Notes & Quotes on The Mushroom at the End of the World, On the Oossibilty of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
“below the forest floor, fungal bodies extend themselves in nets and skeins, binding roots and mineral soils, long before producing mushrooms. All books emerge from similarly hidden collaborations.”
prologue Autumn aroma
This book tells of my travels with mushrooms to explore indeterminacy and the conditions of precarity, that is, life without the promise of stability. I’ve read that when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, thousands of Siberians, suddenly deprived of state guarantees, ran to the woods to collect mushrooms”.
“If we open ourselves to their fungal attractions, matsutake can catapult us into the curiosity that seems to me the first collaborative survival in precarious times.”
“When Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb is 1945, it is said, the first living thing to emerge from the blasted landscape was a matsutake mushroom.”
“[…] the history of the human concentration of wealth through making both humans and nonhumans into resources for investment. […) Through alienation, people and things become mobile assets; they can be removed from their life worlds in distance-defying transport to be exchanged with other assets from other life worlds, elsewhere.”
“Alienation obviates (removes) living-space entanglement”.
> infos: “Indeed, human disturbance allowed Tricholoma matsukake to emerge in Japan. This is because its common host is red pine (Pinus densiflora), which germinates in the sunlight and mineral soils left by human deforestation. When forest in Japan are allowed to grow back, without human disturbance, broadleaf trees shade out pines, preventing their further germination”.
1950 fossil fuel start replacing wood stove > woodland grow thick > hillside became too shady for matsutake> very rare from 1970’s > price skyrocketed
Chapter 1. Arts of Noticing
1989 > Oregon cut over forest > wild mushroom trade
after 1986 tchernobyl > contaminated Europe mushrooms > Pacific northwest for supplies
“Neither tales of progress nor of ruin tell us how to think about collaborative survival. It is time to pay attention to mushroom picking. Not that this will save us – but it might open our imaginations.”
“What if, as I’m suggesting, precarity is the condition of our time – or, to put it another way, what if our time is ripe for sensing precarity? What if precarity, interdeterminacy, and what we imagine as trivial are the center of the systemacy we seek?
Precarity is the condition of being vulnerable to others.”
“A precarious world is a world without teleology”.
“Progress is embedded, too, in widely accepted assumptions about what it mean to be human. Even when disguised through other terms, such as “agency”, “consciousness” and “intention”, we learn over and over that humans are diferent from the rest of the living world because we look forward – while other species, which live day to day, are thus dependant on us.”
“these livelihoods make worlds too – and they show us how to look around rather than ahead”.
[…] plants live on land because fungi made soil by digesting rocks.”
“the concept of assemblage is helpful. Ecologists to assemblages to get around the sometimes fixed and bounded connotations of ecological “communities”.
“when I first learned polyphony, it was a revelation in listening; I was forced to pick out separate, simultaneous melodies and to listen for the moments of harmony and dissonance they created together. This kind of noticing is just what I needed to appreciate the multiple temporal rhythms and trajectories of the assemblage. “
Chapter 2. Contamination as collaboration
“How does a gathering become a “happening”, that is greater than a sum of its parts? One answer is contamination. We are contaminated by our encounters; they change who we are as we make way for others. As contamination changes world-making projects, mutual worlds – and new directions – may emerge. Everyone carries a history of contamination; purity is not an option.”
“Collaboration means working accross difference, which leads to contamination. Without collaborations, we all die.”
“If survival always involves others, it is also necessarily subject to the interdeteterminacy of self-and-other transformations. We change through our collaborations both within and accross species.”
“The evolution of our “selves” is already polluted by histories of encounter; we are mixed up with others before we even begin any new collaboration. Worse yet, we are mixed up in the projects that do us the most harm. The diversity that allows us to enter collaborations emerges from histories of extermination, imperialism, and all the rest. Contamination makes diversity.”
“Ponderosa, fir, and lodgepole, each finding life through human disturbance, are now creatures of contaminated diversity.
Surpringly, in this ruined industrial landscape, new value emerged : matsutake. “