...fungi live in harmony with the ecosystems that they help keep in balance...But that balance is being disturbed...With climate change, fungal tree diseases spread by bark beetles are destroying conifer forests throughout North America...Fungal rusts and smuts that are proliferating in our increasingly warmer and wetter world endanger the world’s coffee supply...Seven out of the nine major crop diseases that threaten our food supply are fungal...Despite their destructive potential, fungi have a generous knack for working cooperatively with other organisms...Their best-known symbiotic partnership is with lichen, in which algae produce food for fungi through photosynthesis, and the fungi knit the algae together into a composite organism whose most important ecological function is breaking rocks down to create new soil...The author credits these humble organisms with the capacity to spark a revolution in the way that humans relate to nature...Technology is often seen as being opposed to the natural order...But the burgeoning field of 'mycotechnology' points to a future in which we will learn to work together with the natural world rather than against it...'Look to the fungi. Learn from their ways,' Seifert urges...The book is fact-heavy but lacking in the kind of entertaining anecdotes and asides that might make for easier reading...It also jumps from topic to topic without exploring anything in much depth...These are less flaws than the nature of the task that Seifert has set for himself — to provide an encyclopedic survey of the field.
Seifert, a life-long mycologist and researcher, explores the vast and varied relationships of fungi with people, other living things, and the environment...The book is arranged by sections that examine different types of habitat where fungi live and flourish...Seifert’s writing is animated, and interspersed in the text are fascinating facts and anecdotes...Some of the most thought-provoking information appears in the section on how current fungi research might contribute to a sustainable planet, including the creation and production of mycomaterials that mimic materials like leather and a type of Styrofoam being considered for an eventual colony on Mars...Seifert, in this fascinating, engaging, and approachable work, provides an improved understanding of how fungi surround and affect our lives.
Fans of Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life and Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree will enjoy Seifert’s latest, in which he leaves behind recognizable mushrooms, like chanterelles and morels, to tour microfungi, like yeasts and molds, which are all around, on, and within us...Like any good guide, he shares the wonder of his subject...Viewed through a microscope, a dyed solution of household dust 'lights up like the Milky Way….Bacteria and viruses shine like stars. Pollen grains drift by like glowing blimps. And among all these particles are the extending tubular cells, geometrical spores, and budding yeast cells of fungi'...Some of those yeast fungi make wonderful things happen, like beer, wine, and bread; others are part of our 'friendly gut flora'... All told, however, our microbial “cousins” do far more good than harm, as the author ably explains, and they might save us and our beleaguered planet...Fungi can help us increase crop yields, which will become critical as climate change further reduces arable land; remediate pollutants, including plastic and radioactive waste; and much more...Seifert, whose botanical illustrations are whimsical and T-shirt–worthy, makes a fascinating, hopeful case that 'the future is fungal.'