Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, are both novels that demonstrate a perfect utopian society is not possible. In these stories, human self-actualization leads to the discrepancies and downfall of societies deemed dystopian. The human gut microbiome can be compared to a city struggling to be utopian. Unfortunately, there are too many environmental and genetic factors at play for this city to be considered perfect, as it is with every dystopian story. I have depicted this comparison in my steam project. On the left side, we can see a diverse microbiome environment thriving happily. The right side is facing the dilemma of parasites, inflammation, and a lack of diversity. Although the negative effects may not occur all at once, their impacts can be similarly devastating. They have been placed side-by-side to demonstrate the differences between a healthy and unhealthy gut microbiome. These differences occur due to the different levels of variation each experience.
Every individual’s gut microbiome is as unique as their genetic makeup and the environment they reside in. The quality, stability, and diversity of one’s gut microbiome have been connected to the method of infant birth, gene expression, antibiotic use, diet, and more (Kim, et al., 2019). Most of the microbes that reside within the human gut are in the small intestine, where most nutrient absorption occurs after food passes through the stomach. A lack of diversity in the gut has been linked to many diseases, including obesity, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), and nutrient malabsorption, all of which can reduce the quality of one’s health and life. The chances of these diseases forming begin as early as infancy when early-life imprinting of microbe community formation occurs during and after birth (Caroline, et al., 2020).
Unfortunately, these diseases have a higher chance of development in individuals experiencing socioeconomic problems. Those experiencing poverty may struggle to sustain a healthy and variable diet required to maintain a diverse microbiome. This can cause serious digestive and inflammatory issues within the digestive system, as a diet low in nutrients can provoke the growth of harmful bacteria (Harrison & Taren, 2017). If these bacteria are more prone to expressing genes that promote obesity, individuals struggling with these dynamics may be at serious risk for chronic disease (Singh, et al., 2017).
A utopian society strives for balance by providing members with equal opportunities and resources. If a society succeeds in being utopian, then socioeconomic problems would not exist, as there would be balance and order. Why, then, do they tend to collapse? The arousal of self-actualization usually occurs due to a realization of some higher power orchestrating said equal opportunities and resources. If management were left to the masses, chaos would ensue and may lead to the fall of civilization as we know it. Thus, our modern world has created the societies we know and live in today. Our gut microbiome struggles with the same issues, only we, the hosts, are the management trying to sustain balance. Our sustainability is affected by many societal and environmental factors. Just as utopias are almost impossible to maintain and sustain, so is the balance of our gut microbiome, especially when facing genetic, socioeconomic, and environmental variation.

One Comment

  1. The human microbiome is unique to each person, just like the DNA of individuals. The largest portion of the human microbiome is in the small intestine, and it is the most diverse. This diversity is important to our health, and the prevention of diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s Disease, and Obesity. These diseases have a high chance of developing when there are problems socioeconomically and environmentally. Those in poverty may struggle to maintain a healthy gut environment due to a lack of nutrients and the prevention of unhealthy bacteria. Here, we depict the gut microbiome as a society, where a healthy gut microbiome is a utopian society where there are no socioeconomic problems, and an unhealthy gut microbiome is the collapse of a utopian society. The collapse of a utopian society or healthy gut microbiome can lead to inflammation, and a struggle to return to a balanced society once it is destroyed. Our modern world has the cities we have today and avoids utopian societies falling due to self-actualization, and that management is left to the masses which leads to chaos. The gut microbiome experiences this, as we the hosts try to sustain balance in our gut microbiome through nutrients, but it is hard to maintain as we have different variations. These different variations can lead to a collapse, which is why a balanced diet can benefit us and our gut microbiome.

    Amelia Dell

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