Can Burning Man Pull Out of Its Climate Death Spiral?

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It was desperation that led Michelle right into a BDSM tent at Burning Man. Not a determined want for a spanking. Far from being a masochist, Michelle simply wished reduction from the warmth, and the BDSM tent had air-conditioning.

Burning Man 2022 was scorching. The notorious bacchanal held within the dusty, dry lake mattress of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert began at a excessive of 98 levels Fahrenheit on Monday, August 29. By the weekend it had gotten as much as 103, a record-setting temperature for a spot already inhospitable to life. 

That this featureless, skin-cracking-dry expanse of white mud isn’t straightforward residing has all the time been the purpose of internet hosting Burning Man there. But final yr’s circumstances led to a common sense of burnout and malaise, and plenty of of the 80,000 attendees requested the existential query of whether or not it was nonetheless price it to throw a celebration in a desert on a warming planet.

Tickets normally promote out inside seconds of occurring sale, and when the tickets to the 2023 occasion turn out to be out there on April 12, that most likely gained’t change. Instead, the occasion would possibly slowly decay after hitting a cultural excessive level proper earlier than the pandemic.

Reno, Nevada, is the closest large metropolis, and it’s the quickest warming metropolis within the United States. Nevada at the moment averages 20 days a yr with “dangerous” warmth. By 2050, that’s projected to be 30 days. That doesn’t imply yearly from right here on out could have triple-digit days, however it does imply they’re more and more possible.

Michelle, 35, is an outdoorsy one who likes to camp out and hike. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and counts a lot of “Burners” amongst her pals and former roommates. “Self-sufficiency being one of the core principles, I was thinking this would be a really fun adventure for me,” she says, alluding to Burning Man’s foundational 10 Principles that pageant devotees adhere to. (Michelle requested me to not use her final title as a result of she worries that publicly figuring out as a Burner would adversely have an effect on her skilled life.)

Two pals acquired her a last-minute ticket and set her up with a 175-person sustainability-focused camp. There could be contemporary vegan meals, talks about sustainable residing, and a bio-toilet, and the camp would supply composting for different camps. She packed a duffle bag with light-weight garments, an enormous hat, electrolytes, sunscreen, a lot of water, two battery-powered followers, and a two-person tent. But these provides have been no match for the mud and the warmth. 

By 8:30 on the primary morning, her tent was an oven. She scrambled for a spot to cover from the warmth. The few misting cool-down stations listed within the official schedule have been all full of individuals in search of respite. Meanwhile, mud storms swept over the playa, limiting visibility to some ft and coating everybody with alkaline mud. 

“I really felt like I was gonna die,” Michelle says. She knew her two pals had air-conditioning of their shelter, however they have been a 45-minute bike journey away. She lastly discovered their yurt and crawled inside. When they confirmed up an hour later, Michelle was having a breakdown. “This is too much. I think I need to go home,” she sobbed. She ended up staying, nonetheless, and on the finish of the week she endured the nauseating activity of cleansing rotten meals out of her camp’s freezers and throwing it away—the camp’s previous turbines had damaged down. 

It’s Hard to Be Green within the Dust

Festival attendees must cope with mud storms on the playa. 

Photograph: Jordan England-Nelson/Getty Images

Full disclosure, I spent Burning Man 2022 in a gas-guzzling, air-conditioned RV. It was my sixth yr on the Burn, and I used to be having a disaster of conscience over my participation, which was exacerbated by sitting in a 12-hour site visitors jam to get out that was so large you may see it from house.

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