Discover magazine this summer published a long and interesting story on fungal evangelist Paul Stamets. He is the owner of the well-known mushroom emporium Fungi Perfecti, and author of several important books on mushroom cultivation and applications. Some of his expertise, it must be noted, pertains to the cultivation and use of illegal hallucinogenic species of fungi, but that is only a footnote to the story of this fascinating visionary.
In recent decades, various plants, bacteria, and other organisms have been tested and used for cleaning up toxic waste and encouraging new growth of desirable species, in a process known as bioremediation. There is also great interest in non-toxic pesticides based on fungi, and the traditional and alternative uses of fungal-derived medicines are well known.
Stamets is unquestionably the leading advocate of finding new uses for fungi and their mycelia in these fields, and coined the words mycoremediation, mycorestoration, mycopesticides, mycoforestry, and mycofiltration to describe the various processes he is involved in. Nasty substances such as heavy metals, oil spills, and sewage can all be successfully mitigated with his techniques.
He has also engaged in some highly promising studies on new antiviral medications derived from mushrooms, and has demonstrated fungally-mediated ethanol production from cellulose. He holds a number of patents and will undoubtedly become a very rich man if any of them come to fruition.
I had heard of Stamets, but until I read this article and watched his well-received lecture in the famous TED Talk lecture series, I didn’t realize just how interesting and exciting his work really is. Well worth a few minutes of your time to learn more.