RACIsm, Colonialism, capitalism, Climate Change

In assigning modern roles to these ancient symbols, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse shall be named Racism, Colonialism, Capitalism, and Climate Change instead of Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. In the woodcut by Albrecht Dürer from 1498, the first horseman on the right side of the image aiming a bow represents the figure of Conquest, also interpreted as Pestilence. Like the story by Katherine Anne Porter, disease came in the form of the Pale Rider. It seems tragically apt to consider that Dürer printed this work only six years after European powers began colonizing the Americas, bringing with them waves of different diseases that killed many millions of Indigenous people and surely brought an apocalypse to their world. Rumors persist that Prospect Hill Cemetery, now Cheesman Park in Denver, originally served as a burial ground for native people long before the arrival of Europeans.

Centuries of destruction irrevocably harmed the ecosystem of the entire planet, as the unquenchable thirst for eternal growth fueled technological revolutions and imperial expansion into the natural environment. Of the several theories for the origin of coronavirus, all of them relate to human encroachment on wilderness and the warming climate. Along with the changing weather, industrial agriculture and lumber destabilize the environment and increase the potential for diseases to spread from animals like bats to humans–either directly or through an intermediary species like pigs or pangolins. Anthropologists believe that climate change at the beginning of a period referred to as the Little Ice Age might have contributed to the impact of subsequent outbreaks of disease like the Black Death, while adding even more social stress like decreasing crop yields as winters grew increasingly harsher.

Along with the many benefits of globalization also comes the increased likelihood for diseases like flu or coronavirus to spread between distant communities. Air travel and international commerce ensured the spread of COVID-19 long before most people had any idea that history was about to gobble them up.