Recommended ReadsNovember 9th, 2021

The curious world of mushrooms

A photo of Emily Hamilton in the Paper Giant studio.
Emily Hamilton, Senior Service Designer

Mushrooms are definitely having a moment. The field of mycology — the study of fungi — is uncovering a wide range of future alternatives to materials, plastics, fuel, and medicines as well as nutrient-rich options for plant-based diets. There is even growing evidence that fungi may show signs of learning and memory, potentially placing them somewhere between plants and animals.

But what I think is most fascinating about fungi is what they can teach us about community and complex systems. Above ground, mushrooms help to decompose what is old and no longer needed, transforming waste into something value-rich for regeneration of growth. Below the ground, the root system of fungal threads and branches — mycelium — acts as nature’s internet, channelling nutrients and connecting information to and from different plants via extensive networks. Mycelium shows us how we can evolve as a community by decentralising power dynamics, distributing resources fairly and nourishing connections and relationships. The wide world of mushrooms senses and creatively adapts to emergent change around it, responding to the needs of their forest community to benefit the whole system.

If this has sparked your curiosity, check out the documentary Fantastic Fungi or watch this oddly satisfying video on how mushroom time-lapses are filmed.

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