SYMBIOTIC FUTURES is a project that presents a vision of the future exploring the language of trees through fungi and live in symbiosis with the forest. The vision is expressed through fictional tools that might one day allow us to listen to the communication between trees. Understanding this communication may help us improve our relationship with the environment and improve environmental health.
We are living in the Anthropocene, the current geological age in which we humans have a dominant impact on the climate and the environment. The disconnection of humans and the rest of nature is an essential part contributing to our planet’s destruction. This disconnection has to do with the concept we have of nature. The concept of nature is not objective or neutral. It is socially constructed, a specific cultural model and thus different across cultures. If stories of human exceptionalism brought us to where we are today, might stories about living in symbiosis with nature bring us to a better future? 
This project explores one of those stories through speculative design.

Trees communicate with each other through mycorrhizal fungi. Fungi have networks of long threads hidden underneath the soil called mycelium. Through these networks, fungi can pass resources and signaling molecules between trees. Studying the relationships and communication between trees and fungi can also tell us about the health of an ecosystem and provide knowledge about the complex relationships that form the ecosystems we are part of. 

Future Context - The Netherlands 2035 - Living in symbiosis with the forest

The Netherlands 2035
We understand the world in a different way. Through exploring the language of nature, we know more about the complex relationships that form the ecosystems we are part of. We are re-growing nature to reduce the consequences of the climate crisis. Foresters play an essential role in collecting data and improving our environmental health. Foresters: People who care for, look after, and protect the forest. In the interest of the forest. The forester does everything possible to understand and communicate with the forest in order to educate and inform society.
The main exploration in the forest include:
1. Which trees are communicating?
2. What might are they be saying? 
3. What might that mean?

Short film

Science - Communication between trees through mycorrhizal fungi

Trees communicate with each other through mycorrhizal fungi. Fungi have networks of long threads hidden underneath the soil called mycelium. These networks form the internet of the forest. Through these networks, fungi can pass resources and signalling molecules between trees. The trees provide the fungi with 1/3 of its carbon and fungi give the trees the nutrients it needs such as phosphorus and nitrogen. One tree can be connected to many other trees and can for example warn neighbouring trees about an aphid attack. Looking at the relation and communication between trees and fungi can provide information that can be used as a bioindicator. For example, the amount of species of mycorrhizal fungi connected to one tree can tell something about the level of pollution in the forest. 
Tool #1 would be attached to trees. Through different points on the tree the tool would trace the incoming and outgoing communication of the tree. It would show which trees are connected and whether the tree is sending or receiving information.

Tool #1

Tool #2

Tool #2 would be plugged into the mycorrhizal mycelium hotspot that is connected to the trees that are communicating. The detected signals would be transformed into a soundscape that could then be heard and recorded.

Impact Studio #1: The talkshow about impactful design - At Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam

The GID podcast where we talk about speculative design and a future in which we live in nature instead of on top of it hosted by Paris-Anne O’Shea.