This is a thought experiment, a call to action, or maybe even a plea. Perhaps it’s the ravings of a lunatic, if you don’t agree with me. The community of people who read this blog are the only ones on the planet with both the openness to listen and the determination to find solutions to complex problems. If we can figure out how to throw the best party in the world in the worst place to throw it, surely we can figure out this whole water thing.
Specifically, I want to talk about the cost & availability of water at events throughout the country, off-playa. We have Burning Man camps throwing stupendous parties as fundraisers for BM & regional burns. These events showcase the idea that parties can be principled, community-building affairs. These events are superior to “retail” or “EDM” styled dance music events, and we generally are pretty smug about how much better they are. Not for nothing, as they totally are. However, they aren’t perfect.
One thing that’s somewhat baffling is price of water at all of these events. The fact that I’m paying $5-6 for a bottle of water at Pacha, Avalon or Hakkasan is one thing. But when I’m being charged the same amount at a camp fundraiser, I think there’s a problem. I totally understand that it’s a fundraiser and we’re there to support, but we also rely on a gigantic population of people who go to these parties but never make it to Burning Man. I’m not sure why gouging these people is justified. I don’t believe water should ever be a profit generating item on party budgets but I also know I’m not the King of All Parties.
I think there’s a real opportunity for Burners to lead on this one, and make parties across the country better. There are plenty of influential DJs, producers, promoters, 1% & 0.1% members who enjoy the Burn and know that it’s important for us to ask serious questions about where we get our water, how, and who we buy it from/how it’s produced. Why am I paying 6 bucks for a bottle of water, that was ordered in bulk from some Big Water ZombieCorp? Why is it that we’re not making the hard, possibly slightly less profitable choices about providing tap water (it goes through the best water filter jugs at least once), advocating for water conservation & reforming the laws around large companies bottling our municipal water supply and selling it back to us.
Before anyone says it: No, this is not a call to have water given out at Burning Man. I’ve got a map from the 2006 Burn on my wall above the computer I’m writing this on, and would never want to make BM anything less than the rugged, non-plug & play carnival of stupendousness I remember it as and know it can be. The idea of having water provided at the Burn is antithetical to the goals of the event and those who attend. At burn fundraisers in real bars, warehouses & places that aren’t the deep playa however? I don’t understand why water is more expensive there than it is at the dubstep show up the street. Aren’t we better than that?
If we can spend thousands of dollars on desert dancefloors, epic structures, rainbow lights and art cars with dancefloors inside of them (yo dawg, I herd you like dancefloors…), we can drop a couple of dollars making sure the water that we’re selling at these fundraisers, or gigs we’re associated with isn’t exploitative. What would happen if DiSORIENT, False Profit, Opulent Temple, Kostume Kult, White Ocean, Bubbles & Bass, Robot Heart just decided to negotiate with venues to ensure water was free or a dollar? If they opened with “what do we need to do to ensure water is free/sold at cost at our fundraisers?” I’d imagine they’d get a lot more traction than if I threw up another useless petition on change.org that you wouldn’t read or sign. What would happen if Burners who owned companies took a look at how they used water? What would happen if superstar DJs who play at Burning Man every year started putting “free water” in their riders off playa? If the green room can come stocked with a dozen bottles of champagne, what would happen if it started being part of what ticket holders expected when we went to a Burning Man camp fundraiser?
Yes, this would mean we’d need to make some hard choices, work to ensure that California doesn’t entirely dry out, and that we’re more conservationist than hedonistic when it comes to water usage. But maybe it catches fire (like Western parts of the USA this time of year). Maybe headliners like Bassnectar & deadmau5 start demanding it. Maybe California BM groups help make this a signature issue to solve, not to spar or win political points on. Maybe we remember that it is about Gifting & Decommodification as much as it is about Radical Self Reliance. Who knows, maybe we remind the dance music universe that water isn’t for making money on either, and things get better for everyone. Even people who will never make it to the playa.
It’s fun to dream. Thanks for dreaming with me, for a moment anyways. Hope you’ve got your reusable water bottle within arms reach while you’re reading this. I know I do.