Superstorm Sandy vs the Burners

Vice has a story on the efforts of the Burner community to help out on the East Coast after Superstorm Sandy, using skills refined at Burning Man, and in relief efforts in Haiti and post-Katrina New Orleans (go Niners!) that have been supported by Burners Without Borders.

sandy house rebuild a small group of Burning Man enthusiasts have formed what appears to be an extremely efficient charitable organization that helps people in ways more bureaucratic organizations can’t. 

Just because the typical view of Burners is that they’re computer programmers who fantasize all year about wearing furry purple pants while tripping on 2CT7 and convulsing to dubstep, it doesn’t mean they don’t know their way around a construction site. These same people spend months and even years constructing elaborate psychedelic mutant robo-vehicles atop of which they party for a week like the world is going to end. And they really love demolition. “Going to Burning Man is like boot camp for disaster relief,” said Tom Price, one of several cofounders. “Dealing with food, water, and shelter in a harsh environment and building a community from scratch isn’t a challenge, it’s what we do for vacation.”

2CT7? That’s a new one to me…is that a new name for bath salts?

The Burners have provided $1.5 million worth of work for a shoestring budget of $30,000. This compares favorably with the Red Cross, who fleeced raised $170 million from concerned fellow citizens, and handed out a few old hotdogs and blankets.


photo from

“Although we don’t have the capacity of the Red Cross, we end up making a very large impact on people’s lives with very little money,” said BWB director Carmen Mauk. There’s no denying that the group is a hardworking bunch that is more flexible than unwieldy organizations like the Red Cross, which has taken in $170 million since the storm but has come up with a somewhat embarrassing response, consisting of blankets, week-old hot dogs, and disgruntled volunteers. 

“Big agencies are prescribed in what they can and can’t do,” said Tom, “but we don’t have those preconditions. We do whatever needs doing.” 

Good on ya, Tom, Richard, Carmen, and everyone else helping out with the relief effort. I was in Sandy with a bunch of Burners, we all pulled through together. Some of us got the fuck out, others ran in to help – that’s the Burner way too! Fuck yer day! Gift me the fuck out of here!


4 comments on “Superstorm Sandy vs the Burners

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