The Botany of Desire
Directed by Michael Schwarz and Edward Gray (2009)
The Botany of Desire is a 2009 PBS documentary based on Michael Pollan’s 2001 book The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the Word. Both concern the co-evolution of plants and human beings and the vital symbiotic relationships they form. Pollan focuses specifically on the apple, the tulip, the cannabis plant and the potato, detailing how each has evolved to deliberately appeal to human desire. In addition to tracing each plant to its region of origin, he highlights specific biological adaptations it has made to make it appealing to human beings.
The film is full of fascinating factual tidbits, eg that apple trees still grow wild in Kazakhstan and poke up through sidewalk cracks and that potatoes were essential in fueling the development of northern Europe (which is prone to erratic grain harvests) and the industrial revolution.
In addition to providing lavish detail about the art and science of indoor cannabis cultivation, Pollan also examines research into specific cannabis receptors in the human brain. The latter play an important role in helping us forget painful and/or irrelevant memories.
The video concludes by focusing on some of the drawbacks of industrial agriculture, especially our over-reliance on monoculture crops. The loss of diversity in our corporatized foods system makes our food crops far more susceptible to pests. This, in turn, makes us over reliant on toxic pesticides, herbicides and GMOs.
As Pollan stresses at the end of the film, the solution to problems caused by monoculture isn’t more technology. The solution is to end monoculture by diversifying food production.
My only point of disagreement was Pollan’s statement (in 2009) that plants lack consciousness. More recent research suggests that they’re more aware of their environment than we are. See Are Plants Smarter than We Are?
YouTube has taken the film down for copyrights reasons but it can be viewed free at PBS videos