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The Botany of Desire (2009)

Michael Pollan, a professor of journalism and a student of food, presents the history of four plants, each of which found a way to make itself essential to humans, thus ensuring widespread ... See full summary »
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Michael Pollan, a professor of journalism and a student of food, presents the history of four plants, each of which found a way to make itself essential to humans, thus ensuring widespread propagation. Apples, for sweetness; tulips, for beauty; marijuana, for pleasure; and, potatoes, for sustenance. Each has a story of discovery and adaptation; each has a symbiotic relationship with human civilization. The film tells these stories and examines these relationships. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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28 October 2009 (USA)  »

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[first lines]
Narrator: They are four of the most common plants we know. We've always thought that WE controlled THEM. But what if, in fact, THEY had been shaping US?
Michael Pollan: We - don't give nearly enough credit to plants. They're, have been working on us. They've been using us. For their own purposes.
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Interesting, Well Put Together Documentary
26 June 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The Botany of Desire is a well made PBS documentary adaptation of Michael Pollan's book discussing humanity's interactions with four different plants-the apple, the potato, the tulip, and marijuana-over the ages. It is both highly informative and thought-provoking.

The film itself is a useful introduction to Michael Pollan's ideas, particularly the idea of evolutionary deals between plants and humanity, in which a species of plant provides humans with benefits in exchange for human cultivation, which ensures survival. This concept is particularly useful for understanding Pollan's work, and figures in his other books such as The Omnivore's Dilemma.

The ending of the film is especially essential viewing, as it discusses the problems raised by industrial agriculture and the issue of monocultures-the tendency to grow identical breeds of a plant, which could all be vulnerable to the same disease. This fits with his broader critique of industrial farming in The Omnivore's Dilemma, and is important for anyone concerned with the future of American food.


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