Fritz Haeg on the Delawning Movement

Question: What is the delawning movement?

Fritz Haeg: The edible estate project is something I started in 2005 and the title of the book which just came out is “Attack on the Front Lawn.” So, it has a in Thailand subtext I suppose. From the beginning I have been really interested in using very strong words in my propaganda for the project that was provocative and in the case of Attack on the Front Lawn those words, those very strong words actually were inspired by the first sentence of Jane Jacobs book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” in the first sentence of that book is this book is an attack on contemporary urban planning something... but it’s a very provocative in your face for a sentence that really grabs you in, it really pulls you in to the rest of her story which has to do with rejecting the way things are going and proposing alternatives.

Question: Why are lawns environmentally unsound?

Fritz Haeg: Like you talk lawns in general my project is narrowly focused on the front lawn, because I do think there is the place for lawns, I think on my work I like to create place for diversity and create place for a lot of different ways of doing things, because I think there should room in the way we operate for a lot of possibilities, a lot of alternatives and I like to welcome all of those. I think any practice or discipline or work or architecture designer that says there is only one path, there is only one way to do things. I think already you know is flout and I think it that’s mentality that I am fighting in all of my work, really I think. So, edible estate gardens are way to welcome and encourage diversity and welcome an encourage self expression in ones private property. You will be a growing you own food in your front lawn, but maybe that just that one actual provide license for other people to think about how they are using their private property. Maybe think of using in the ways that are more in keeping what they believe in, but back to the ;lawn in particular the front lawn is this really loaded space I think. As an architect I think a lot about space and how we occupy it, how we take the land that we occupied in our cities and how we can use it in a more thoughtful way. So, the front lawn is this space that often is completely unused, which is almost entirely symbolic, which sits between our private homes and our public streets. There is obviously all these social issues wrapped up in that, what is that mean that we surround ourselves with this space that we don’t occupy that’s this mode or this buffer between us in our communities numebr 1. Number 2 it is this space that depending on where we live, what climate we are in, we dump a fair amount of fresh water on it that then it is immediately polluted by the chemicals that we put in it which washes into our water supply and then there is this active weekly mowing which pollutes the air very effectively, even more effectively than a car does. So, we are looking at a polluting resource wasting socially alienating space. Its ridicules, really when you think of it, if you list all of the properties of this particular space, especially of the front lawn, you just realize its how ridiculous this space is that even really inhered that we keep pending down generation to the next out of habit really and its only really been so thoroughly embedded in our practice of occupying space for the last 50 or 60 years, so hasn’t been that long and if you look back to before the 40s or 50s before the suburban boom and before the mass housing construction, we where not so manacle about the way we groomed our property or the way we landscaped and actually before that we had pretty broad movement of victory gardens during the wars that were strongly encourage by the federal government with so many of the farmers of toward there was a real concerted effort to have Americans grow some of their own food on their own property, but as soon as the war ended that movement dry up almost immediately. So, that whole tradition and knowledge base of growing food in any particular region that was handed down generation to the next, was last...

 

Recorded On: 3/10/08

It all grew out of "Attack the Front Lawn."

Photos: Courtesy of Let Grow
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The surprise reason sleep-deprivation kills lies in the gut

New research establishes an unexpected connection.

Image source: Vaccaro et al, 2020/Harvard Medical School
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We don't have to tell you what it feels like when you don't get enough sleep. A night or two of that can be miserable; long-term sleeplessness is out-and-out debilitating. Though we know from personal experience that we need sleep — our cognitive, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune functioning depend on it — a lack of it does more than just make you feel like you want to die. It can actually kill you, according to study of rats published in 1989. But why?

A new study answers that question, and in an unexpected way. It appears that the sleeplessness/death connection has nothing to do with the brain or nervous system as many have assumed — it happens in your gut. Equally amazing, the study's authors were able to reverse the ill effects with antioxidants.

The study, from researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is published in the journal Cell.

An unexpected culprit

The new research examines the mechanisms at play in sleep-deprived fruit flies and in mice — long-term sleep-deprivation experiments with humans are considered ethically iffy.

What the scientists found is that death from sleep deprivation is always preceded by a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the gut. These are not, as their name implies, living organisms. ROS are reactive molecules that are part of the immune system's response to invading microbes, and recent research suggests they're paradoxically key players in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling as well. However, having an excess of ROS leads to oxidative stress, which is linked to "macromolecular damage and is implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging." To prevent this, cellular defenses typically maintain a balance between ROS production and removal.

"We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation," says senior study author Dragana Rogulja, admitting, "We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death." The accumulation occurred in both sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice.

"Even more surprising," Rogulja recalls, "we found that premature death could be prevented. Each morning, we would all gather around to look at the flies, with disbelief to be honest. What we saw is that every time we could neutralize ROS in the gut, we could rescue the flies." Fruit flies given any of 11 antioxidant compounds — including melatonin, lipoic acid and NAD — that neutralize ROS buildups remained active and lived a normal length of time in spite of sleep deprivation. (The researchers note that these antioxidants did not extend the lifespans of non-sleep deprived control subjects.)

fly with thought bubble that says "What? I'm awake!"

Image source: Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock/Big Think

The experiments

The study's tests were managed by co-first authors Alexandra Vaccaro and Yosef Kaplan Dor, both research fellows at HMS.

You may wonder how you compel a fruit fly to sleep, or for that matter, how you keep one awake. The researchers ascertained that fruit flies doze off in response to being shaken, and thus were the control subjects induced to snooze in their individual, warmed tubes. Each subject occupied its own 29 °C (84F) tube.

For their sleepless cohort, fruit flies were genetically manipulated to express a heat-sensitive protein in specific neurons. These neurons are known to suppress sleep, and did so — the fruit flies' activity levels, or lack thereof, were tracked using infrared beams.

Starting at Day 10 of sleep deprivation, fruit flies began dying, with all of them dead by Day 20. Control flies lived up to 40 days.

The scientists sought out markers that would indicate cell damage in their sleepless subjects. They saw no difference in brain tissue and elsewhere between the well-rested and sleep-deprived fruit flies, with the exception of one fruit fly.

However, in the guts of sleep-deprived fruit flies was a massive accumulation of ROS, which peaked around Day 10. Says Vaccaro, "We found that sleep-deprived flies were dying at the same pace, every time, and when we looked at markers of cell damage and death, the one tissue that really stood out was the gut." She adds, "I remember when we did the first experiment, you could immediately tell under the microscope that there was a striking difference. That almost never happens in lab research."

The experiments were repeated with mice who were gently kept awake for five days. Again, ROS built up over time in their small and large intestines but nowhere else.

As noted above, the administering of antioxidants alleviated the effect of the ROS buildup. In addition, flies that were modified to overproduce gut antioxidant enzymes were found to be immune to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.

The research leaves some important questions unanswered. Says Kaplan Dor, "We still don't know why sleep loss causes ROS accumulation in the gut, and why this is lethal." He hypothesizes, "Sleep deprivation could directly affect the gut, but the trigger may also originate in the brain. Similarly, death could be due to damage in the gut or because high levels of ROS have systemic effects, or some combination of these."

The HMS researchers are now investigating the chemical pathways by which sleep-deprivation triggers the ROS buildup, and the means by which the ROS wreak cell havoc.

"We need to understand the biology of how sleep deprivation damages the body so that we can find ways to prevent this harm," says Rogulja.

Referring to the value of this study to humans, she notes,"So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Even if we know staying up late every night is bad, we still do it. We believe we've identified a central issue that, when eliminated, allows for survival without sleep, at least in fruit flies."

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