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In this collection of three of his New Yorker pieces, McPhee offers a unique
perspective on the clash between hard-core environmentalism & the forces of
development. He describes encounters between David Bower, executive director of
the Sierra Club & then founder of Friends of the Earth, and:

(1) Charles Park, a mineral engineer, looking for copper in Glacier Peak
Wilderness in the Cascades. Park believes that, "Minerals are where you find
them. The quantities are finite." So you go & get them wherever they are
located. McPhee goes with them as they hike through the mountains.

(2) Charles Fraser, developer of Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Plantation, who
has obtained 3000 acres on undeveloped Cumberland Island. Fraser has bent over
backwards in previous developments to preserve as much of the original landscape
as he could, but he considers all environmentalists to be "druids" who will
sacrifice people to save trees.

& (3) Floyd Dominy, United States Commissioner of Reclamation and devoted dam
builder. McPhee brings them together to walk the Glen Canyon Dam. As McPhee
says, dams cause a visceral reaction among environmentalists because,
"Humiliating nature, a dam is evil..." .

By bringing these men of starkly different viewpoint together & letting them
speak for themselves, McPhee presents us with a dialogue that is pretty
balanced. It is a significant contribution to our understanding of how the two
sides in the preservation vs. development debate came to be so absolutist. As
Brower says at one point: "Objectivity is the greatest threat to the United
States today." But one finishes the book wondering if making totally subjective
judgments and arguments has really helped the environment or cause of environmentalism.


Grade: (B+)


John McPhee Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: John McPhee
    -John McPhee Home Page
    -Featured Author: John McPhee ( With News and Reviews From the Archives of The New York Times)
    -Creative Nonfiction: Writers: John McPhee
    -EXCERPT: FIRST CHAPTER of The Founding Fish by John McPhee
    -ESSAY: A Philosopher in the Kitchen: Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. (John McPhee, February 11, 1979, The New Yorker)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: John McPhee's Fish Tales (Dick Gordon, 11/22/2002, The Connection)
    -ESSAY: McPhee on Catch-and-Release (Les Palmer, Alaska Outdoor Journal)
    -Essay on McPhee & New Journalism (Sharon Bass)
    -"Twenty Questions: A Conversation with John McPhee" (Creative Nonfiction, Michael Pearson)
    -BOOK SITE: Annals of the Former World   by John McPhee (FSB Associates)
    -EXCERPT: Chapter One of Annals of the Former World
    -AUDIO: McPhee on Science Friday (NPR)
    -ARTICLE: McPhee wins Pulitzer for Annals (PrincetonUniversity)
    -John A. McPhee '53 Web Shrine
    -ESSAY: How Reading John McPhee’s Book on Tennis Helped Me Write About Skateboarding: Jonathan Russell Clark Finds Better Ways to Describe the Action (Jonathan Russell Clark, February 9, 2022, LitHub)
-ARCHIVES: "john mcphee" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish by John McPhee (Craig Nova, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (James Swan, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (William Moody, CS Monitor)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (Bill Pride, The Denver Post)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (Curtis Edmonds, Bookreporter)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (Stephen Bodio, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (Michael David Sims, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (BRUCE TIERNEY, Book Page)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (Rob Buchanan, Outside Online)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (MICHAEL S. ROSENWALD, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of The Founding Fish (Keith C. Heidorn, Living Gently Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of Annals of the Former World by John McPhee Rocks of Age: In his travels along Interstate 80, John McPhee has seen the history of the earth. (DAVID QUAMMEN, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Basin and Range by John McPhee (Paul Zweig, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of  BASIN AND RANGE. by John McPhee (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt , NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of In Suspect Terrain (Michiko Karutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of IN SUSPECT TERRAIN. By John McPhee (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt , NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Rising from the Plains (Herbert Mitgang, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Rising From the Plains (Evan S. Connell, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Assembling California (David Rains Wallace, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Annals of the Former World  Eloquence fills a tome of geological weight (Rob Laymon for The Philadelphia Inquirer)
    -REVIEW: Like Water From a Stone: The secret of this fervently worshiped nonfiction stylist: neurotically withhold. (Sarah Kerr, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of Annals of the Former World (Ellen Scott, your Guide for Ecotourism,
    -REVIEW: of Annals of the Former World (MICHAEL SIMS, BookPage)
    -REVIEW : of John McPhee, Annals of the Former World   (Mike Lepore for
    -REVIEW: Seeing the USA with John McPhee: Deep Structure and Travels in the Fourth Dimension  (Theodore C. Humphrey,  California State University, Pomona)
    -REVIEW: 40,000 Words About Rocks: Road cuts and the people who look at them (Ron Hogan, Crosswinds)
    -REVIEW: The Stone Diaries:  A pioneer of narrative nonfiction takes on his biggest topic: the history of the ground we stand on (Sabine Hrechdakian, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW of Basin and Range (NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW of Coming into the Country (NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Tabula Rasa by John McPhee (Mark Oppenheimer, Washington Post)
-REVIEW: of Tabula Rasa (Noah Rawlings, LA Review of Books)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Creative Nonfiction: Writers: John McPhee
    -Essay on McPhee & New Journalism (Sharon Bass)
    -"Twenty Questions: A Conversation with John McPhee" (Creative Nonfiction, Michael Pearson)

If you liked Encounters with the Archdruid, try:

Abbey, Edward
    -Desert Solitaire : A Season in the Wilderness

Adams, Douglas
    -Last Chance to See

Burroughs, Franklin
    -Billy Watson's Croker Sack

Carter, Jimmy
    -An Outdoor Journal: Adventures and Reflections

Dillard, Annie
    -A Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek

Gibbons, Euell
    -Stalking the Wild Asparagus

Heinrich, Bernd
    -Ravens in Winter

Leopold, Aldo
    -A Sand County Almanac

Mowat, Farley
    -Never Cry Wolf

Russell, Franklin
    -Watchers at the Pond