Nature’s Operating Instructions: The True Biotechnologies

From a review of the book by Claire Hope Cummings in the San Francisco Chronicle:

When Andy Lipkis suggests that the city of Los Angeles could capture the rainwater it now throws away, and reduce its dependence on imported water, suddenly the idea seems so obvious. Similarly, wastewater treatment plants work more efficiently when they imitate living systems, and retrofitting urban architecture and transportation can reduce the use of fossil fuels. Coating chain-saw blades with fungus spores hastens the regeneration of forests, and while the antibacterial properties of mushrooms have been known for thousands of years, it took the genius of Paul Stamets to figure out how to put them to work digesting toxic pollution.

Still, it’s surprising to find out that there are grasses that gobble up heavy metals or that cows can be used to reclaim mining wastes. Or that a biochemist named Randall von Wedel brewed a special bacterial smoothie in a blender and used it to clean up old gas station sites and truck terminals…

The sheer breadth and audacity of some of these ideas make for fascinating reading, while others are essential reminders about what must be saved, like heirloom seeds, such as Malcolm Margolin and Dennis Martinez’s essays on the need to preserve what remains of traditional medicinal plant knowledge and indigenous land conservation practices in North America.”

More here.