Sonic Sea Panel Discussion on Maritime TV

Sonic Sea Panel Discussion on Maritime TV

Fortunate Blessings Foundation and the Weeden Foundation co-hosted a community screening and panel discussion of Sonic Sea in Litchfield, Connecticut.  Sonic Sea is a documentary about the impact of industrial and military ocean noise on whales and other marine life.  It tells the story of a former US Navy officer who solved a tragic mystery and changed forever the way we understand our impact on the ocean.  The film is narrated by Rachel McAdams and features Sting, in addition to the renowned ocean experts Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Paul Spong, Dr. Christopher Clark and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Sonic Sea was produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Imaginary Forces in association with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Diamond Docs.  To learn more or find an upcoming screening near you visit

The panel discussion further explored current issues in marine ecology and conservation and how we can all get more involved to protect ocean and marine life.  The video of the panel discussion can be viewed in this blog post and directly on Maritime TV here.  

Panelists and moderator included:

  • Paul Anderson, PhD, Research Scientist at Mystic Aquarium
  • Peter Auster, PhD, Senior Research Scientist at Mystic Aquarium and Research Professor Emeritus in the Department of Marine Sciences and the Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point
  •  Sam Mackiewicz, Communications Associate at World Oceans Day and The Ocean Project
  • Lisa Piastuch, MS of Environmental Sciences and Management, former Research Assistant at the National Undersea Research Center
  • Paul Winter, 7-time Grammy® winner with a wide range of experience in musical traditions and natural environments of the Earth
  • William Spear, Founder of Fortunate Blessings Foundation and contributor to The Huffington Post

Since the film screening, both the Hawaii and New England sites that were being considered for protection were established as National Marine Monuments! Read more about it here!

To support Fortunate Blessings Foundation in providing more programs like this:

Concern for Ocean Noise Pollution Still Falls on Deaf Ears

Twenty years ago, in what seems like another lifetime, I gave an hour talk in London at St. James Church Piccadilly as a part of their Alternatives Lecture Series. An overflow crowd of more than 400 people filled the seats, most coming as a result of the recent release of my first book “Feng Shui Made Easy“ and to hear me speak on the subject. But I had a different agenda, one I felt was more important to address than the placement of a desk or what color to paint your front door. I chose this occasion to share my concern for a kind of feng shui problem on the planet — the plight of marine mammals and other creatures of our oceans whose lives were being threatened by the cacophony of noise in the oceans. On that day in November 1995, I introduced my idea for The Silent Oceans Project to build awareness about the damage that low-frequency sonar, oil drilling and other deafening sounds in the ocean was causing to creatures who live in the sea. Many in the audience that evening demanded their money back since I hadn’t met their expectations; others rose to their feet in a long standing ovation, supporting my efforts and immediately joining the cause.

When my father passed away less than two years later, I took the small inheritance he left and established The Silent Oceans Trust, an educational foundation to further the mission. We intended to be an international focal point to celebrate the oceans as the source of life on the planet, committed to exploring efforts to understand, safeguard and preserve marine biodiversity, especially the potentially damaging effects of man-made underwater noise pollution and bioacoustics.

We decided to create “Silent Oceans Day” which would become to the oceans what Earth Day was to the land - - a joyful celebration of stewardship occurring annually on September 19th with 9 minutes of underwater silence at Noon local time throughout the world. Our five-year plan began by hiring an Executive Director who we sent to the National Oceans Conference in Monterey, California chaired by Vice President Al Gore. In attendance was Secretary of State Madeline Albright who expressed interest in our work. The Trust’s Executive Director met with Jean-Michel Cousteau and Sylvia Earle, arguably the two most knowledgeable marine researchers alive. What emerged from that conference was a report the Vice President issued. Our information packet soon made its way into the hands ofsinger-songwriter James Taylor who loved the ocean and wanted to help. Actor Sam Waterston and Paul Winter, a friend and lifelong, passionate environmentalist who joined our Board of Advisors, helped us launch a fundraiser with a short video on the importance of addressing noise pollution in the ocean.

Over the next few years, armed with news reports about exploding eardrums of dolphins as well as the unexplained deaths of hundreds of whales who’d lost their ability to echolocate using their own inbred sonar, I promoted what I envisioned would be a day of silence in the world’s oceans. I chose September 19, 1999 - 9/19/1999 (or if you lived in Europe, 19/9/1999) - to be Silent Oceans Day.

For the years after my London talk, I visited federal officials, marine biologists, shipping company executives, oil exploration firms and environmental groups all over the world. There was already a general consensus about the problem of ocean pollution - plastics and trash were being regularly dumped in the sea - but little was being said about noise pollution. I personally handed our information packet to George Soros as he boarded the Concorde at JFK, to Pierce Brosnanwhen I spotted him in a restaurant in San Francisco, to Sting in a hotel lobby, to Gwyneth Paltrow outside a store in L.A. and to many other lesser known individuals I thought could bring attention to the issue. I made sure our information got into the hands of the Secretary of the Navy (who was sued twice to stop their use of low-frequency sonar) and to the U.K.’s Deputy Prime Minister John Prescottwho swam the Thames in a wet suit to protest the government’s dumping of nuclear waste in the river. I traveled to Stockholm where I attended the lastSweden Water Festival and discussed my concerns with biochemist and cell biologist Rupert Sheldrake in London who helped me understand more about shipping lines.

