Categories
BLOG

cannabis, forgetting, and the botany of desire

CANNABIS, FORGETTING, AND THE BOTANY OF Botany of Desire 1 Cannabis, Forgetting, and the Botany of.

Documents

Transcript of CANNABIS, FORGETTING, AND THE BOTANY OF Botany of Desire 1 Cannabis, Forgetting, and the Botany of.

CANNABIS , FORGETT ING , AND THE BOTANY OF DES IRE

IGNAC IO CHAPELACATHY GALLAGHER

PATR IC IA UNTERMAN

Cannabis, Forgetting, and theThe Botany of Desire

THE DOREEN B. TOWNSEND CENTER FOR THE HUMANITIES was established at the University of California

at Berkeley in 1987 in order to promote interdisciplinary studies in the humanities. Endowed by

Doreen B. Townsend, the Center awards fellowships to advanced graduate students and untenured

faculty on the Berkeley campus, and supports interdisciplinary working groups, lectures, and

team-taught graduate seminars. It also sponsors symposia and conferences which strengthen

research and teaching in the humanities, arts, and related social science fields. The Center is directed

by Candace Slater, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese. Christina M. Gillis is the Associate Director.

Funding for the OCCASIONAL PAPERS of the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities is provided

by the Dean of the Graduate Division, and by other donors. Begun in 1994-95, the series makes available

in print and on-line some of the many lectures delivered in Townsend Center programs. The series is

registered with the Library of Congress. For more information on the publication, please contact the

Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, 220 Stephens Hall, The University of California,

Berkeley, CA 94720-2340, http://ls.berkeley.edu/dept/townsend, (510) 643-9670.

Occasional Papers SeriesEditor: Christina M. GillisAssistant Editor & Production: Jill StaufferProofreading: Catherine ZimmerPrinted by Hunza Graphics, Berkeley, California

All texts The Regents of the University of California and the Doreen B. Townsend Center for theHumanities, 2002. No portion of this publication may be reproduced by any means without the expresspermission of the authors or of the Center.

ISBN 1-881865-27-4Occasional Papers of the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, no. 27.

CANNABIS, FORGETTING, AND THE BOTANY OF DESIRE includes the proceedings of several important events

scheduled by the Townsend Center in celebration of Michael Pollan’s residency as Avenali Lecturer for

the 2002 Fall Semester. In this Occasional Paper we present transcripts of the public lecture Pollan gave

as well as the comments of a panel organized to explore the environmental impact of food production

in general. Both sections are followed by audience commentary. The Avenali Lectures are made possible

by an endowment established by Peter and Joan Avenali.

Preface vCandace Slater

Avenali Lecture and DiscussionLecture by Michael Pollan 1Audience Comments on Avenali Lecture 20

Panel DiscussionMichael Pollan 25Cathy Gallagher 32Ignacio Chapela 40Patricia Unterman 45Audience Comments on Panel Discussion 51

Contributor Biographies 57

I first met Michael Pollan about seven years ago, on a less than auspicious occasion.It was a conference that had been put together by the environmental historian, BillCronon, for both academics and non-academics. We were going to talk about thedirection of American environmentalism. This was a pretty good idea in that it hadjust been the time that Newt Gingrich was in power and was viably discussing theContract with America. The conference had a few little problems, though, andprobably the biggest one was actually the title. It was called Beyond Environmental-ism. This was like bringing together a room full of very devout Catholics, Buddhists,and Muslims to discuss something called Beyond Religion. The tension was a bitpalpable. And what I remember very definitely from the conference, among otherthings, was Michael Pollan, sitting there with a calmI might even say a strategicobviousnessthat one can only envy. I also remember Michael asking extremelythoughtful questions, and I remember above all his curiosity when people answered.He was maybe the only one of the whole group who managed to convince both sidesthat he was a member of their team. Thats enviable.

I would say that the ability to move between the academic and the non-academic, to proceed through questions, and to display an infectious sense of curiosityare present throughout just about everything that Michael Pollan has authored. So isthe ability to shift easily between the terms nature and environment to, sometimes,extremely fixed categories, and to underscore the presence of weighty environmentalproblems in the various practices of everyday life through gardening, eating, or achance encounter with a bee, a dog, and here in Berkeley, a raccoon.

Unlike any of the previous lecturers in our Distinguished Series funded by Joan andPeter Avenali, Michael Pollan is about to become a Berkeley professor. He hasaccepted an appointment, happily for us, beginning in Fall 2003. Before, however, hetakes on his duties as a member of the School of Journalism, we at the TownsendCenter want to welcome him also into the humanities, and the various allied fields thatthe Center serves. We see in him a remarkable power to discern the intertwiningecological, political, and moral valences of problems that are at once contemporaryand deeply rooted in Western history and culture. We also see in his books and articlesimportant questions about writing: to whom are we as committed researchers tryingto speak, and how can we be both deeply serious about ideas and courses, and yet clear,and even engaging, at the same time? These are not easy questions. We hope thatMichael will become a regular presence among us, moving as easily among schools anddisciplines as he did amongst the academics and non-academics.

