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Will Black Rock Be Consumed By Burning Man’s Fire?

“Burning Man uses 4 million gallons of water just on dust abatement” – wow! This is an interesting story and perspective from Suzanne. See the comments also, there are some good responses from locals and insiders. [more…]

santafemous

Burners love their annual Black Rock City. For those of us who grew up going to Black Rock, it’s a different kind of love. I’ve not been to Burning Man, but wanted to check out how Black Rock has fared since the event has been hosted there.

The proud declaration of “Leave No Trace” was on my mind. Is it true? Can an event that hosts tens of thousands of people leave no mark?

Walking on the Playa last April, it looked much the same, except for a tint of blackness mixed with the usual creamy alkali flats. It is a tremendous accomplishment when you consider the traffic it bears each year during the event. However, I did discover extenuating impact that stimulated a feeling of concern. The infrastructure needed to host this event is enormous. The event itself may leave no trace, but the Burning Man Machine is buying up land…

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2 comments on “Will Black Rock Be Consumed By Burning Man’s Fire?

  1. I thought I’d add a comment here, rather than double up on Suzanne’s blog.

    I suppose you could call me an insider, in that I managed the “80 Acres” Burning Man ranch from 2001 to 2004, am still involved with Burning Man as a volunteer, and own a home and business in Gerlach. It seems like Suzanne has some bias in her article– this is to be expected from anyone, and I could be accused of bias myself, although I think I temper any pro-BM bias with years of experiences outside of their cultural bubble. Here are my observations:

    She starts mentioning “[t]he proud declaration of Leave No Trace….” That term refers to an ethic (and an organization) that started well before Burning Man, and commonly refers to the use of public lands. She does recognize that “the event itself may leave no trace,” then goes on to express concerns about “the Burning Man Machine” and development of their private property. Funny thing, I said something similar about how the ranch was a “trace” in a documentary once. The thing is, the practice of dumping on the ranch was stopped, permits put in place, and everything generally improved. The results are clear to anyone looking at the aerial photo of Black Rock Station, although it is still wrongly captioned “[r]epository for debris, junk, & left over art installations on the Playa.” There is some confusion between descriptions of the ranch from 12 years ago and the state of affairs today. Only the author can know whether this is deliberate.

    She then lists the kinds of trash (MOOP) that are found on the playa every year (although she has already conceded that this is all removed), and cites a mention of someone crapping on the playa, immediately followed by a “people like that” comment. I hate to point out the obvious, but not everyone shits on the playa. The only way to reach the people that do is to call them out, and that’s what was being done in that report. To answer her rhetorical “does anyone care?” Apparently, Burning Man does.

    Then, some more factoids about money and property. Meh, Burning Man makes money. Burning Man owns property. Only money paid to the BLM makes it into her accounting. Her interpretation is that “big business is having its way with Northern Nevada.” This is somewhat laughable, in that compared to casinos and mining, Burning Man is small potatoes. She even mentions that Burning Man could buy the US Gypsum company town, Empire, and clean that up. No hint of cognitive dissonance whatsoever. She then details a terse conversation with the caretaker out at Black Rock Station. She refers to him as a “visitor,” and that she has a right to be “out in Black Rock,” but in fact he lives on the property she is visiting, and that’s in Hualapai Flat. She tells him Burning Man is responsible for tourism traffic to Fly Geyser. There’s a picture of Fly Geyser on the Nevada tourism website, for crying out loud. There’s a picture of Fly Geyser in an airport in Germany, in a bank in Reno, in Desert Magazine 50 years ago. What Burning Man is really responsible for is drawing her interest to take her long lens and poke it at their storage and production facility.

    In all of this, the only impact she mentions to the actual public lands of the Black Rock Desert High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area is where the gravel transitions to alkali at the desert entrance. All the other local impacts are implied, without any real support beyond her own convictions. Now, before people jump down my throat, I know that there ARE impacts to both the playa and to the local community, whether it’s dunes, ruts, traffic, cultural, economic, and so forth. I’d prefer to have real discussions about those real impacts, rather than the same insinuations that Burning Man must be fucking something up, because, Burning Man.

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  2. Just in case my comment doesn’t get moderated….

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    07/25/2014 at 3:27 pm
    You’re aware that the BLM contract requires BMllc to do cleanup along the highway, correct?

    Wait, you’ve not read the federal register, have you?

    The other interesting reference I’ve seen, is that BMllc has also had to cleanup the trash that the native Nevadans have dumped over the years in the desert too. If it surfaces anywhere in the BM area, then the BMllc had to take care of it. That stuff used to be stored on the old work ranch. Old 1950s fridges, and old cars.

    I’m interested in your ‘blackened’ playa photo. Is that not the road in, which is not all playa, but gravel and other stuff? 8mi or 12mi? I’ve not seen darkened playa from vehicles.

    There are however some interesting stories, mainly from the rocket guys, about dune-snakes and other traces being left. Some are unavoidable when things get used by 10s of thousands of people.

    You’re gonna say, keep all dem people out!

    Umm, that’s my property too. I’m a tax-paying US citizen, and that’s federal land.

    I can think of a lot worse ways that it could be used. Think Rainbow gatherings, when there is no one organized group who makes and enforces contracts, who gets paid, and pays for cleanup.

    There are more people, and they’re going to put more use on lands, everywhere.

    If you want less use, start working to eliminate people. How many kids do you have (1 or more?)? Are you planning on having?

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