Bill Carter [Interview]

If there were only one problem with this world (although we know there are many), a dire issue would be that there aren’t more people like Bill Carter around.  Of course this would take away from the magnitude and honorable reverence of the man himself, but damn we would be some do-gooding fools in a great state of being.

If you aren’t aware of Bill Carter, you’re going to want to be.  In 1993, Bill Carter made the equivalent of having “We Are The World” played on YouTube to impoverished Eskimos in Antarctica.  He occupied before it was a movement.  He sprung into action before revolutions were started in 130 characters or less.  And through it all, he came clean as an unsung hero to so many, with little to no credit given in his own name.

Carter became a figure of historical importance during the Bosnian war when he selflessly went upon a journey into a war-torn society that was particularly of very little interest to western society.  And through a strategic attempts, and a little help from some friends in both Sarajevo and Irish rock star land (i.e. U2…yes, that U2), Carter organized a series of satellite feeds (i.e. Skype, in the 90’s) that broadcasted the horror that they people he spent so much time with in hell to hundreds of thousands of concert goers.  In turn he managed to bring a new light to a region of the land that needed attention in a terrible way.  He documents the entire story in his beautifully written memoir, Fools Rush In as well in his intriguing and heart string pulling documentary Miss Sarajevo.  Bill Carter has, without a single strand of doubt, created one of the most important books of the last twenty years with Fools Rush In.

And the adventures don’t stop there!  Carter’s second memoir, Red Summer, documents his days in the commercial fishing world of Alaska (again, BEFORE we were fascinated by the “deadliest catch”) and even more importantly, the plight of American industry, especially in the world of fishing.  Basically, there really isn’t much this man can’t do, and has done.  He remains as charitable as ever, and as awe striking as you could ever imagine.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to exchange a few words with this overall incredible human being in one of the best interviews I think I will ever release.  Check it out as we discuss death, love, salmon fishing, and how awesome Bono really can be.

How often do people read “Fools Rush In” and say to you, “What the hell were you thinking!?”, and what do you say to them?

Some people have that reaction, but I know that is in the context of them just finishing an epic journey, one that is hard to imagine.  For me, while I was living it, never thought of it like that. I was doing what I was doing. I was just living my life. Somehow it all made sense for me to be there during that period. In retrospect, sure it sounds crazy to live in Sarajevo during the longest siege in human history,but it seemed like exactly the right thing to do at the time.

How has your experience in war shaped your views of mankind?

Strangely enough it has had a slightly polarizing effect. On one hand, the evil we do to one another seems to have no bounds. What neighbors did to their neighbors in Bosnia. What husbands did to their wives. This was a genocide perpetrated on the most intimate level. This is evil. On the other hand what I experienced in Bosnia was also what I consider the pinnacle of mankind. The kindness, the compassion, the grace of so many people living in such extraordinary conditions was overwhelming. Not a day goes by where I am not reminded on small incident where a human gave all he had to another. It reminds me of Kris Kristofferson’s song, “Here Comes That Rainbow Again.”

In your experienced opinion, is there any similarities with Syria and the former Yugoslavia?

Sure. Enclaves of Syria are under full siege. They are cut off, there are no medical supplies. Soon, food, water, and sewer will become a problem. Also it is the government that is doing it. Killing their own people. That is the same. The only thing that is different is the ability of technology to give us a small window to the inside of that siege.  Sarajevians were completely cut off from the outside world. The other difference is time. The full assault in Syria has been going on for only a month. Sarajevo went on four years.

You have witnessed so much death and destruction first hand.  What are your spiritual beliefs and/or thoughts after seeing death so close? 

I believe in humanity. I believe in love. I believe that is what we must give energy to in order to survive. I believe in telling the story. I believe in the power of story, music, love. In the connection between people. I believe there is so much magic in life, if we take the time to see it.

It’s safe to say that you were at least kind of driven by the loss of love.  If you could be guaranteed to have never suffered such a loss, would you trade in everything you have experienced and the esteem you have been given as a journalist, writer, filmmaker? 

Yes. And no. Yes, I would never have traded that loss for that experience. Never. Love is what matters most. But, now I have a new love, my wife and two daughters. To say I would do it differently means I have to image never having them in my life. Perhaps this is why we are given choices in life, but not the ability to rewind.

You seem to be in a much better state than in the 90’s.  What drives you these days?

My kids, my family, my desire to share stories. I enjoy life very much. I like to run in the forest, spend evenings with close friends and drink wine. I enjoy strangers and the thought tomorrow I will experience something I never knew or thought of.

Tell us a bit about Red Summer, if you will.

Red Summer is about hard work, nature verse man, and people that live very close to rawness of being alive. It was a fantastic time of my life. I met the most amazing people. My love for Alaska and the wild that it means for the world stuns me.

Can you tell us a bit about your work in helping to save the wild salmon in Bristol Bay?

Pebble Mine is a project that will be located 14 miles from the largest incubator for sockeye salmon on earth. The fishing industry in Bristol Bay brings in $500 million a year and employs over 10,000 people. And all we have to do is be there for the fish. We don’t have to anything but do what man has been doing for thousands of years. Fish. Our job, our responsibility is to not screw it up. That is all. Just be good stewards and reap the rewards. Why threaten that?

Alaska or Bosnia.  Which do you prefer?  

Both.

Is Bono as cool in person as he tends to be on stage?

Much cooler off stage. The thing about Bono that is so alluring and attractive off stage is that he is just a good person. A friend, a mentor. He is never in a hurry and listens. He has four kids and is saving the world but always finds a way to be funny and humble, or at least self-deprecating at the same time. I met him almost 20 years ago in Verona, on a crazy night that is well documented in Fools Rush In and other books. It has been wonderful to watch him thrive ever since.

When can we expect another book?  And what will it be about?

I  just completed my third book: Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story of Copper, the Metal That Runs the World. Both Pebble mine and living in a copper mining town made me want to learn more about copper and what it means to the world and to us, as residents who live near mines. While we need copper to run our modern society, we also must realize we are responsible for making choices on how that metal is mined and processed.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Putting my two-year old to bed tonight. She whispered “Daddy I love you.”

For anyone fortunate enough to be in the Pacific Northwest in the coming week, you can easily run into Bill Carter at a few events in the region.  Bill will be appearing at the 15th Annual Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon at Clemente’s  Restaurant.  This event is geared to spread awareness on the dangers of the proposed Pebble Mine planned to be erected, and how the fishing industry will suffer.  Bill goes on at 9 p.m. on February 25th.

On February 27th, you can catch Bill at Clarke College where he will be screening Miss Sarajevo at 11 a.m.  And catch him later on that evening as part of the Whitely Lecture series at Pacific University for another screening at 7 p.m.

For more information on these events, check out the details at The Neo Com Group website.  Also check out Bill’s own website for other events, how to pick up copies of his books and films you desperately need to have.

Pick up copies of the book as well at indiebound.com (Fools Rush In & Red Summer).

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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