I have been a great fan of Michael Pollan since I came across his book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” I went on to read his other books, “In Defense of Food” and “The Botany of Desire.” I find his writing well-researched, well-supported, while at the same time, entertaining and stimulating.
Louie recently showed me that “Botany of Desire” has been made into a documentary (aired October, 2009 on PBS) and was available for viewing on Netflix. And so, one evening, I propped my brand new iPad on my elliptical and proceeded to watch the film as I rhythmically moved my arms and legs to my desired heart rate. (Yes, I can still multi-task!)
A film of approximately two hours cannot possibly contain every bit of information in the book from which it is based. I have to say that this documentary covers a significant amount of information on the four domesticated plants. Pollan posits that these four plants have become almost ubiquitous, not because we humans deliberately plotted and set out to do so. In fact, these plants have manipulated us into taking them to the far reaches of the earth, all for their strongest qualities: The bewitching beauty of the Tulip, the juicy sweetness of the Apple, the mind altering effects of Cannabis, and the nourishment from the Potato.
The discussion is not too heavy but stimulating and entertaining enough to keep an audience engaged. As with his other works, this one is well researched and presented in an organized fashion. At the same time, Pollan strives to not just tell the story but also to provoke more thought into the subject matter. Compared to his other works, I would say this one would have a broader appeal.
The visuals in the film provided great support for the discussion. I found myself enthralled by the beauty of the tulip, amazed at the apple forest of Kazakstan, intrigued by the indoor cultivation of the marijuana plant (a burgeoning industry!), and floored by the account of the potato’s life-saving effects upon its introduction to Europe.
And that’s not all! I found a website on the entire movie/book too!
There is even a webpage that shows guidelines for teachers who might want to teach it in their class:
Pollan takes us all over the world to show us how these four plants have been embraced by families, towns, and corporations. He makes a lot of very sensible points about such issues as the pitfalls of monoculture farming, the historical lessons to be learned from centuries of famine in parts of Europe, of the politics involved in Cannabis and the accompanying social/moral biases that have discouraged and at times, derailed great research on its medical benefits. The latter is very timely with all the ongoing debate on medical marijuana and the escalating violence just beyond our southern borders because of the drug trade.
When Pinky came for her trip with Matt here, I showed her this video. I believe she too enjoyed it. If you find it hard to watch a documentary, even if it’s very interesting, then watch it in more than one sitting. You can even do it by topic.