Botany of Desire
I always think the universe does a neat trick when a person's name predicts the vocation he or she takes as an adult. For example, in my town we have a public garden named for its benefactor, Mrs. Park. And here we have a book and a fascinating two hours of bee-heavy television inspired by a man named Mr. Pollan. (Not "pollen," no, but in a game with no rules, homophones count.)
Michael Pollan does a neat trick in his book, "Botany of Desire" -- he writes a history of plant evolution from the point of view of the apples, tulips, cannabis plants, and potatoes that spread their seeds around the globe on the backs of an adaptable group of animals who never seem to stay put: human beings.
Humans turned out to be avid gardeners, easily made dependent on plants that look pretty, get us high, and taste great. Do you enjoy a good french fry? Join the party. Potatoes are an incredibly diverse and nutritious food that grow well in poor soil, and they were a godsend to places like nineteenth-century
You think, Oh, that couldn't happen today, we have so many ways to fight plant disease! And it's true, we have everything from ladybugs to Agent Orange to combat bugs and blight. But like the nineteenth-century Irish, we've also fallen in love with one type of potato -- the Russet Bermuda. It's the one responsible for all those long, slender fries you see poking out of McDonald's boxes in salty little bouquets. They're delicious, and today our farmers are going to unnatural lengths to (a) keep restaurants stocked with uniform potatoes, which means (b) preventing the Russet Bermudas from mutating as they naturally would over time to adapt themselves to the constant influx of new bugs, germs, and weeds, which means farmers have to (c) manage the potatoes' environment with pesticides, fertilizers, and genetic engineering. It's like having plastic surgery every month to try to keep yourself looking nineteen years old, the way farm are trying to stay viable by artificially propping up consumer demand for a five-inch french fry.
Apples, on the other hand, have had better luck breaking out of the monoculture trap. Apples were able to find their way out of central
I wonder why they don't tell you that in fifth grade.
There's a good deal more to this great two hours of television, the other half of which is devoted to the cultivation of broken tulips and promoting sexual frustration in cannabis plants.
(On a personal note I'd just like to add that it was someone's good idea to choose a woman named
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