Everything I Need to Know (about Saving the Earth), I Learned from Star Trek


So last September, my wife was out of town for a few days, the dogs were spending the night at the doggie day care, and I was taking advantage of the time to get a jump on the online Calculus class I’d signed up for a few weeks before. My mind wanders less when I have some background noise, so I was streaming episodes of the original Star Trek TV series on my laptop. I’ve seen most of those shows hundreds of times over the years, so I wouldn’t be too distracted by them while I tried to reacquaint myself with trigonometry.

But my mind still wandered, mainly to the “Cove” in Taiji, Japan, where the dolphin killing season had recently begun, but also to the beaches of Namibia and the ice floes of Atlantic Canada, where seal pups are mercilessly slaughtered every year. I thought about dying sharks lying helpless at the bottom of the ocean, discarded after having their fins cut off for the sake of a bowl of bland soup. And I was haunted by pictures I had just seen of majestic manta rays, taken from the ocean for the myth that their gill rakers can be used to cure just about any ailment.

I’ve been trying to get the word out about issues such as these for the last couple of years. But I was already starting to think that my information tables at the usual green/vegan/animal events just wasn’t enough. Preaching to the choir. I had to find a way to reach a wider audience.


What is the limit of a function? Is it continuous? How do I use this graphing calculator?! My eyes were crossing. Then I heard these words: “If it is the only survivor of a dead race, to kill it would be a crime against science.” I clicked the Netflix tab in my internet browser to see what I was missing. An unseen creature had been killing off workers in a mining settlement on an alien world and the U.S.S. Enterprise had been called to investigate. In this scene, Mr. Spock, the Vulcan science officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, was commenting on a plan to hunt down and destroy it. The words struck me like a lightning bolt. It seemed so obvious…

For my whole life, Star Trek has been a strong influence. In fact, my earliest memory is of watching the show on television. The power of Star Trek has always been in its ability to present social issues of the present day (the 1960s) in ways that made them seem possible to solve. War, overpopulation, racism, sexism. How would we relate to alien civilizations? In this particular episode, our heroes are presented with a creature that is extremely dangerous and, unlike many of the alien races seen in science fiction, so physically different from humans that we would find it difficult to relate to it. In the end, Mr. Spock establishes communication and negotiates a mutually beneficial peace.

Humpback_tumblr_m58wh2Cbi11rwfi1wo1_1280Now completely distracted from my studies, within a few hours I had the beginnings of a plan and a name for my new non-profit organization. “Friends of George and Gracie” is a reference to the two humpback whales who played a critical role in the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In the film, the Earth is doomed to watery destruction in the 23rd century unless the crew of the starship Enterprise can resurrect an extinct species of whale by traveling back in time to the late 20th century (before we hunted them all into oblivion). The concept of the film was brilliant—we need the whales to save us! In fact, we really do need a healthy ocean to survive. As just one example, although the rainforests get all the attention, the vast majority of the oxygen we breathe is produced by phytoplankton in the ocean.

So, great idea, but how can I use it? Although no one can say exactly how many Star Trek fans there are, it’s safe to say that there are millions. They come from all walks of life—a wide variety of religions, political parties, sexual orientations, socio-economic classes. An episode of Star Trek or one of the eleven films is on television somewhere around the world every hour of the day, and there are fan clubs in dozens of different countries. Although there plenty of people who enjoy the show in a casual way, many fans find great inspiration in Star Trek and its vision of a better future, in which the human race has overcome many of the problems that plague us today. In fact, from the beginning, Star Trek fan clubs have included a public service component. These people believe in a brighter future and wish to play a part in making it happen.

If I can tap into this enthusiasm, perhaps I can get all kinds of new people to start thinking about protecting and respecting the ocean. So with a small, but growing, team of volunteers, we’re taking our message to the Star Trek conventions, Comic-cons, and Sci-fi expos. We’re designing a line of T-shirts that we hope will appeal to this audience, as well.


But the Star Trek angle is only part of the story. I’m a strong believer in the power of film to move the spirit. So I intend to hold design_1.2_8x11screenings of films about our ocean in actual movie theaters to attract a general audience.

Our first event is a screening of A Fall From Freedom on 28 March 2013 at the Lakewood Theater in Dallas, TX. This 2011 documentary exposes the cruelty of the captive dolphin industry. Tickets are on sale now, and the profits will benefit Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project. If you’re in the North Texas area, we hope you’ll join us for the film and a Q&A with Humane Society’s Senior Scientist, Dr. Naomi Rose. But if you can’t make it to the screening and still wish to help, we still need donations to help pay for the event. Donating is easy and secure through PayPal. Any amount is greatly appreciated.


Whatever your feelings about Mr. Spock, we hope you’ll join our mission, because


Our Future Needs the Ocean.



A Fall From Freedom screening:


Our Fundraising page:


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