The Lifestream is a river of spiritual energy coursing through the Planet and is considered to be its "blood." The Lifestream is also considered to be a swell of souls, a river of the dead's memories. The Lifestream is, in fact, the sum of all living things on the Planet. In the game's universe, each new life (of plants, animals, and human beings) is "blessed" with spiritual energy from the Lifestream prior to birth. Upon the organism's death, its spiritual energy returns to the Lifestream, taking back with it the memories of its lifetime, and allowing the Lifestream as a whole to grow and the cycle to continue. The Lifestream is extracted and processed by the Shinra Electric Power Company, creating Mako energy for electricity, and also for condensing into Materia. Mako may also be considered a real-life equivalent for oil, as in the game it is described as being removed from the Planet by Mako Reactor, used up, and then ceasing to be. However, its mutagenic properties, the fact that its energy is produced in reactors, and its controversial nature suggest that it is symbolic for nuclear power. In the game, the Mako extraction is a process that would eventually lead to the Planet's death.
Mako as an Energy Source
Mako is the most common source of electrical power on the Planet, with coal a distant second. The process of power generation via Mako was begun by the Shinra Electric Power Company, based in Midgar. Mako extraction and its usage is considered environmentally unfriendly, and the rebel group AVALANCHE actively attacks Shinra's Mako Reactors in hopes of ultimately stopping the process.
Mako is thought to be similar to radioactive materials in that prolonged exposure can lead to genetic mutation, poisoning, and ultimately death. Living things, both plants and animals, that have been over-exposed to Mako, can suddenly mutate. Monsters can be affected by natural Mako springs that well up from the soil, or, lately, monsters have been produced through Shinra's experiments. People (notably those in SOLDIER) who have had prolonged exposure to Mako are identified by a glow in their eyes, referred to as "Mako Eyes." Besides its electrical uses, the elite Shinra task force, SOLDIER, is made up of operatives who are biologically augmented by Mako.
Members of SOLDIER are not only infused with Mako; they are also injected with Jenova cells, an experiment created by Professor Gast, one of Shinra's scientists. Jenova's cells together with Mako gives the members of SOLDIER far greater strength and cognitive ability than ordinary people possess, provided they are mentally strong enough to handle the Mako infusion process without suffering from Mako poisoning. When this procedure is taken too far, the subjects turn into monsters.
Besides its other uses, Mako, in various forms, is also found in weapons used by Shinra. The Junon Mako Cannon uses a variety of Mako shells. As Materia, Mako has been employed by some of Shinra's Turk operatives who wield it in their weapons, and members of SOLDIER are able to synthesise their own custom Materia. In addition to the energy resource and weaponry allocations of Mako, the Shinra corporation is also developing Mako-powered cars for civilian purposes.
Exposure to Mako in its concentrated form can be dangerous to humans and typically results in a psychological disorder known as "Mako Poisoning" or "Mako Addiction". When one falls into the Lifestream, or is exposed to Mako for an extended period of time, ones identity and personality are phased through by the millions of souls and their memories coursing through the Lifestream. Immersion of this level can induce a near catatonic state.