By the late seventeenth century, Puritan leaders in colonial America were bemoaning what they perceived to be the betrayal of New England’s godly “errand into the wilderness.” In election sermons they mourned the community’s backsliding from its global mission as a “city upon a hill.” Such doomsday rhetoric echoed the lamentations of decline intoned by ancient Hebrew prophets such as Jeremiah. Yet this “Jeremiad” discourse characteristically reached beyond effusions of doom and gloom toward prospects of renewal through a conversion of heart. It blended warnings of impending catastrophe with hope for recovery if the erring souls it addressed chose to repent. This twofold identity of the Puritan Jeremiad, gradually refashioned into the American Jeremiad, has long resonated within and beyond this nation’s literary culture. Featured in creative nonfiction, jeremiad expression surfaces in various forms. And with rise of the modern environmental movement, a prophetic subspecies identifiable as “Green Jeremiad” has lately emerged. The essay reflects on how, especially in an Anthropocene era, Green Jeremiads dramatize the crisis of spirit and faith that undergird challenges to earth’s geophysical health and survival. What saving graces might temper the chilling reminders of imminent peril composed by authors such as Rachel Carson, Bill McKibben, Barbara Kingsolver, and Elizabeth Kolbert?
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