Born and raised in England, Patrick Allitt graduated from Oxford University, then earned a doctorate in U.S. history from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University and the author of seven books, including A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism (2014) and The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities throughout American History (2010). He has also recorded eight lecture series with The Great Courses®, including "The Industrial Revolution" (36 lectures) and "The Art of Teaching" (24 lectures).
The idea of the end of the world has been central to American history since the Puritans. After the atomic bombs of 1945 it became possible to imagine that the world would be destroyed not by an angry God but by human folly. Fears over nuclear weapons and then over environmental issues like pollution, over-population, and resource exhaustion led to a succession of alarms in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, culminating in recent expressions of dread that global warming will be apocalyptic. This lecture reviews the history of environmental alarms to show their continuity with the jeremiad tradition and older forms of American catastrophism.