Radical Mycology is a grassroots movement and social philosophy based on accessibly teaching the importance of working with mushrooms and other fungi for personal, societal, and ecological resilience.
Radical Mycology differs from classical mycology in that classical mycology generally focuses on taxonomy, identification, mycophagy (eating mushrooms), and the more personal benefits of working with fungi while Radical Mycology works to build relationships amongst humans and fungi for the benefit of larger communities and the world.
As a concept, Radical Mycology is based on the belief that the highly resilient lifecycles of fungi and their interactions in nature serve as powerful learning tools for how humans can best relate to each other and steward the world they live in.
Why are Fungi Important?
We see the cultivation and well-designed application of mushrooms and other fungi as a practice that has numerous implications for improving the quality of life for the Earth’s inhabitants. The world of mycology is always expanding and the practical integration of fungi into modern life is constantly taking new forms. But, in sum, here is a short of list of some of the more inspiring ways to work with fungi:
- Mushrooms are a nutritious, healthy food source that can be grown off many agricultural and urban waste products. Mushrooms can be grown off of paper waste, coffee waste, and many invasive plants including Scotch Broom and Water Hyacinth (one of the fastest growing plants in the world). A more global understanding of mushroom cultivation could easily help address world hunger.
- Many mushrooms are potent natural medicines that are able to reduce tumour rates, kill viruses, boost human immune system vitality, and reverse dementia. Fungi, like other natural medicines, provide a powerful preventative alternative to the expensive and controversial practices of allopathic medicine.
- Decomposing mushrooms can help regenerate landscape vitality by breaking down toxic and persistent chemicals, cleaning polluted water, and even breaking down plastic.
- Mushrooms and fungi integrate into agroecological food systems to create perpetual food forests that close loops and make use of waste streams.
- Mycorrhizal fungi can be cultivated to build top soil, enhance soil ecology, support plant health, and reduce fertilizer consumption.
- Some fungi ferment foods, making them more nutritious and easy to preserve. Fermented foods help enable a person to reduce their impact on the earth while preserving traditional food ways.
- Mushrooms and lichens can produce dyes, paper, clothing, and pigments leading to increased self sufficiency though the production of natural products.
- Mushroom and lichen identification and wild harvesting hones one’s awareness and understanding of forest ecology while providing for sustenance. Identification of endangered fungi and lichens can be used to help defend forests from clear cutting.
- Mushroom mycelium can potentially build (or at least insulate) homes and other buildings.
- Psychoactive fungi can help transform the human perception on the purpose of life; potentially opening the willing individual to embrace an understanding that all life must be valued and protected.
- Yeasts and other microorganisms can create methane and other alternatives to fossil fuels through their natural fermentation processes.
This list shows that fungi offer quite tangible solutions to issues of food scarcity, water quality, chronic disease, pollution levels, soil health, emotional/psychological/spiritual health, housing and more. Beyond all this, the acceptance of fungi into one’s daily life can manifest a perspective on the world that recognizes the interdependence of life as one learns how fungi literally connect the organisms of the world and maintain the health of whole ecosystems.
Based on the above, one should ask themselves why are we taught to fear or ignore fungi in western cultures and why fungi are essentially absent from school curriculum.
The use of the word “radical” to describe our approach to the science and culture of mycology is based on several factors. First, we see the use of fungal species for environmental betterment as an extension of radical/deep ecology, a visceral recognition of the intrinsic, sacred value of every living thing.
Second, through the use of fungi to improve personal, societal, and environmental resilience, we are working to shift perceptions about mushroom and mycology as a fringe subject to something central and critical to all life processes and solutions to global issues.
Third, the word “radical” comes from the Latin “radix” which itself means “root.” Many of the applications of mycology and the lessons that can be learned from their biology literally get to the root of global problems in a solution-oriented approach. Issues such as food shortages, water purity, soil fertility, pollution reduction, and democratic organisation can all be addressed and informed through directed work with fungi.
Radical Mycology applies a social and political analysis to our mycological work that views the values of the fungal kingdom as a commonly missing piece in discussions on enhancing quality of life. In our modern world we believe that all issues and potential solutions should be thoroughly inspected and appreciated for their interactions with the whole world, whether or not they are uncommon or unpopular ideas. Our analysis and work with fungi extends beyond the rhetoric and limited solutions of many governmental organisations and NGOs in the search for novel, radical answers to pressing global issues.
