Once upon a time there was a planet called Vertopia. This planet was all green, full of forests, and clean seas, rivers, and waterfalls, and was inhabited by elves. They were lots of tiny, kind-hearted elves with sharp ears, who loved green forests and fresh air. They were used to live in such a clean environment, that life in a polluted place would be unbearable for them.
One day, three female elves from this planet, Sabi, Christi, and Eri, decided to visit other planets. Sabi, Christi and Eri were good friends from school, who loved spending time all together, doing creative things. The three of them wanted to see other planets because they loved seeing new places, learn new things, make new friends. Such a journey would give them the chance of having these wonderful experiences.
So, the three elves packed things such as green blankets, drawing sheets, coloured pencils, toys, cookies made out of herbs, and juice made out of limons, a yellow fruit from their planet that looks like lemon, they got on their flying peapod, and their journey had just begun.
The first solar system they found on their way was ours. They were really happy to find a solar system, but they were a little bit undecided about the planet that they would visit. They needed a planet with green; and no planet seemed to satisfy that need. Pluto was too dark, Jupiter was made out of gases, Mars was too rocky, Venus was too dark…Christi was disappointed.
“Girls, is it me or we cannot find a place with green to stay? Should we move on to another solar system?”
“Indeed! We have been searching for hours and no planet seems to have even a tree!” Eri said.
“Don’t give up that easy, girls! I see something interesting down there!” Sabi said, and she was right! A planet that seemed to have forest and seas appeared. This planet was Earth.
“That seems interesting! We can go there and stay in a forest!” Eri said.
“I have a better idea!” Sabi said. What about staying in a place where Earth inhabitants live? As far as I have read, most of them don’t live in forests, which mean that if we go to a forest, we will be all by ourselves!”
“I fully agree!” Christi said.
“Me too! I can’t wait to meet people from Earth, and become friends with them!” Eri said.
After deciding that, the three elves landed their pea pot on a street of a big and very busy city, somewhere in the Southern Europe. What they saw, though, terrified them: There was hardly any green! There were box-like residences all over the place, dark grey streets, and lots of weird colourful vehicles on four wheels, passing by, speeding. The elves couldn’t believe it:
“What is all this? It looked like much better from above! I can hardly breathe!” Eri complained.
“What is that material that is all over the place? We need to find something green as soon as possible!” Christi said.
“I think it is cement! I have read that this material is very popular in the cities on Earth…” Sabi said. “However, if we won’t find a green space soon, we’re going to die out of suffocation! Our lungs cannot stand all this pollution coming from cars!”
“Cars? What does this mean?” Eri asked.
“Do you see all these strange machines that carry people from one place to another? These are called cars, and they pollute the air in the cities here, on Earth.”
“This is terrible! But why the so-called human beings insist on using such machines that destroy the place where they live?” Christi asked.
“I don’t know…they think that they are convenient, while they pollute and occupy so much space! I mean, look at the streets! They are full of cars that are stopped here and there, limiting the space for people and green places! This occupation of space is called “parking”, I’ve read…”
“Parking? It sounds like “park”...” Christi said.
“I hope it was like this. But when people on Earth say “parking”, they mean the place where a car is stopped. I knew that we were going to find all these things in cities on Earth, but I didn’t know that it would be that bad…we do not know even where to live here!” Sabi said.
“I was thinking…what about taking one of those “parkings”, as you say, and turn them into a real park? If the words “park”-“parking” are similar, why not make the places similar as well? Eri said who really liked puns.
“That sounds lovely!” Christi said. We can take over one “parking” space and turn it into a park, with the things we brought from our planet!”
“That’s a brilliant idea, girls!” Sabi said. “And I know what parking space we are going to take…”
She pointed a vacant parking space with a small tree next to it.
“A tree! Yay!!!” Eri shouted.
“Let’s park our park there!” Christi said.
The three elves went to the parking space and started to work. They spread their green blankets all over the place. They spread toys on the blankets, including their flying pea pot. They added some small chairs they have taken with them, some little pots with plants from their planet, the drawing sheets and the coloured pencils in a basket under the tree, and in another basket, the cookies made of herbs they had brought with them and the bottles with the limon juice. Their little park was ready!
“The park is ready and it’s great!” Sabi said, enthusiastically. “We are going to stay here all day long, and welcome whoever wants to join us from the inhabitants here!”
The elves started talking, drawing, playing, and enjoying their cookies and juice in the park they created. The people, who were passing by, either as pedestrians or car and motorbike drivers, were starring at the park with puzzled expressions. Some students approached the park:
“Hey, what are you doing here?”
“We parked a park instead of a car in this parking space. Would you like to join us?”
“Sure! This looks cool! We’ve never heard something like this before!”
“Probably because something like this never happened in your planet before!”
“Our planet? Where do you come from, girls?”
