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  • I love a challenge, and saving the Earth is probably a good one.

  • We all know the Earth is in trouble.

  • We have now entered in the 6X --

  • the sixth major extinction on this planet.

  • I often wondered if there was a United Organization of Organisms --

  • otherwise known as "Uh-Oh" --

  • (Laughter) -- and every organism had a right to vote,

  • would we be voted on the planet or off the planet?

  • I think that vote is occurring right now.

  • I want to present to you a suite of six mycological solutions,

  • using fungi, and these solutions are based on mycelium.

  • The mycelium infuses all landscapes,

  • it holds soils together, it's extremely tenacious.

  • This holds up to 30,000 times its mass.

  • They're the grand molecular disassemblers of nature -- the soil magicians.

  • They generate the humus soils across the land masses of Earth.

  • We have now discovered that there is a multi-directional transfer

  • of nutrients between plants, mitigated by the mcyelium --

  • so the mycelium is the mother

  • that is giving nutrients from alder and birch trees

  • to hemlocks, cedars and Douglas firs.

  • Dusty and I, we like to say, on Sunday this is where we go to church.

  • I'm in love with the old-growth forest,

  • and I'm a patriotic American because we have those.

  • Most of you are familiar with portobello mushrooms.

  • And frankly, I face a big obstacle.

  • when I mention mushrooms to somebody,

  • they immediately think portobellos or magic mushrooms,

  • their eyes glaze over, and they think I'm a little crazy.

  • So I hope to pierce that prejudice forever with this group.

  • We call it mycophobia,

  • the irrational fear of the unknown when it comes to fungi.

  • Mushrooms are very fast in their growth.

  • Day 21, day 23, day 25.

  • Mushrooms produce strong antibiotics.

  • In fact, we're more closely related to fungi than we are to any other kingdom.

  • A group of 20 eukaryotic microbiologists

  • published a paper two years ago erecting opisthokonta --

  • a super-kingdom that joins animalia and fungi together.

  • We share in common the same pathogens.

  • Fungi don't like to rot from bacteria,

  • and so our best antibiotics come from fungi.

  • But here is a mushroom that's past its prime.

  • After they sporulate, they do rot.

  • But I propose to you that the sequence of microbes

  • that occur on rotting mushrooms

  • are essential for the health of the forest.

  • They give rise to the trees,

  • they create the debris fields that feed the mycelium.

  • And so we see a mushroom here sporulating.

  • And the spores are germinating,

  • and the mycelium forms and goes underground.

  • In a single cubic inch of soil, there can be more than eight miles of these cells.

  • My foot is covering approximately 300 miles of mycelium.

  • This is photo-micrographs from Nick Read and Patrick Hickey.

  • And notice that as the mycelium grows,

  • it conquers territory and then it begins the net.

  • I've been a scanning electron microscopist for many years,

  • I have thousands of electron micrographs,

  • and when I'm staring at the mycelium

  • I realize that they are microfiltration membranes.

  • We exhale carbon dioxide, so does mycelium.

  • It inhales oxygen, just like we do.

  • But these are essentially externalized stomachs and lungs.

  • And I present to you a concept that these are extended neurological membranes.

  • And in these cavities, these microcavities form,

  • and as they fuse soils, they absorb water.

  • These are little wells.

  • And inside these wells, then microbal communities begin to form.

  • And so the spongy soil not only resists erosion,

  • but sets up a microbial universe

  • that gives rise to a plurality of other organisms.

  • I first proposed, in the early 1990s,

  • that mycelium is Earth's natural Internet.

  • When you look at the mycelium, they're highly branched.

  • And if there's one branch that is broken, then very quickly,

  • because of the nodes of crossing --

  • Internet engineers maybe call them hot points --

  • there's alternative pathways for channeling nutrients and information.

  • The mycelium is sentient.

  • It knows that you are there.

  • When you walk across landscapes,

  • it leaps up in the aftermath of your footsteps trying to grab debris.

