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Underground Intelligence?

All sciences have their wackos -- some perceived, some real -- who leap beyond our known understandings of the Universe and make outrageous claims, often with flimsy or incomplete evidence. While they can be annoying, what I like about them is that they publicly force established scientists to double check and triple check their research. The result is that the science holds fast, or wobbly data is tightened, or the science completely falls apart and the wacko becomes the established scientist. In the end, we all benefit. -- Mark Renz

I wrote this a few days ago to clarify an article I posted called “Green Souls”. Reader Bill Byle poked me in the ribs with his remarks: "Ok mark...no more cooking mushrooms from the pasture...of course they have souls.....you can even see them briefly...rising from the pot when you cook em. PS...how do you feel about the Easter bunny ?????"

Although Bill was joking, he had a good point. Those of us who take science serious (which includes Bill) have grown up around people who seem to conduct their research while under the influence of hallucinogens and talk in “spiritual” inconclusive and often untestable terms rather than hard peer-reviewed science. Still, I don't ever want to close off my brain to possibilities that are “way out there” – if the researcher really does his or her homework.

With that in mind...I noticed a lot of mushrooms poking up through the ground following our recent heavy rains. I have to admit, I know nothing about mushrooms and have never used them as a drug, although I can't wait for Bill to enlighten me. Of course, they're great in salads, but something told me they are not just another pretty fruit.

So tonight I did some research (under the influence of two Corona Lights – my limit most nights). I came across the following interview/book review that if true may benefit some of you involved in cleaning up -- or preventing -- other people's messes.

Know that I have not substantiated any of this information, but it may be worth exploring in case there are ways mushrooms – or rather mycelia – can aid Florida in cleaning up or helping filter out certain types of pollution. Perhaps some of you are already involved in such projects, or maybe the information I stumbled onto has been challenged by other researchers and rejected for one reason or another. I'll leave it to you to look into it or drop the subject like a rattlesnake.

Here is a sampling of Derrick Jensen's review of “Mycelium Running: How mushrooms can help save the world” by Paul Stamets.

The Sun Interview  February 2008 | issue 386

...a mushroom is just the fruit of the mycelium, which is an underground network of rootlike fibers that can stretch for miles. Stamets calls mycelia the “grand disassemblers of nature” because they break down complex substances into simpler components. For example, some fungi can take apart the hydrogen-carbon bonds that hold petroleum products together. Others have shown the potential to clean up nerve-gas agents, dioxins, and plastics. They may even be skilled enough to undo the ecological damage pollution has wrought.

Since reading “Mycelium Running”, I’ve begun to consider the possibility that mycelia know something we don’t. Stamets believes they have not just the ability to protect the environment but the intelligence to do so on purpose. His theory stems in part from the fact that mycelia transmit information across their huge networks using the same neurotransmitters that our brains do: the chemicals that allow us to think. In fact, recent discoveries suggest that humans are more closely related to fungi than we are to plants.

Almost since life began on earth, mycelia have performed important ecological roles: nourishing ecosystems, repairing them, and sometimes even helping create them. The fungi’s exquisitely fine filaments absorb nutrients from the soil and then trade them with the roots of plants for some of the energy that the plants produce through photosynthesis. No plant community could exist without mycelia. I’ve long been a resident and defender of forests, but Stamets helped me understand that I’ve been misperceiving my home. I thought a forest was made up entirely of trees, but now I know that the foundation lies below ground, in the fungi.


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