Emo Bear


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Convert all church parking lots into community gardens (and later all churches into community gardens + food education centres + seed vault)

First of all, look at ALL these churches in just one area: http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&q=churches%2C+new+york

Now do a search on your own town/city.

No matter where you live, there are always a handful of churches within walking/biking distance. Why not think green, walk / bike to church and convert the unused parking lots into community gardens so that non-church-goers benefit as well? That would be a good first step.

And wouldn't it be more intimate if church groups gathered at each others' homes taking turns to host rather than going to a mega church where you don't have time to greet everyone? So hopefully in the future we will see more church goers gather in smaller groups instead and then churches can be converted to community gardens / hydroponic vertical farms / honey bee farms / seed vaults / food learning centres (for kids) benefiting everyone in the community, regardless of age/race/gender/faith/income. That would be a great next step.

If christians / churches can take the lead and do this for their communities, then we may see temples / monastery / mosques doing the same as well.

Take a look at the map again. I believe one day WE CAN grow sooooo much food for everyone and solve our food crisis.

Let's take care of each other!

  • W T

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    Dec 19 2011: Mr. Bear, Do you yourself have a yard on which to garden? Have you ever gardened...planted...watered.....weeded...watered....weeded...weeded...weeded....waited....and then collected the fruits of your labors?

    Men are full of ideas, with no long term vision. If you want me to point out a recent talk on TED that makes my point then go and watch the presentation posted a few days back by David Damberger.

    It's easy to throw out ideas, when you are not the one who will be responsible for its upkeep.

    Gardening with actual food verses flowers and decorative trees is an AWESOME idea. My family has always done it in our own back yard. But we don't go around telling our neighbors, why don't you do the same?

    Also I find your idea to be a bit narrow. When God's son explained how you would be able to recognize false worshippers he said, "Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those men." (Matthew 7:20) I don't think he had in mind that people would be growing gardens on church land, do you?

    Anyways, I find your idea a bit tongue in cheek. If you are serious about it, why waste time here. Why not start attending a church, get to know the people in it, then discreetly and with tact make your suggestions to a few members and see what they have to say....you might be surprised at their answers.
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      Dec 20 2011:  
      I do not have a yard or a garden. I try to hoard as little land as possible and keep my carbon footprint low.

      > Men are full of ideas, with no long term vision.

      That is why we have Version 1.0 of an idea. Failure is understood, analyzed and even celebrated so we can have Version 2.0 of an idea. We have to think of new things to try based on the Scientific Method in order to improve everyone's well-being; even if it means some failures along the way.

      Comparing all this to David Damberger's presentation is unfair because his talk is about NGOs working with developing countries—most of which are half way around the world. They patched the problem up nicely, took some photos and left, leaving them in the dark with no maintenance schedule. But my idea is local and everyone is involved in the learning process and maintenance. We would teach children and adults how to grow food in efficient ways. Plus it would be within walking distance (see map link again in my original message) so we're all right there to maintain it helping each other out.

      I know I have mentioned "community garden" many times. You are probably thinking of soil & fertilizer but I really do want to push new technologies out there instead of focusing on old farming/gardening methods. So check out this video: http://youtube.com/watch?v=EURY89IHOoY No soil is needed for hydroponics and unless I'm mistaken, I do not see any weeds. We can build a much cheaper version of this with solar panels and some Arduinos, stacked much higher.

      If anything we should open our minds and try things out. And if things fail, then we have pushed the boundaries and increased our knowledge and understanding. Not to mention the exposure for others to have an opportunity to improve on ideas.

      Anyway, you can do a search for all the churches that have gone bankrupt in just the past year and read all the silly stories (see the limo one): http://google.com/search?q=church+bankrupt&hl=en&lr=lang_en&tbs=lr:lang_1en,qdr:y
      • W T

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        Dec 20 2011: I don't think that comparing your idea to David's talk was unfair. It's the principle of the thing.

        Anyways, let me share this with you. People do not necessarily attend the church that is near them. They attend where they feel they belong. Many of those who do attend church are the elderly, can't imagine them walking and riding bike to church.

