Posts Tagged ‘STEM’


Since I was allowed to stay up late on Tuesday nights as a little gapher to watch the re-runs on CBC, Star Trek has been a part of my life. The stories, the social commentary, the inclusivity, the knowing of a better future to come. Watching as the technology I have seen on the screen has slowly and then rapidly become a reality. Think of what our Smart Phones (even flip phones) are like communicators, and sometimes tri-corders (and the body scans we can do now, like their med-beds), during C-tine, our video calls I do feel like asking for hailing frequencies to be open on screen. As each new era of the first book of my life emerged, readers know certain stores have resonated from the original, to the Next Generation to Deep Space Nine (DS9) to Enterprise to Voyager, enjoying Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks (looking forward to Prodigy and Strange New Worlds). Yet it is the underlying theme of all belonging, and freely being able to pursue one’s passion as purpose that resonate at the core of the storylines.

Which is why, as this section moves towards a close, this Reading Week as an instructor has been intriguing for what has come into my feeds. Clicked on Crave to watch the next episode of Season 3 of Discovery, and there was a documentary “Woman in Motion” about Nichelle Nicholls (who originated the character of Uhura) and her work with NASA.

I encourage viewing for everyone, but I also encourage discussion and dreming after viewing. The documentary shares the story of Ms. Nicholls, whose Dad never believed in the word, can’t. She shared of being a teenager, and singer with Count Bassie’s orchestra. How the lead singer, a sultry siren, was no longer there, and she got the nod to take the lead imitating her predecessor during the set. At the end, Bassie came to her, and bluntly asked what she was doing? As well, to knock it off, she had actual talent, so sing. Could you imagine the same advice being given to a young woman in the music industry today?

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The story of her beginning to work with Rodenberry with a role on one episode of his show, “The Lieutenant” around racism, that was so controversial it has never aired. What began that day though was a friendship of deep discussions on importnat issues of justice. Rodenberry promising he would have something for her. What was that? In a show idea known as “Wagon Train to the Stars” that would become Star Trek. The character? One Ms. Nicholls would help name, Uhura, and create. For the command crew of the Enterprise, represented the mosaic of humanity plus a Vulcan. Though during the first season she would see her role continue to shrink to a simple catch phrase “hailing frequencies open” to the point of resigning. It was during this time, at an event, a fan wanted to meet her. She was tired, and did not want to, but the hosts kept pushing, The Fan- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the message, you can’t resign. The retort, who are you to tell me how to run my career. The rationale by Dr. King, it is the only show he allows his children to watch, that he makes time to watch with his children. She stayed, an African American Lieutenant, the commander of communications.

The story shifts to the convention era, where she met a person from NASA, as they were moving from the Apollo era to the shuttle era, and Ms. Nicholls, once again challenged the norm, for she pointed out she could not see herself in the astronauts. A visit to NASA revealed the rainbow that made space flight possible, but the actual astronauts had a selection bias, and there was 4 months left to go in recruiting for the program…and Ms. Nicholls was hired, one caveat, she did not want to be a mascot. She took in astronaut training so she knew what she spoke about, she also did not have NASA folks with her when she went on her recruiting talks, filmed her PSA’s for television and radio. 4 month, criss crossing the country, receiving threats of harm when she spoke out, challenging the military recruiting process, as she recruited civilians (and those in the military overlooked) to thousands of applicants to the first 35, adn the friendships she cultivated in there to the Challenger in 1986…\

But her message was simple, she saw something that wasn’t right, and wanted to make it right.

An underpinning of Star Trek, in spite of the Prime Directive. Striving for IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations), a true courageous space for inclusivity. To move beyond the societal “isms” that were explored in Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode “Beyond the Stars” where Sisko, is back in time as a writer in the 1900s:

Sisko was the writer Benny Russell, who the readers believed was white. The world was very much polarized by colour, at least in the powerful money hands. This is the world that the bridge of Uhura challenged. This is the world that Star Trek in its IDIC continues to challenge, while cultivating critical and ethical thought processes.The shared extended metaphor of Bajoran-Cardassians, in the age of Reconciliaiont, of Settlers-Indigenous. And inspiring folks to discover their passions and pursue them. This is how I shaped the episodes and movies to be used in my teaching with youth and young adults, from exploration nights in youth groups, youth centres, young adult studies, discussion nights, oh and one fun confirmation cycle. It was a pleasure on Friday February 19, 2021 during a video conference out of Costa Rica linking the world (very Trekkie) to be able to thank one of the actors, who states she is a storyteller, Nana Visitor (played Major Kira Nerys in DS9) for the stories that inspired and have been used to inspire so many.

