to trade clean rivers and my mountains for your Rolex watch?"

This book is about humanity's perverse love of gold. It is also about population growth, in Manning's words, "the sheer crushing weight of human biomass." It is about individuals, like the disgruntled Vietnam vet, now an "Environmental Ranger," secretly videotaping regulation-flaunting mines. Ultimately, it is about consuming ourselves out of our home. "Gold," Manning says, "is not life, and I do not need it."

Richard Wolkomir writes from Vermont.

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