Analysis of Brower vs. Dominy argument in Encounters with the Archdruid

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In the third section of John McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid, the author observes the discourse between conservationist David Brower and Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, Floyd Dominy, on the merits of dams in the southwestern United States. Brower "hates all dams, large and small," while Dominy sees dams as essential to our civilization. The Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, which Dominy created, are the main issue of debate between the two men.

Floyd Dominy graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1932 and, after an unsuccessful stint as a teacher, became a county agricultural agent for the federal government in Wyoming's Gillette County. This was the time of the Great Depression and also a great drought in the
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Brower viewed nature as a sacred place, a place that must be "earned." He hated the idea of people developing wilderness areas. He felt that cities should have strict boundaries, and people should stay there. Brower and Dominy have conflicting views in this situation. Brower is disgusted by the development around Lake Powell and the destruction of the wilderness that is now beneath it. "Lake Powell is a drag strip for power boats. It's for people who won't do things except the easy way. The magic of Glen Canyon is dead. It has been vulgarized." (240)

Dominy, on the other hand, is proud that he has created such a beautiful lake and has made it accessible to the masses. Dominy is tired of trying to satisfy a noisy minority while trying to bring water, power, and recreation to the people. "I'm a greater conservationist that you are, by far. I do things. I make things available to man. Unregulated, the Colorado River wouldn't be worth a good God damn to anybody...Do you want to keep this country the way it is for a handful of people?" (240)

Beside these arguments, there is also a more quantitative side to the debate. The ecological detriments of the Glen Canyon Dam have been well-documented. Extensive changes were brought about in the Colorado River ecosystem by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. Most of these alterations negatively affected the functioning of the system and the native aquatic species of the river. The reduced supply and transport of

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