Student’s Corner

Climate Troubles at Burning Man

If you’ve spent some time on social media this past week, you may have heard about extreme rain wrecking chaos at the Burning Man festival. Picture this: 70,000 people trapped in a massive mud pit in a former Nevada lake bed. Nobody can transport supplies in or drive out. The only option is to trek five miles out to escape the mud, which is exactly what musical headliners Diplo and Chris Rock decided to do.

What is Burning Man?

Backing up to the big picture, Burning Man is a festival held annually in Nevada and attracts “hedonists” and the wealthy to party in a “utopian community” where bartering is the only economic system (not including entry fees that start at nearly $600, camp fees, and supplies people bring with them). 

Where did all this rain come from?

As the climate crisis worsens, we can expect increased rain in areas that are used to less. Wired cites Michael Mann, a University of Pennsylvania earth and environmental science professor, who warns that a warming atmosphere will hold more moisture, so when rainfall conditions are favorable, we can expect more rain. This is especially problematic in places that experience a monsoon season, making them even more dangerous. In the case of Burning Man and other massive festivals, how will organizers work to keep their attendees safe from extreme weather events? 

How has Burning Man contributed to the climate crisis?

Burning Man reportedly has a carbon footprint of 100,000 tons, 90% of which is created by travel to and from the site. This is more than 22,000 gas-powered cars create in a single year. While the festival organizers have a goal of being net negative by 2030, it seems unlikely that they’ll achieve it.

In an effort to raise awareness about this issue, a group of climate protestors attempted to block the road into Burning Man. They demanded the festival organizers “Ban private jets, single-use plastics, unnecessary propane burning, and unlimited generator use per capita at the nine day event in Black Rock City, Nevada.” Unfortunately, this protest did not last long and was broken up after about an hour, with several protestors getting arrested. 

There’s an irony to Burning Man allegedly being a “utopian” space while its attendees create tens of thousands of pounds of carbon emissions just to get there, way out in the desert, while they worsen the world around them and contribute to the very problem that caused this year’s rain disaster.

Written by Sarah Woodams ‘24(T5)

Photo by Mishaal Zahed on Unsplash