The Botany of Desire is the historical recounting of four plants that for Pollan represent mankind's greatest desires: sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control. However, rather than use the four corresponding plants (the apple, tulip, cannabis (aka marijuana), and potato) merely as symbols of desire, Pollan takes us on a journey to discover how our desires compliment and compete with those of these four plants on an evolutionary scale; in other words, how we have co-evolved.
How easy to assume that mankind has manipulated nature throughout his history, yet Pollan hypothesizes that these plants have taken their turn in manipulating us throughout the millennia as well. Could it be true that are but a pawn in the evolutionary scheme to spread the seed of living things that have existed far longer than we? Pollan remarks that although we are in awe of the wolf, it is the "domesticated" dog that has it's every need met by man. Have we domesticated the canine, or have they domesticated us?
Perhaps his deepest insight was the idea of perception. Deeming ourselves the grand masters of the universe, we falsely assume we manipulate it at will, choosing for ourselves which forms of life are valuable and which are not. But stepping back into the larger picture, we must ask ourselves if this is fact or simply our perception, which can be greatly misguided as we see but our own egotistical interpretations of what is and is not. How beautiful though that for some 250 pages, we can delve deep into the world we so rarely consider, what Pollan refers to as "the plant's-eye view of the world;" a world that is far more vast, wonderful, and inspiring when we "imagine a very different kind of story about Man and Nature, one that shrinks the distance between the two of us, so that we might again begin to see them for what they are and in spite of everything will always be, which is in this boat together."
Recommended: for the environmental philosopher in all of us.Rated: 4 out of 5 stars.