Our hero: Paul Stamets, 55
Where he lives: Kamilche Point, Washington
How he helps: Protects the mushroom
“My parents told me to stay away from mushrooms, that their spores would blind me,” says Paul Stamets good-naturedly. Nevertheless, Stamets has devoted his life to the humble fungi, studying mycology and in 1980 founding the company Fungi Perfecti, which sells mushroom cultivation kits.
Why mushrooms? According to Stamets, many of the estimated 150,000 species of mushrooms have environment-healing properties. For example, the oyster mushroom can break down oil from spills. The King Stropharia mushroom filters bacteria like E. coli
before they get into the water supply. And the turkey tail mushroom may help strengthen the immune systems of women with breast cancer, according to government-funded research aided by Stamets and his team.
“One of my core beliefs,” Stamets says, “is that humans and habitats have immune systems, and the mushroom’s network of cells is a bridge between the two.” A mushroom’s cells also encourage new growth in old-growth forests. “The mushroom creates soil and fosters other life in the soil. Without healthy soil,” he warns, “we don’t have life.”
To demonstrate this, Stamets has invented the Life Box, a cardboard carton embedded with tree seeds and fungi. “Each box can become a forest,” he says. “Get the box, tear it up, plant it, and little trees come up.” (Stamets adds, “My grandson felt like a parent. He asked me why all cardboard boxes aren’t Life Boxes.”) It’s Stamets’s way of driving home the notion that small, individual actions have earthshaking potential.
Know a local hero? Visit American Towns to submit your nomination: americantowns.com/powerofone.
Some people like to travel by train because it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of an airplane.
I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”
“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” —Everyone following you on Instagram
A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.
Comedian Greg Davies
Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.
Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.
My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me everything you know.”
“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” —Alcohol
@yoyoha (Josh Hara)
My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.
Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?
A: A mechanic.
More About Inspiring Stories
What You’re Sharing
- Orphaned on the Ocean: The Unbelievable Story of Terry Jo Duperrault
- “Pull Yourself Together!”: Rob Lowe on the Unexpected Tears of Sending His Son to College
- Romancing a Terrorist: I Posed Online as a Young Woman Interested in ISIS
- The Reunion That Took 77 Years to Happen
- The Baby Who Refused to Die: 11 Hours in Room 407