DR. DAVID GALLO was the featured speaker at the Friends of the Shiawassee River annual meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Gallo is a renowned oceanographer and geologist, with a career spanning nearly 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts. Dr. Gallo was instrumental in advancing the possibilities for humans to explore uncharted territory deep into our oceans.
Dr. Gallo has given several TED talks, one of which, “Underwater Astonishments” (with over 15 million views), is ranked in the top 10 all-time TED presentations. He has participated in expeditions to all of the world’s oceans and was one of the first scientists to use a combination of robots and submarines to explore the deep seafloor – recently co-leading an expedition to create the first comprehensive map of the RMS Titanic.
Dr. Gallo began by praising the FOSR and it executive director, Lorraine Austin. “People like you are the heroes,” Dr. Gallo began. “I travel quite a bit and get to see similar things, but nothing like this. I got a chance to talk to some of you tonight, and I am very impressed by your organization. And Lorraine is an amazing person, a superstar in my mind, in her ability to make things happen.
“Today we’ve explored less than 8 percent of the world beneath the sea,” said Gallo. “Regardless of where we live, the oceans impact our everyday lives, providing humanity with half of the oxygen in the air and more than 90 percent of the fresh water we drink globally. So the food you eat, the air you breathe and the water you drink, all comes from this place that we know nothing about. We have to continue to explore to discover, and then use that to understand what’s going on. You can love this planet to death, but we’ve got to have more of a factual knowledge so we understand how the planet works.
“Seven to eight billion people live on this planet, and what amazes me is, you can’t see us from here,” explained Dr. Gallo while showing a picture of the globe. “We’re tiny little specks, almost like microbes living on an organism; like a virus. And just like a virus, we’ve managed to change the chemistry of the seawater; we’ve managed to change the chemistry of the atmosphere; we’ve made the planet sick, in a way.
“It’s hard to believe because we’re so tiny compared to the planet,” continued Dr. Gallo. “And we can argue about climate change, but climate change has happened. The climate is changing and we’ve had a role in that. If you go to the middle of the Pacific and look at fish, often you’ll find in the stomachs little bits of micro plastics, and in their flesh you’ll find bits of nutrients and pesticides and flame retardants. That stuff is on us, not some natural cycle. So this little virus that we are, we’ve done a pretty good job of making a mess out of the sea; almost to the point where, when we’re eating seafood, we’re eating our own garbage. That’s where we’re headed, and it’s got to stop.”
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)