Burners might be excited by the news of thousands more tickets, but it seems that not everyone is. Christopher Brooks, from the booming metropolis of Cotati, California, believes 61,000 Burners should all pack up and go home, so that the
waves dunes will be more manageable for his little land sailor. He is appealing the population cap increase for environmental reasons, but he cares about protecting his race track, not nature.
Brooks says Burning Man should not have been “rewarded” with the population increase cap since it was placed on probation by the BLM for exceeding last year’s crowd cap.
A land sailor from Cotati, Calif., he also says Burning Man is to blame for dunes that have prevented him and other groups from using the Black Rock Desert for their activities.
BLM spokesman Gene Seidlitz says he could not comment because the appeal is pending.
Clearly we are dealing with an individual with a strong sense of self-entitlement. We wonder what his contribution to the world has been, to justify the remarkable size of his ego [update – it appears that he did win an award last year for delivering a baby in an ambulance on Christmas Eve]. We also wonder how seriously his appeal will be taken by the BLM, given that their 3% revenue cut from Burning Man brings in $1.2 million a year. You’d have to do a helluva lot of land sailing to compete with that…
Land sailing considers itself a “sport”, and dates it’s origins back to Ancient Egypt and China. The Playa is 100 miles long, and Cotati is 335 miles away from it, in a completely different state. Surely Mr Brooks could find some way to share his precious Playa with others – maybe even design a race course that avoids the too bumpy Burning Man area? Or forget about the Playa and go to the Ivanpah dry lake bed near Primm, NV, where 2 land sailing speed records have been set? Too fast for you, Brooks? Perhaps you should invest in some better shocks.
Why should 61,000 people have fun, if it prevents 1 person going anywhere he wants in a massive desert to enjoy a strange hobby? What is this, a democracy? Majority rule?
If he were to actually win this questionable appeal, his tiny town of 7,000 might be faced with an invasion of 150,000 angry Burners in a bath-salts frenzy looking to stage a block party at his house. Occupy Cotati!
Can’t we all just get along?
[Update 7/22/12] – Christopher Brooks has visited us to comment on this story. In the comments below, you will notice that he attempts to link sand dune photos from the 1960’s to an art installation, to show that Burning Man creates sand dunes. However, at his own site, and also in his own comments on blackrockdesert.org, he acknowledges that the photo was definitely taken many years before the art installation. Which makes it strange that he would try to imply otherwise here . He also acknowledges that Burning Man did clean up dunes last year – so what more does he want? On his site, he provides further information about the basis of this appeal:
I’ve gone ahead and appealed the 2012 Burning Man Permit, see my June, 2012 appeal. Below are the three main points:
- I’ve received no evidence that Burning Man has ever received a BLM-mandated Performance Evaluation. Thus, BRC has never had a completed Special Recreation Permit (SRP). The BLM Director has stated that if the SRP process cannot be completed by the field office, then no SRP shall be issued. The Performance Evaluation would determine if BRC fulfilled the stipulations of the SRP. Cory Roegner has provided me with inspection reports but these reports do not cover all the stipulations.
- The 2011 Special Recreation Permit Decision states that there should be “a maximum of 50,000 participants.” Stipulation 1 of the 2011 SRP permit states that the resources are “designed to handle an average of 50,000 participants per day.” BRC has stated in the media that “the current permit allows ‘in the neighborhood” of 58,000 participants to be present at any one time.” Is BRC in violation of stipulation 1? If so, then rewarding BRC by increasing the number of attendees is inappropriate.
- Burning Man is not a leave-no-trace event. The dunes that appeared starting in 2000 have prevented other groups from using the desert. The 2007 trash fence dune persisted until after the 2011 event.
In addition, BLM found that Burning Man went over the limit of 50,000 in 2011 and although Burning Man is appealing that finding, why should the BRC be rewarded? Anyone can run a company that has increased income every year, but it takes a master to run a company that has roughly the same amount of income (tickets) per year. If Burning Man is about sustainability, then maybe the process should start with a population cap?
As part of the 2012 permit process, I contacted the BLM and informed them about the annual performance evaluation requirement and they failed to prepare such a document for the 2011 permit. In hindsight, I should have gone for a stay to prevent Burning Man from selling extra tickets. My guess is that the appeal will not be heard before the event.
While we applaud Mr. Brooks for coming here to explain his position, we don’t think that Burning Man should be either shut down or cut down because of the “playa serpents“. If you have ever been on the Playa during a dust storm, you will realize that although as Brooks says “the amount of dust blown off the Burning Man site is immense”, the amount of dust blown around a sandy desert by a dust storm is even more immense. Nature didn’t wait 15,000 years until Burning Man came to the Black Rock Desert to invent dust storms.
Perhaps the dunes should be considered as giant MOOPs, and bulldozed/graded by DPW. This might be better for Land Sailing, but it is arguable how beneficial it would be to the environment. We do agree with his point about the blinkered hypocrisy of BMOrg – for all the hoopla about Burning Man being “the world’s biggest Leave No Trace event”, it does leave a trace, it has an impact on the environment, the roads, and the surrounding communities. We agree that it would be more realistic to describe it as a “tread lightly” event.
[Update 2 7/22/12 9:42PM] Burning Man has finally responded to this story, in SFGate
Burning Man spokeswoman Megan Miller branded the claims as “meritless,” saying the dunes were not caused by the festival and organizers undergo strict scrutiny by the BLM.
“BLM conducts a whole battery of performance evaluations before, during and after each year’s event,” she wrote by email. “These evaluations include fall and spring inspections, inspection memoranda, after action reports, compliance memoranda and the recent environmental assessment itself. These documents more than satisfy BLM’s performance evaluation requirements.”
However, he said a study by the Reno-based Desert Research Institute found the dunes on the Black Rock Desert stemmed from a variety of factors, including wind, the climate, and permitted and dispersed recreation use.
“They said the cause of the dunes was more complex. The sole nexus of the dunes was not the Burning Man event,” he told The Associated Press.
[Update 7/24/12] – Christopher Brooks has pointed interested parties to the discussion at ePlaya, where among other things he reveals that he is a 13-time Burner (since 1992) and he is one of the few (only?) people to have been shot at Burning Man. One of the “it was better in the old days” Burners then, perhaps this is some of the motivation to betray his people with this appeal. Methinks he’s probably not a fan of rave camps…