        I honestly feel that by visiting a church and discovering the people who attend will help you get a better feel for how to approach them with your idea. Especially since your idea involves somebody elses property and resources.
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    Dec 1 2011: I would take it a step further and consider some cemeteries to made into gardens.
  • Dec 1 2011: To answer your question:The local mosques were having open houses, and I respectfully asked to stay for services later that day. Ther was no hesitation, and it was made clear anyone was welcome to come and pray with them -- Muslim or not -- any day they have services. When people started flowing in, I recognized different people in the community, local clerks and business people, etc., and they were more welcoming than many churches I've been to, even my own, LOL.

    The interesting thing is that although Mulsims in general -- contrary to the wave of nonsesence out there these days -- have absolutely no problem with "People of the Book" (Jews and Christians), and don't think of them as "infidels". All the angst out there is about Zionism and Western influence poltiically, not religiously. The real beef is between Sunni and Shia, at each other's throats in most parts of the world. However, in America, no one cares whether a mosque is run by Sunni or Shia and everyone goes wherver they want, praying side by side.

    To be honest, though, some Christian Churches (Evangelical in particular) do NOT welcome outsiders except as potential converts. Some are more open than others, and share community projects, etc.. But the "National Day of Prayer" for example, would probably not in any given city invite an imam, and even the rabbi (locally) was a Messianic Jew, not from either of the two large local synagogues.

    My point was that today, especially in America, you may hear particular stories of hate crimes or whatever, but in general most of us just want to get along and are willing to do more than tolerate our neighbors, but become friends.
  • Nov 28 2011: I was in a parking lot the other day where the parking lot was free, full, and people were driving around again and again to snag a spot if someone left. It bothered me that the lot was free. It should have a cost, just to help people consider how much driving actually costs our communities. I'm not bothered if those dollars go to the owner of the property - it's their property - enjoy; however, the more we think about whether driving is free or not, the better.

    As for your comments on churches - that is a good idea; remember though - those buildings are a huge resource for everyone. Here I am thinking about some of our churches that double as homeless shelters, clothing exchanges, and soup kitchens. Slightly less dramatic are the differences that youth programs have on our communities. A parent might be less likely to allow a teen to a strangers home than they are to allow them to go to something that should have (especially now) a great deal of accountability and systems in place to protect those who need protecting.

    In my life, I have heard many many young people talk about the impact that these programs and people have had on their lives. What about window gardens in churches? Not everyone understands the incredibly positive message of Christianity (I certainly get that human beings have been at the root of polluting it with hatred), but when it can be explored in a safe, non-judgemental environment faith can revolutionize lives. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

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      Nov 30 2011:  
      > What about window gardens in churches?

      If we have window gardens in churches, then we would have window gardens in mosques, window gardens in monasteries, window gardens in temples, etc... then it doesn't become the main focus and we would all still be divided.

      Actually, we are SO DIVIDED. When was the last time muslims invited you to their mosque to pray with them? When was the last time you invited buddhists or hindus to your church and join your prayer sessions?

      I don't know whose faith is correct, but how about we agree on reality? I do know that we both agree if you or I don't eat, we die. And the most logical solution is to grow as much fresh food as possible, as within reach as possible.

      So see my reply to Jeremy Hunter regarding Crystal Cathedral (and lots of other churches) going bankrupt. It would be amazing if everyone contributed (think of the Wikipedia model) and convert future dying / abandon churches to community gardens making sure there is food available for everyone.
      • Nov 30 2011: I was invited to a mosque to visit and was welcome to pray with them ... and did. I am a Roman Catholic by tradition. Muslims would be welcome there as well.

        Why all this talk of who is right (as if there must be someone wrong), when so many churches formally acknowledge that truth is found within and without their own groups.

        I almost get from your tone that places of worship are worthless or meaningless compared to nourishing the body, or a drain on the "bottom line" of society. That generalization -- even if one could be rationally made and defended -- indicates a very one-sided perspective or even an ignorance of the meaning and purpose of religion in general.

        No offense is meant by this -- I am only trying to reflect back to you what others may see from your position. Your shift to talking about old church lots is somethign we can agree on. The idea of smaller home-based communities is appealing as well, appropriate for some faiths and not others. But the original post just came off like you wanted to replace religion with environmentalism.

        Some would argue that would be a good thing, and I have no desire to debate that, but targeting places of worship specifically leaves us with a conflict rather than a solution, where they could be taken as the cause and solution to the same problem.

        Hope this makes sense ...
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          Dec 1 2011:  
          Interesting. Was this a one time thing or did the mosque welcome you back anytime? And did your church return the favor inviting muslims to your place of worship anytime?