“We come from a planet called Vertopia; it belongs to another solar system, far away from yours.”
“Er…girls, are you sure that you’re ok?”
“Oh guys, come on! Join us, get to know us, and you’ll learn everything! But don’t be prejudiced!”
The students - two boys and two girls- were confused, but they decided to join the elves and learn more about them and the idea behind the park they made. The elves explained that they come from a planet called Vertopia, they explained that they are used to live in nature, and that they were greatly disappointed to find out that in the cities on Earth green hardly exists, while cement buildings and cars are plenty. Then, they said, they decided to make a little park, equipped with objects from their planet and park it in a parking space instead of a car, since they needed a green space to stay in.
“Their idea is not bad, actually” one of the girls said. “Just think about all this space that is occupied by cars in our cities. Each city would be a better place if all this space was green, and available to the citizens for playing, relaxing, and socializing.”
“Indeed” one of the boys said. “A car is often driven by only one person, and the space it occupies for that person is far too big! So, why not use that space for more people?”
“For more people that would have the chance to come closer to each other, than be isolated because of a machine!” the other girl said.
“Don’t forget that cars are not problematic only in terms of socializing. They emit large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere, contributing to climate change” the second boy said.
The elves and the students had a great time in the park together. They had discussions, they made drawings, they relaxed, and they enjoyed the treats from the elves’ planet, which they thought they were delicious! In many cases, pedestrians were asking information about the little park that came out of the blue on a busy street. The elves, along with the four students, were explaining how important is for our cities to dedicate more space on places that are green and promote joy and friendship, than on machines. Most of the people were happy with the idea, and they were pleased to see something like this going on.
However, there were some cases, when people were negative towards the idea of parks instead of parking places. This kind of people was greatly represented by a lady, who approached the park with some kind of disbelief:
“What are you doing here, guys?”
“We park a park instead of a car on a parking space, madam!” Sabi replied.
“A park…do you seriously believe that it looks like a park?”
“And what is the concept behind it?”
“That our cities would be better if the space that is used for parking cars was green and used by people” one of the girls replied, offering a cookie with herbs to the lady.
“Well, this sounds ridiculous, if you ask me” the lady replied, pushing the cookie away. Cars are a part of our modern civilization. We have to use a car in order to move around the cities. My car allows me to go wherever I want and owning a car means more prestige, than being a simple pedestrian or riding a bike.”
“Yes, but what about the fact that the cars are related to the climate change?” one of the boys asked.
“And what about the fact that the car means isolation, since a big enough space is used by only one person?” Eri asked.
“Well, I don’t mind” said the lady. I enjoy driving my car, I am a fan of technology in general, and I am in favor of more and more parking spaces available for our cars! Have a nice day guys, and please, be careful with that park, you are almost sitting in the middle of the street!”
Since she left, Sabi, Christi, and Eri where a little bit melancholic. One of the boys said:
“Don’t allow people like her to let you down! Unfortunately, there are lots of people with such mentality in our planet.”
“I am afraid that there are too many of them” said Christi. If there were more people like the four of you than the ones like the lady we met, your planet would be much greener.”
The students didn’t talk. Nobody talked again about that incident by the end of the day. They decided that this would not destroy their wonderful day in that little park. When the night came, the elves started packing their things up.
“Why are you leaving guys? Stay one more day!” one of the girls said.
“Unfortunately we can’t, my friend” Sabi said, “We need to look for other solar systems and explore them!”
“We had a great time with you” one of the boys said, “I wish we could do such a thing again!”
“You can” Eri said, “we’re not probably going to be around, but you can continue what we did today.”
“What do you mean?” the other girl asked.
“What is the date today?” Christi asked.
“September 21st” the girl replied.
“Well, from now on, every year on September 21st, you can create a little park on a parking space, on a busy street. You don’t have to create a “perfect” parking; something like what we did today, a place with a little green, some seats, some toys, and some treats. A place where you can spend some hours by relaxing and socializing, coming closer to your friends and reminding to people that your world would be a better place, if you valued the environment and the human contact more than the “convenience” of a single person.”
“That sounds great!” one of the boys said. “Little parks on the streets every year!”
“Yes” Eri said, “You will both raise awareness and remember your friends from Vertopia!”
“All aboard!” Sabi shouted. “Goodbye my friends! And remember: Take care of your planet! If you, as individuals, do not do something to protect the Earth, nobody will!”
“We will girls!” all the students shouted together. “Goodbye! Come again to Earth!”
“Goodbye guys!” the elves shouted, as the pea pot was ready to fly “we sure will!”
The flying pea pot was flying higher and higher, until it got vanished. The students were now about to continue, on a yearly basis, what they started with the elves: a day that parks will be more in the streets than cars. About the three elves, they continued exploring other solar systems. Who knows, maybe a planet somewhere needs their help!