by Sam Gandy
Humankind has had a profound impact on the ecology of the planet since our rise to dominance, becoming masters in shaping the world around us and bending nature to our whims. Many plants and fungi have grown strong associations with our species. Although unable to move, plants have managed to exploit animals into pollinating them and spreading their genes far and wide. Animals are again exploited in the movement of plant seeds and fungal spores, so as to spread their influence further. When Man enters this picture, things become yet more complex.
Through our long term association with plants and fungi, we have discovered a vast array of species we consider valuable for a multitude of different reasons; as foods, building materials, medicines, poisons and intoxicants. Any species we deem to be of value have tended to benefit in our association with us, by our spreading them far beyond what their range would otherwise be, and often by our manipulation of the surrounding ecology to provide them with optimal habitat while markedly reducing their competition with species we find less favourable.
Grasses have done very well through their association with Man. The domestication of grasses such as rice, wheat, oats and maize lies at the foundation of human civilization around the world. These plants, in effect, domesticated us by causing us to largely reject a hunter-gatherer existence in favour of a more sedentary, agricultural based life, and allowed higher numbers of people to live within closer proximity to each other than they could before. We have chopped down forests and altered our surrounding ecology to an incredible degree to provide habitat for our favoured grasses at the expense of many other species that share the biosphere. These grasses included the species grown for food, as well as grass pastures which sustain our livestock. From these grassy habitats have emerged some powerful and important psychedelic fungi.