Rafia Zakaria in Baffler:
IN 2023, THE ATTENDEES of the Burning Man festival finally got the rebuke they deserved. “Burners,” as the festivalgoers like to call themselves, found themselves confronting rare torrential rain last week in the dried-up Nevada desert lake bed where they gather each year. The rain turned the fine silty dust-like sand into clay. The clay in turn made it near impossible for anyone to get around, and local authorities issued an order asking the eighty thousand festivalgoers to shelter in place. All exits from the site were closed and social media spilled over with Burners complaining about the terrible conditions they were having to confront instead of the usual wild bacchanal they had come to enjoy.
There are many troubles with the Burning Man Festival but one particularly noxious one is how oblivious Burners are of their privilege and of their exploitation of what was once a pristine landscape, the Black Rock Desert.
There were clues to this even as the Burners were arriving to the festival site this year. In the week leading up to the festival, protesters from a climate action coalition called Seven Circles Alliance used a trailer to put a roadblock on the single road leading to the festival site. They sat down in the middle of the road and put up signs like “Burners of the World Unite” and “Mother Earth Needs Our Help.” The protesters wanted Burning Man to put an end to the ever-larger number of private jets used by celebrities and the ultrarich to get to the festival. The protesters were also demanding a ban on unlimited use of diesel-guzzling generators, propane, and single-use plastics.
Their pleas were not well received.