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A friend and former colleauge in journeying with those in life recovery and exiting homelessness to home, is now at home in Costa Rica cultivating his own passions around space exploration and community building as a teacher. This was a conference part of TEC. The exciting news that kicked off was Costa Rica adopting their own Space Agency (after a long history of working with NASA, and some excellent books co-authored by my friend, Bruce Callow). Their initiatives around education and STEM that has seen them in schools outside of Costa Rica (including Calgary), and having cameos with the books at the last Vul-Con before c-tine (and as rumours/bills from the Town Council of Vulcan the last focused event such as that).

We then shifted to an incredible and inspiring talk by our storyteller. Ms. Visitor shared about those great moments of entering The Flow. That is that moment when everything aligns, and it no longer feels like struggle or work, just going and what amazing things happen within a team when that moment is realized by a team. I have had the pleasure of experiencing those moments in my own writing and teaching, but also in community builidng and spiritual direction with the teams and communities we were a part of, an dyes it is powerful. The challenges thrown out that the way work is done needs to change, understanding work as a person with nothing outside the work is unhealthy and wrong. We need to cultivate a world that allows for healthy balance with work and life, and watch the miracles roll out, just think we have gotten this far with the broken system, how much farther could we go with an unbroken system?

Of course, there was talk of the power of representation within Star Trek, Ms. Visitor sharing when she first read the character of Kira, she thought it was a man, because rolls like that did not exist in the early 90’s for women. And when she found out it wasn’t, she wanted it. She shared on her Women of Trek project, interviewing the actresses who have played the powerful roles. The hope of Ms. Nicholls health holding so after c-tine she will be able to interview her in person for the book/documentary. This was one of the greatest moments, as there was the allusion that inclusivity also involves mental health and disabilities for pursuit of passions. As the character of Tilly in Discovery was brought up, for she is brilliant, yet can be crippled by anxiety, and she is important to show, that we can still be who we are in experiencing the world, and chase our passions.

Which leads us into a reflection for this first weekend of Lent,

If inclusivity was the norm

If you could live your dreams/passions

Who would you be?

*Guess what– that’s who Creator made you to be.

For more on Nana Visitor, read Bruce Callow’s article here.

My Facebook message after the event:


Ok I admit I do love an incendiary editorial title. It grips you, but it also should get you to question accepted norms. We are an entrenching and/or entrenched ideological society. In 21st Century Canada with the accumulated human wisdom and knowledge literally available on your smart phone, that is sad. The algorithms do not allow you to have your own held beliefs challenged which allows for more tribalism than before exploration.

Which is also why in the 21st century we are still wasting time dickering over the believability of the science of climate change (formerly global warming). Yes, the climate of the earth is constantly changing (anyone who holds to old earth theory—you know actual science not creationism-literalism) knows there are cycles. What has been observed and recorded since the Industrial Revolution is that our actions as humans is speeding up the process. It may not become a problem until my great grandkids, but something needs to change. One cannot continually consume without their own body getting ill (hence old Roman Empire Vomitorium’s) and the same it is for ol’ Mother Nature. Indigenous peoples have held the wisdom to look at decisions as they affect 7 generations down the road, got advice to heed as we look at caring for Mother Earth and Father Sky.

And before those of the Abrahamic-Sarah Covenantal religions (Judaism-Christianities-Islam and all that encompasses) by-pass me as some science not spirit individual. Nope. In the creation stories, God gave creation to Adam & Eve as caretakers, much like each new generation entrusts their lives, and the lives of their grandkids to their kids (reading the ancients stories through a psycho-social lifespan development is quite enlightening). But I digress.

The latest call to arms is banning plastics for the harm it is doing. This months United Church Observer is all over it, the British PM at G7 is attempting to get that group on board, and locally Councillor Druh Farrell is talking about it as well. Great sound bites, sounds all fine and good. But it is much like the old prohibition days (remember under SoCreds when liquor service had to stop in Alberta air space? Moose Jaw, SK know where those tunnels came from? {and yes I realize one set was a human atrocity against Chinese slave-labour brought over to build our railroad, I am speaking to the Capone one’s)}. It was a short-sighted solution for a societal ill that failed. It looked at the symptom not the cause, and that is where the current environmentalist fever is.

