Tucsonans could learn some valuable lessons from 'Star Trek'

Dateline: May 8, 2009.

The lights dim. Voices hush. Anticipation rises. Upon the silver screen, a picture of the Earth appears. The camera pans left, and a spaceship comes into view. It's not just any space ship. It's the Starship Enterprise, ready to take us into the final frontier.

Fasten your seat belts, everyone: The new Star Trek movie is upon us.

Since its beginning in September 1966, the franchise has become part of the cultural lexicon, in part because within each Trek movie, series and storyline, there's wisdom that can be applied to everyday life.

In anticipation of the upcoming film, I'm going to apply Trekisms to some Tucson events and decisions, boldly going where no one—er, at least this column—has gone before.

Upon examination, we have both stars and black holes in our desert frontier.

To seek out new life and new civilizations ...

Tucson was proclaimed the astronomy capital of the world. We take pride in our dark skies, so we can do the Trek thing and peer into space. So I have to wonder why the Flandrau Science Center is going to close. Yes, budget cuts. But isn't there a more logical solution than closing a planetarium in a town known for astronomy? Black hole.

The needs of the many outweigh ... the needs of the few ...

Perhaps some of our City Council members missed the classic scene in which Spock sacrifices himself to save his crew in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Were those who voted to fire Mike Hein truly looking out for the needs of the many? Black hole.

I will not sacrifice the Enterprise.

When faced with the Borg (an enemy civilization made up of advanced humanoids) overrunning his vessel, Capt. Picard stood firm and uttered these words in Star Trek: First Contact. Some questioned his logic, but others admired his courage. Let's hope that those in power will fight with a little Picard gumption to save the downtown revitalization efforts. Rio Nuevo doesn't need to go into a black hole.

A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all (the 18th Ferengi Rule of Acquisition).

For those not familiar, Ferengi are beings from the planet Ferenginar. They are short, bald, have big ears and love to make money. For them, life is all about making a profit.

So I have to wonder: Is professional baseball made up of Ferengis in disguise? We were fortunate to have spring training in town this year. Will Tucson fans be sold out for money in the future? This is a potential black hole.

My friends ... we've come home ...

Throughout the Trek series and movies, home has been a golden destination. From returning Spock home to planet Vulcan, to bringing whales back home to the Pacific, and the Voyager crew trying to get back home to Earth, there's always been a thread of the old adage, "There's no place like home."

As reported in "Caffeinated Crusade" (April 16) and "Roasting Revolution," (Feb. 8, 2007), Café Justo is a coffee grower cooperative in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico. Partners in the United States and Mexico are working together so that farmers can earn a good wage and stay on their land. This is a logical solution "to address one of the root causes of labor migration from Mexico to the USA." Mexican farmers can stay home and make a good, honest living. Stars.

Live long and prosper.

While this is a greeting from one being to another, I'll apply it to the environment. Our area boasts a number of organizations fighting to help planet Earth thrive. The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sky Island Alliance and CEDO: The Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans are some examples where people blend intelligence and passion to help our surroundings prosper. Stars.

To seek out new life and new civilizations ...

Congrats and plenty of stars to the folks at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory for the successful mission of the NASA Phoenix lander to Mars last fall. Since 1960, our local scientists at this UA lab have been on the cutting edge of space exploration. Pretty impressive.

Look around, and you'll see that more stars and black holes abound. At this junction in Tucson history, we are hitting some cosmic bumps with budget problems, layoffs and closings, but the potential for a positive future always exists. That's been part of the Star Trek message for 43 years.

Gene Roddenberry said it best: "Humans are capable of so much more than we yet understand. We're really something. Star Trek fans believe that, and so do I. For us, no limits."