Gold inspires so much, but rarely curiosity. It's presence may be revered or envied but rarely questioned. Today, it's ubiquitous, to be found in trace quantities in circuit boards, from mobile phones to satellite components. Beyond this, gold drives an immaterial economy of geological data, legal rights, and migration control. Lisa Barnard's latest book, The Canary and the Hammer, draws together the disparate, overlooked stories of this precious metal, turning away from the photogenic to reveal the stories of technical achievement at the cost of human pain and ruin.
She finds gold being used in the same medical equipment that pollutes landfills; that the California waterfront is built on the abandoned cargo barges of successive gold rushes; that there are familial lineages, territories and laws that exist today as a direct result of centuries of gold mining. While gold may be a noble metal, it is steeped in blood, sweat, and tears.