Who are we?
Woodpeckers Initiative is a section 8 non profit company founded by Nagesh Anand in 2016. Before 2016 I was working with Greenpeace India on Decentralized Renewable Energy in Bihar as a mobilization Campaigner. Since the inception of the non profit, I have been working in collaboration with Tarumitra Bio reserve in their Tissue Culture Lab at Patna on field mycology research and education. I have also been mobilizing for Climate actions in Patna,Bihar.
Since the Past 6 Months I have been setting up a Popular science mycology research and education center called Prayogashala:Ecology innovation Lab. Prayogashala is an ecology education center where we are conducting various mycological experiments,organizing for local climate action and engaging in ecological emotional resilience through big history.
Mycology research and education:
The general public does not know the great importance fungi have over our well being. From baking bread to making life saving antibiotics, fungi has always helped humans in our evolutionary journey. The Ecology innovation lab aims to educate publicly about the medicinal and healing properties of various fungi and deepen our collective understanding of the Ecology we live in. We want to teach students about working with fungi to heal their local ecologies. We also want to start a local microscopy club for students to explore and understand the amazing world of microorganisms.
Ecologically fungi are more similar to humans than plants. Fungi being in existence for more than a billion years,has evolved into a keystone species for human evolution too. We need to learn ways to work with fungi to solve issues of ecological restoration and healing of the planet. We are also in alliance with Symbiotic Lab,Auroville to work on fungal degradation of plastic waste using Aspergillus Tubensis,a fungus with the capacity to degrade plastic into organic material.
We are replicating Paul Stamets mycological experiment on increasing honey bee’s immunity against Colony Collapse disorder using Ganoderma Lucidum extract. In 2014, Paul Stamets teamed up with the Dr. Steve Sheppard, entomologist and head of the Washington State University APIS Molecular Systematics Laboratory to investigate the potential benefits of exposing honey bees to certain species of fungi. In the initial set of experiments, fungal extracts were fed to bees to determine their effects. The preliminary results suggest that extracts of certain polypore mushrooms can increase worker bee longevity and reduce viral burden.
Researchers suspect the nutritional support from fungal extracts is playing a significant role in improving bee health. The sugar syrup bees are typically fed is high in calories but non-nutritious, lacking phytochemical and micronutrients. Fortifying this syrup with fungal extracts provides a wide assortment of B vitamins and other myco-nutrients critical for bee health.
This particular experiment if replicated in India would strengthen the research on mitigating pesticide induced health hazards in Honeybees and remediation in this regard.
Developing ecological emotional resilience through Big History:
What is Big History?
Big History is the attempt to understand in a unified, interdisciplinary way; the history of cosmos ,earth,life and humanity. We at Woodpeckers Initiative have been engaging in Big History of Fungi, especially it's role in shaping us up in earth's evolutionary development. We have developed an audio visual experience called the Cosmic Walk. A poetic narration of the entire scientific History of the universe,spanning 13.8 Billion years ago to now. It is a remarkable earth ritual celebrating the overwhelming capacity of earth to harbor life.
We have been developing this framework to incorporate nature as one of the integral part of one's existence. We believe that for people to bring real tangible change into the workings of the world,they truly need to understand that they are one with nature,or simply put they are nature. We believe this understanding needs to be experiential in nature not intellectual. We have created this audio visual experience called cosmic walk in which we narrate the scientific history of the entire cosmos in 20 minutes. There are 32 real scientific events that happened in the history of the universe which made us who we are. In a 140 feet spiral these 32 points are mentioned. When the narration comes to that particular point we light a LED candle there. We have induced this experience in more than 1500 people since February this year.
We implement Big History perspective ;especially Cosmic walk as a medium to develop ecological emotional resilience into Kids and adults alike. In today’s consumerist world there is a great sense of alienation towards the natural world. We believe that in order to create a sustainable group of young climate activists,it is utmost important to reduce this alienation and instill a sense of hope for our shared future. We want to expand our sphere of influence for greater climate action.
Our Cosmic walk has inspired Climate activists in Prague,Czech Republic to conduct their own Cosmic Walks and move for greater Climate action and ecological resilience.
Mobilizing for Tangible Grassroots Climate action and Political environmental Mobilization :
Tangible Climate Action is need of the hour and we are failing at it badly, Cities like Patna has been reeling with Air Pollution for quite some time with Average AQI being at 360 and beyond. Drastic deforestation in the city has made matter worse.This year just before the Patna Floods on 20th September 2019 Prayogashala with Tarumitra organised a Climate Strike Week mobilising for political action for Climate Change. We did a city wide consultation on 20th and in the subsequent week mobilised 5 decentralised climate strikes at different Colleges and institutions in the city. The City wide Climate Strike week ended with a Climate Strike March of 400 young climate activists from the city making their voices heard for the planet. If we get more resources we would like to further strengthen the Climate activist network in Bihar and work more strongly towards political Climate Mobilisation for the upcoming Assembly elections next year.
Vlog for the Climate Strike on 20th september 2019 at Gandhi maidan,patna:
Video from the Climate strike March held on 27th September 2019.
Specific activities with timelines:
- Month 0-3 Lab Upgradation
- Month 3-9 Experiment on using Ganoderma lucidum extract as immune booster against colony collapse disorder for honey bees
- Month 3-9 Exploratory study on degradation of plastic waste using Aspergillus Tubensis (a fungus with the capacity to degrade plastic into organic material)
- Month 4-11 Mycological Experiments (Pleurotus spp. Mycoremediation and Habitat restoration)
- Month 3-12. Educational Mycology workshops with school students,College students about mycorestoration and Fungi and it's important role in habitat restoration. Organise training workshops for Gourmet Mushroom Cultivation.
- Month 0-12 Big History engagement through Public Cosmic Walks and weekly Climate Activist Meetings.
- Month 0-12 Grassroots Climate Action Political Mobilization For upcoming Assembly elections.
A Mycology research and education lab would enable students and researchers to conduct various experiments on ecology and deepen their understanding about the natural world. Especially the experiment on Mycological solutions to increase longevity, improve immunity of honey bees and the habitat restoration project using Pleurotus spp. would be vital to ecological research and would immensely help in Honeybee habitat restoration.
The world we live in is an ever changing world,without innovative solutions to our existing ecological issues ,we wouldn't be able to solve them. Mycology is one such innovative field of study that could generate viable solutions to some of our eminent environmental issues at hand.
Fungi is being used to degrade plastic,clean our ecosystems,extract heavy metals. They are also being used as sustainable building materials. We would want to work on these aspects of fungi.
Furthermore we would want to continue our engagement with Big History and Grassroots Climate Mobilization In Patna. We want to invest in creating a robust Climate Activist Network in Bihar for greater Climate action.
We don't have any funding right now. Most campaigns are being run by donations by volunteers and friends. We are having issues with recurring costs for running the Innovation Lab and other campaigns we are involved in. We are actively looking for Grants right now to fund our ongoing projects.