Do we control plants, or have they been shaping us? This is the intriguing question Michael Pollan poses in Botany of Desire, airing on PBS on October 28. The documentary, based on Pollan’s book of the same name, explores the complex, symbiotic relationship between plants and humans.
According to Pollan, plants act as mirrors of humans, reflecting what we desire. He focuses on four species–apples, tulips, cannabis, and potatoes–and examines how they have adapted and changed over time based on our desires for sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control over our environment.
The documentary examines the political, social, and cultural implications of allowing our desires to dictate our agricultural strategies, especially the decision to farm in monocultures.
Pollan states that humans cast “evolutionary votes” every day when we choose, for example, the flowers we display, the foods we eat, and the drugs we ingest. Ignoring this influence could have a profound effect not only on various plant species but also on our own species.