Elias Hakalehto, PhD, Adj. Prof.
CEO, Finnoflag Oy
An Alumnus of the University College London, U.K. (Biochemical Engineering)
Vice President (Europe and Africa), International Society of Environmental Indicators
Lifetime Fellow Member, International Society of Development and Sustainability (Japan)
(Published on the 25th of January, 2023)
Our chances to intervene in life are always limited, and humans should always be cautious when dealing with natural balances. But we often get the biological or living systems harnessed to manipulate our reality in a better direction. This is possible as long as we respect life and its rules.Progress could happen in many disciplines, such as food production,environmental improvement, health maintenance, ecosystem engineering, novel bio based products etc. It is the requirement of Nature that should set limits for our activities, not vice versa.
In a biochemical process, one prominent sequence of events is the presumed or dominant metabolic or chemical pathway in the prevailing conditions. Any alternate course of reactions may hardly get initiated, like a bucket almost full of water can hold its contents, although a little may get splashed out. Such minor liabilities do not cause significant losses or side reactions usually. The bucketful of water could, in principle, get moved to the desired location. Metaphorically.
Process development in biochemical industries is and should be based on ecological concepts, such as balance, niche and succession. We often have our study objects in a process fluid droplet, amplified into millions of droplets in the production entity. The central aim of process control is to maintain homogeneity and optimal productivity. Then we can put into work the tremendous and spectacular system of enzymatic activities that, on the cellular level, facilitate the smooth running or moving of the reactions in a balanced fashion.
This enzymatic action was recognized in the remarkable work of life by Professor Emeritus Osmo P. Hänninen, who passed away on the 14th of December2022. More than 50 years ago, he published, with Dr Walter Nienstedt, who also passed away last year, the book "Ihmisen anatomia ja fysiologia"(Human anatomy and physiology), which has been the longest-time continuously published Finnish textbook for students ever. We also could highly respect their vital work for the continuum and medical progress. -Prof. Hänninen was one of the International Society of Environmental Indicators' founders many decades ago. He also established the African Association of Physiological Sciences (AAPS) in 1989 in Kuopio, Finland, together with African colleagues. In the extensive work of Osmo Hänninen, a deep understanding of the balances was a leading motif, whether in the case of human body systems or the environment.
The natural microbial communities are good examples of ecological and biological balances. They correspond to how a common intestinal bacterium, Escherichia coli, served as a model system for the natural cell functions and the cells' DNA or RNA or protein chemistry during the early times of molecular biology. In other words, if we understand the mixed communities in microbiology and their dynamics, we could apprehend the fundamental laws of biology and ecological networks. Unfortunately, in today's thinking, it is usually the other way around; micro-organisms are treated like the in explainable multitudes of unit players etc.
In the book "Alimentary Microbiome - a PMEU Approach" edited by the author(Elias Hakalehto) and published in 2012byNova Science Publishers Inc., N.Y.,U.S.A., we wanted to see the microbiological community as an interacting entity with the human body system in many ways, but in understandable cohesion.This happens predictably if this reciprocal molecular communication is inspected and investigated from the point of the microbiome. It will always favor those players who strive to maintain the balance.
This microscopic approach helps us comprehend the concept of ”natural balance",which was in use in the 1970ies. It also relates ecological concepts to building human cultures and societies. For example, this has been most eloquently discussed by the biologist Ilppo Kangas of the University of Helsinki in his writing "The Ecological Movement”. This article was compiled in the aftermath of the course on the history of developing countries after 1945, which was held on 10.-11.8.1978. It also dealt with the succession of cultures in the streams of history. Opposite to the historical timeline measured in years, however, the biological or ecological basic unit is a generation. If we consider the propagation speed of bacterial cultures in the Finnoflag Oy's lab or any other, in optimal conditions, the duration of one generation is 20 minutes. In human societies, it is 30 years. Therefore, it is much more producible to make approximations based on microbiological models than by following the developments of human cultures.
A quotation from Ilppo Kangas:" A society of stabilized development is,however, a sparing one, economical in the use of energy and raw substances.Small production maintains enormous biomass and population. Interdependencies are widespread, and the networks promote the systemic inner balances and attenuate abrupt and mostly undesired changes from the system's perspective. Our world is not currently functioning like this. Neither in the industrialized north nor the halfway developing south." - Indeed,this is the state of affairs globally inhuman societies. And this leads to wars and ecocatastrophes. But, on the contrary, the microbial communities implement the ideals of Mr Kangas astonishingly well. Why could not we learn from these tiny organisms that cooperate much better than we do, regardless of the so-called civilization?
The modern approach for achieving the goals of balanced growth of economies, both in the human and ecological sense, has been sometimes called "ecosystem engineering". The author has written this chapter with the distinguished Royal Swedish Academy of Technology member, Prof. Emer. Erik Dahlquist. For reference, please, see Hakalehto, E. and Dahlquist, E. 2018:"A Microbiological Approach to the Ecosystem Services" (published in "Microbiological Environmental Hygiene",pp.433-474, edited by E.E.Hakalehto for the Nova Scientific Publishers, N.Y., U.S.A).
The Abstract of the chapter above begins with a statement: "Man has always exploited the environment for securing human life and culture. This"tradition" is both embedded into our instincts as well as a mode of behavior and a learnt method of survival in our societies. However,alongside the globalization of the economy, internationalization,industrialization and population growth, the consequences of the one-sided approach of the past have become unbearable for the environment.Consequently, to maintain life on earth in its current form, we should establish new thinking and modes of action. Therefore, the survival strategies for Mankind should inherently contain the strive for sustainability and the tendency to avoid past mistakes and repair them instantaneously whenever possible."
"Furthermore: In the aftermath of the vast environmental crisis, namely the oil leakage from the ”Deepwater Horizon" oil platform well in the Mexican Gulf in theyear2010, it was noticed that the dramatic consequences of the spill were mitigated and the worst scenario of destruction avoided thanks to thecleaning actions of the marine micro-organisms. This was a positive result both ecologically and in an economic sense. It further encouraged the scientists to find and isolate microbial strains which could be used for such operations. Although the natural microflora compensated and mitigated the effects of the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010, there have been observations and concerns about the long-term effects of this ecocatastrophe."
Like thirteen years ago, we should learn from our experiences. Ecosystem engineering capabilities may be needed shortly at unforeseeable levels. These efforts should thus be accelerated to protect our housing and environmental activities, food production, and health prospects. Moreover, the recycling of elements and production of renewable energies with microbes should be esteemed high. We have attempted that in the Hiedanranta bio refinery in Tampere, for instance. Please see the reference as presented at the European Geosciences Union (EGU)General Assembly (Vienna) in May2022(Hakalehto, E. et al. Record level productivity of lactate from a century-old cellulosic deposit on the lake bottom in Tampere, Finland).
We look forward to the truthful allocation of resources for the joint determinatives. This is the only way for societies to cope with future challenges, which will not be diluted. Then a proper understanding of microecology will provide feasible and safe solutions in industries, food production, environmental protection and healthcare. We cannot afford any junk attitudes anymore or falsified measures.