Stamets' gift is an ability to see—and to explain—the micro in the macro, simplicity in complexity and the intelligence that courses through and connects everything in the universe. He also has the curiosity and patience to gather clues long before it is clear what they are clues to.
For example, his pioneering work to combat Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) began with a casual observation of bees in his garden that spent a summer making literal beelines for a raised bed of mushrooms. The insects would at great effort meticulously move dirt in order to sip mycelial dew. The dew, it turns out, was full of chemical compounds essential for bee health. In fact access to mycelia may be why some bees build their hives in tree hollows (mycelia feeds on dead wood) or nest in the ground (the majority of the world's 200,000 bee species live in the dirt).
Even if Stamets' mycelial mixtures help commercial honeybees—the second video is about a massive field study—80% of pollination for crops and wild plants is done by wild bees. No one knows how many wild bees have been lost to CCD, but any remedy will require an environmental-level fix. This includes the banning of neonicotinoid pesticides that have been implicated in the crisis. While EU has done just that, the US EPA is still mulling.
The TED talk was headlines while Stamets' lecture at the Chicago Botanic Garden three years ago was a master class. I was lucky enough to be in SRO overflow room watching a live feed. CBG cut the video into six sections (which you can find embedded with annotations here). I posted the fourth segment above, which begins a fascinating discourse on mycelial compounds for human health.
The phylogenetic kingdoms of Animalia (animals) and Fungi share a common ancestor. We are actually more closely related to mushrooms than plants are. In a sense, then, it shouldn't be that surprising that mushrooms have developed anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer compounds and pro-microbiome compounds that have value for us. Scratch that. It is completely remarkable and damn lucky, too, considering the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and a spate of new pathogens.
Beyond all the practical applications, mushrooms are simply beautiful. For the last several years Stamets has been working with filmmaker Louie Schwarzberg on a documentary. The trailer—the top video—is a wonder. Enjoy!
- Fungi.com | website