A lot of work is being done around the world investigating the use of biology for restoring contaminated land. As occurs often, as I became aware of the many beneficial properties of fungi, I found myself surrounded with opportunities explore that topic further. Paul Stamets was noted in my classes as the foremost source of knowledge and experimentation with fungi, and serendipitously I soon found myself hearing interviews with him on the subject. With this exposure, and a number of years later, I found myself signing up for this weekend course on mycology.
Our (there were about 30 people from the U.S. and many other countries) first day was mostly spent learning about fungi in general, with a lot of time studying various ways of cultivating them within species specific requirements. We also toured some of the campus buildings where research and growing were happening. Other times we watched power point presentations, some of which included a little chemistry. As I noted a few weeks ago in a previous post about my visit to the Land Institute, its satisfying having a decent background in chemistry and being able to look at chemical properties of various mycelium and understand how they interact as they do. This came in handy when the topic moved into medicinal use of mycelium and I was impressed with the information we were given. I had no idea mushrooms could be so beneficial in the field of health and healing, once again opening me to a whole new area of study.
Day two focused on what can be done with mycelium in the field of bioremediation or mycoremediation, the main reason for my attending the workshop. We were shown research being done in various environments damaged by heavy metals, E.coli and fecal matter, petrochemicals, and general storm and waste water overflows. We had a few hands-on experiences in inoculating bags of wood chips that would be used as bio swales for treating agriculture and storm water runoff before reaching important bodies of water. We also learned of work being done with spilled hydrocarbon compounds. Two of the attendees were from petroleum mining states and were interested in creating businesses using mycelium to repair land damaged from petroleum spills.
With my interest in the use of fungi for bioremediation I’ve spent time exploring what is being done in it, and any results. Along the path I came across a man working with biological remediation for badly polluted water, John Todd. I learned Todd was working with Stamets studying how to incorporate mycelium into biological, water purification processes. My interest in the topic of water purification is from my interest in the built environment overall. I have a special interest in residential grey water and how we might transform it at a neighborhood treatment system. I’m curious as to what society will do as antiquated waste water treatment systems begin to break down. Are we going to reconstruct large, expensive, machinery and energy intensive systems as replacements, or consider low tech, ecologically minded solutions to this problem?
Seeing a growing interest in finding natural, biological solutions for problems humanity has created in its quest to subdue and multiply, I wonder if there is enough to push such solutions to the fore. Many of them, because one cannot patient or own existing life forms, are not compatible with our current capitalism-on-steroids system. Since stewardship of our earth is not our predominate thinking, and if there is not enough profit to be extracted within it, why pursue it. But the simplicity, elegance and beauty of these systems make them a very compelling pursuit, something I intend to do over the coming years. It will be a longer term experiment.