The Botany of Desire | By Michael Pollan|
ESRM 100| The Relationship Of Humans and Plants|
Review of The Botany of Desire – By Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan opens the book questioning the relationship of humans and nature. Who is the subject and who is the object? Who really is domesticating who? From a plant’s eye, he challenges the traditional relationship of human and nature and presents the argument that the four plants- Apples, Tulips, Marijuana and the Potato have shaped human evolution just like we shaped theirs. He calls it “co-evolution”. Nature plays a part in controlling us. It is what the plants know about our desires that made them grow, survive and spread around the world until today. Each has some qualities that know how to stimulate human senses. The apple is a fruit that appeals to a human’s yearning for sweetness, the tulip is a flower that appeals to a human’s yearning for beauty, marijuana is a weed that appeals a human’s yearning for intoxication and the potato appeals to a human’s desire for control. As time goes by, in order to survive, plants learn to adapt, change forms to a new species to suit the environment as well as increase humans desire for them. Chapter 1 introduces the legendary “Apple Tree Man”, John Chapman, who introduced the species to several locations in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The book recounts the basic natural history of the apple and also explains apple’s importance in human civilization. An apple’s taste of sweetness is a noble quality and it symbolizes satisfaction of human desire. Chapter 1 was filled with Chapman’s story of his journey – how he planted thousands of apple trees across wild range of orchards and ultimately sold them cheaper than other apple cultivars. The author praises John’s original way of planting seeds, going from place to place and reminding us that nature has its own way. “By reverting to wild ways-to sexual reproduction, that is, and going to seed- the apple was able to reach down into its vast stores of genes, accumulated over the course of its travels through Asia and Europe, and discover the precise combination of traits required to survive in the New World” (Pollan, 13). This passage also presents the idea that plants could manipulate the world, and that they are constantly looking for ways to survive. In the next chapter, the author focuses on the beauty of tulips. “Depending on the environment in which a species finds itself, different adaptations will avail. Mutations that nature would have rejected out of hand in the wild sometimes prove to be brilliant adaptations in an environment that's been shaped by human desire." (Pollan, 81) “Tulipmania” - a craze celebrating the beauty of tulips in Holland - signifies the brilliant strategy for tulips to survive because of their beauty, and they are thought to be more valuable than money. Much of the rest of this chapter provides an anatomy of the tulip, and an explanation of tulip culture trends in modern America, history of Western floral gardening, natural selection and comparing beauty with sexual behaviours. Marijuana is the next topic. It is a class of plant which produces chemical molecules that have the power to alter the human mind. Its effects have motivated humans into getting it spread all over the world, even when facing the prevention of its use. Its popularity seems to have replaced the apple as the “forbidden fruit”. C. Sativa and C. Indica represent two distinct species while under the shared genus cannabis. C. Indica was originated in Asia while C. Sativa is of Mexico origin. The widespread hybridization of C. Sativa and C. Indica suggested marijuana users’ preference of feeling “high” because the hybridization of these two strains produces a super high feeling that a human would desire. Cultivation techniques were developed to allow the movement from outdoor cultivation to highly–adapted indoor marijuana cultivation in small spaces....