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Contours of Coastline - Time and Timeless History

LED Stories

Elias Hakalehto,PhD, Adj. Prof.

Microbiologist, Biotechnologist

CEO and inventor, Finnoflag Oy,Kuopio, Finland (1993- )

Founder of the EnvironmentalSection (1983) of the Student Union of Helsinki University

An Alumnus of the UniversityCollege 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 8th of September,2023)

Photo: Shetland Islands

When Robinson Crusoe drifted open seas and to the shores of his desolate island, he for some time wandered and gathered his living close to the ocean that had taken him to his new home as a castaway (Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. William Taylor, London, 1719). He most likely did not theoretically know about the "edge effect" but was fully exploiting it. Moreover, he was a solitary survivor without a companion until he met and made friends with a local fellow human being named "Friday", according to the day they met.

The inland mountains and rain forests were the background scenes or stages in this masterpiece of world literature. - Correspondingly, any borderlines between habitats or ecosystems favour more versatile lives, as the individuals may utilize the resources of both spheres as well as the gradually changing or gradient forming intermediate milieus.

Microbes "know" this order of living in natural surroundings intrinsically. Or instinctively, it is in their genes and very beings to search for their most suitable niche. Consequently, their communities are the richest and most versatile on the interphases. - Therefore, overgrowing (in cell numbers) often leads to the search for new habitats or "horizons". Then, they may detach their anchoring mechanisms based on fimbriae or other outer cell organelles. This sets them free to get loose to "navigate" onto new sites for attachment.

Motile bacteria have a combined sensor system and method for cellular movement using the flagellar tubular structures extending from their surfaces. These structures can propel either clockwise or counterclockwise to facilitate the movements of the cells. As they can detect the gradients, this movement leads them to the favourable conditions or away from the less beneficial ones. With their sensors, they observe the changes in the parameters of interest. The flagella change their rotation method or sense when the gradient indicates an undesired direction. Consequently, the cells make an arbitrary 90-degree turn and repeat this until the bacteria find the highest concentrations of their desired nutrient, for instance.

But after his shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe could not make any decisions, but the winds and ocean streams determined where the waves would carry him. - As Humankind, we are also drifting on the sea of biologically and socially global influences on this macroscale. These effects have accumulated and accelerated. But they are interrelated. In a democratic political system, it is pretty common to have a change of direction or replacement of powerkeepers after the elections. In the first version of "Robinson Crusoe" (chapters 19 and 20), Defoe wrote his hero to be crossing the Mountains of Pyrenees in Winter conditions and fighting against 300 wolves (see also the picture below, Small shepherd's shed in the Spanish Pyrenees not far away from Ainsa).

Most interestingly, we can deduce that any change of direction in the invisible world of bacteria and other microbes in the microcosm influences their very small or "microscopic" part of the development of the global ecosystem. If microbes could have human senses, such as vision and inner consciousness, they could see and know the direction. But they depend entirely on their randomized built-in compasses and their instructions to the flagellar steering and propelling mechanisms consisting of molecular pulleys and gearwheels. - In the wildest imagination (but probably quite realistically), myriads of movable bacteria in their niches and ecosystems, to a surprisingly high degree, determine the course of macroscopic ecosystems in this world.

During our history, there have been numerous cases when a group of people or even entire nations have been obliged by the circumstances to set the sails or otherwise initiate the crossing of some real or imaginary wilderness. They have packed up their belongings to find a new homeplace. The Vikings used "sunstones" to navigate. Some evidence carved on rocks in, e.g. Iceland, implies the origins of Vikings and several royalties of Europe) to be the Kvens (or Qwens) of Northern Europe. The Roman historian Tacitus (in year 98) wrote about Sitones, who had women as rulers in that Europe. Adam of Bremen (1075) wrote about Terra feminarum ("Women's Land"). It told that in 890 AD, a Kven adventurer sailed along the British coast from the Orkney Islands to the South of England and met Alfred the Great w, the first Saxon king of England. As the visitor told about Kvenland (or Qwenland), a country in the North, where many leaders were female, this made King Alfred use a new word, "queen", in the English language. Many scholars think that Kvenland was undertaken by the Kven people of West Finland, who carried their 12-meter-long boats across Central Sweden to the Norwegian Trondheim area around the year 350. According to some genetic analysis, many famous Viking chiefs like Erik the Red and Rollo of Denmark had kven genes, Wilhelm the Conqueror, and Robert The Bruce of Scotland. 

We live at the crossroads of time and space, so it is often believed. Any influence on the circumstances around us presumably takes time to get expressed. However, on the microscopic scale, it may not be like that. Microbes react in "no time" to any changes. In that sense, any past effect does not disappear into meaninglessness but has a measurable impact on the current situation or ecosystem. It just requires insightfulness to record the vibrations. 

People's movements often result from looking for better places to sustain their livelihood. During the global excursion given to us, it is relatively easy for us humans to overlook or dismiss animals or plants (or agriculture) and their factual contribution to our daily lives. Besides this contribution, they represent our contact surface to the functional ecosystems. These aspects are often neglected in our technocratic and self-absorbed idea of life. Moreover, even in a more pivotal role are both good and evil micro-organisms. They have often shaped our individual lives and communities both shortsightedly and in longer terms.

The biosphere is defined, and all the parts of it in togetherness, with the forces compellingly directing us from where or when our boat detached the land behind us. We are more or less Robinson Crusoe of our lives. The more lonely we are, the less we respect our fellow humans or beings or even the democratic principles of our societies. Keep this in mind when meeting your "Friday" next.

Photo: Vicente Serra.
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