Encounters with the Archdruid, book review by Laura Spann, SWCD

Encounters with the Archdruid (1971) takes a different angle at the traditional biography. Rather than simply writing a select memoir or the life story of fervent conservationist David Brower, author John McPhee observes his interactions with three men from disparate walks of life.  Part 1, “A Mountain,” follows Brower as he accompanies a passionate mineral engineer named Charles Park on a hike in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. In Part 2, “An Island,” Brower tours the resort island of Hilton Head, South Carolina with Charles Fraser, its developer. Fraser considers himself a “true conservationist” and the likes of Brower to be “druids,” sacrificing humans to the trees they worship. Yet somehow they manage to get along just fine. For Part 3, “A River,” Brower takes a lively raft trip through the Grand Canyon with Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Floyd Dominy. If McPhee does have an agenda in this biography, it is to subtly urge the reader to grapple with clashing environmental philosophies and decide where one stands, a task that is just as relevant today as when the book was published in the early 70s.