I love nerding out on folks like Paul Stamets. He’s funny, charismatic, and knows how to explain something as complex as mycelial biology to a wide audience. The solutions he is bringing to the table via his research on mushrooms, from breast cancer treatments to digesters of pollution, make me literally jump for joy.
“I am a collection of microorganisms unified by one voice”, he beamed, introducing himself to a fully packed Bioneers‘ auditorium.
Understanding the incredibly significant role that mycelium serve as “cellular bridges”, which connect humans and habitat, he is able to effectively realize their potential through the widespread application of his research.
After being called on after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, he began experiments on MycoBooms™, cultivating colonies of oyster mushrooms in hemp “socks” that work to digest and remediate the areas affected by the spill. He found that coastal areas could be remediated in a few weeks or months.
Then, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he was again called on for a mycelial solution. “Mycotechnologies” do work quickly, he explained, but the scale of a nuclear disaster presents an entirely new challenge. Certain species are capable of sucking up and thus becoming concentrated containers for the heavy metals and radioactive contaminants surrounding the Fukushima plant, an area with 30 times the allowable limit of radiation. Remediation is possible, but it could take many years, even decades, for recovery to be full scale.
Wait a minute though! Stamets is not a quitter, he was able to find a totally viable treatment for his own mother’s fight against breast cancer using Turkey Tail mushrooms. A woman who was planning her own funeral was saved by her son’s research. Now, he’s been able to obtain patents for multiple forms of mycelial based anti-viral and anti-bacterial medicines, including those capable of treating and curing serious illnesses like Bird flu. With regards to those critical of patents he remarks, “better for me to have them than Monsanto”.
Mushrooms, with their amazing potential and applications, inhabit ecosystems (specifically old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest), that are increasingly at risk of devastation. These habitats must be protected, he says, “as a matter of national defense”. Stamets is an articulate protector for the powerful and ubiquitous mycelial kingdom.