Seaspiracy: A Most Inconvenient Truth

The new Netflix documentary Seaspiracy is described on its website as “controversial, provocative and investigative”. If I could, I would recommend creating an ‘invitation’ to emotionally support viewers for what is ahead in the 89-minute film.  “Relax, without pre-judgements, preconceptions and, with self-compassion, allow yourself to open up to learn a very inconvenient truth.”

I am an intense person, but I make no exaggeration given the information the documentary reveals.

When we are presented with data that confronts our identities, whether personal or cultural, there is a tendency to block it out and close ourselves off.

What does this mean? In practice, reactions vary when we find ourselves in situations of conflict, in this case, absorbing the content of this movie. One can become tense, agitated, to the point that one can disqualify the script and plot, attack the production or even interrupt the screening. Another common dynamic is to become paralysed in a state of confusion. These blockages are expressions of our nervous system’s defense mechanisms, fight, flight and freeze.  Who hasn’t ever had one of those experiences?  

All to ‘protect’ and shield ourselves from  content that deeply affects our identity, our culture and the systems that we are co-creators of and in which  we are inserted.

But after all, what is this content?

Produced by the same executive director of “Cowspiracy, the Sustainability Secret”, which questions the sustainability of the meat industry and “What the Health”, which brings compelling evidence on how diet impacts health, both films also available through Netflix, the new documentary throws light on the unsustainability of our relationship with the oceans and their inhabitants.

Netflix promotional film image
Netflix promotional film image

You can be assured I won’t give spoilers. I’ll just highlight some inquiry thoughts, which can support and inspire you when you watch the documentary:

  • . Is it possible to deal with the multiple and interconnected crises we experience, environmental, social, economic, cultural and existential, in a fragmented way? The film illustrates these dimensions. Read more about syndemia, synergy of pandemics, a concept I expanded from a definition created by the Lancelet Commission.
  • . Is there a magic pill that addresses these multiple, interconnected crises?  In this sense, is it possible to ignore individual agency in dealing with these crises? Does non-inclusion lead us into a scenario of prosperity or self-extermination?
  • . How to make companies and governments accountable when processes are not transparent?  Is it possible?
  • . Can personal development be neglected in change processes? By human and personal development, I also refer to our mental models, our lens through which we see the world. Ethics is one of these developmental qualities.

The film does not address this point, but I really like psychologist Roger Walsh’s definition.

“An intention is ethical when it enhances the well-being and prosperity of oneself and others.”

Roger Walsh

Would it be possible to expand the capacity of the definition of others? For example, where we can welcome people from different cultures, countries, ethnicities, races, economic conditions, worldviews and even other beings and forms of beings? Could this capacity be stimulated and developed?

. What if promoting systemic changes required even ourselves and the environmental and philanthropic organizations that wish to create such changes in the first place to be open to changing? How to stimulate a new way of seeing internal processes, beliefs, relationships and ways of acting?

Water, what is water? A most inconvenient truth

Watching this film about oceans, I couldn’t help but remember the excellent summary on systemic change written by John Kania, Mark Kramer and Peter Senge, researchers dedicated to accelerating the growth of the field of systemic change worldwide: “The water of systems change”. I re-write a short excerpt below.

A água da mudança sistêmica
The water of systems change
Photo by Dalton Carawayem Unsplash

A fish is swimming along one day when another fish comes up and says “Hey, how’s the water?” The first fish stares back blankly at the second fish and then says “What’s water?”

As the notion of systems change continues to ignite organization’s imagination, it is important to keep in mind that systems change, as a way of making real and equitable progress on critical social and environmental problems, requires exceptional attention to the detailed and often mundane work of noticing and acting on much that is implicit and invisible to many but is very much in the water. Making big bets to tackle a social problem without first immersing yourself in understanding what is holding the problem in place is a recipe for failure. On the other hand, bringing attention to shifting the power dynamics at play, identifying where people are connected or disconnected from others who must be part of the solution, exposing the mental models that inhibit success in policy change, and investigating the ways in which the organization’s internal conditions help or hinder external aspirations—this is the nature of successfully changing systems. This is systems change.

John Kania, Mark Kramer and Peter Senge

Building the capacity to see the water


Real and equitable progress requires exceptional attention to the detailed and often mundane work of noticing what is invisible to many.

John Kania, Mark Kramer and Peter Senge

I recommend reading a blog post that presents the research and all the dimensions of change that suggest the emergence of a new way of being as individuals, culture and systems that we create and which we are all part of.

I argue that failure to integrate the subjective and intersubjective dimensions of change (worldview, values, beliefs, psychological and emotional intelligence, etc) traps us in polarizations and leads our development into self-extermination.

We have countless examples of the consequence of this approach. But writing now from Brazil, the global epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, I experience in my body and soul the pain and devastation of this policy. Human beings, animals and all of nature are objectified and transformed into numbers that feed an economy that is in free fall. After all, there is no economy with dead cities and companies or with survivors with deep psychological traumas. There is no life even for the privileged who often believe themselves immune to crisis, when the health system collapses, as is the case of countless private hospitals that have no ICU beds. What to say about the life and dignity of essential workers who risk themselves on crowded public transport to serve the wealthy? The populations living in underserved communities, with no means of  adopting social distancing measures if they contract Covid-19, are currently adrift, despite pressure for priority vaccination and emergency relief.

For change to occur, we need to feel deeply disturbed and uncomfortable with the present situation. It is this impetus that drives change. And I reflect now, how many more misfortunes and calamities will we have to experience, whether in relation to the health of our oceans and the well-being of other species or the situation in my country in particular, for truly transformational change to occur?


Finally, I offer a thank you to Netflix. Many of their films and series have been a vehicle for leading us onto an evolutionary edge by addressing issues ranging from social inclusion, racism and gender equity, to new economy, new capitalism, and health and nutrition in our culture.

Last but not least, my deepest gratitude for the Seaspiracy crew, who courageously and vulnerably brought to the world a very important perspective about our shared ocean and its inhabitants. Congratulations!

  1. SWINBURN, Boyd A; KRAAK, Vivica I; ALLENDER, Steven; et al. The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change: The Lancet Commission report. The Lancet, v. 393, n. 10173, p. 791–846, 2019. Available at <>
  2. The original text is focused on philanthropies, but it is relevant to any entity, private, non-governmental or governments.
Cristina Mendonça

Master of Science in Urban and Environmental Engineering from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and Technical University of Braunschweig, Executive MBA from COPPEAD-UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), specialist in R&D from COPPE-UFRJ, Chemical Engineer from UFRJ, and leadership courses in personal, social and cultural transformation processes.

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