Allies of the reGeneration: Paul Stamets speaks for Fantastic Fungi
Praising the forthcoming documenary & 2010 Interview with Paul
Last week I got an email from friends at the Findhorn ecovillage asking me whether I could write a short blog post about Paul Stamets visit to Findhorn in 2010. The Universal Hall will be one of over 500 venues around the world that will host a screening of Fantastic Fungi. [Note: now online for physical distancing and social connecting while we try to ‘flatten the curve’ and save lives!] This cinematographic masterpiece by the visual poet cameraman and director Louie Schwartzberg is based on Paul’s work. The screening will take place on March 26th and will be followed by an interview on video-link after this global event with Louie Schwartzberg and Paul Stamets.
You can join ‘Fantastic Fungi Day’ on March 26th, 2020 virtually from anywhere in the world (check here).
I first met Paul through the amazing family of life regenerators that is Bioneers. This community of transformative change agents has been curated over 30 years by co-founders Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons.
While I lived and worked in the Findhorn Ecovillage between 2007 and 2010 and had the privilege of co-directing Findhorn College with my friend Mari Hollander, I also worked on many international partnerships and connections between Findhorn and organisations like the California Institute of Integral Studies, Esalen, the Ojai Foundation, the School of Lost Borders and Bioneers.
I attended the 2009 Bioneers conference in San Rafael to connect with Kenny and Nina and hosted Kenny during a scouting visit to the community in the same year. In May 2010, I helped Marcello Palazzi from the Progressio Foundation host the first Bioneers Global event in Zeist, Netherlands. After the event a delegation of Bioneers travel together from Zeist to the Tallberg Forum in Sweden. On this trip I spent a lot of time with Paul as we shared the same log cabin at Lecksand together with Dennis Martinez, and Kenny and Nina.
It was through this personal connection with Paul that we arranged his visit to Findhorn later that year. Paul had plans to visit Ireland and a meeting to attend in Edinburgh and so we decided he could bridge the time between the two by spending a few days as my guest at Findhorn. Paul had heard much about the community and was keen to visit the place founded on the three keynotes of inner listening, service to a greater whole and co-creation with nature.
Always exploring synergies and ready to ‘stack functions’ Paul kindly agreed to also offer a short course for Findhorn staff and an amazing — nearly two hour — talk in the Universal Hall. Ever since Paul’s visit the work with mushrooms as our allies for food, medicine, and in the healing of soils and ecosystems has been more firmly part of the team in Findhorn’s gardens and around the wider community.
Personally, I will never forget the days I spent with Paul at and around Findhorn hunting mushrooms, taking him to the ‘secret’ Chanterelle patch after crossing by dingy over to Culbin Sands, finding Wood Ear mushrooms near Cawdor Wood, and most memorable of all: exploring Rosslyn Chapel with Paul. The old Templar building is famous for the many Green Men and Women depicted among its rich frescos, but with Paul we discovered that the ‘Apprentice Column’ is decorated with a band of liberty caps and that the green man behind the central altar has an up-side-down Armanita muscaria on his forehead.
Paul is to the fungi kin-dom what the Lorax is for the trees. Paul speaks for the fungi and reminds us that they have been intimately linked to the story of life on Earth and our own human evolution.
He has been on the path of learning about mushrooms of all kinds for many decades, studying their use as medicine, food, pest-control, soil builders, and myco-remediators of polluted soils, streams and seas. Paul has been a pioneering voice trying to remind us that fungi are critical contributors to our future if we are wise enough to choose the path of regeneration. I wrote about Paul’s work in ‘Designing Regenerative Cultures’:
“Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running — How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World (2005) is an invaluable resource for regenerative culture designers. From high quality tasty protein sources, broad spectrum medicinal use and water filtration, to applications in agriculture, forestry, soil remediation and ecosystems restoration. Stamets explores mycomimicry and how we can apply mycorestoration to benefit ecosystems and people. […] Mushrooms are the molecular disassemblers of nature. Most cyclical and regenerative processes that take care of decomposition, nutrient cycles, soil fertility, soil water retention and soil health involve fungal mycelia.
