Earth (TFC)— The frightening implications of environmental issues often make them difficult to stomach. No one wants to imagine a world void of clean soil, water, or functional ecosystems. Unfortunately, mankind’s stupendous irresponsibility leaves swaths of Earth and water tainted.
Now, current generations seem to almost shamefully anticipate their descendants’ dismay. Hope, however, may sprout from the very thing consumed by human activity–nature. Several species, including hemp and mushrooms, are renowned for such green talents.
In Italy, sheep farmer Vincenzo Fanaro is having to consider such nuances to maintain his land. Fanaro’s family farmed for decades less than a mile from one of Europe’s largest steel factories. As a result, his land has been thoroughly tainted by industrial waste and byproducts. Pollutants soiled crops, and even Fanaro’s sheep herd. Following the Italian government’s revelation of the contamination’s scale, a 600-strong herd was terminated.
Losing hundreds of animals and the ability to harvest left Fanaro’s livelihood on questionable terms. Eventually, he turned to using herbaculture to detox the land for future usability. Fanaro chose cannabis for its fast growth rate and flexibility in dealing with toxins. According to Culture Magazine, he has zero ambitions to harvest the controversial plants. It’s simply there to thrive, and clean land soiled by industrial successes.
Cannabis isn’t the only organism capable of cleaning up soil contamination on vast scales. Mushrooms possess an uncanny ability to detox dirt in a similar fashion. Unlike plants, which have roots systems, mushrooms have cellular networks called mycelium. Spreading out underground, sometimes for vast distances, mycelium act as a complex cellular system.
Like plant roots, mycelium collects soil contaminants inside the mushroom buds themselves. These can then be picked from the ground at mass, contained, or processed depending on the situation. In one study, Oyster Mushrooms were drafted for their ability to breakdown carbon bonds and dissolve fibers.
Spores were introduced to an area contaminated by diesel truck maintenance work. Within eight weeks, contamination levels plummeted from 200,000 parts per million to just 200. To simplify that, 200,000 parts per million means about 2% of the soil was straight up diesel fuel and byproducts. Not actual “dirt”.
Additionally, very little was left over besides carbon dioxide, water, and mushrooms, Progress reports. This cleanup method is also effective against chemical warfare contamination, heavy metals, and pesticides. All are ghosts haunting mankind worldwide, wherever its creations were carelessly dispensed.
These kinds of eco-cleanups, however, can sometimes take decades to complete. In cases like Chernobyl, or the Japanese Fukushima reactor meltdown, these can be even longer. The intense volatility of nuclear waste also complicates storing or destroying any plants or fungus used to extract it.
Vast reservoirs of human ingenuity are required if we hope to further perfect these techniques. Independent exploits show promise and likely shine glimpses of the future. It’s an arms race which needs to jump off on all fronts, from environmental protection to climate adaptation. Decontaminating soil could end up being a highly profitable industry in its own right. All that’s required is inspired bravery to take the first step.