Because hes been on campus before, many of you already know MichaelPollan. You know that he studied in Oxford and at Bennington College, and that hetook an MA in English at Columbia University. You also know that he interned atVillage Voice and then went on to work for eleven years as Executive Editor at HarpersMagazine, during which time the magazine garnered six national magazine awards.You doubtless also know that hes been a contributing editor since 1995 to Harpers.And any of you who read his recent New York Times Magazine article on animal rightsknow very well that he contributes to that publication. He has also publishednumerous books, including A Gardeners Education, A Place of My Own, TheEducation of an Amateur Builder, and most recently, The Botany of Desire: A PlantsEye View of the World. The latter, of course, is on the New York Times Bestseller List,and is being translated into at least a half dozen different languages.

Candace SlaterDirector, Townsend Center for the Humanities

Marian E. Koshland Distinguished Professor in the Humanities

The Botany of Desire 1

Cannabis, Forgetting,and the Botany of Desire

I want to get a couple things about myself out of the way before I start. The firstone is that, as you know, I write about plants. Whenever I take questions from anaudience, which I hope to do when I finish speaking, theres always someone whosays, Is that your real name? I mean, it does seem awfully convenient, I realizethat. But Ive also learned from people asking these questions that it is a certaingenre of name called the career natural, or an even better term is the aptonym.So I guess I have a good aptonym. Ive been collecting others. The last time I wasin the Bay Area I was told about a podiatrist named Dr. Toesy, which I kind of like.There are always doctors with these great names. I collected Drs. Slaughter,Smother, and Kaufman. There are lots of great urologists. Theres a Dr. Klap inBuffalo, and Dr. Peckler somewhere else. And, of course, the head of the AudubonSociety is John Flicker. Over Friends of Animals, Priscilla Ferrell presides. But oneof my favorites is a woman named Angela Ovary, who wrote a wonderfulgardening book called Sex in Your Garden.

So were going to talk a little bit about sex in your garden, and drugs, androck and roll. I want to start by briefly explaining what I mean by the botany ofdesire, about my approach to plants and their relationship to people, and then geton to marijuana. Those who have the book, Botany of Desire, will recognize someof what Im saying, at least at the start. But I then want to go a little bit deeperinto what weve learned and what were learning about cannabis and the cannab-inoid network and memory since the book has come out. Were learning thingsactually almost every day about this very exciting area of brain science. But fitting

this Avenali Lecture, and the setting, actually, I come to this scientific topic fromvery much a humanities point of view. Im told now Im a science journalist,which came as something of a surprise to me. I didnt know I was writing science.I felt a little like the character in Molire who didnt know he was speaking prose,but apparently that is what I write.

We have a bad habit in the humanities of assuming that scientists have thelast word. But when I was doing the research for my chapter on cannabis in thebook, I remember asking a pharmacologist in New York, who had studied drugsfor years and years, Well, what does it mean scientifically to be high? He

D O R E E N B . T O W N S E N D C E N T E R O C C A S I O N A L P A P E R S • 2 7 T H E B O T A N Y O F D E S IR E • T O W N S E N D C E N T E R O C C A S IO N A L P…

Townsend Center for the Humanities

Michael Pollan is a faculty member of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley; a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine; and past executive editor for Harper’s magazine. Pollan’s first book, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education (1991), and his more recent, The Botany of Desire (2001), are among his many works that examine the intersections between science and culture. In them we see a remarkable power to discern the intertwining ecological, political, and moral valences of problems that are at once contemporary and deeply rooted in Western history and culture. We also see in his books and articles important questions about writing: to whom are we as committed researchers trying to speak, and how can we be both deeply serious about ideas and courses, and yet clear, and even engaging, at the same time?

Author(s): Pollan, Michael | Abstract: Michael Pollan is a faculty member of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley; a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine; and past executive editor for Harper's magazine. Pollan’s first book, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education (1991), and his more recent, The Botany of Desire (2001), are among his many works that examine the intersections between science and culture. In them we see a remarkable power to discern the intertwining ecological, political, and moral valences of problems that are at once contemporary and deeply rooted in Western history and culture. We also see in his books and articles important questions about writing: to whom are we as committed researchers trying to speak, and how can we be both deeply serious about ideas and courses, and yet clear, and even engaging, at the same time?