Stamets and team achieved remarkable clean-up results after sowing toxic waste with fungus.© Susan Thomas
An even grander idea, one for which Stamets owns a patent, is to use mushrooms as a natural pesticide. It works. Stamets points to a photo of a mummified ant with a mushroom growing out of its head. Is it any wonder this man can engage an audience of jaded eco-freaks?
But wait, there"s more! Take a look at mycelium, the "Earth"s natural Internet," carrying information and nutrients for miles and miles to other living creatures. Now look at the World Wide Web. And the neural networks inside the body, then look at galaxies, and the cobwebs of dark matter. These are insights that have come to Stamets without the aid of the "other kind" of mushrooms, and though he did write a book years ago on psilocybin and other hallucinogens, he doesn"t recommend them to anyone. Who needs it, when just the facts about garden-variety mushrooms are so mind-blowing?
"A single strand of mushroom mycelium can hold 30,000 times its weight in water and soil, so mycelium prevents erosion, and as it honeycombs the soil, microcavities form
that become water pockets and reservoirs. It slowly releases water over time. And as we all know, water breeds life. So these microcosms become universes of myriads of organisms. Mycelium is the construct of the food chain," Stamets explains.
Perhaps the man"s most intriguing and practical invention to date is the Life Box. Here"s how it works. Say you order a pair of Timberlands online. Under shipping options, you can check "plain old brown box" or pay an extra dollar or two and get them shipped in a Life Box. You order the Life Box and your shoes arrive. Instead of recycling the box, you toss it into the backyard, water it, and boom, you"ve got a garden. Depending on your zip code, you"re growing corn, beans and squash, or grassland plants, old growth forests, you name it. He even thought of shipping them to refugees after his initial test box yielded 30,000 seeds, enough to start a small farm!
Paul says he came up with this idea one morning in the period between sleep and wakefulness, that time when the mind is still in the dream state, when he believes we are still connected to a higher consciousness. He tested the idea by embedding seeds and mycelium into the corrugated lining of cardboard boxes, then used his marketing brain to figure out how to create a demand for it, by leveraging the existing matrix of shipping options for mail order deliveries.
He sees the Life Box as a means to "combat global warming, teach our kids about sustainability, and re-green the planet." And yes, he"s filed a patent for this idea, too.
Paul Stamets is living proof that taking a break from college to "find yourself" can be a very successful strategy. He is happily married to his soulmate, his work is his joy, and although he believes his brother is the real genius in the family, Paul appears to have carved out a place for himself in history by devoting his life and all of his resources to protecting, promoting and producing new strains of mushrooms that just might save the Earth.
JEANNE RINGE has worked as a journalist and business consultant for many years. She was Larry King’s first producer, produced Face the Nation and several documentaries, and has written for a range of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and Yogi Times. Her website is www.ringeringe.com. She does not do business with Paul Stamets or Fungi Perfecti.
Contact: Fungi Perfecti, LLC, (800)780-9126, www.fungi.com.