Our goal was simple: within five years, this topic should be as common place a topic of discussion in environmental circles as recycling. In the summer of 1999, CNN ran a three-part series about the issue. Within two years, Cousteau, Brosnan, and Taylor called for a nationwide protest, urging people to sign a petition and passing the baton to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Legal scholarMichael Jasny wrote extensively on the subject for the NRDC becoming its Director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land & Wildlife Program.

After NRDC took over the cause, we dissolved the Silent Oceans Trust, surrendered the URL that became a gateway to Ocean Care and passed on our information to Bill Mott of the Ocean Project.

As we celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8th, it’s not hard to imagine my disbelief after reading the widely circulated news report this week about ocean noise. This exact same story could have been written (and essentially was) when I promoted the cause in London more than twenty years ago. It’s as if everyone went to sleep, pretending that the issue never existed. And now, as the article outlines, a new “ten year strategy“ to study the problem. Meanwhile, dolphins die, whales lose their ability to navigate the waters using their own sonar and the deafening noise remains unabated.

Our utter disregard for the delicate life in the ocean emerges out of our short term addiction to constant economic growth and senseless military defense. I cannot understand why this issue continues to be ignored; really, do we need to protect our shores from Russian submarines like some scene out of The Russians Are Coming?


Like the planet, our bodies are made up mostly of 70-75% water. Human blood transports more than meets the eye, carrying with it emotional energy and memories of the past. The main concern I have about the disappointing delayed response since we first addressed the issue of the ocean’s noise pollution is that for the past decade, I have broadened my focus to include my concern about the inner landscape of consciousness and the relationship between the environment and mental health. We have come to recognize the importance of body-centered approaches to post-traumatic stress as a preventive measure in the immediate aftermath of a trauma. Children impacted by natural and man-made disasters are especially at risk. Second Response has created effective, innovative approaches that belong as part of the protocols of front-line disaster response agencies.

Second Response operates on the conviction that as psychologically relevant as trauma is, the neurobiological shifts that occur to adapt to trauma must also be addressed in any effective intervention. This means that we need not just counseling and talk therapies but also somatic approaches to alleviate stress that is housed in our tissues. Unless the physical energies accompanying deeply repressed emotions are relieved, a burden of complex psychosomatic issues can result. Second Response’s body-centered therapies are transcultural — appropriate as developmentally universal methods to help children around the world cope with trauma.

Since 2004, Second Response has diminished the debilitating impact of post-traumatic stress in an estimated 250,000 worldwide. Our PLAYshop methodology has been successfully employed in the wake of numerous natural disasters, including most recently Superstorm Sandy in New York in 2012, Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines in 2014, and the earthquakes in Nepal last year. In response to the growing need for disaster preparedness, Second Response is now implementing an aggressive growth strategy to proactively train disaster relief agencies, first responders, NGOs and government health agencies in PLAYshop protocol in advance of the next disaster. It is our goal to expand the Second Response methodology as a significant component in disaster response capacity.

Second Response has already conducted pre-emptive training for Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Medical Reserve Corps members, educators, and caregivers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York. Federal and regional representatives from FEMA and Homeland Security have assisted in recruiting volunteers and securing training locations for the training programs. At the present time, mental health, children, trauma and resilience are topics in the news, but what remains to be seen is whether we will have to wait another twenty years to see these kinds of methodologies put into practice.

Even as we continue to look years later with concern for marine mammals as noise pollution worsens, I wonder if we will drag our feet before realizing how powerfully our children’s future is being damaged by the constant traumas they face in society.

By William Spear

The Current State of Total Madness

"Nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could." Sting

We are all mad. Not just angry, crazy or furious; we have all begun to go stark raving mad and there's even some proof to this trend

French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault first wrote about this phenomenon in 1961 in which he documented the history of insanity from the Middle Ages to present day. Varying states of lunacy from both a cultural and scientific perspective included the creative and liberating forces of great artists Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dalí and Francisco Goya), famous writers (Friedrich Nietzsche, Antonin Artaud), legendary rulers (King Charles IV of France, Martin Luther, Irma Grese and Queen Mary), brilliant inventors (Nikola Tesla and Benjamin Franklin) and fictional villains (the tragic King Lear and horrific Hannibal Lecter). While most of these eccentrics had some redeeming qualities that competed with their maniacal behavior, nearly all made significant marks on our collective psyches - some more pleasant than others. There is indeed a fine line between genius and insanity.

