Energy management – A lesson from Biology

Human beings do lots of manipulations with Energy – Energy generation,conservation,diversion,storage etc etc. But we can not claim to do these tasks as efficiently as nature does! Here is why it is so:
The history of active energy generation by humans dates back to mid 19th century when the petroleum fuels were discovered. Ever since then there has been a frenzy of activity all over the world starting with USA who led our way to overexploitation of this natural wealth with greed! In fact till 1950,USA was like Saudi Arabia of today,supplying the fuel to Europe and other nations. The decades that followed showed very clearly that we as humanity exhibited excessive greed which resulted in tremendous wastage,poor planning lacking in foresight and poor conservation of oil and energy. I will write more on this in a subsequent post. Here I will only limit myself to how our biological systems have shown the way for us to follow.
Life on our Earth started with single celled organisms which were basically bacteria,Algae etc. The single celled organisms ruled our planet for virtually 4 bilion years with no other trace of life as these cells did not evolve at all beyond the rudimentary level. Once – just once in 4 billions – these single celled organisms gave rise to a multicelled organism. From then on there was no looking back. They evolved(during the last 750 millions of years) in complexity to several species of plants,animals,humans etc. Multi cellular species were initially loose communities consisting of a few hundreds of single celled species. But soon they understood the advantages of bringing together billions and trillions of cells under one roof or umbrella. The metaphorical umbrella or roof consisting of trillions of interacting cells may appear as a dog,donkey or a human but they are merely an assemblage of highly organized cells. What are the advantagesof banding together,one may ask. It is an excellent mechanism for survival and growth. The survival of a cell depends upon its awareness of its environment. As more cells come together their collective awareness of their surroundings increases exponentially. While a single celled organism uses its surrounding membrane as its brain reacting to its environment,a highly evolved life such as humans have delegated this function to an elaborately developed neurons and brain cells. Further,cells have divided the work in such an efficient manner that each cell performs a specialized function. Besides,the cells need to expend a certain amount of energy for survival and growth. And this energy is carefully budgetted and conserved as the cells live in a larger community. Yes indeed; they do carry out energy budgetting in the same sense that we understand budgetting. For example,it was estimated that roughly 75% a cell’s total energy budget is accounted for by protein synthesis(it may be noted that proteins are the micro machines which make biological life possible). A multicellular community is akin to human urban colonies who live as a community in apartments in a large cooperative houses. And what is the power house in a cell? It is known as MITOCHONDRIA which converts glucose we consume into useful energy through respiration. The multicelled oraganisms have also developed ingenious ways to distribute the enegy and other nutrients to various cells(or parts of the body)through circulation of blood. There is also clever manipulation and control of blood circulation depending upon urgency of requirement. To give an example,if our brain senses a danger outside which requires running away,then our harmonal system takes over and through a complex process pumps more blood through legs and arms to provide urgent need of energy to those parts. When the danger subsides,the normal distribution of energy and nutrients is restored.
In other words,multicellular life has evolved wonderful mechanisms to generate and store energy,distribute and control energy as per requirements.
In contrast,human beings are inefficient at all the above tasks. We produce energy from sources which are not renewable and bound to get depleted one day. We also expend energy in a number of careless and irresponsible ways showing very little concern for conservation. This is because of our greed. Due to greed,we have overexploited fossil fuels to produce petroleum and petrochemicals. We are polluting the air we breathe,the water we drink and causing global warming through green house gases. We created an unsustainable life style which has led to low quality of life in all respects.
Energy is a complex subject to understand by itself. But if one introduces human GREED into the equations,the complexity becomes all the more difficult to handle!


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. great article!

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