Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
to the Cosmos
by John E. Mack
Pollan's new book, The
Botany of Desire, is currently all the rage. But I wonder:
Would readers be so enamored if they knew that Pollan
was surreptitiously promoting the alien agenda? No, he hasn't
actually admitted it you know, The Botany of
Desire: What I Learned From My Alien Abductors but
he might as well have. Consider the following direct quote, which
he boldly places front and center in his introduction:
This book tells a different kind of story about Man and Nature,
one that aims to put us back in the great reciprocal web that
is life on Earth. My hope is that by the time you close its
covers, things outside (and inside) will look a little different,
so that when you see an apple tree across a road or a tulip
across a table, it won't appear quite so alien, so Other.
He puts the word right out there for all to see! And this is
not an isolated incident. The word alien is fairly littered
throughout the book in passages like this:
Like an alien species introduced into an established
ecosystem, the potato had trouble finding a foothold when it
first arrived in Europe toward the end of the sixteenth century.
The problem was not with the European soil or climate, which
would prove very much to the potato's liking (in the north anyway),
but with the European mind. Even after people recognized that
this peculiar new plant could produce more food on less land
than any other crop, most of European culture remained inhospitable
to the potato.[again, emphasis mine]
I remained skeptical for a time, cautious of jumping to conclusions
on the basis of a single recurring word. But when I noticed that
the very string of letters necessary to spell out "The Botany
of Desire by Michael Pollan" actually contains all of the
letters needed to spell "aliens," I knew I had found my smoking
gun. It's just too farfetched to be coincidental.
But then I had to ask, Why would Pollan go to all this trouble?
Why be so coy about his intentions? The answer is obvious. It's
even slyly answered in the above passage. Throughout, substitute
the word alien for the word potato and it becomes
clear why Pollan is leery of stating his alien sympathies publicly.
Just as the potato offered sixteenth century Europe a more efficient
food source, the strange humanoids currently beaming thousands
of people nightly aboard their cigar- or saucer-shaped crafts
have something terribly valuable to offer humanity. But due to
an willful intransigence, we have remained stubbornly resistant
to the idea of the alien presence. We sorely need to hear what
these aliens have to tell us. Yet most of us remain unwilling
to accept even the idea of their existence.
Consider the fate of Harvard psychiatrist John
E. Mack. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his biography
of T. E. Lawrence, A
Prince of Our Disorder. But as soon as he started to publish
meticulous accounts of his psychiatric work with alien abductees
in 1994 (Abduction:
Human Encounters with Aliens) his fair-weather friends in
the academic establishment abruptly stopped taking his work seriously.
Mack soon became subject to a most childish brand of ridicule.
Rumor is, a nervous Harvard even tried to revoke his tenure.
Though clearly compelled to inform the world about what the aliens
have to say, it's no wonder Michael Pollan has opted to find a
way to do it without opening himself up to the prattle of philistines.
Nonetheless, it's all there in The Botany of Desire. And
as you can see in the previous example, Pollan disguises his subject
by analogy. Instead of referring directly to "aliens,"
he lets a variety of plants stand in for his true subject. With
this in mind, it becomes simple to extract from The Botany
of Desire the rudiments of the alien message, as well as something
of Pollan's attitude toward our pale, pasty guests. Let's take
the following quote from The Botany of Desire as a starting
...our sense of plants as passive objects is a failure of imagination,
rooted in the fact that plants occupy what amounts to a different
Creepy, no? With only a slight adjustment "...our
sense of aliens as delusional fantasies..."
etc. this could be a direct quote from Dr. Mack's most
recent book, Passport
to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters.
In this work Mack explains that as far as he's been able to figure
out, the likely reason the "reality" of the alien presence
is so difficult to verify is that the aliens actually exist in
another dimension. They're real as you and I, but their reality
may exist on another plane. And just what is "reality"
anyway? These abductees or as some call them, "experiencers"
exhibit too many signs of genuine trauma, and too few of
psychosis to be disregarded as manipulative or delusional.
Furthermore, the stories abductees tell, independent of one
another, are far too similar in both substance and detail to be
explained by mere chance. The details of a typical abduction have
been thoroughly documented by Mack: the bright blue light; the
"floating" up to a hovering, cigar- or saucer-shaped
craft; the strangely powerful humanoids with over-sized eyes who
occupy the craft; the bizarre medical procedures and painful probing,
anal or otherwise; etc.
Of course, at first this is all quite terrifying. But abductees
generally report that one does get used to it. After being
forcibly removed, over and over, to their blue-lit spaceship,
you kind of get to know them. And in fact, contrary to what you
might assume about a band of compulsive kidnappers obsessed with
bizarre medical procedures, these little hairless shrimps may
not be so "bad" after all. Surprisingly, it may just
be that the primary motive for their abductions is a deeply felt
concern about the destruction human beings are currently wreaking
on the environment of our planet. After working with hundreds
of abductees over several years, Dr. Mack believes this is precisely
I was astonished to discover that, in case after case, powerful
messages about the human threat to the Earth's ecology were
being conveyed to the experiencers in vivid, unmistakable words
and images. The impact of these communications is often profound
and may inspire the experiencer to work actively on behalf of
the planet's life. Indeed, it seems to me quite possible that
the protection of the Earth's life is at the heart of the abduction
As you might guess, Michael Pollan is also something of a tree-hugger.
The Botany of Desire is, after all, an eloquent treatise
on the extraordinary importance of nature's most precious resource:
To shrink the sheer diversity of life, as the grafters and
monoculturists and genetic engineers would do, is to shrink
evolution's possibilities, which is to say, the future open
to all of us. "This is the assembly of life that it took
a billion years to evolve," the zoologist E. O. Wilson
has written, speaking of biodiversity....To risk this multiplicity
is to risk unstringing the world.
