We know the internet as an amazing network of information and intelligence. It is a system that connects much of the world, but is never seen, and has much more in common with mushrooms than you think
Mycelium has been called the Earth’s Natural Internet by Paul Stamets, the world’s leading mycologist. What is mycelium? It’s the underground network that mushrooms build and live off of. This underground system goes unnoticed by most of us, but it is huge and may have some answers to eco-problems we’re having right now.
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Mycelium is the world’s largest organism, holds together all the soils of the world, and even makes new soil by decomposing compounds and turning them into nutrients. Its incredible powers break down pollutants, filter water, and even treat disease. Whenever a plant in its network is harmed, Earth’s Natural Internet lets other connected plants know. And most plant life in the world is at least partly fungus, so mycelium is on it. It can even help protect and repair the injured plant life.
The giant underground network learns to consume new compounds, and breaks them down to nutrients to nourish specific parts of the network. Mycelium is super generous too – it shares this knowledge across the entire network. Tests using mycelium show that it is capable of filtering bacteria like E. Coli and viruses such as H1N1. It was even trained to eat a nerve gas used by Saddam Hussein in the Iraq-Iran War of 1988.
The more we learn about this amazing natural system, the more we can use it (and its various abilities) to help some of society’s on-coming problems, like pollution, new super-bacteria, and viruses that grow and evolve. Mycelium is amazing at reacting to new problems, and finding new solutions.
Stamets’s proposed solutions make a lot of sense for our society and they are easy to implement. If we keep mushroom networks healthy by growing mushrooms, and stop deforestation, mycelium will multiply making it more effective at filtering the dangers in our ecosystems. Stamet also suggests introducing mycology (the study of fungi) into elementary school programs, with funding similar to that of computer science’s
I guess he really does consider mycelium the world’s natural internet. It connects almost everything in the world, reacts and learns, goes unseen but is part of our everyday life, and effectively helps the world get better just by being there. So go on out and grow your mushrooms in your garden – you will help the entire world.
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