Plastics are a symptom. It is not the cause, any elder of the war years knows recycling and re-use better than anyone. Any one from Gen X or younger was inundated with the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We know it, but it is not wisdom, like what is available on your smart phone. It is paid lip service, and we do our due diligence with the blue and green bins, but are we doing more than treating the latest open sore from the bar room brawl?

Have we invested properly in STEM to look at better ways of converting existing (currently in Calgary, encased in concrete sarcophagus,) waste into cleaner forms of energy and matter? Explored how to recycle more of what we use more expertly? How do we create something out of once use plastics?

But better yet. How do we tackle a true western world disease of over consumption? I used the term classist in my by-line because we are chastised for needing to reduce consumption quite a bit, and it is usually targeted to the working classes, where the wealthier get opt outs, or ways around or the tried and true, well they have money so of course. Want to know the last time I bought a new cell phone? Well mine is still a flip phone. Last television? Christmas 2017-as the flat screen I inherited died after 9 years, before that? 2001 with my first cheque for being a pastor, others before that were used or passed down. New vehicle? Uhm my family has had 3 mini-vans, all older, all kept going until they needed to go to the recyclers… clothes, worn and donated, and yes I know they don’t end up in the landfill because I am usually also one of the ones giving them out (though it was funny when someone thanked me for finally becoming charitable and giving).

The wrong classes are being targeted with the reduce message, but it will not change under a system created to sell products where things have to be upgraded constantly to keep economies floating. A message that your value is not in who you are, but in what new toy you are able to get. Where there is no international standards, so laws used in some countries whole companies can go elsewhere and create worse pollution scenarios by having their products made their and shipped back.

It speaks to a system that has to admit, it takes all jobs to make an economy work, and there is no shameful work. That the classist system is the highest consumers, and discarders of product are the ones that need to be targeted, not the lowest consumers.  That we need to invest in our STEM future and find ways to reclaim polluted waterways, soils and air…as well as cleanse and reuse the already buried wastes. That is useful environmentalism.

City planners that allow city growth to outstrip resourcing for healthy public services-including transit, shoppes, and schools so you are forced into a driver commuter scenario, extra monetary burdens come as work is never within your own area either. Municipalities need to take responsibility for feeding the consumption dragon by not setting appropriate limits, and ensuring key infrastructure for citizens on those areas can be reached via more than one modality (i.e. not just by driving the country mile urbanly– yes City of Calgary I am speaking to you).

Yet I also touched upon the word ABLEIST. What is that? Simple, discrimination against persons with disabilities. In darker forms, it is eugenics. The breeding practices of live stock brought to creating the perfect human being through selective breeding, abortion, and homicide (passive or active) to remove the weak from the gene pool. And yes, in the more social media ends of the world from any movements extreme this still exists (left or right, ya both raise idjits).

And I see signs of ableism within the neo-environmentalist movement. There is an assumption everyone can use public transit (does not take into account ruralism); or walk/bike (does not take into account clear pathways and connecting points for ones mobility devices). Does not take into account that something needs to be figured out for medical waste, and that includes incontinent products. BUT…

And this one is not going to make me friends. The single use straw, the current “evil” to be banned. Well, hate to burst the progressive or conservative, it is a useful tool for a person with disabilities to get liquids. As one twitter convo pointed out to me, the paper ones can create choking hazards. Reusable ones become breeding grounds for bacteria (have you ever tried to truly get one sanitary and clean?); and metal/stainless steel? C’mon does that sound like a safe thing in the cold or with a hot bevvie?

What continually seeking the greatest soundbite reminder has done in the movement is create a constant chase of symptoms. It has not encouraged growth, respect, understanding, inclusion or belonging for all those in the human family with the creation we share. That is where neo-environmentalism is failing. I yearn for a movement that moves beyond the simple, to truly attack at the core issue of the crisis… over consumption, and anything for a profit mentality over the sanctity of life.

We are the caretakers of creation for our children, and six generations on. Can it survive our consumption? Are we willing to get production slowed so all can come along safely? Are we willing to call out the over-consumer? Are we willing to not shame the one who needs something for a life aid?

Are we willing to be one another’s neighbour and not adversary?