from “fantastic fungi, the forbidden fruit” by louis schwartzberg, a documentary about mycologist paul stamets. “the task that we face today is to understand the language in nature. my mission is to discover the language of the fungal networks that communicate with the ecosystem. i believe that nature is intelligent. the fact that we lack the language skills to communicate with nature does not impugn the concept that nature is intelligent; it speaks to the inadequacy of our skill set for communication,” paul says. “i believe nature is a force for good. good is not only a concept, it is a spirit. and hopefully this spirit of goodness will survive.”
excerpts from paul stamets TED talk, “six ways mushrooms can save the world”:
mycelium infuses all landscapes, it holds soils together. it’s extremely tenacious. it holds up to 30,000 times its mass. we have now discovered that there is a multi directional transfer of nutrients between plants, mitigated by the mycelium. in a single cubic inch of soil, there can be more than eight miles of these cells. the mycelium, in the right conditions, produces a mushroom that bursts through with such ferocity it can break asphalt.
we’re more closely related to fungi than we are to any other kingdom. we share in common the same pathogens. fungi don’t like to rot from bacteria, and so our best antibiotics come from fungi. i”ve been a scanning electron microscopist for many years, and when i’m staring at the mycelium, i realize that they are microfiltration membranes. we exhale carbon dioxide, so does mycelium. it inhales oxygen, just like we do. but these are essentially externalized stomachs and lungs. and i present to you a concept that these are extended neurological membranes.
most of you may not know that fungi were the first organisms to come to land. they came to land 1.3 billion years ago, and plants followed several hundred million years later. the mycelium produced oxalic acids, pockmarking rock and grabbing calcium and other minerals and forming calcium oxalates. this makes the rocks crumble, and is the first step in the generation of soil.
now, we’ve had several extinction events (and our currently in the sixth), and 65 million years ago we had an asteroid impact, and a huge amount of debris was jettisoned into the atmosphere. sunlight was cut off, and fungi inherited the earth. those organisms that paired with fungi were rewarded, because fungi do not need light. fungi use radiation as a source of energy, much like plants use light. so, the prospect of fungi existing on other planets elsewhere, i think, is a forgone conclusion.