Brock University students capped off a course on the climate crisis with a commitment to positive change on Earth Day, Friday, April 22.
A small group joined their instructor, Adjunct Professor Jayson Childs, and Professor and Chair Michael Pisaric to plant a tree outside the offices of the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies.
Childs says the idea to raise money to plant a tree arose from an awareness of how much time students and scholars spend using computers.
“I thought perhaps we could do an optional, voluntary fundraising drive to purchase a tree to plant on campus to try to mitigate some of the emissions associated with all of us sitting on our computers, while also bringing a variety of other benefits to campus,” he says.
At Pisaric’s suggestion, they selected a Ginkgo biloba tree, which is known for dropping all its leaves at once when the first frost strikes. The species has been planted on other university campuses to help researchers track the date of the first frost from year to year, creating a specific, local data set.
John Dick, Manager of Ground Services, says his team tries to keep plantings as diverse as possible, but as there are only a few other Ginkgo biloba trees on campus, they were more than happy to accommodate this request.
“This was an initiative of the class, which is awesome,” Dick says. “We certainly appreciate when someone wants to add to the campus landscape.”
Childs says planting trees is one of the “simple activities anybody can do to help sequester carbon and mitigate climate change” but outlines several other benefits, too:
- Trees planted in yards act as a buffer for warm temperatures by providing shade and cooling neighbourhoods up to 5o
- Trees absorb precipitation, which then helps reduce overland runoff and soil erosion.
- Urban forests play an integral role in improving air quality and the psychological and social well-being in a community.
- Planting trees can improve local biodiversity by providing habitat.
Second-year Concurrent Education student Juanita Ayerbe Lozano says an early course assignment that required her to assess how many trees would be needed to offset her own carbon footprint got her thinking about the emissions of a class with almost 500 students. Reflecting on that impact, she jumped at the chance to get involved in the tree planting initiative.
“Starting local, that was the biggest take away for me,” says the Niagara-on-the-Lake resident. “It’s not really in my control to fix everything and completely stop climate change, but if I just start small, start local, it can go a long way.”
Pisaric looks forward to seeing the tree donated by this year’s Climate Crisis students thriving for decades to come.
“This initiative led by Dr. Childs provides the students in our Climate Crisis course with a practical experience directly related to the content they learned,” says Pisaric. “Using the concept of carbon offsets, he taught the students that everyday activities such as enrolling and participating in their course work can have ecological impacts, but at the same time, showed them that there are mechanisms to lessen those impacts.”