Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets
Mushrooms are more than just a delicious food. They are also powerful allies for the health of our planet and ourselves. In this article, we will explore how mushrooms can help us solve some of the most pressing environmental and social challenges we face today.
What is Mycelium Running?
Mycelium Running is a term coined by Paul Stamets, a world-renowned mycologist and author of the book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. Mycelium is the network of microscopic threads that forms the body of a fungus. It is often hidden underground or inside decaying organic matter, but it can also grow on living plants and animals. Mycelium is responsible for producing mushrooms, which are the reproductive organs of fungi.
Stamets argues that mycelium is one of the most important life forms on Earth, because it plays a vital role in recycling carbon, nitrogen, and other essential elements in the biosphere. He also claims that we can harness the power of mycelium to address some of the most critical issues facing humanity, such as climate change, pollution, disease, and food security. He calls this approach "mycorestoration", which involves using mushrooms and their mycelium for ecological restoration and human well-being.
How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World
In his book and his TED talk, Stamets lists six ways that mushrooms can help save the world. These are:
Mycoremediation: using fungi to break down or remove toxic substances from the environment, such as oil spills, pesticides, heavy metals, and radioactive waste.
Mycofiltration: using fungi to filter or reduce harmful microorganisms, sediments, and chemicals from water sources, such as agricultural runoff, sewage, and stormwater.
Mycopesticides: using fungi to control or eliminate pest insects, such as termites, ants, mosquitoes, and flies.
Mycoforestry: using fungi to enhance the growth and health of trees and forests, by improving soil fertility, increasing biodiversity, and preventing diseases.
Myco-gardening: using fungi to improve the productivity and diversity of gardens and farms, by creating rich composts, mulches, and fertilizers.
Mycopharmacology: using fungi to produce or discover new medicines and treatments for various diseases and conditions, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, smallpox, flu, and more.
These are just some of the examples of how mushrooms can help save the world. Stamets provides many more details and evidence in his book and his website Fungi Perfecti. He also offers practical advice on how to grow and use mushrooms for different purposes.
Why Mushrooms Matter
Mushrooms are not only fascinating and beautiful organisms, but they are also essential for the survival of life on Earth. They are among the oldest and most diverse forms of life, with an estimated 1.5 to 5 million species, of which only about 10% have been described. They are also among the most adaptable and resilient forms of life, able to grow in almost any environment, from the tropics to the poles, from the oceans to the mountains, from the deserts to the forests.
Mushrooms are also the master decomposers of nature, recycling organic matter into nutrients that can be used by other living beings. They form symbiotic relationships with plants, animals, and bacteria, enhancing their health and performance. They produce a wide range of compounds that have medicinal, nutritional, and industrial applications. They also have a profound impact on the evolution and diversity of life, as they can exchange genes with other organisms, create new hybrids, and influence the behavior and physiology of their hosts.
However, mushrooms are also under threat from human activities, such as deforestation, pollution, overharvesting, and climate change. Many species are endangered or extinct, and many more are unknown or unexplored. This means that we are losing a valuable source of knowledge and innovation that could help us solve some of the most urgent problems we face today.
That is why we need to appreciate and protect mushrooms and their mycelium. They are not only our allies, but also our teachers and our inspiration. They show us how to live in harmony with nature, how to cooperate and communicate with other species, how to adapt and innovate in changing conditions, and how to heal ourselves and our planet. They are truly the unsung heroes of the biosphere.
How to Get Started with Mycelium Running
If you are interested in learning more about mushrooms and their mycelium, and how to use them for your own benefit and the benefit of the world, there are many resources and opportunities available. Here are some suggestions on how to get started with mycelium running:
Read the book: The best way to understand the concepts and applications of mycelium running is to read the book by Paul Stamets. It is a comprehensive and accessible guide that covers everything from the basics of mushroom biology and ecology, to the practical methods and techniques of growing and using mushrooms for various purposes. You can order the book online from Fungi Perfecti or other retailers.
Watch the TED talk: If you prefer a visual and concise introduction to mycelium running, you can watch the TED talk by Paul Stamets. It is a 17-minute presentation that summarizes the main ideas and examples of how mushrooms can help save the world. You can watch the video online from TED.com or other platforms.
Visit the website: If you want to explore more information and resources on mushrooms and their mycelium, you can visit the website of Fungi Perfecti, which is the company founded by Paul Stamets. It is a hub of knowledge and innovation on all things fungal, offering products, services, education, research, and community. You can find books, videos, articles, podcasts, courses, workshops, events, forums, blogs, newsletters, and more.
