Header photo of fungi by our guest writer Oberon Carter – you can read his blog post on how to photograph fungi here.
Renowned Mycologist (Mycology is the study of Fungi) Paul Stamets believes that mushrooms can save the world…
And he’s making great progress in uncovering just how mushrooms and their mycelial networks can help us do this in a variety of different ways.
Mycelium is the underground body of mushrooms, and it’s often very large and has many different functions some of which have only recently been discovered, and some we still don’t fully understand. Mycologists are constantly discovering new things about mushrooms and Paul Stamets is leading the way.
Yes mushrooms are a little weird…almost alien. The fact is..the general public understands mushrooms very little, and most of us have no idea that a vast and intelligent, almost internet like living network exists under our feet in the soil, and it is critical to all life on this planet.
In fact, the largest living organism on the planet today is a single cell wall thick mycelium called Armillaria and it lives in the Malheur National Forest in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon in the United States. It is estimated to cover over 2,200 acres (890 hectares) and be at least 2,400 years old, possibly older.
Now…mushrooms are certainly pretty interesting…some varieties are even quite tasty, and some are very medicinal, but can mushrooms really save the world from environmental contamination, oil spills, radiation, and even diseases?
Paul Stamets believes they can, and wants to show the world how.
Here’s a great quote from Paul regarding his thoughts on the current state of our planet and humanity:
“Mushroom Mycelium represents rebirth, rejuvenation, regeneration. Fungi generate soil that gives life. The task that we face today is to understand the language of Nature. My mission is to discover the language of the fungal networks that communicate with the ecosystem. And I for one believe that Nature is intelligent.
The fact that we lack the language skills to communicate with nature does not in pune the concept that nature is intelligent, it speaks to our inadequacy of our skillset for communication. We have now learned that there are these languages that are occurring and communication between each organism.
If we don’t get our act together and come in commonality and understanding with the organisms that sustain us today, not only will we destroy those organisms but we will destroy ourselves. We need to have a paradigm shift in our consciousness. What will it take to achieve that?
If I die trying but I’m inadequate to the task to make a course change in the evolution of this planet…okay I tried. The fact is I tried. How many people are not trying. If you knew that every breath you took could save hundreds of lives into the future had you walked down this path of knowledge, would you run down this path of knowledge as fast as you could.
I believe nature is a force of good. Good is not only a concept it is a spirit. So hopefully the spirit of goodness will survive.”
This quote is from a documentary called Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit. Check out the trailer:
Now Paul has proposed several ways in which mushrooms can save the world, based on his research and positive results. This is fascinating stuff! Check out this TED Talks presentation he gave in 2008:
And if you have a little more time on your hands, in this presentation Paul shares his story and goes much more in depth on some of the ideas he shared in the TED Talk above (and more):
In my opinion Paul should be awarded an almost unlimited budget for research, development, and implementation. Imagine what he could do for things like the Fukushima disaster, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, safe side effect-free cancer treatments, or how about completely transforming agriculture by using completely safe, natural, cheap and effective fungus based pesticides that don’t affect the crops.
There are much better solutions the the problems we’re facing today, we just need to look further, or maybe just down below our feet as Paul is showing us. He’s proving that when we work WITH nature and look TO nature, the solutions are already there.
I especially appreciate his emphasis on protecting old growth forests as they harbour such diversity of life and important fungi that are necessary for the health of this planet and us! Way to go Paul!
Do you think mushrooms can save the world?