Weisser edits textbook on sustainability, humanity’s impact on planet

Christian Weisser, associate professor of English and program coordinator of the professional writing degree program at Penn State Berksh, recently edited a new textbook focusing on an important topic in contemporary culture -- sustainability and humanity’s impact and future on planet Earth. The publication, "Sustainability: A Bedford Spotlight Reader," was recently published by Bedford-St. Martin's.

The book is one of the first themed-readers to focus specifically on contemporary questions, debates and definitions of sustainability, and is designed primarily for first-year courses in which students engage with complex issues while also developing their writing proficiency and critical thinking skills. The book addresses key questions related to sustainability such as "What is sustainability?", "How is sustainability a political, cultural and rhetorical topic?", and "How can sustainability help us to address the local, regional, and global challenges we face?". 

The reading excerpts in the book come from a wide range of authors and perspectives, including the work of historical figures, contemporary journalists, nationally-recognized researchers and scientists, politicians and business leaders, as well as students, teachers and everyday bloggers and web-writers concerned with sustainability. Each chapter and selection begins with an overview of sustainability in regards to the focus of that section. Individual essays include an introductory segment designed to provide context on the issues at hand, and each essay concludes with a range of potential questions and activities to engage students more directly with the text. 

Penn State Berks students had the unique opportunity to “test drive” this new textbook as part of a course in sustainability writing during the fall 2013 semester. This course helped students in a variety of majors to prepare for careers in professional and technical writing in the “green” industry.

Weisser developed and taught the course, which was the first of its kind in the Penn State University system. The course examined the ways in which sustainability and environmentalism have been shaped and defined through a variety of literary, scientific, technical, political and popular texts. He explained that the course is unique in several ways. First, it combined two sections of English to provide an interdisciplinary look at a complex, multifaceted subject. Second, students in the class had been given a free e-version of Weisser’s textbook. And third, the class used computer technology as part of its sustainable focus. The course was entirely paperless with all assignments and projects distributed electronically.

For additional information on the book, visit

For more information on the sustainability writing course, contact Weisser at 610-396-6416 or via email at


Christian Weisser and the front of his book "Sustainability: A Bedford Spotlight Reader" Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated October 17, 2014