Today's cast of characters now includes a hugely disproportionate number of corrupt government officials from every country, economists whose policies could destroy their own country, religious leaders and educators who urge congregants and students to arm themselves and kill, and pseudo-intellectuals who applaud the fascist remarks of candidates. Crazed.

Whether you believe that the greatest threat the human race faces now is climate change or terrorism, it's easy to find madness on both sides of every debate. Small-minded politicians with bizarre beliefs and nothing to display beyond clever slogans and their immense egos promote quick fixes with total disregard for any long-term implications. It's as if the past has no meaning at all and history taught us nothing. Madness.

How can we forget decades of unjustified war and violent aggression -- carefully orchestrated to obscure the real purpose of securing the very commodity that led us to the brink of widespread cataclysm? This was no solution to either threat, but instead it accelerated both terrorism and climate change. Is our rage so blind, our vengeance so stupefying that together they have erased the memory of our past folly? Do we truly think something good can come from more violence or believe something ever could? Absurdity.

The leaders of fanatical cults must be celebrating in their hideaways as we load more ordnance onto B-2 Spirit Bombers, artillery that costs taxpayers more than $900,000,000 for each aircraft. "We will do everything we can to minimize collateral damage," declare our military experts, conveniently avoiding any mention of our war on terror that thus far has killed more than two million people and wounded millions more. Senselessness.

As issue spin pivots our attention from jobs and the economy to terror and security, fear again becomes the driving force, protection from danger delivered by bigger armaments both on the battlefield and in our basements. Gun sales skyrocket, defense budgets quietly escalate, schools prepare for slaughter. Insanity. 

* * * * *

So what can we do? How can we begin to turn the tide with some degree of reason, employ even the slightest measure of hope, make a modest course correction if not for ourselves then for future generations who will inherit this crazy world we've created out of our own ignorance? The ideas themselves will appear to many as the epitome of foolishness, but then again, what do we have to lose since we've already lost our collective mind?

First, at whatever personal cost, let's acknowledge the reality that we have been the architects of our own destiny. We are not the victims of alien spaceships filled with tiny green people who took over our brains and made us act in these ways. No, my friends, we did this to ourselves. Let's own it and name it. We've gone off the rails, we've lost our marbles, we're cray cray, irrational, mad as hatters beyond anything even Lewis Carroll could have dreamt up. Only when we name the infirmity can we begin to develop a treatment plan.

Second, let's all take a few deep breaths. A little more oxygen never hurt anyone, and too much carbon dioxide hampers clear thinking and can create brain fog. Let's face it - we're in some pretty thick smog right now, and we could all use some fresh air. So get yourself to a city park, take a walk in the woods, get some exercise, take a stroll by the river. Get out of the city or if you can't, get yourself to the gym, an online yoga class, or do some good old, no cost calisthenics. Get that blood pumping- we're going to need every heart we can open. 

Third, stop complaining - contrary to what some people may suggest, it doesn't help at all and may actually be harmful. It rarely makes any difference when you complain about things you cannot change -- like getting caught in rush-hour traffic or stuck in the security line at the airport. Most people don't want to hear you complain anyway. 

Fourth, show a little gratitude for what you have. The very fact that you are reading this on a computer, tablet or phone is amazing enough, isn't it? Sure, there are problems with technology - we all know that - but isn't it mind blowing even to be able to read when 775 million people in the world can't? Maybe they are all luckier than we are - ignorance is bliss and all that -- but still, I'd bet you're happy about the gift of literacy. Are there other gifts you can acknowledge? Vision? Children? Parents? Friends? Weekends?

Fifth, commit a few acts of random kindness and senseless beauty. How does it make you feel when you're on the receiving end of one of those? Why not give back, pay it forward, do it for no reason at all. It's free and probably will take no more time than reading the next paragraph. Go ahead.

* * * * *

OK, now that we're on the same page, here's my plan - the one I'd love to convince a few people in power to consider seriously. How radical is this:

Stop killing innocent children, cease the bombing everywhere, bring the planes back. Now, load them up with healthy food, medical supplies, children's clothing, warm blankets, cooking supplies, fresh water, protective shelters, seeds, good books. Drop these things into every neighborhood that we've destroyed. Shower them with love, kindness, stuff that supports life. Give enough people things they need and you will win them back from those who are trying to rule their country with violence and killing as they attempt to convince them we're the bad guys. Surprise the enemy with big love and start taking care of the children we've harmed.

How novel! How extraordinary! How utterly mad it would be to promote love and turn away from war.

And now admit it - is this really crazier than what we've been doing over and over again expecting the outcome to change? I don't think so. Maybe - just maybe - we could actually start acting like there's only one of us here. 

No go ahead and tweet this, share it, spread the word. Post it on your home page, write a song about it, shout it from the rooftops -- we're in this together. One planet, one world, that one heart we all share. This is the current state of mad love.

By William Spear