Groeneveldlezing Liesje Mommer Merlin Sheldrake Groeneveld award 2022 byrinths: “Fungal lives are lived in a flood of sensory information. And somehow, hyphae, piloted by their tips – are able to integrate these many data streams and determine a suitable trajectory for growth, for the next step”. “Hyphal tips are the part of the mycelium that grow, change direction, branch and fuse. They are the part of the mycelium that do the most”. And – importantly: “They are numerous”. That is a massive encouragement for the world: if we organise ourselves as mycelial networks – collaborative, mycelium networks - change can happen towards a nature-positive future. Maybe I should introduce myself not as a figurehead, but as a ‘mycelial tip’ of the biodiversity movement from now onwards – thank you Merlin, for giving me that perspective. I integrate data streams (i.e. the knowledge from the different disciplines, the opportunities, ....) and then determine the next best step. Not really knowing the step – but going the step. But most importantly: there are many mycelial tips in a mycelium – and fungi have found ways to organise them. I believe we can too. Change starts if we organise ourselves like a collaborative mycelium. Fungi show us the way! Earlier this week at the #COP27 in Egypt, the secretary-general from the United Nations – Antonio Guterres - said: we are on a highway to climate hell. Hearing such quotes, I used to get beyond hope, but now I am fearless and full of courage. Taught by fungi. They are radical, they are unorthodox, and they find solutions. For example, they figured out how to breakdown lignin. They are the only organisms on the planet that can. They are persistent and perseverant. They can even survive in radioactive sites such as Chernobyl, and they seem to thrive in abandoned, polluted, and overexploited habitats. I hope they are generous. I was hiking a few weeks ago in the Netherlands, with Merlin’s book in my backpack – and its many messages in my mind. Often I feel sad when hiking in the Netherlands – I see what is NOT present, even with my positive attitude. Despite all the good work by nature conservation organisations, the patches of nature are so small, fragmented, disturbed. Yet, this time I hiked along our rivers – the Maas, Waal, Nederrijn, and I felt a little hope. There were so many colourful trees, beavers, kingfishers, even a white-tailed eagle. I suddenly saw the rivers as the mycelium of the landscape. This is where change happens, things fuse. Where hope starts for a better future – a nature-positive future. During the hike I recalled the beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson: “Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all – I wonder, what Emily Dickinson would have written if she would have read ‘Entangled life’? “Courage” is the mycelial thing – That perches in the soil – And finds [the way] with radical forms – And never stops – at all – I invite you to feel hope, to find courage in the beauty of this musical piece https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGrLL3T0ozE, in a very recent composition of Christopher Tin, sung by the acapella choir Voces8. In the meantime, dream about being a fungus, to radically change the world, together with many mycelial tips. If we decide to trust the network, and act accordingly, we can make this world a better place. Liesje Mommer 10/11/2022

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