Earth Day: Mycelium Running

Lambert here. If your heart goes pit-a-pat when you hear the phrase “mycelial mat,” these presentations from mycological entrepreneur Paul Stamets, taken from the Agricultural Innovations podcasts of 2007, are for you.

The Big Picture (hat tip) put up two short, much more focused and, though I say it, investor-friendly TED talks from Stamets today, but I think the following long-form podcasts give a greater sense of the cornucopia of blazing insight that Stamets provides. Listen to these instead of NPR!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

* * *

Brief comment:

I think it’s fascinating and a sign of health and hope that Stamets’s ideas are starting to get take root (or…. extrude mycelia). And like fungi, his ideas are to be found in some odd places.

NOTE Cross-posted to Corrente.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


      1. F. Beard

        Life is amazing!

        I was surprised to learn that fungi don’t necessarily need organic matter to live else how could they have been the first life on land?

  1. Ned

    Stamets should get the Nobel Prize for his work, or at least a McArthur Genius Award.

    My favorite idea of his, putting mushroom spores in the lubricating oil of chainsaws so that when you cut down a tree or saw up logs the stump or log ends are automatically innoculated with edible mushroom spores as the teeth slice through it.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      One of the genius throwaway lines that I noticed, of the many, each one worth a book, was that loathesome bark mulch also fostered unique fungi, so, finally, a reason for it!

      * * *

      Another one is that humans leave a trail of debris, which fungi immediately seek to take advantage of. That is a positive way to look at all our catastrophes.

      1. McKillop

        The “loathsome bark mulch”, at least the stuff that I get, harbours a whole whack of life even as the tree lives and grows: under the bark is an ecologica] wonder. To me, at least.
        You might wish to re-consider bark in its original state!

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Sounds like you’ve got a good brand of bark mulch. But Stamets is talking about the bottom-of-the-barrel stuff they spread around corporate [gag] “campuses,” for example: Lawn, trees, mulch, lake with swans, end of story. Granted, that mulch harbors, as Stamets points out, incredible life.

          1. McKillop

            I have: currently the spruce bud worms (caterpillars natural and not ‘closing plants’ here in Canada) are annihilating
            their food source and I’m attempting to make lumber out of the most useful of the trees before nature gets its ultimate way.
            One problem is that it is a hell of a lot of work for one man to fell the trees, I’m arthritic [rheumatoid] as well), drag them from the bush, mill them into lumber and . . . .
            A dressed piece of pine or spruce definitely shouldn’t be disparaged as a bit of wood. Or burnt in dumps.
            It is especially made more difficult when professionally manufactured ‘wood’ is so relatively cheap, uniform, and easy to have delivered.
            When my sense of self-satisfaction withers under frustration I think of “selling” _marketing,_ limbs and waste as kindling, and bark as mulch, especially when I see the cost of these products in various stores.
            It’s strange to think that someone five hundred miles away can cut and ship 20+ pounds of wood -15 pieces- to be sold as firewood in an onionsack for less than 10 bucks. And people complain about the cost of gasoline!

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              Heh. Dilettantes buy their wood in onion sacks. (Then again, I suppose people with their own woodlots think of us who buy a few cords as dilettantes!)

  2. Ned

    NPR? You mean National Petroleum Radio?

    Pro war, pro energy, pro nuclear corporation pabulum with a garnish of homosexual marriage, “undocumented rights” and other societally devisive things in a neat little package deal that comes in its own donor tote bag.

    1. different clue

      There are some public radio stations which are not NPR infected. They are either all music and local and other stuff; and/or they get their news from the Free Speech Radio Network ( or whatever Free Speech Radio Network calls itself nowadays).

      Perhaps people who want a little more Free Speech News on public radio might find Free Speech Radio Network affiliated stations to donate to instead of donating to the NPR affiliated stations. Or donate money into escrow accounts to be released to their favorite public radio stations when those stations add Free Speech Radio News to their News Lineup.

  3. different clue

    Here is another interesting emerging use of fungus for less-polluting less-antisustainable production of stuff. Forming a substrate into the same shapes that styrofoam is currently formed into, and growing a 3-D fungus-web into and through those substrates so you are left with a packing-form-shaped fungus-substrate block to use instead of a styrofoam block.

  4. Literary Critic

    I do vaguely recall a novel where space fungi spores migrated thru the galaxy and began life on earth.

    But I was wondering, if the second asteroid that hit the earth carried more spores, would that be like a space alien invasion as far as our resident fungi are concerned?

    But anyway, I see a blockbuster movie here. Maybe called “Roots” or something like that?

    1. Literary Critic

      Technical note:

      Better to use a comet rather than an asteroid. An asteroid entry would cook the little guys.

      But if they were frozen in the inside of a big iceball and it hits the earth atmosphere at Mach 20 – striking the earth before it even has time to melt – well, Cool!

  5. Aquifer

    Thanx for this, Lambert! I think I sent in one or 2 links on the TED presentation of his stuff in the past, so am very glad to see the subject presented here ..

    I think it rather unfortunate that he wound up partnering with the DOD – dollars to donuts “vaccines” aren’t all they are interested in and will use his work for more nefarious purposes – seems to me a better partner for medicinal applications would have been the NIH, but they don’t have the money the DOD has …

    The more of this stuff i see the more i am confirmed in the “knowledge” that MN has already invented it all, there is nothing out there she doesn’t have an “answer” for, and not only that but it is in a form that cannot be reproduced in a test tube.

    The FDA seems to be the biggest enemy of “alternative” medicine – it persists in approving and and allowing toxic stuff that comes out of the labs of Big Pharma and Big Ag and blocking herbal preparations that cannot be patented by these goons.

    It will be interesting to see if his prep for carpenter ants, gets EPA approval – funny how it all comes back to politics, isn’t it?

    Maybe he should check out Jill Stein, too – LOL

    1. F. Beard

      The more of this stuff i see the more i am confirmed in the “knowledge” that MN has already invented it all, Aquifer

      It sure seems that way!

  6. F. Beard

    I recall a SF novel by Piers Anthony called Omnivore, Orn and OX with a planet with intelligent fungi. It was good. But the later Mr. Anthony got too weird for me.

  7. Aquifer

    Hamlet had it right – there are stranger things under heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy …

    And Gaia is the right metaphor …

  8. Sundog

    Fascinating stuff, and a terrific choice for Earth Day.

    The interview is also available as two mp3 files at the Internet Archive in much better audio quality even with the smaller file (64k) option.

    To understand why one might prefer linking to the Internet Archive rather than a commercial silo operation, I can recommend listening to this presentation by Brewster Kahle. (Click on “downloads” to find the mp3 link.)

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