The Rapidian

Moral Ground 2010: Presidential Recycling

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The Moral Ground Town Hall Meeting

Date: Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010
Time: 7 pm
Location: Spectrum Theater, 160 Fountain NE
This event is free and open to the public.
The evening will include live music from local folk/rock band Big Dudee Roo, brief readings from "Moral Ground" editors Moore and Nelson, and an open discussion with the audience. A reception and book signing will follow.

Event sponsors: GRCC, GVSU, and the City of Grand Rapids.
Visit: for more information.

Find other responses to the "Moral Ground" question from local leaders here.

Dr. Steven Ender, GRCC President

Dr. Steven Ender, GRCC President /Grand Rapids Community College

"Yes. Now if you would have asked me that question back in Pennsylvania I would have still answered yes, but I would not have been able to answer how in specifics."

~ Steven Ender, Ed.D., President of Grand Rapids Community College


"Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril," a book of essays edited by Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson, asks the question: Do we have a moral or ethical responsibility to preserve the planet for future generations? Contained within are responses from political, religious, intellectual and environmental leaders from all over the world. This book is the subject of the "Moral Ground" event taking place on October 26 at Grand Rapids Community College's Spectrum Theater. There will be music by Big Dudee Roo, followed by readings from the book, and then a town hall style talk with both editors.

Steven Ender, Ed.D, president of Grand Rapids Community College, enters his office and his greeting is immediate and friendly. His choice of dress - sport coat, black GRCC polo shirt, dress pants - conveys accessibility.  He sits in front of the desk, not behind it, and when asked, "Do we have a moral or ethical responsibility to preserve the planet for future generations?" his response is "Yes."

“Now if you would have asked me that question back in Pennsylvania I would have still answered yes, but I would not have been able to answer how in specifics.” President Ender explains it was not until he and his family moved here to west Michigan that he began to encounter questions and answers about sustainability on a daily basis. He was surprised by the amount of people in all walks of life who were concerned with this idea of a sustainable environment. From business leaders to politicians to citizens on the street, sustainability is a relevant topic here in West Michigan. Even in his job as President of GRCC sustainability is involved in the building of LEED certified new buildings as well as outfitting the older ones with new energy efficient technologies.

As to the responsibility, President Ender describes it in personal terms. Being a twenty year veteran of recycling and a recent fan of composting, he thinks we can all do our part. With a smile of excitement he says, "I would love to live off the grid. If a windmill could be built on the roof of my house, I would get one.” He goes on to say that he finds the whole idea of living off of the energy you produce to be a very interesting prospect. “I would go willingly off the grid, but my wife would go screaming,” he says with a laugh.

In order for us to preserve Earth for future generations, he believes there needs to be a cultural awakening. President Ender gives the example of the change in view that has occurred with smoking over the last thirty years. The massive push, not just from the medical field but from nearly everywhere in our culture. He says, “It was my kids who pressured me to quit smoking.” It was the change in education and in what the culture said about smoking as a whole that has made smoking so unpopular, especially among the youth. If this same technique can be applied to the idea of sustainability, Dr. Ender believes we may be able to effect lasting change for the planet.

He brings his point about the impact of culture home with an example from his own life. On his first trip to Europe, President Ender was amazed to see how different life was there. On the surface Europeans did not appear to be more advanced in technological terms, but he came to realize it was their cultural acceptance of a sustainable life that was more advanced. Not only did they not consume the amount of resources we do, but the very option to do so was limited. From there not being enough power to run blow-dryers in the hotel to the small economical size of their vehicles the European way of life was an energy efficient wake up for him.

President Ender believes that we all have the ability and responsibility to preserve the planet for future generations. Whether as a school like Grand Rapids Community College trying to become a sustainable institution on a fixed budget or as individual citizens making our way through this world, all of our efforts count.


Disclosure: Steven Ender, Ed.D., is President of Grand Rapids Community College, where I am a student.

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