  • So I believe the invention of the computer Internet

  • is an inevitable consequence

  • of a previously proven biologically successful model.

  • The Earth invented the computer Internet for its own benefit,

  • and we now, being the top organism on this planet,

  • are trying to allocate resources in order to protect the biosphere.

  • Going way out, dark matter conforms to the same mycelial archetype.

  • I believe matter begets life,

  • life becomes single cells, single cells become strings,

  • strings become chains, chains network.

  • And this is the paradigm that we see throughout the universe.

  • Most of you may not know that fungi were the first organisms to come to land.

  • They came to land 1.3 billion years ago,

  • and plants followed several hundred million years later.

  • How is that possible?

  • It's possible because the mycelium produces oxalic acids

  • and many other acids and enzymes,

  • pockmarking rock and grabbing calcium and other minerals

  • and forming calcium oxalates.

  • Makes the rocks crumble, and the first step in the generation of soil.

  • Oxalic acid is two carbon dioxide molecules joined together.

  • So fungi and mycelium

  • sequester carbon dioxide in the form of calcium oxalates.

  • And all sorts of other oxalates

  • are also sequestering carbon dioxide through the minerals

  • that are being formed and taken out of the rock matrix.

  • This was first discovered in 1859.

  • This is a photograph by Franz Hueber.

  • This photograph's taken 1950s in Saudi Arabia.

  • 420 million years ago, this organism existed.

  • It was called Prototaxites.

  • Prototaxites, laying down, was about three feet tall.

  • The tallest plants on Earth at that time were less than two feet.

  • Dr. Boyce, at the University of Chicago,

  • published an article in the Journal of Geology

  • this past year determining that Prototaxites was a giant fungus,

  • a giant mushroom.

  • Across the landscapes of Earth were dotted these giant mushrooms.

  • All across most land masses.

  • And these existed for tens of millions of years.

  • Now we've had several extinction events, and as we march forward --

  • 65 million years ago -- most of you know about it --

  • we had an asteroid impact.

  • The earth was struck by an asteroid,

  • a huge amount of debris was jettisoned into the atmosphere.

  • Sunlight was cut off, and fungi inherited the Earth.

  • Those organisms that paired with fungi were rewarded,

  • because fungi do not need light.

  • More recently, at Einstein University,

  • they just determined that fungi use radiation as a source of energy,

  • much like plants use light.

  • So the prospect of fungi existing on other planets elsewhere,

  • I think, is a foregone conclusion,

  • at least in my own mind.

  • The largest organism in the world is in Eastern Oregon.

  • I couldn't miss it. It was 2,200 acres in size.

  • 2,200 acres in size, 2,000 years old.

  • The largest organism on the planet is a mycelial mat, one cell wall thick.

  • How is it that this organism can be so large,

  • and yet be one cell wall thick,

  • whereas we have five or six skin layers that protect us?

  • The mycelium, in the right conditions, produces a mushroom --

  • it bursts through with such ferocity that it can break asphalt.

  • We were involved with several experiments.

  • I'm going to show you six, if I can,

  • solutions for helping to save the world.

  • Battelle Laboratories and I joined up in Bellingham, Washington,

  • there were four piles saturated with diesel and other petroleum waste.

  • One was a control pile, one pile was treated with enzymes,

  • one pile was treated with bacteria

  • and our pile we inoculated with mushroom mycelium.

  • The mycelium absorbs the oil.

  • The mycelium is producing enzymes --

  • peroxydases -- that break carbon-hydrogen bonds.

  • These are the same bonds that hold hydrocarbons together.

  • So the mycelium becomes saturated with the oil,

  • and then, when we returned six weeks later,

  • all the tarps were removed,

  • all the other piles were dead, dark, and stinky.

  • We came back to our pile, it was covered

  • with hundreds of pounds of oyster mushrooms --

  • and the color changed to a light form.

  • The enzymes re-manufactured the hydrocarbons

  • into carbohydrates -- fungal sugars.

