The Four Horsemen of the Carpocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Due to my upbringing, my understanding of the prophesies of Revelations may be just slightly off from standard interpretations, but it’s pretty clear to me that the Four Horsemen of the Carpocalypse are among us today, convincing us to destroy ourselves. The fact that they are riding horses not driving cars is further evidence, as it was the horse which was replaced by the car, and this is, among other things, a tale of vengeance.

The White Horse: Pollution

Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

— Revelation 6:1–2 New American Standard Bible(NASB)

While the pollution per car for “criteria” pollutants has been decreasing for decades, the number of cars globally has been soaring, and cumulative CO2 emissions remaining in the atmosphere continue to rise, boiling us in our own pot.

Pollution is a problem we could collectively solve. But because it is a collective action problem, and we don’t have the right institutions in place. We don’t.

The Red Horse: Congestion

When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from Earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

— Revelation 6:3–4 NASB

Cars waste our time, not only through death and injury due to crashes and air pollution, and the time required to earn enough money to pay the cost or ownership and maintenance, but also the cost of delay because so many people are competing inefficiently for scarce road space. Congestion induces anger, which induces road rage.

Congestion is a problem we could collectively solve. But because it is a collective action problem, and we don’t have the right institutions in place, we don’t.

The Black Horse: Cost

When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine.”

— Revelation 6:5–6 NASB

Infrastructure costs too much (and automobility too little), both to the individual, and to society as a whole. With rising fuel prices, this is getting worse. It sucks away resources needed to pay for other things, like food, whose costs are in large part due to transport

The cost of transport is a problem we could collectively solve, at least in part – e.g “overheated major project pipeline” means government is competing with itself for scarce resources. But because it is a collective action problem, and we don’t have the right institutions in place, we don’t.

The Pale Horse: Death and Injury

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a pale horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

— Revelation 6:7–8 NASB

Cars are the wild beasts of the earth. Cars kill 1.35 million people globally per year. There are something like 1.42 billion cars. (Really, no one knows exactly). Doing some rough maths, globally each car on the road is responsible for about 1/1000 of a death per year, right up there with drugs and gun violence. (Leaving aside injuries, property damage, and the like). Over a 20 year vehicle lifespan, this would be a 1 in 50 chance that the car you are in will end in someone’s death. Seems too high.

The excessive number of road crashes is a problem we could collectively solve. But because it is a collective action problem, and we don’t have the right institutions in place, we don’t.

The Revelation is not that cars will be destroyed, but that we will destroy ourselves with cars, because we fail to rein them in.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Published by David M Levinson

Prof. David Levinson teaches at the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney, where he leads TransportLab and the Transport Engineering group.

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