The Context of Radical Mycology
As the years progress, one can more readily see the negative impacts of human settlement increasing alongside a need to find appropriate and effective strategies to address them. Climate change, increased rates of disease, reduced access to clean water, and the mass extinction of species are just a few of the issues underlying a need to find alternative solutions to meeting basic human needs while sustainably stewarding Earth. Members of the Radical Mycology Collective do not believe that fungal remediation or the creation of a more mushroom literate society is the sole solution to such problems. The true solution to these issues comes from eliminating the conditions that enable them to exist (e.g. economic structures that require growth at all costs, poorly designed industrial systems, over-consumptive societies, and political climates that disable the individual from having their concerns truly heard). We do not believe that mushrooms alone can save the world. We support a diversity of tactics in addressing any given challenge. That said, we do believe that the fungi are powerful allies in the struggle to help restore the planet from the social and ecological challenges that it faces. We see the cultivation and application of fungi as a solution-based approach to countering the destructive practices of governments and industries that should be used in conjunction with more front-line tactics such as projects to educate and increase awareness, direct action campaigns, and even legislation reform. We believe that the skills of working with mushrooms and other fungi are incredibly important tools for the change-maker tool box. And, unfortunately, are some of those that are most often overlooked.
One of the things that distinguishes the Radical Mycology project from some of the other aspects of the world of mycology is that the mycological work that we support is based on an anti-oppression ethos and doesn’t rely heavily on globalised, industrial, and destructive economic models. We also see learning skills such as mushroom cultivation, mushroom foraging, and medicinal mushroom processing as tools that help us live outside of such destructive systems. We seek to build a Radical Mycology movement that is a part of a larger social, political, and environmental justice movement in the modern context of constant change. We hope to add to the discussion on how to move away from practices that are counter productive to supporting life and to begin making tangible, positive changes toward a healthier and more resilient world.
Group Mission Statement & Principles
Radical Mycology groups are volunteer-run organisations that freely share information on working with mushrooms and other fungi for personal, societal, and ecological resilience. Radical Mycology groups support their local communities by hosting a variety of public, donation-based workshops and events that demonstrate how the science of mycology and the art of mushroom cultivation can support local food movements, reduce environmental degradation and pollution, and enhance the vitality of living systems. Radical Mycology groups work to make mycological information accessible to people of all backgrounds by helping facilitate access to cultivation information and/or materials to their local communities.
Radical Mycology groups are egalitarian, all-inclusive, and do not discriminate amongst members on the basis on age, gender, ethnicity, religion, mental health status, race, culture, sexual orientation, general appearance, income level, living situation, or experience in social or mycological work.
Guiding Principles of the Radical Mycology Mycelial Network:
- To de-stigmatise and demystify mycology for the general public through hosting accessible educational events and distributing free/low-cost media.
- To enhance local living systems through the use of appropriate technology and well-designed mycological installations.
- To respect, observe, and learn from the intelligence of fungal systems (and all of nature) in an effort to inform the design of mycological installations, remediation protocols, and community building strategies.
- To work with fungi with an ethos of human-fungal collaboration and community building as opposed to using fungi for personal benefit.
- To actively contribute to the Mycelial Network and provide or request advice to/from other members as much as possible.
- To use mycological information to support the independence and security of local communities. To help build and support coalitions among local non-profits, volunteer groups, and other organizations through a common bridge of mycological skills and insights.
- To reduce pollution and negative impacts to land by recycling, reusing and regenerating as many tools, materials, and substrates as possible.
- To emphasize the use of local, non-corporate, non-industrial, and non-exploitative materials and practices wherever possible.
- To remove barriers to access to mycological information.
- To discourage the exploitation of fungi, fungal remediation, and bioremediation by government and corporate interests.
- To honour the knowledge and wisdom offered by all of our ancestors and descendants; human, fungal, and otherwise.
- To use a social movement-building model that is inclusive, participatory, decentralized and democratic. To strive to integrate these principles into organizing and decision-making processes.