In an effort to slow the effects of climate change, Roger Williams University is spearheading a tree-planting campaign. Trees can absorb and store rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, which are responsible for global warming.
Stephen White, dean of the School of Architecture, Art and Historic Preservation, said his students have been planting trees with local agencies and nonprofits since 2012.
“It’s not something that any of us, it appears, can do on our own,” said White. “Also we found that you can’t do this in class. There’s a lot of work to be done out in the field. You can do some of it in class and learn the principles of how to measure tree cover impact. But there’s a lot of work to do.”
The university has invited U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to officially kick off the student-led initiative. Whitehouse will issue a formal call to college students across the state to be a part of the effort to address climate change. The goal is to eventually expand the effort across the region.
Roger Williams architecture graduate student Christian Johnson said planting trees may seem like a lot of work, but “students could be the ones that could take on this effort to plant trees, reduce emissions, and beautify cities and towns across Rhode Island.”
The tree-planting campaign is inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, one of the first New Deal programs.
Informally known as “Roosevelt’s tree army,” the Corps planted three billion trees within a decade.
White said this new initiative could make a similar impact, helping the City of Providence meet its goal of planting 40,000 trees by 2020.
“I’ve done just a simple calculation that shows that if we had about 250 people working over 10 weekends that we could achieve that planting effort in Providence, as one example, in four years,” said White.
"We really think we could make a significant impact in a four- or five-year period, where we could measure the positive impacts on oxygen production, carbon absorption and tree cover density," White continued.
He said several tree-planting initiatives are underway across the state, "but in some ways what's missing is people to work together... We're trying to find more ways to collaborate and have a larger impact."
One of the university's leaders, the late Frank Davidson, was a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps when he was a young man. The lecture where Whitehouse will deliver his official call to action is an inaugural lecture offered in honor of Davidson.