But these days environmentalists are a dime a dozen. Am I implying
that every vegetarian and recycling enthusiast is an alien abductee?
Hardly. What confirms the fact that Pollan's environmentalism
has its origins in abduction experiences is the fact that for
him, environmentalism is clearly linked to his preoccupation with
the complexities of genetic engineering and crossbreeding.
One of the strangest and most consistent elements of the abduction
narrative is the so-called "hybrid project," which has
been well-documented by Mack:
A central feature of the experience appears to be a complex
sexual/reproductive "project" that, after a sequence
of experiences, may result in the apparent creation of hybrid
beings...which look like a cross between the aliens and humans...
Admittedly, though the majority of experiencers donate either
sperm or ova to this project (against their will, of course),
the exact reason aliens are breeding large numbers of alien-human
children remains cloaked in mystery. Michael Pollan, like most
abductees, seems just as perplexed as the rest of us by the phenomenon,
for in The Botany of Desire he recounts many crossbreeding
scenarios (between a variety of "plants," of course).
By going over and over it, is he hoping to discover its purpose,
its meaning? It's hard to tell. But in The Botany of Desire
he clearly covers all the prominent theories. For example, Mack
documents that some experiencers believe that...
...the hybrid "project" grows out of the fact that
the beings made their own planet unlivable and destroyed their
own capacity to breed. Now...the aliens are replenishing their
stock by mating with us.
Compare that theory with Pollan's thinly-veiled allegory of the
devastating Irish Potato Famine (one of many fascinating anecdotes
in his book). Pollan explains that the famine was caused by the
fact that in the 1840s the Irish were planting almost exclusively
one variety of potato, the Lumper, which turned out to be extremely
susceptible to potato blight. So when the fungus that causes this
blight eventually made its way over from the New World, the resulting
catastrophe was similar to giving Charlie Sheen a suitcase of
cash and setting him loose in Mustang Ranch. The blight had its
way with all the little Lumpers in the country; everyone else
was appalled. So what in the end was the solution to the famine?
Irish Lumpers were crossbred with blight-resistant potatoes from
the New World in order to create a more hardy breed. Sound familiar?
Other theories about the alien breeding program are more cynical.
Many abductees resent being used as "breeders" and can't
help assuming that the aliens are up to no good: "They use
us....Perhaps we're just walking stock with a little bit of brains,"
posits one of Mack's subjects. Pollan too has his less optimistic
moments. He meets with one "disarmingly candid" genetic
engineer at Monsanto who offers a number of persuasive, upbeat
arguments for the benevolence of genetically engineered foods.
Somehow, though, Pollan can't quite take this representative of
Monsanto at his word. His final advice, when he is unable to satisfactorily
answer Pollan's questions, is far too sinister: simply "Trust
But just as many abductees are convinced that the aliens' intentions
are benevolent. In the following experiencer's estimation, the
aliens are crossbreeding with humans in an effort to avert environmental
Catherine believes the hybrids are being created "so that
if humans did destroy the planet there would still be alternatives."
Perhaps, she suggests, by crossbreeding with humans, "the
aliens are trying to come up with a form that would be more
physical but could still exist in the other realm"
If Catherine is correct, then the alien crossbreeding project
bears remarkable similarities to recent developments in marijuana
cultivation, which Pollan recounts in obsessive detail.
As the story goes, in the eighties uptight Ronald Reagan put
the considerable powers of his office behind his need to destroy
all US marijuana cultivation. In response, creative marijuana
farmers took their craft indoors. As it turned out, the variety
of marijuana traditionally used in the US, sativa, did
not grow well under these conditions. So creative growers crossbred
sativa with a new variety from Afghanistan, called indica.
The resultant sativa-indica hybrids constituted the beginnings
of a new superior variety of marijuana that not only thrived indoors
under grow lights, but also contained, as luck would have it,
far more THC than their more primitive cousins. Who would have
guessed that Cheech and Chong owe Ronnie a debt of gratitude.
Sensitive readers will no doubt understand that, in his quaint
"story" of marijuana cultivation, Pollan is presenting
one theory of the elusive purpose of the alien hybrid project.
But for those who are yet convinced, take as further evidence
the eerie similarity between Pollan's rows of fledgling marijuana
plants burgeoning under myriad grow lights, and the "rows
of incubators containing hybrid babies in early gestation"
reported by so many of Dr. Macks "co-explorers."
Finally, one can't help but speculate whether Pollan's excessive
fascination with genetic crossbreeding isn't fueled, at least
in part, by a wild speculation of his own. Mack reports that for
many abductees, the sight of those rows of incubation tanks can
be quite literally "jarring." Many have come to believe
that they, themselves, are products of the hybrid project; that
they are half alien.
Which brings us back to our original question? When it's so obvious
that Michael Pollan has spent countless hours at the feet of his
alien buddies, and is intent on passing on to his fellow spaceship-earth
passengers what they have taught him, why doesn't he just bite
the bullet and make a clean break of it? Why bother with all the
secrecy? Other alien-human hybrids Pee
Wee Herman, Latoya
Jackson, etc. have made little effort to hide their
Well, the answer seems pretty obvious, and it has little to do
with fear of ridicule. As a result of speaking out about the alien
phenomenon, Dr. Mack has barely retained tenure and has been branded
a quack. Meanwhile, Pollan's cleverly subversive book is earning
him a pile of cash. The Botany of Desire is currently number
twelve on The New York Times Bestseller list, and will
no doubt continue to sell well for months to come. Pollan may
not have a Pulitzer Prize, but he does appear to be the more intelligent
of the two. Those aliens, after all, are pretty smart.