Black Friday has arrived. Whilst we don’t participate by discounting, we do use it as an opportunity to give back as part of our pledge to 1% for the Planet. This year we’ve collaborated with the Fungi Foundation who work to raise awareness, better understand and protect mushrooms. We caught up with the organisations co-Founder, Giuliana Furci, on how she first discovered mycology, and why fungi are so important to our survival.
What initially drew you to the world of mycology, and why?
“It was an encounter with a mushroom. Without having been drawn to them before, that mushroom ignited my passion and curiosity back in 1999. The how and why was a magical coincidence that can only be explained by the fact that they choose you.”
Why did you set up The Fungi Foundation, and what are its goals?
“I set up the foundation because there was no organisation in the world that was working to get inclusion of fungi on equal footing to plants and animals in public policy, in biodiversity or conservation plans. There was no way to work with fungi anywhere without having a legal backbone. There were no universities here in Chile, there was no way to study, so creating an organization was the best way to get legal personhood for us to start working in public policy.Our goals at the Fungi Foundation are articulated through our four main programs:
- Elders: our goal is to document all known ethnomycological uses in the world and collaborate with indigenous communities to preserve their knowledge of fungi.
- Conservation: we seek to develop protocols to determine the probability of extinction of fungi and train mycologists all over the world to implement these protocols.
- Expeditions: it is estimated that we have discovered less than 10% of all fungi. We strive to change this by exploring and documenting the fungal diversity of the last wild places on Earth.
- Education: we aim to ensure that the study of fungi is included in school curriculums. Last year we launched our FF Education Program and we are in the process of implementing it in schools across the US with the goal to expand globally in the future.”
Why are mushrooms and fungi so important to the planet, and to us?
“Fungi are the firmament. No plant could live outside of water without them, no herbivore could digest its food. They shape the planet as it is and they’re responsible for the flows of energy among different organisms in every corner of the planet.”
There is a growing awareness on the power of mushrooms, why do you think this is?
“It has been a deliberate effort. A group of us have been working for decades - in my case for just over 20 years and in some cases people working for 40 years for this moment to come, for people to begin to understand the world of fungi and how important they are to our lives and to our planet’s health.”
What role can fungi play in helping to heal chronic diseases and mental health problems?
“They play an important role. For mental health issues we know that fungi are critical to the microbiome and gut health. We also know of mushrooms that can reroute neural pathways and help people through difficult mental health problems.”
What can we learn from fungi and what can we do to protect them?
“We can learn so much from them. Some fungi teach us that individuals don’t exist - that’s a trait of theirs. They live inside their food and they digest externally. This means that they really really show graphically that no one can be without another. They also teach us that death is not an end: the end of one life form is the beginning of many others. So death as the end of something is completely challenged by fungi. They also teach us that the initial part of the process of decomposition, which is fermentation, is actually super desired for humanity. So letting things rot is really important not only for the energy flows for the planet but also to ignite processes that help us, for example, preserve our food. To protect them, you can transition to inclusive language to Flora, Fauna and Funga, and plants, animals and fungi, not just plants and animals. Language creates reality and by doing that you’ll be contributing to a broader awareness of their importance. And of course, you can support our work at the Fungi Foundation by making a donation through our website www.ffungi.org.”
Find the Fungi Foundation here.
Find Giuliana Furci here.