Why Mushrooms Matter
If we have any hope of surviving, we’re gonna need a little help from Kingdom Fungi.
Like lots of people this month, this year, this lifetime, we are thinking about what we can do to renew our commitment to the health of the planet. Fifty-two years after the first Earth Day we are focused on staying hopeful. We have found that when we are able to pull ourselves out of despair over the state of the planet, we are better able to listen to and implement solutions. So what are we to do? How do we access hope? How do we stay connected to one another to make change? When faced with big questions we like to look to the Earth. And find particular hope when looking to our allies in Kingdom Fungi.
Mycorrhizal networks are likely the whole reason this life on Earth thing even got moving. Land-going plants are the result of an ancient (like billions of years ancient) symbiotic relationship between aquatic algae and aquatic fungi. We think it’s fair to say that the evolution of plants, and our evolution, was made possible only because of this partnership between plants and fungi. If we have any hope of surviving, we’re gonna need a little help from Kingdom Fungi. They teach us lessons about connection and working together against all odds. Many of them are strengthening and nourishing medicines to our bodies. And lots of them taste out of this world good.
Fungi are the key to our survival. We look to them for lessons of hope and connection in the fight against climate change. So, we asked five of our favorite mycologically minded people to weigh-in on our big questions about how to get into mushrooms and staying hopeful on Earth.
Thinking, hoping, and working together makes the load a whole lot lighter.
Who we asked:
Forest Folk Fungi
I'm a cultivator, gardener, medicine maker, careful wildcrafter, and educator.
I am a multidisciplinary citizen scientist practicing social science, mycology, phycology, molecular biology, and additive manufacturing.
Into The Multiverse + Supermush, Creator
Our mission is to make functional mushrooms sexy and encourage collaboration amongst the psychedelics industry.
Co-Founder + CEO
My background is in ecological design and commercial indoor agriculture.
Founder + CEO
I’m a forest-loving Taurus and aside from being on the journey of social entrepreneurship, I’m also a Holistic Nutritionist, educator, cook and a yogi.
How did you get into mushrooms?
WILLIAM PADILLA-BROWN: I ate Psychedelic Mushrooms when I was younger that made me crave a deeper connection to the source of all things. I wanted to get closer to my food and make more conscious choices eating. I ended up researching mushrooms and falling in love.
ALI BANKS: Like so many of us, it feels like the mushrooms found me. It was during a way-finding time when I was in need of healing and connection. Of course their timing was perfect.
ALLI SCHAPER: Functional (non-psychedelic) mushrooms transformed my personal health, especially with the gut problems I’ve dealt with since I was a child. Daily use of mushroom powders and supplements have had a profound impact on my overall vitality.
TONYA PAPANIKOLOV: My healing journey began as a teenager and those experiences directed my studies and focus from a young age. I’ve been studying nutritional sciences and holistic modalities ever since. I have devoted my life’s work to helping people heal and upgrade with fungi, food, supplementation and lifestyle.
ANDREW CARTER: As I was designing, building, and operating hydroponic leafy green facilities all over the planet, I realized no one had truly figured out the opportunity in the fungal kingdom yet. That combined with their innate mystery and potential to feed the world in a sustainable way led me down this path.
What lessons can mushrooms teach us about renewal and regeneration?
TONYA PAPANIKOLOV: Mushrooms are such a cool life form that sit at the intersection of life and death -- ie. true regeneration. Mycelium, the root-like structure that spans our soils, are the recyclers of our planet. They decompose all organic matter (and use it as a food source) and turn it into nutrient dense humus for our soils.
WILLIAM PADILLA-BROWN: Mushrooms are constantly collecting what we would consider "Waste" and use it to their advantage to create something new and useful. No such thing as waste in the world, only things that are waiting to be turned into something new.
ALI BANKS: Mushrooms are the best teachers when it comes to the processes that help us break down what is no longer in service to our wholeness. Their medicine helps us convert old stories and patterns into rich soil that can act as a seedbed for new ways of being.
ALLI SCHAPER: Fungi are being used to transform every industry: from functional mushrooms in everyday consumer packaged goods, to alternative sustainable packaging solutions, to mycelium-based leather used in fashion, to psilocybin disrupting the mental health care system.
ANDREW CARTER: Connection, resiliency, constant iteration and tenacity all come to mind. Mycelium (AKA the living “roots'' of fungi, but so much more) is fundamentally what connects almost all living systems. Over 90% of plants survive because of mycorrhizal relationships with their roots, it’s argued that plants evolved to live on land in parallel with these fungal organisms, so in a way, they’re not separate at all. Same with humans… our gut is a habitat for fungal and bacterial organisms, where does a human end and fungus begin? We’re all connected, and the only way to truly renew or regenerate our ecosystem or our lives is to better understand this.
What can people do at home to tap into the mycelial network to feel connected, inspired, and hopeful?
ALI BANKS: I love sitting with mushrooms like reishi during meditation. A few drops of tincture, a bit of powder, or sipping a cup of reishi tea opens my heart to the spirit of this benevolent being. Making relationships in this way is a grounded and embodied way of opening to the teachings of plants and fungi.
ANDREW CARTER: You could connect with your local mycosociety! We partner with Central Texas Mycological Society in Austin, but almost every major city in the US has a myco society or club of some sort. Or, you could start a mushroom band, build some mushroom violins, or become the next famous TikTok forager. And finally, as a shameless plug, you can grow mushrooms at home with Smallhold’s grow kits.
ALLI SCHAPER: Some DIY mycelial network inspo - weekly dinners with close friends, call your parents, send a gratitude note to someone you love every day, and if you haven't yet - read up on microdosing psilocybin.
WILLIAM-PADILLA BROWN: Watch Fantastic Fungi, start composting, go for a walk barefoot, join the local Mushroom Club, buy a grow kit on Northspore.com
TONYA PAPANIKOLOV: Think like a mushroom! Meditate on the awareness that we are literally all connected on earth. Separation is the greatest illusion. Fungi teach us about connection and interdependence through their ability to open our hearts and change our perspective. Though we can't see fungi, they are literally everywhere; in the foods we eat, in the air we breath, in the earth we tread upon. Fall deep into the remembrance of what that connection feels like in your body. It is vast, expansive and without words. You can also invite mushrooms into your daily rituals, tonics, and health regimens to get you feeling connected, stronger, more resilient and aware.
What's your fave mushroom?
ALLI SCHAPER: Reishi - this is my bring-me-to-homeostasis mushroom. I take Reishi every single night as a part of my pre-bed routine.
ANDREW CARTER: It changes every week, but right now I’m loving Lion’s Mane. Perfect to make little crispy bite sized morsels for a salad or tacos, but also can be used as a supplement to help with brain activity.
WILLIAM-PADILLA BROWN: Cordyceps Militaris
ALI BANKS: Reishi was a gatekeeper for me and helped initiate my journey with the mushrooms, so this ancient teacher holds a special place in my heart.
TONYA PAPANIKOLOV: Reishi - Ganoderma lucidum! Queen of medicinal mushrooms. She changed my life on my healing journey. This incredible mushroom nourishes me deeply as an adaptogen to help me cope with high work-loads and be supported on my mission.