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The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

The botany of desire

By April Gaydos

The Botany of Desire is Audubon de Mexico’s second film presentation on the nature of plants and our relationship with them. The film is based on the book of the same name by award-winning journalist and author Michael Pollan. For the past 25 years Pollan has focused his work on the places where nature and culture intersect, often in the area of food. Along the way he became an avid gardener, and it was while planting potatoes in his garden one day that he was struck by an idea. Are plants here for our benefit, do we control them, or have they been working on us—using us—for their own purposes?

Audubon de Mexico Nature Matters Film Presentation
The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World
Tue, Jun 21, 1:30–3pm
M. Malo Auditorium
Bellas Artes
Hernández Macías 75
415 111 4518
60 pesos (Audubon members free)

Pollan takes on this question in The Botany of Desire, and proposes that, although we would like to believe we are in control, plants, in fact, have been shaping us, or in some cases seducing us into helping them proliferate through propagation. In what Pollan has come to call the “dance of domestication,” in which we enable plants while they feed our desires, a compelling question arises: Who is leading this dance?

In the film Pollan takes us on a journey to the potato fields of Idaho and Peru; the apple orchards of New England and Kazakhstan; a medical marijuana hothouse (in an undisclosed location); and the tulip gardens of the Netherlands to examine how these four plants have ensured their survival and expanded their habitats by satisfying our fundamental human desires for sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control, and to what end we are willing to go to satisfy these desires.

Along with learning about the fascinating origins and life history of these plants, the film helps us investigate our evolving relationship with them, including covering topics important to the future of our food security: industrial agriculture practices and the issues of monocultures and genetic modification.

The film’s narration, interviews, and beautiful cinematography effectively pull us out of our shoes and into the “shoes” of plants, and as the stories of the four plants unfold, we become humbly aware that we are not outside of nature, but are very much a part of it. From this perspective, says Pollan, it is easier to recognize how our obsession with fulfilling our desires can deeply alter the relationship we have with plants, and it suggests to him that we proceed with full awareness and caution.


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