          Even if worship is worthy and meaningful, I hope you can agree that it still comes second to food. I mean, as a worse case scenario, if things ever get extremely bad in the future and you have to fight your friends and neighbors daily for a little bit of food to not die from starvation—then that would be your main focus and worship would come second.
  • Dec 18 2011: Interesting discussion. Churches serve a purpose in the community as do schools, parks, swimming centers, etc. Not all facilities serve all people nor do they serve equally as some people make extensive use of parks for example and some people make no use of them.

    Personally I'd rather see the mega stores and their parking lots be converted first. Encourage small shops through local planning and tax breaks. Put the stores in neighborhoods where people can walk to them instead of driving. Where people can get what they need for today and not have to have a car to bring home a weeks worth of groceries or other items. Encourage small businesses that have an interest in the community instead of a corporation that is interested in taking money out of the area. Encourage the small stores to buy local produce when possible and encourage people to eat locally and seasonally to reduce food miles. Discourage the use of bottled water. Local councils can put in filtered water dispensers so people can fill up their reusable water containers if they need portable water.

    There are many ideas that could be implemented that would achieve better results than turning church parking lots / churches into community gardens. I love the idea of community gardens. I recently read about community garden swaps where you bring what you've grown and trade for things others have grown. Often times people give away many things they've grown to people that aren't currently growing things. The swaps really build a strong sense of community that is sadly lacking in many areas today.

    Classes on preserving what's been grown would be a big help too. One of the churches in the Atlanta area used to teach cooking from scratch - how to plan a simple meal, shop and cook and serve the meal. Many people don't know how to cook much less grow food.

  • Steve C

    • +1
    Dec 17 2011: Are the dots on the map the same size as the actual gardenable land? (How about getting rid of Rockyfeller Center, etc.!!!)
    I did approach a few churches about gardens on their properties, one wouldn't hear of it - "claimed" they had "no room," (yeah they did). One agreed to growing a couple of fruit & nut trees. And the other wanted to wait till it had some other trees cleared out.
    I agree {with someone - anyone}: mega-churches are just creepy.
    Gardens on schools & graveyards & big-flat-topped businesses are a good idea too.
    I wouldn't want to take running&playing room from the kids, though, (they do not get enough of that). Maybe a vertical garden up the sides.
    ("Great contribution," Nicholas) ((Clicking on that button did nothing))
  • Dec 11 2011: This argument seems a little one-sided. If you were to talk about converting most abandoned buildings or sections of parks into community gardens, that's one thing. But to only say that churches, mosques, etc. should be the only ones to "convert" is just ignorant. Yes, there are a lot of religious establishments that are bankrupt, but what about other establishments like schools? Would you be so willing to turn a school where a few hundred students attend into a garden just because they are bankrupt and/ or facing more budget cuts?

    Plus, where do you fairly separate the "community?" One church garden - unless it's a mega church - cannot possibly feed thousands of citizens in a city that may need that food. And the talk of "everybody's doing it" - how soon would other religious establishments decide to demolish their parking lots and buildings be, IF and WHEN they decide to do it?

    Many religious establishments encourage keeping a storage of food in extreme cases of need and, on top of that, to keep enough for one's own family AND his neighbors. When I was growing up my church would host local canning sessions so that each person that attended - whether or not they were a member of that church - learned how to can their own goods. Many churches do a lot of good for their communities and reach out to those in need. Do not discredit them.
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      Dec 18 2011:  
      I would be fine with replacing an abandoned school with a community garden. It's unfortunate, but it does happen due to budgets—other schools will end up with bigger classrooms and stressed out teachers. But if we do abandon a school, the land should be put to use properly.
      Speaking of educational institutions. There are also many local / community colleges within walking distance and they are NEVER used on Sundays. That means a TON of lecture halls / large classrooms can be rented out for faith gatherings. Make good use of the space.

      A small converted church parking lot can be turned into a vertical hydroponics garden, stacked as high as humanly possible, spaced properly to get optimal sunlight and it can feed thousands. Progress is slow, but we hear more and more about churches going bankrupt, so maybe it's a good idea to sell whatever a church grows in their parking lot to pay for costs before the full conversion of giving away the whole land benefiting the entire community and then taking Sunday services into homes for smaller, more intimate gatherings.

