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How fungi can further support the United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to create a unified global society where poverty and tribalism are replaced by prosperity and collaboration, and where productive enterprise is rooted in regenerative design principles. There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals designed as a comprehensive strategy encompassing environmental, social, and governance policy on a planetary scale in pursuit of these “SDG’s”.

It’s been my theory for several years now that the effective leveraging of fungi, mycelium, and ‘mycotechnologies’ can meaningfully address each one of the 17 SDG’s. 

What are the U.N. SDGs? At their heart, they're an urgent call to action and a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet now and in the future. All 193 member states of the United Nations have agreed to collaborate in pursuit of these goals and an estimated $5-7 trillion USD of resources annually are actively being committed to this cause. Here are some of the ways that mycopreneurs (fungi entrepreneurs) can help to achieve the 17 SDG’s, with concrete examples of how entrepreneurs and researchers are actively contributing to achieving the stated target outcomes of each goal. 

The theory and framework presented herein is by no means exhaustive and complete, but instead is intended to serve as a proof of concept and inspiration for others to actively explore how their mycopreneurial projects or aspirations might tie into the collective pursuit of a more peaceful and prosperous future for people and planet. There are imaginations to be ignited, resources to be mobilized, and many problems to solve with a little help from our fungi friends. 

SDG 1 - No Poverty

There are numerous examples of how mushrooms can help to mitigate poverty in rural and undeveloped areas around the planet, as well as in highly urbanized metropolitan environments.

There have been a number of successful pilot projects run in refugee camps and economically depressed areas, and many geographically disparate locations that show how low tech mushroom farming can help to economically vitalize a depressed region

 SDG 2 - Zero Hunger

It’s pretty easy to connect mushroom cultivation to reducing hunger. And again, we've seen oyster mushrooms and other types of culinary and medicinal fungi grown in refugee camps in places like Nigeria, Syria, Bangladesh and many other impoverished regions around the planet. Mushroom cultivation is far less resource-intensive than many other crops, and can be reliably done with recycled agricultural waste substrates and with little water in a condensed space or vertical cultivation setup the size of a shoebox or cabinet. 

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being

Mushrooms are one of the healthiest foods that you can eat, and this extends to their medicinal value as well. The medicinal value of certain types of mushrooms is well-documented in western clinical trials and also over 4000 years of traditional use in Chinese medicine.

SDG 4 - Quality Education

A number of schools and classrooms around the world are actively developing a fungi curriculum, as seen with the work of Fungi Foundation. The emergence of fungi-inclusive curricula in schools across the world is accelerating, with more than 3,500 enrollments from 80 countries for the Fungi Foundation curriculum. 

SDG 5 - Gender Equality

The mushroom Schizophyllum commune (“Splitgill mushroom”) has 23,000 different sexes, which forces us to reevaluate the role of gender in nature and to reframe our binary thinking.

SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation

Microfiltration is a process in which fungi is used as a biofilter. Fungi have been demonstrated to be an affordable, effective, and environmentally sustainable means of removing pollutants from water sources. The network of microscopic fibers in certain species of mushrooms (such as the Stropharia rugoso-annulata) acts as a natural filter, and there have been documented use cases of mycofiltration in various regions of the planet for over a decade. 

SDG 7 - Clean and Affordable Energy

Fungi are involved in the production of fuel cell energy. And interestingly enough, last time I was in Tokyo, the public bus that I took to Disneyland was running on fuel cell energy and even had the UN SDGs and logo running across a monitor in the bus. Fuel Cell technology as a means of sustainable energy production was a promising innovation around the turn of the millennium, but was largely shelved for one reason or another until its roll out in various metropolitan transport programs in the last few years. 

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth

Check out Josephine Nakakande and Eco Agric Uganda. Josephine has taught over 500 abjectly impoverished women in sub-Saharan Africa how to cultivate and sell oyster mushrooms, taking them from earning under $1 a day to up to $15 a day in many cases. This is one of the most poignant use cases for fungi as a valuable contributor to achieving the SDG’s that we have today, with the Eco Agric community sprouting from a dire and scarce work and economic situation into a flourishing community producing tonnes of mushrooms annually. 

SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The Phoenix is a 300 unit housing development in Oakland, California that is currently in development and which involves using mycelium as a construction material. Mycotecture is popping up all over the place, and has even been explored by NASA as a potential construction resource for moon bases of the future. 

