Mushroom specialist Paul Stamets: “we need to have a paradigm shift in our consciousness. If we don’t get our act together and come in commonality and understanding with the organisms that sustain us today, not only will we destroy those organisms, but we will destroy ourselves.“[*]
In the early 1990s a close-knit group of geniuses, the Synergists, built and tested the first biosphere in the desert of Arizona. It was to be the first of many, designed with the goal of collecting data and of troubleshooting—so that one day they could create a spaceship or an extra-terrestrial colony on which to preserve earth.
They traveled the planet collecting species for their mini jungle and their mini ocean, their mini forest, their mini meadow. “Do you know how many flowers it takes to feed a hummingbird?” one asked. They made a mystical home, a mini earth, wherein they knew every living being and felt their interconnectedness with all life.
But when they tried to to live off that land, they suffocated and starved. They went insane on carbon dioxide poisoning, fighting and spinning conspiracy theories against one another. The animals suffered helplessly. In the end, the synergists had to bring in oxygen from outside in order to survive the full two years of their experiment.[†]
The SIA had learned two things since then. One, maintain secrecy. Two, depend on the Great Mycelium.
Throughout the earth. the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a network of fine white filaments, called the mycelia, link into root systems of trees, plants, and other mycelial webs and transfer information and nutrition.
The synergists had cut their world off from the source of life beneath.
The intelligence of plants, laughed off by some scientists, grew from the complex mind of the mycelium, which grows like neurons or the nerve cells in our minds, like the dark matter of space, like the network of the internet.
According to the research of Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist at the University of British Columbia, “trees in a forest organize themselves into far-flung networks” and use the mycelium, which “connects their roots to exchange information and even goods.” Trees communicate, “convey warnings of insect attacks, and also to deliver carbon, nitrogen, and water to trees in need.”
Says Stamets, the “mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind. The mycelium stays in constant molecular communication with its environment, devising diverse enzymatic and chemical responses to complex challenges.”
Sagebrush warns its fellows of a pest intrusion.
In a 2013 article, “The Intelligent Plant,” New Yorker contributer, Michael Pollan imagined the scent of sage as an “invisible chemical chatter, including the calls of distress, going on all around.” He described the air as “powerfully aromatic, with a scent closer to aftershave than to perfume.”[‡]
A forest will even work across species to share food.
According to Simard, “fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees over the course of the season. The evergreen species will tide over the deciduous one when it has sugars to spare, and then call in the debt later in the season. For the forest community, the value of this coöperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance.”
Western scientists were naïve to the knowledge of people 10,000 years ago or that of African, Asian, and Indigenous societies, who depended on fungi and the inventions of mycelium to preserve fire, as antibiotics, as anti-inflammatories. And much, much more.
All the while humans were transforming the planet with art and technology and war and pollution, the mycelium had also been at work, resolving the devastations of our time.
“Let your imagination go wild,” said Stamets.
With the leadership of Indigenous scientists who were also members, the SIA had learned to work with the mycelium, to communicate a vision with the intelligence of slime molds and polypores.
The mycelium tech in my mask (and in the recycling centers we delivered garbage to and in the ones that were soon propagated on satellites twinkling in our night skies from 2025-2040) was based in traditional Indigenous knowledge kept by friends and members of SIA that was being put to multiple purposes by the Arks and Islands of the Multiversity.
[*] Paul Stamets is real too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W57nYOaQmIU Also https://bioneers.org/how-mushrooms-can-help-save-the-world-paul-stamets/
[†] A great new documentary recently came out on this group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGvYFB6GHRY