  • Some of these mushrooms are very happy mushrooms.

  • They're very large.

  • They're showing how much nutrition that they could've obtained.

  • But something else happened, which was an epiphany in my life.

  • They sporulated, the spores attract insects,

  • the insects laid eggs, eggs became larvae.

  • Birds then came, bringing in seeds,

  • and our pile became an oasis of life.

  • Whereas the other three piles were dead, dark and stinky,

  • and the PAH's -- the aromatic hydrocarbons --

  • went from 10,000 parts per million to less than 200 in eight weeks.

  • The last image we don't have --

  • the entire pile was a green berm of life.

  • These are gateway species.

  • Vanguard species that open the door for other biological communities.

  • So I invented burlap sacks -- bunker spawn --

  • and putting the mycelium -- using storm blown debris

  • you can take these burlap sacks and put them downstream

  • from a farm that's producing E. coli, or other wastes,

  • or a factory with chemical toxins,

  • and it leads to habitat restoration.

  • So we set up a site in Mason County, Washington,

  • and we've seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of coliforms.

  • And I'll show you a graph here.

  • This is a logarithmic scale, 10 to the eighth power.

  • There's more than a 100 million colonies per gram,

  • and 10 to the third power is around 1,000.

  • In 48 hours to 72 hours, these three mushroom species

  • reduced the amount of coliform bacteria 10,000 times.

  • Think of the implications.

  • This is a space-conservative method that uses storm debris --

  • and we can be guaranteed that we will have storms every year.

  • So this one mushroom, in particular, has drawn our interest over time.

  • This is my wife Dusty

  • with a mushroom called Fomitopsis officinalis -- Agaricon.

  • It's a mushroom exclusive to the old-growth forest,

  • that Dioscorides first described in 65 A.D.

  • as a treatment against consumption.

  • This mushroom grows in Washington state, Oregon,

  • Northern California, British Columbia, now thought to be extinct in Europe.

  • May not seem that large --

  • let's get closer.

  • This is extremely rare fungus.

  • Our team -- and we have a team of experts that go out --

  • we went out 20 times in the old-growth forest last year.

  • We found one sample to be able to get into culture.

  • Preserving the genome of these fungi in the old growth forest

  • I think is absolutely critical for human health.

  • I've been involved with the U.S. Defense Department BioShield program.

  • We submitted over 300 samples of mushrooms that were boiled in hot water,

  • and mycelium harvesting these extracellular metabolites.

  • And a few years ago,

  • we received these results.

  • We have three different strains of Agaricon mushrooms

  • that were highly active against pox viruses.

  • Dr. Earl Kern, who's a smallpox expert

  • of the U.S. Defense Department, states that any compounds

  • that have a selectivity index of two or more are active.

  • 10 or greater are considered to be very active.

  • Our mushroom strains were in the highly active range.

  • There's a vetted press release that you can read --

  • it's vetted by DOD,

  • if you Google "Stamets" and "smallpox."

  • Or you can go to NPR.org and listen to a live interview.

  • So, encouraged by this, naturally we went to flu viruses.

  • And so for the first time I am showing this.

  • We have three different strains of Agaricon mushrooms

  • highly active against flu viruses.

  • Here's the selectivity index numbers --

  • against pox, you saw 10s and 20s -- now against flu viruses,

  • compared to the ribavirin controls,

  • we have an extraordinarily high activity.

  • And we're using a natural extract

  • within the same dosage window as a pure pharmaceutical.

  • We tried it against flu A viruses -- H1N1, H3N2 --

  • as well as flu B viruses.

  • So then we tried a blend,

  • and in a blend combination we tried it against H5N1,

  • and we got greater than 1,000 selectivity index.

  • (Applause)

  • I then think that we can make the argument

  • that we should save the old-growth forest

  • as a matter of national defense.

  • (Applause)

  • I became interested in entomopathogenic fungi --

  • fungi that kill insects.