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Mycopreneurism is directly tied to reducing inequality as demonstrated by the numerous references herein to various successful projects in economically depressed and abjectly impoverished areas around the world. This reduced inequality thanks to mycopreneurism has been tangibly demonstrated in places like Bangladesh, Uganda, Mexico, Haiti, and numerous other similar largely disenfranchised communities. Using Haiti as an example, communities impacted by the devastating Haiti earthquake of 2010 were taught how to grow mushrooms as a means of sustaining their food production during a time of disrupted supply chains. This use case has also been successfully demonstrated in the Philippines after a hurricane. 

SDG 11 - Sustainable Communities

Mushrooms are one of the most regenerative building materials, design materials, foods, medicines - you name it, there is likely a mycopreneurial application to the establishment of robust and sustainable communities. This article by environmental planner Meredith Keppel further explores the rationale for mushrooms being the basis of sustainable community.

SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production

Let’s take a look at Mycoworks, which has opened a full scale production facility in South Carolina to make Ricci leather as an alternative to animal leather. Now, you can extrapolate this out to other industries and look at things like MyFOREST Foods Company, which creates mycelium based meats, eco veda, which creates mycelium based packaging. 

SDG 13 - Climate Action

Mushrooms play a vital role in modulating and maintaining the ecosystem of the planet, including storing up to a third of carbon emissions from fossil fuels. 

The potential of fungi and mycopreneurism to galvanize meaningful and lasting positive climate action is extremely well-documented, and new strategies and innovations driven by a human-fungi collaborative partnership are actively being designed and employed all over the world right now. 

SDG 14 - Life Below Water

Marine fungi are one of the least studied aspects of this still largely mysterious kingdom, with approximately 444 species of marine fungi currently having been identified. It’s likely that there are many, many more waiting to be discovered. If the versatility and resourcefulness of the rest of the terrestrial fungi kingdom has anything to say about it, odds are that there are many useful applications waiting to be unlocked in regards to marine fungi. 

SDG 15 - Life On Land

There are approximately 5.1 million species of fungi that have been identified, with at least 2300 - 3000 of these species identified and historically used as food and medicine in different parts of the world. There are numerous other species used for materials, carrying embers of fire across snowy mountain passes, and in the capture of carbon among many other useful applications. 

SDG 16 - Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Fungi act to regulate the earth’s ecosystem, and can also do the same thing in human society if we allow them purchase. The role of fungi in establishing a healthy baseline foundation from which to evolve strong institutions can be inferred from their contributions to establishing harmony in the planetary ecosystem as well as in human society as demonstrated throughout this piece. 

SDG 17 - about Partnerships For The Goals

The partnership between humanity and fungi can be one of the most valuable strategic partnerships imaginable. The resourcefulness and regenerative design potential of fungi as a tool for human prosperity and empowerment stems from a reimagining of our place in nature and our relationship to the planet we cohabitate with fungi and many other species upon. This is the real strength and contribution of fungi to the achievement of the 17 SDGs - they enable us to reframe our identity as the dominant species on the planet, and to balance our relationship with the natural world, each other, and ourselves. 

I hope the investigation into the practical applications of fungi as vital allies in pursuit of peace and prosperity for people and planet is just beginning, and many more intelligent human minds and valuable resources will be committed to further exploring the solutions offered by diligent partnership with the Fungi Kingdom. Imagine what other opportunities exist right beneath our feet, in the path of our footsteps, in the air around us, and in all the terrestrial and marine environments around the world where fungi proliferate.


Contributing Author: Dennis Walker

Dennis Walker is a journalist and satirist who covers the psychedelic space, with bylines at Psychedelic Alpha, Psychedelics Today, Honeysuckle Mag, Global Cannabis Times, and Psychedelic Spotlight. His artful and hilarious videos skewering psychedelic capitalism have earned a devoted fanbase. He’s a regular emcee at conferences including Psychedelic Science, the Psychedelic Leadership Summit, the California Psychedelic Conference and Cannadelic Miami. He is also the founder of Mycopreneur, a globally recognized leader in the psychedelic media space, with recent press coverage in Forbes, Rolling Stone, and many other outlets. He hosts Mycopreneur Podcast, where he has interviewed more than 100 fungi entrepreneurs from 15 countries on five continents.


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