Portland native Peter McCoy thinks mushrooms can save the world.
He has grown oyster mushrooms in old coffee grounds, and trained fungi to digest used cigarette filters. A self-taught "radical mycologist," as well as a longtime artist and community activist, McCoy now gives mycological-science workshops and lectures all over the country, persuading anyone who will listen to "just give mushrooms a chance."
For nine years, he put out a zine called Radical Mycology, devoted to the notion that mushrooms are "the world's greatest and oldest teachers," and that we as a society have a lot to learn from them. With help from a crowdfunding effort from fans of his mushroom studies, McCoy has just released his mushroom opus: Radical Mycology, a 700-page book McCoy says is "the accumulation of 15 years of studying mycology." The book is practically the OED of mycological science and cultivation, covering everything from slime molds to the chemistry of psychedelics.
"It's intended to be read cover to cover," he says. "Fungus in general is totally absent from our awareness; that's why it's easy to make fun of it or be afraid of it. But fungi directly influence all life cycles of nature integral to the environment…when you do understand it, it's fascinating and bizarre and so important."