The Show Your Friends and Family Must See

Oct 26, 2009

Media, Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire


“The best gardeners of my generation are not hybridizing roses, are not working with orchids. They are working with this incredibly valuable and incredibly interesting plant called cannabis.”
--Michael Pollan

Before Michael Pollan’s best-selling books about food and the food industry, he wrote a fascinating volume about humanity’s symbiotic relationship with plants, called “The Botany of Desire.” That book is now a PBS special, airing for the first time this week, on October 28 at 8 p.m. If you have friends, family, coworkers, etc., who’ve never thought about our relationship with marijuana beyond the latest hysterical news story, this is the show they need to see.

The program traces the evolution of our relationship with four plants: the apple, the tulip, the potato, and cannabis.  And they aren’t as different as you might think. For example, both the apple and cannabis (now, of course, generally called marijuana in this country) have alternated between being treasured and being reviled.

The segment on marijuana (you didn’t really think we’d be focusing on tulips, did you?) is not a brief for ending prohibition. What it is, though, is a remarkably insightful and thoughtful look at how humans have related to this plant, what it’s taught us about our own physiology, and how we have helped it spread throughout the world. Though the marijuana segment is just one quarter of a two-hour program, it may be the best exploration of marijuana ever shown on U.S. television.

And yes, the segments on tulips, apples, and potatoes are pretty good too.