Here is an article that I wrote which has been rejected by numerous publications with claims like “Too technical for our readers” “Too dense”, etc.
How Scientist Paul Stamets Thinks Oyster Mushrooms Could Save the Gulf Coast.
In November of 2007, oil from a Cosco-Busan tanker that had crashed into the Oakland Bay Bridge began spilling into the San Francisco Bay. The spill, miniscule in size to the amount of oil being released by the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, still posed problems for those living in the Bay Area.
An article from the Nov. 9, 2007 issue of the LA Times reported that 58,000 gallons of oil spilled into the San Francisco Bay as a result*. Even though it was a small spill, because it happened in the Bay Area, some unorthodox treatments were given a shot.
One person who came and spoke during the Bay Area’s oil crisis, was scientist Paul Stamets, who has spent his career studying mushrooms and other fungi. He told people there about experiments he had done in his home Washington state, in which he found that oyster mushroom mycelium is one of the best tools that nature has for getting oil’s hydrocarbons out of soil.
In an exclusive interview from June 24, 2010, Stamets explained that initial experiment he did with the Department of Transportation, where the soil to be remediated was soaked with an excessive amount of oil, containing 1-2% petroleum (or 10-20,000 ppm). “After sixteen weeks, after we inoculated the soil with oyster mushroom mycelium, it brought down the hydrocarbon level to less than 200 ppm,” he explained.
Lisa Gautier, founder of Matter of Trust, and officials at the San Francisco Department of Health set up a facility in the Presidio where mushrooms were used to eat oil out of the oil-soaked hair from the spill…and it worked.
Now, Paul Stamets, who has written several books on the subject of fungi, been featured in the documentary The 11th Hour, and has even given a talk at the prestigious TED conference in 2008, thinks that mushrooms could provide a powerful solution to the un-solved problem of oil from spills getting into coastal wetlands. This could prove especially useful to areas in the Gulf Coast, which are lined with precious wetlands that could be severely threatened as a result of the BP oil spill.
Stamets recently made a statement issued from his online business, which sells fungi and educates people about the powerful uses of mushrooms, www.fungi.com. The statement, wherein the mycologist outlines his concept for the creation of mycoremedition centers. not only to treat this current oil spill, but to treat future oil spills, quickly went viral.
Mycoremediation, a term which was coined by Paul Stamets, involves the use of mycelium from mushrooms to break down hydrocarbons. His experiments doing remediation in the Puget Sound led Stamets to discover that mycelium, the vegetative strands of fungi that form a long and intricate network in the soil, are one of nature’s best weapons against toxic substances like oil, when they are put into ecosystems through industrial accidents.
“[Mycelia’s] territory of growth can literally be thousands of acres. They have unique sets of enzymes that are especially powerful for degrading oil,” Stamets explained.
Through an extensive battery of tests, eventually leading to field tests, Stamets discovered that oyster mushrooms worked well in breaking down hydrocarbons. “We found that oyster mushrooms, which is an edible and choice mushroom that grows in the Gulf area; that mushroom, in particular, was especially aggressive in breaking down oil,” Stamets explained.
However, in this experiment, Stamets says that what they found was more than just the oyster mushroom’s ability to greatly break down oil. The mushrooms also enabled other life forms, like worms, plants and insects to return and thrive in a previously lifeless mass of toxic earth. “There was a domino cascading effect leading to habitat restoration, and I think that is a very important part of this,” Stamets recalled of the experiment.
Paul Stamets also said that he views the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster as an epic tragedy; what he refers to as an “extinction event of varying degrees of magnitude.” And as species die, and dead zones widen, it will cause a spiraling effect. “If we lose too many species with our environment, we lose candidates that can help repair those environments,” he said.
To deal with this catastrophe, the largest ecological disaster in recorded U.S. History, Stamets, is joining with other scientists, calling for an equally large effort at remediation to help keep the ecosystems from crashing. And he believes that fungi could greatly speed up nature’s recovery from this ecological nightmare.
