The Earth has had Internet for 500 million years!

Yesterday I woke up to some disturbing news making the rounds on Social Media — we are going through the sixth mass extinction of species on Earth. This means that up to Seventy-Five percent of the species on the planet could be wiped out in the coming decades! And yet when I stepped out of my room, it was life as usual — a sense of complacency and indifference.

There seems to be debate about whether this mass extinction is man-made or natural. I ask, what is the difference? Isn’t man a part of nature? And even if it is natural, are we going to stand by and let it happen? Dying is natural too and yet we’re doing everything we can to extend life. The difference this time around, I’d say, is that there is a species on Earth that is aware of and talking about the mass extinction that is underway. The species present during the previous five mass extinctions didn’t have that luxury.

In the last 300 years, we have gone from the steam engine to electricity to the first computers to having the universe at our fingertips. And all this is quite impressive, no doubt. Yet, we fail to see that the technology already present on Mother Earth far exceeds the ingenuity of our own.

Scanning electron microscope images of mushroom mycelium.

500 million years ago, even before the first mass extinction, nature built her own internet — the network of the humble fungus. This network has not only survived all mass extinctions, it is still the information superhighway of Mother Nature. While mushrooms might be the most familiar part of a fungus, most of their bodies are made up of a mass of thin threads, known as a mycelium — that are underground.

Studies have shown that this “wood wide web” allows trees and plants to communicate with each other, even exchange resources and commit nature’s version of ‘cybercrime’. Around 90% of land plants are in mutually-beneficial relationships with fungi.

So how can we leverage this network to initiate a much-needed process of healing? Paul Stamets, one of the world’s leading mycologists has suggested several solutions. You can read them here or watch his fascinating TED talk.

It is time to accept our responsibility as captains of Spaceship Earth.