      Of course many churches still do a lot of good, I'm not discrediting them... for now. But when the time comes and people start believing in themselves, letting go of the need to cling their emotional inadequacies on past ideologies and no longer need to go to church, then my suggestion is a good start for a transition that benefits all.
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    Nov 30 2011: This is, in my opinion, a terrible idea Emo...While I DO agree that there is a problem with hunger in the world, it is NOT for a lack of food, it is for a lack of proper distribution of the food that exists! And even if there WERE a food shortage, there is absolutely NO need to destroy churches for a place to grow it; ;just look around! There are MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of acres of land on which to grow crops, if anyone were so inclined. Secondly, the value of churches in a community are immense, as Project Mama pointed out; they are NOT simply a place to congregate and worship God (although in my opinion, that is reason enough to leave them be). I think it's sad that so many people want to 'get rid of God' (or anything that He represents), and I also think that it will be those very same people who will be begging for His forgiveness when the book of Revelations comes to pass!
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      Dec 1 2011:  
      Never said I wanted to get rid of god. Please read my original post again. I suggested worshipers gather in smaller groups; more intimate that way.

      Never said I wanted to destroy churches. Lots of people are leaving the church by themselves anyways and a handful of churches are going bankrupt or being abandoned. I had merely suggested a logical solution. Think of it as a transitional state for communities.

      I drive past 1 large church and 2 smaller churches to work everyday. All 3 parking lots are almost always empty. Those church parking lots might get filled a few afternoons and evenings a week, but many hours of the week, it is unused. And the people who drive there live so close by that they might as well walk or bike. And I wasn't even thinking environmentally at first, more about efficiency and how that space could be used to benefit everyone.

      Yes, there is a lack of proper distribution of food. But if we can grow a ton more food in community hotspots then imbalanced distribution of food will not even be a problem.
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      Dec 14 2011: Good call Tambra. It is true - distribution is the problem. However, in light of the fact that religion is far and away one of the most caustic memes in society today, we have to find something useful for church parking lots and buildings. I don't have any problem with doing this for any abandoned building and for that matter why not put gardens on roof tops and in backyards? But Instead of "preaching" peace once a week how about practicing it and being part of the solution. More action and less talking.
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      Dec 25 2011: I think you're misunderstanding the point of gardening. Don't look at it as a way of increasing food in the world, but a way of educating people. People look up to religions for guidance and leadership. Why not start smart food planning with them? It doesn't just have to be religions; go to businesses and other places as well.
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    Dec 27 2011: I assume you're not just throwing this out as something someone else should do. All your idea needs now is action. So go ye forth and do this:

    1. Locate churches that are willing to sell their parking lot. (Everything is for sale, at a price.)
    2. Gather together pledges and loans sufficient to buy the lot. (If you're aiming at N.Y. that'll be a pretty penny.)
    3. Form a legal association that can own the lot. (You deserve to be CEO.)
    4. Buy the lot. (You're now deep in debt.)

    Then, of course, there's Phase B, the growing and distribution of food. (That shouldn't be hard ...)

    That's all there's to it. Didn't take but a couple of minutes to write the business plan.
  • Dec 1 2011: Bear, that does make sense, but not everyone would choose food over the intangibles. In the old days there were people who would rather go without a meal and buy a newspaper or book to read. It also reminds me of the Russian scientists during the revolution who gave up their own water rations and almost died trying to protect a seed bank of endangered regional grains for future generations.

    Sadly though, most people rather be fed, and it is the cause of so many totalitarian regimes rising to power. A Vietnam vet and professor I knew said in the end, they didn't care about Communism or capitalism -- the only thing that mattered was "Rice-ism"....
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    Nov 28 2011: This would be a beautiful concept. Many ekklesia unfortunately are more than half a dozen people, making home churches difficult. Also, how do expect disabled and the elderly to arrive at these churches on bicycle? Someone is going to need to park. Maybe reduced parking, but a little extreme to just do the whole thing. But I understand your sentiment. I think the big glass modern megachurches would be great for plant growing and apiarist communities.
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      Nov 29 2011:  
      Keep a few parking spots then for those who truly need them. Even better if houses across the street / nearby offer their driveways on Sundays.

      It would be pretty amazing to see the Crystal Cathedral converted to a community garden. They're bankrupt anyways, so might as well do something that will benefit everyone.