Nature’s cooperation, truly, is everywhere: plants provide each other with nutrients, fish remove parasites from each other’s scales, ants build nests
together, predators hunt in packs and bees will even give their own lives for the
benefit of the hive.
Whether the collaboration is between members of the same species, or
between individuals of different species, cooperation is a founding principle of
diversity and complexity in nature. Mostly humans have lost this connection to nature but there are some relationships that still exist and are steadily being created in an evolved cooperation that serve to prove that nature and humanity are communicating and existing symbiotically. The San people of the Central Kalahari Desert, Southern Africa have become
adapted to a place where resources are as critically limited as any place on
earth can be. Conservation of these resources is central to their survival. Even
the scrapings while preparing a skin will find their way into a meal. This is an
uncanny affinity between the San people and nature, they respect nature in
how they live off of nature.
The greater honeyguide (Indicator indicator) recognises humans and honey
badgers as super predators and has developed a singular symbiotic skill. This
weaver-size bird will come to a tree and issue its strident rattling call to attract
man or a badger’s attention. But it isn’t always the bird that calls the predator,
man has learnt to call the bird when the tribe needed honey. By using a series
of whistles and clicking sounds.
The tribe knows the honeyguide will show him a hive where the best treat of all
awaits - honey. But in return he must leave bits of honeycomb, honey and bee
grubs for the bird behind or, next time, it will lead the man or badger to a nest of
a poisonous Mamba or Cobra snake. Everybody living close to nature in the
Kalahari, whether Bushman or other, will attest to this amazing behaviour.
Interesting though it is not just these southern most nomadic tribes of Africa
who have this exact same relationship with this very unassuming but smart
bird. In northern Africa in the dry bushland of Northern Tanzania, near the shore
of Lake Eyasi the last 200 remaining Hadza tribes people live today as hunter-
gatherers and have the exact same relationship with the Greater Honeyguide
How this little bird has learnt the skill of conversing with humans we still do not
know. One theory is that, just like the hunters they are social learners ; they
watch and listen to their more experienced peers. It is possible that this inter-
species conversation predates the arrival of Homo sapiens and reaches back a
million years or more to our ancestors’ first use of fire and smoke. This idea is
part of a compelling argument that it was honey and bee larvae, cooked meat
and the mushrooms that grew on migrant herd droppings, that made the human
brain “larger” or perhaps by feeding other parts of the brain that hadn’t had
these nutrients before which helped humans to outcompete all other species.
These theories hold some evidence and are constantly being debated.
I leave that string of evolution there and focus rather on the mushroom kingdom
- from where all of life was birthed from and we humans are the closest to fungi
than another kingdom. How the mushroom spore arrived or evolved from
molten lava is another string of theories but we do know that the mycelium of
the planet is the most advanced and most evolved and has more species than
all the plants in the plant kingdoms put together. With over 1.5million different
species of mycelium which is 6 times more than plants.
Mycelium live within us and around us.
They are not plants and they are not animals - they are their own kingdom. Mushrooms are the grand molecular decomposes of nature. They represent rebirth, rejuvenation and regeneration. They generate soil that creates life. They decompose all dead and dying
organisms and move all those nutrients back into the soil. For plants to grow
they rely on decomposers to provide them with soluble nutrients that can be
taken up by their roots. Fungi release digestive enzymes that are used to
metabolise complex organic compounds into soluble nutrients, such as simple
sugars, nitrates and phosphates. Which the plants absorb and in return the
plants transfer carbon to the fungi who then stores it underground and is
therefore protecting the carbon from being released into carbon dioxide into the
air. Fungi transfer energy from above the ground, to below it, where it is recycled
back to plants. Mycelium is perhaps the most important living creature on
Paul Stamets, in this video explains how mycelium could save the earth.
By using mycelium as an antibiotic. Certain mycelium has the ability to eat
plastic, oil and petroleum waste. They can destroy invasive insect colonies like
carpenter ants and termites from destroying the foundations of homes without
using harmful pesticides. Mycelium has the ability to mutate and evolve much
faster and more ecologically balanced than anything we can “invent”.
Looking deeper into the fungi world we learn to observe and understand nature in a
much deeper way and intern we learn to work with this complex nervous system that
links the trees with each other, provides food for the plants and now as being
discovered could save the earth. Learning more about fungi and mycology will help us to
live in harmony and in cooperation with nature for our future on Earth.