Grow your own mushrooms: If you want to experience the magic and wonder of mushrooms and their mycelium firsthand, you can try to grow your own mushrooms at home or in your garden. It is a fun and rewarding hobby that can also provide you with food, medicine, and materials. You can buy mushroom kits, spawn, tools, and supplies from Fungi Perfecti or other vendors. You can also learn how to make your own mushroom cultures, substrates, inoculations, and harvests from books, videos, courses, or workshops.
Join the movement: If you want to be part of a global community of mushroom enthusiasts and activists who are working to spread the message and practice of mycelium running, you can join the movement of Fungi Perfecti Community. It is a network of people who share their passion and knowledge about mushrooms and their mycelium, and who collaborate on projects and initiatives that aim to improve the health and well-being of people and the planet. You can connect with other members online or offline, through forums, groups, events, campaigns, petitions, donations, volunteering, and more.
Mycelium running is more than just a book or a concept. It is a way of life that celebrates the beauty and power of mushrooms and their mycelium. It is a way of thinking that recognizes the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living beings. It is a way of acting that uses mushrooms as tools and allies for healing ourselves and our world. It is a way of being that honors the wisdom and creativity of nature.
Some Examples of Mycelium Running in Action
To illustrate the potential and impact of mycelium running, here are some examples of how mushrooms and their mycelium have been used or are being used for various purposes around the world:
Cleaning up oil spills: In 2007, a pipeline burst in San Francisco Bay, spilling 58,000 gallons of crude oil into the water. A team of volunteers led by Paul Stamets used oyster mushrooms to bioremediate the contaminated soil and straw. The mushrooms broke down the oil into harmless substances, and also attracted insects and birds that helped restore the ecosystem.
Reducing E. coli contamination: In 2005, a farm in Pennsylvania was facing a problem of E. coli bacteria in its runoff water, which was polluting a nearby stream. The farmer installed a mycofiltration system using wood chips inoculated with elm oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms filtered out 99% of the E. coli from the water, and also produced edible and medicinal mushrooms for the farmer.
Controlling carpenter ants: In 1999, Paul Stamets discovered that his house was infested with carpenter ants, which were damaging the wooden structure. He decided to use a fungus called Metarhizium anisopliae, which is a natural enemy of insects, to get rid of the ants. He injected the fungus into the ant nests, and within two weeks, the ants were gone. The fungus also did not harm any other animals or plants in the house.
Enhancing forest health: In 1998, a forest in British Columbia was suffering from a disease called Armillaria root rot, which was killing the trees and reducing their growth. A group of researchers applied a fungus called Hypholoma fasciculare, which is a competitor of Armillaria, to the infected trees. The fungus reduced the root rot by 50%, and increased the growth rate and biomass of the trees by 30%.
Improving crop yields: In 1993, a farmer in Mexico was growing corn and beans on his land, but he was struggling with poor soil quality and low productivity. He decided to try a technique called myco-gardening, which involves adding mushroom spawn to the soil or planting mushroom logs among the crops. The mushrooms improved the soil fertility, increased the water retention, and suppressed the weeds and pests. The farmer reported a 50% increase in his corn and bean yields, and also harvested edible and medicinal mushrooms from his land.
These are just some of the examples of how mycelium running can make a positive difference in our world. There are many more stories and cases that demonstrate the effectiveness and versatility of mushrooms and their mycelium for various environmental and social challenges. You can find more examples in Paul Stamets' book or website, or you can search online for other sources.
Mushrooms and their mycelium are amazing and powerful organisms that can help us save the world. They can help us clean up pollution, filter water, control pests, enhance forests, improve gardens, and discover medicines. They can also help us learn from nature, connect with other species, and heal ourselves and our planet. They are our friends and allies in the quest for a more sustainable and harmonious future.
If you want to learn more about mushrooms and their mycelium, and how to use them for your own benefit and the benefit of the world, we recommend you to read the book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets. It is a comprehensive and inspiring guide that will teach you everything you need to know about mycelium running. You can also watch his TED talk, visit his website, grow your own mushrooms, and join the movement of Fungi Perfecti Community. You will be amazed by what mushrooms can do for you and the world.
Thank you for reading this article. We hope you enjoyed it and learned something new. We also hope you will share it with your friends and family, and spread the word about the wonders of mushrooms and their mycelium. Together, we can make a difference in our world with mycelium running. 4aad9cdaf3