Cutting edge technology such as super efficient solar panels and nanorobots are being developed to fight climate change and disease. But a team of experts believe that the humble mushroom is just as effective in helping humans continue to survive and thrive on Earth. They claim that mycelium – a vast underground network of fungus – could save the world by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing more antibiotics, among other benefits.

Soon the potential of this network will feature in a film called Fantastic Fungi, which has just reached its fundraising goal on Kickstarter. ‘An all-star team of artists, scientists, doctors and explorers are joining forces to create a life-affirming, mind-bending film about the mushroom and its mysterious root-like structure: mycelium. What they reveal will blow your mind and possibly save the planet,’ the website says.

It will explore fungi’s ‘proven ability to restore our ecosystem, repair our health, and resurrect our symbiotic relationship to nature’. Mycologist Paul Sta​mets, who will be the main voice of the film, told Motherboard: ‘Mycelium offers the best solutions for carbon sequestration, for preserving biodiversity, for reducing pollutants, and for offering us many of the medicines that we need today, both human and ecological.’
‘Fungi, I think, hold the greatest potential solutions for overcoming the calamities that we face,’ said the scientist, who has talked on the topic at TED and authored several books about mushrooms. He refers to mycelium as ‘nature’s internet’ because if part of a fungus is harmed, the rest of the network can respond quickly to disruptions.
For example, if one branch of the thread-like mycelium is broken, the organism finds alternative pathways to carry nutrients and information, much like how packets of data can be transported across the internet.  In his book, ‘Mycelium Running’, Stamets takes the idea a step further. He writes: ‘I see the mycelium as the Earth’s natural Internet, a consciousness with which we might be able to communicate.
‘Through cross-species interfacing, we may one day exchange information with these sentient cellular networks. ‘Because these externalised neurological nets sense any impression upon them, from footsteps to falling tree branches, they could relay enormous amounts of data regarding the movements of all organisms through the landscape.’ The complex chemistry of mycelium has been shown to produce antibiotics powerful enough to prevent many diseases and stop pandemics. Scientists even believe that it could help to deal with scenarios such as such as terrorists starting outbreaks of smallpox, for example.
In a 2008 TED talk, Stamets said that three strains of Agarikon mushrooms, for example, have been shown to be ‘highly active’ against flu viruses. The film will talk about research which shows mycelium as a viable alternative to pharmaceuticals to treat breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

POSTED BY: /Sarah Griffiths

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