A couple of months ago while rambling along a trail, surrounded on all sides by redwood trees soaring to meet the sky, I stumbled upon a community. This was not just any community. But a micro community. Complete with symbiotic relationships and organizational structures. This community was a mushroom community, teeny tiny, micro level. I could almost imagine a little world of fairies flying into the crisp air as small animals nibbled at fresh green plant shoots.
As I considered this micro community another came to mind: human communities. I wondered do our human communities work as symbiotically as nature does? Not usually it seems.
This encounter really drove home to me how we can learn from the natural world around us. For example, the mushrooms are part of a natural process where plant matter is decomposed to create new soil. The mushrooms evolved to fill a niche that was needed, decomposition of fallen trees, leafs, and other plant materials. Can this knowledge help inform our own communities? What about all the waste and fallen debris that we generate. Of course there are landfills, recycling, and sometimes composting, but debris such as plastic last more than a human lifetime.
Can we as humans look to the mushroom for a valuable lesson? I think we can, and actually, someone is. While reading Discover Magazine I learned that there is someone using the power of mushrooms to help communities. This someone is Paul Stamets, a scientist that has spent his life studying mushrooms and he recently discovered that mushrooms can be used to eat away oil caused by massive spills. A natural method towards eliminating the damaging pollution that we as humans create and release.
The force of nature is astounding, with vast potential, if only we looked a little bit closer to learn from her amazing miracles.