Mushrooms have also learnt to defend themselves against bacterial infections and have been shown to not just have antibiotic but also anti-viral and anti-cancer properties. They practically ‘created the first internet’, networking entire forest ecosystems into a web of distributed collective intelligence and symbiosis. Paul likes to point out that “after every major extinction event it was mushrooms who inherited the Earth” and helped life to reboot.” — Daniel C. Wahl, 2016
With ‘Fantastic Fungi’ the visual poet storyteller Louie Schwartzberg and Paul Stamets as the fungal spokes person in human form have joined forces with “an all-star team of professional and amateur mycologists, artists, foodies, ecologists, doctors” to create a “life-affirming, mind-bending film about mushrooms and their mysterious interwoven rootlike filaments called mycelium. What this team reveals will blow your mind and possibly save the planet”
Paul is also editing a companion book to the documentary that will take people event deeper into the fascinating world of mushrooms and how deeply linked they are to our species past and future as allies in the healing of ecosystems everywhere.
As the reGeneration is rising everywhere around the world from XR activists to Fridays for Future school strikers, to regional regenerative development projects in the Regenerative Communities Network, ecovillages around the world, Ecosystems Restoration Camps, transition initiatives, bioregional inhabitation, permaculture and agroforestry projects, P2P initiatives, deep adaptation groups, … we all better remember that we have a lot to learn from our close relatives in the fungi kin-dom.
During Paul’s visit to Scotland in the summer of 2010 the mycologist Patrick Hickey helped me to record an interview with Paul in which we explored some of the potential that lies in learning from and working with mushrooms:
Paul Stamets talks about the significance of fungi during the 6th great extinction event on Earth that we caused and are now in the middle of. He stresses that we are dangerously close to the tipping point of massive ecological failure all around the world and fungi will take a critical role in helping us to balance — if not we are likely heading for our own extinction.
Paul speaks about the importance of going beyond over-simplified linear cause and effect thinking, and how mushrooms can help us reconnect with the our deep interbeing with life and natural intelligence inherent in the community of life. Fungi as ‘edge runners’ that can help us face the ‘tremendous ecological crisis on our planet’ …
Paul explains how fungi build soil and how they can be used in cleaning up environmental toxins and much of the petrochemical pollution we have caused around the world. Engaging mycelia networks for advancing our ability to grow food in formerly toxic habitats is a way forward in cleaning up polluted sites.
Paul describes how to select the right mushroom strains that have learned not only to be tolerant to the toxin but actually also learned to break them down. The prime species for that is Oyster Mushrooms but Turkey Tail and others can also be used.
Paul explains the history of Agarikon as a medicinal mushroom and how he has worked with this species to help the US government in exploring how this species can be used to protect people against biological warfare and terrorism. “We are on the edge of pandemic storms!”
Paul offers a series of examples of mushrooms that have traditionally been cultivated for their healing properties. He speaks about the Earth based knowledge of medicine women of the past who supported us during our evolutionary journey. …
Paul explains why mushrooms are a critical part of a healthy diet and how particularly in Northern latitudes where people have problems with vitamin D deficiency mushrooms should be an important part of everyones diet. Mushrooms have the ability to convert a tonne of straw into hundreds of pounds of mushrooms with very high protein content. This could be critical in providing regional food sovereignty and food security in the future. Vast amount of mushroom species can be our allies in preparing for an uncertain and turbulent future.
Paul tells the story behind the mushrooms that were found with the famous iceman in the Austrian alps which showed that mushrooms paid an important role in the culture of our early ancestors. Paul calls for a Fungi Revolution in research and research funding so we can better prepare for the turbulent times ahead.
I think that the wave of myco-awarness that will go around the globe as this new documentary Fantastic Fungi captures people’s imagination might just usher in this “Fungi Revolution” that Paul already called for 10 years ago. May it be so! The reGeneration needs to shed all remnants of mycophobia and embrace these important allies in healing ourselves and the soils, forests, streams as we go about regenerating the Earth and her people.
Thank you Paul, and thank you Louie!
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Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.
Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures