Toxic Totalitarism - Scars and Shadows of the Epidemics and Contaminations
Elias Hakalehto, PhD, Adj. Prof.
CEO, Finnoflag Oy
Vice President, International Society of Environmental Indicators
Published on 22nd of July, 2021
It is now the third time since early 2020 that the seven-day average of the global cases of COVID-19 exceeds half a million (according to the NY Times). Such previous uphills in the curves occurred in November 2020 and March-April 2021. The cycle is there regardless of the vaccinations or the warmer season in the Northern hemisphere. It is an indication that the pandemic episode is not over or not even about to vanish by any means.
Moreover, the figures above indicate the new cases only. According to the New York Times (July 20, 2021), action groups like "Covid Survivors for Change" have been established. Their very existence implies the high prevalence of "long Covid" (in some estimates, 50% of the recovered) among us. These emerging reactivities of the citizens also illustrate the inadequacy of the healthcare system or the society to cope with the consequences of the global pandemics.
Currently, at the same time as there is a viable and increasing risk of novel variants or complications of COVID-19, we struggle with the lowered health status of the population. As well as with the issues of the exhausted health care sector. All these factors contribute together a long shadow of the coronavirus, which most likely will also grow much bigger than the viral epidemic itself.
Viruses leave their mark on the cellular and tissue level as the epithelia are wounded, and weakened immune defences are also caused. This could initiate new bursts of syndromes and cause less unpredictable symptoms, diseases and new epidemics. - As societies, we should be alerted and prepared for all this, even though the current efforts to mitigate the pandemics seem to take the lion´s share of the resources.
Consequently, and most logically, we would need more resources to cope with future threats and win the battle against the current health crisis. And to soften the emerging crisis in the environmental health sector with devastating social, economic and political toll. Any irresponsible action in the current situation will lead to a downside in our joint capabilities as societies to survive future challenges.
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The versatile effects of the pandemics resemble intoxication. Human metabolism requires energy, but it also needs biochemical building blocks. The distinction between catabolism and anabolism is surprisingly near the corresponding activities of the (prokaryotic) micro-organisms. They are so close that the mutagenicity of various substances can be monitored by the Ames test using Salmonella bacteria as the indicator organisms.
Harvard University Press republished an eye-opening monograph in 2013, namely the book by Dutch microbiologists A.J.Kluywer and C.B. van Niel, "The Microbe´s Contribution to Biology" (original publication date January 1, 1956). This book illustrates the ways how micro-organisms react with their metabolism to the changes and conditions they encounter. In that sense, we are very similar to them. Actually, in the body system, our tissues react together with the microbiome to these circumstances.
As such, our tissues are vulnerable to foreign substances or infectious particles alike. They can be pathogenic, mutagenic or carcinogenic. Moreover, they may strain our immune system in such a way, which will provoke disturbing long term effects. - And we are in the same boat with the entire global ecosystem. Therefore, the overwhelming toxication of the environment should be restricted most resolutely. During the critical times, we should now be most alert, active, and with determination to stop the environmental and population-level accumulation and turn it into the circulation of substances.
We could harness microbes into this fight for ecological balance. We have seen many times how they could eliminate or eradicate the hazards. This could take place in the case of industrial side streams but also natural ecosystems. This could lead to ecosystem engineering applications (see the chapter by E. Hakalehto and E. Dahlquist, "A Microbiological Approach to Ecosystem Services", in the book "Microbiological Environmental Hygiene edited by E.E. Hakalehto and published by Nova Science Publishers Inc., N.Y., the USA in 2018). The entire field was somewhat initiated by accident in the oil-drilling platform "Deepwater Horizon" in the Mexican Gulf in 2010. At that time, everyone believed that the entire ocean area would be destroyed, but the microbial communities prevented the worst scenario of the spillage.
Similarly, the human microbiome could repair health damages, provided that it is in good condition. However, our modern lifestyle is causing myriads of compromising effects on the self-healing capacities of our system and our environment. The land, air or sea cannot tolerate limitless toxication. Therefore, we need to develop entirely new thinking and technologies to keep ourselves clean and healthy and clean up our surroundings with the help of microbes.