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150: Odometer Moment

In the 150th installment of the C-Realm Podcast, KMO chews over the same old themes with James Howard Kunstler of the Kunstlercast and reconciles the coincidence of opposites with Frank Aragona, host and creator of the Agroinnovations Podcast.

The Quiet Coup by Simon Johnson

Music by the Plant



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 24th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
Simon Johnson
In contrast to JHK's characterization of Simon Johnson's presentation style as "dithering", I think he gave a fairly on-point performance on this edition of the Bill Moyers program:


Maybe he had a bad day on Fresh Air. Maybe it's the British accent. Fresh Air interview here (haven't listened to it yet):

Apr. 25th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
It annoys me that Aragona makes so many unfounded logical leaps in service of what seem to be preexisting beliefs.

After an extinction event that wipes out a lot of plants, there are more fungus than plants, sure. For one thing, the abundance of dead plant matter is bound to be great for fungus. That doesn't imply that the surviving plants did so by having more of a symbiotic relationship with fungus. And that would not imply that humans necessarily gain some sort of a survival benefit by consuming psychedelic mushrooms.

I also don't like his argument from incredulity regarding the similarity of psilocybin and serotonin. A natural explanation is far from impossible, I can come up with several plausible ones: Maybe serotonin-analogues evolved in fungi long before finding another use as neurotransmitters in more complex organisms. Maybe something vaguely similar evolved in ever more serotonin-like directions because the reaction it provokes in animals is a good way to spread mushroom spores. Alternately, it might have evolved because it provokes an unpleasant reaction in some predators that would eat mushrooms before spore production (evidently, some animals are far more susceptible to psilocybin than others).
Apr. 28th, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC)
Frank Aragona sent this reply to be via email

The interviews were fun, and I was happy with the end result. A listener commented on some of my ideas on the show notes, and I've written a response to his comments. I don't have or really feel like creating a livejournal account; you should open up your comments to at least open id users.

So, here they are. Hopefully you'll post to the blog:

It is not a foregone conclusion that the psilocybin and sertonin molecules share similar structures for some pre-ordained reason, some past history of interaction, or some teleological force designed to impose an alliance between Homo sapiens and psilocybin-containing mushrooms. I think we can safely say that we don’t really know the reason for this similarity, but we can certainly extrapolate from the evidence we do have. I am willing to consider that the psilocybin molecule developed in response to herbivory pressures; or for some other perfectly reasonable environmental stress that I cannot conceive of.

To do so, however, would not alter the fact that now, and within the context of natural selection, these mushrooms have certainly benefited from our attraction to them. Just as agricultural species like wheat, rice, and soy have benefited from their palpability and contribution to human nutrition, the Psilocybe mushrooms have also benefited from the fact that people, not all people but certainly some, are attracted to psilocybin containing mushrooms for their consciousness altering effects. We know that humans act as vectors for all kinds of mushroom spores; Paul Stamets guesstimates between 10 and 100 million fungal spores accumulate on an individual’s clothing in the course of a day. Our subsequent interaction with these mushrooms has turned some humans into inadvertent vectors of Psilocybe mushrooms spores. Logically, some experts suggest that Psilocybe mushrooms have become much more prevalent in the built environment (especially, as mentioned, in wood chip debris) since Gardon Wasson and Albert Hoffman brought the modern world’s attention to these species and their effects in the 1950’s. The origin of the co-incidental existence of these similar molecules may remain a mystery for a long time to come, but a strong argument can be made that people, again at least some people, have benefited greatly from the mind altering qualities of these mushrooms. Anecdotal evidence, and increasingly peer reviewed research, bears witness to this argument.

More importantly, I take it as a point of fact that these, and many other species of mushrooms, benefit the more materials aspects of our everyday existence. I named these benefits quite explicitly in the interview with KMO: increased biological efficiency, higher crop yields, soil building, natural medicines…the list goes on. In short, an alliance with mushrooms is beneficial on multiples levels.

I did not mean to imply that our relationship with mushrooms should focus solely on the consciousness altering aspects. What I did seek to convey, through the use of Psilocybe mushrooms as an exceptional example, is the fascinating and highly important area where the material affects the conscious, and where the spirit in turn, shapes the solid world.

In regards to species extinction and alliances in the natural world, it is true that the Stamets theory of catastrophe is speculative; based on evidence, yes, but speculative nonetheless. What is most relevant, however, is to point out that symbiosis is a common phenomenon in Nature. Between 90 and 95 percent of vascular plants have symbiotic relationships with mycorhizal fungi. Since plants with vascular tissue are more recent in our evolutionary past, we can assume that the mycorhizal symbiosis has been selected because it is such an effective survival strategy. It is a credible and supportable hypothesis in biology that terrestrial plants were able to successfully colonize land because of, in part at least, their symbiosis with fungi, particularly mycorhizal fungi.

Taken for their positive impact on our quality of life alone, disregarding entirely the species of the genus Psilocybe, mushrooms are clearly valuable allies in our life and death struggle for an ethical and biologically sustainable society.

Apr. 28th, 2009 06:05 pm (UTC)
Very interesting. And yeah, intentional breeding is a very obvious explanation I left off of my list.

Thanks for taking the time to write such a thought-out response.
Sep. 28th, 2009 01:50 am (UTC)
Mushroom Species List-Palette
Will you be posting the top 5 mushroom varieties/species list that were recommended by Frank on this episode? Also wanted to remind you about putting Stametes' book, "Mycelium Running", on your Amazon list.
Sep. 30th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Mushroom Species List-Palette
Frank replied with:


KMO requested that I respond to your request for the 5 species of
mushrooms I recommended. Actually, as far as I can ascertain without going back and listening to the interview, I believe I recommended three species.

They are:

The elm oyster mushroom (Hypsizigus ulmaris)
The tree oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)
The King Stropharia mushroom (Stropharia rugosoannulata)

You can get mycelium for all of these from Paul's website at

Good luck!

-Franklyn B. Aragona

Edited at 2009-10-01 04:55 pm (UTC)
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