Paul Stamets suggests that a country-wide network of mycoremediation centers would be invaluable to having a large-scale response to this oil spill and future oil spills. He recommends that mycoremediation centers work in conjunction with Public Works Departments to create locally-tailored versions of a trademarked invention of his that he recently finished testing: mycobooms.
Most people in the Gulf Coast are no stranger to dealing with hurricanes and other large storms. However, according to Stamets, those piles of stacked trees sitting in a football field that were downed during storms can be chipped by the Public Works Departments and then inoculated with oyster mushroom mycelia. The mixture can then be placed inside burlap sacks and used for mycoremediation.
The booms that Stamets recently tested consisted of straw which had been inoculated with mycelium and placed inside long hemp-fabric socks. “The booms float,” Stamets said. “They are extremely buoyant.”
Previously, Stamets had only done mycoremediation with fresh water. Despite a lack of confidence by some of his colleagues that oyster mushrooms would still be able to eat hydrocarbons in saltwater, Stamets recently performed some tests to see if it would work. The results were positive, with Stamets discovering that the oyster mushroom mycelium did in fact still grow in saltwater, at a rate of 75%, a rate which he claims is still extremely good considering the fast growth rate of oyster mushrooms.
Stamets says that the entire mycoboom is also entirely biodegradeable, so there is no extra clean-up involved. This biodegradable aspect is even part of how the mycobooms work.
The mushrooms, as they mature, set the stage for bacteria, which we already know is good for breaking down oil. As the straw biodegrades, it also produces CO2, then bacteria grow on the mycelia and mushrooms, further degrading the hydrocarbons.
Stamets thinks that these mycobooms could be a salvation for the Gulf Coast’s marshes and other wetlands. “I think that this a marshland solution, potentially,” he claimed. “In particular, because the mycobooms are totally biodegradable and the enzymes that they emit can then go into the marshes. Because, as far as I know, there is no other way to get oil out of the marshes.”
Pensacola-based environmental scientist and professor, Chasidy Fisher Hobbs, thinks that mycoremediation would be a very welcome solution to the area. “What a wonderful idea to use mother nature to help clean up our mess rather than making matters even worse by using toxic dispersants. I feel confident we can find the space throughout the Gulf Coast to implement this type of response,” Fisher Hobbs said. She also said that if the plan is on the “approved” list for Area Contingency Plans, then communities can implement it and bill BP for the cost; which she said she would love to help get started in the Florida panhandle.
this gets really interesting around the middle, where he talks about using fungi for remediation of petroleum in soil.
Thousands of dead fish washed up on shore in Mississippi. It seems like a really bad sign to me. The picture is from energyboom.com. The caption notes that they found no tarballs or oil residue around. Dispersants?
Protest in Pensacola June 10th. Officers are Fillingim and Weaver. Music by Samuel Holland.
«THIS» is a very interesting article from examiner.com . Apparently, Google and Yahoo have sold certain key search words to BP so that the search engine can redirect people to the BP version of what is going on with the spill. Horrible, horrible news. This shows how the internet isn’t always the lovely space of public free-speech that we sometimes think it is.
One thing that I would like to point out, is that Google got a lot of pressure when they decided to censor content for the Chinese version of their site. As you see «HERE» they changed their mind eventually, due to pressure.
Email Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, and tell him how upset you are about their decision to help BP destroy our ecosystem. Here’s his email!
EricSchmidt1@yahoo.com (funny that it’s a yahoo address, huh?)
If you want a different search engine to use, go to scroogle.org. They’re great.
Here is a video I threw together really quickly of the first protest I’ve seen here in Pensacola, FL. Sorry about the quality, I shot it in HD, but was having trouble uploading such a big video file.
As for the protest, there is already buzz going around about a massive boycott of BP. It seems that the boycott and protests could gain some steam as things get worse. Interestingly, there were cops at the protest who seemed to be guarding the gas pumps at the gas station. That symbol seemed really telling to me somehow.
It was also kind of sad to see the national news sort of swarm people for sound-bytes. Hopefully I will be able to provide a more in-depth analysis of what is going on here locally in Pensacola.
Note: The music is an open source recording of a Prelude by Rachmaninoff