Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief
Jacksonville State University celebrated Arbor Day on Thursday, February 16 with a ceremony on the Meehan Hall lawn.
JSU was named a Tree City USA Tree Campus in 2012, and the university has held an annual event each year to reaffirm its commitment to a beautiful campus and a healthy environment.
“Arbor Day means many things to many people, and as I thought about what to discuss, I chose the importance of trees in our lives as human beings,” said Dr. Ashok Roy, who spoke at the event. Roy is the Vice President of Finance and Administration at JSU.
“I remember that when my two wonderful daughters were born, I planted pine saplings in our yard. Moreover, as I watched my daughters grow and work through the challenges of life, I observed the pines doing the same thing. I saw the parallels: Trees [are] symbolic of the human connection. Trees are beneficial to our existence, and trees transcend the notion of time.”
In turn, a Nuttall oak tree was planted during the ceremony.
Dr. Robert Carter of JSU’s biology department was presented with the Johnny Appleseed Award by the Tree Commission for his outstanding leadership and work in promoting the education and protection of trees in the Jacksonville community. Carter is a plant ecologist whose work includes large scale ecological effects of humans on plants and tick-borne disease research. He is also heavily involved with Boy Scout Troop 19 of Jacksonville.
Arbor Day began in Nebraska in 1872 as the result of the efforts of the journalist Sterling Morton. Morton was the editor of the “Nebraska City News” and advocated for the planting of trees through his articles and editorials. He was later named the Secretary of Agriculture by President Grover Cleveland.
The first Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872, and the Arbor Day Foundation states that over a million trees were planted that day. The event became a legal holiday in Nebraska in 1875, and April 22—Morton’s birthday—was the chosen date of observance.
Today, Arbor Day events occur February through April in an effort to raise awareness about trees and the benefits of living in a tree friendly campus, community, city, state, nation and world.
“When we feel the need to escape the confines of cities, we often seek solace in the quiet and refuge of trees. Science has even proven this phenomenon with findings that demonstrate that when people visited woods and forests, they are happier,” Roy said in his address. “[Trees] provide sustenance for people and animals by way of fruit, nuts, leaves, and bark as well as providing the materials necessary for animals to create other forms of nourishment, such as honey. Trees also improve air quality by converting CO2, the by-product of our existence into clear air. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one acre of woods absorbs six tons of CO2 and puts out four tons of oxygen.”
Guests at the event included Jacksonville city councilman Jerry Parris; Tyler Law, head of the JSU Tree Committee; SGA President Jesslan Sharp; members of JSU’s Earth Club and JSU faculty, staff, students and community members.