Burning Man gets a lot of flack for its environmental impact, but the event may offset its carbon footprint with important cultural contributions that may help make the world greener. Burning Man 2015 is over and the almost 70,000 burners have left the playa in Nevada’s remote Black Rock Desert. However, questions about the environmental impact of the event remain.
People come from all over the world to attend this counterculture event and while it functions under the banner of ‘leave no trace’, it would be wrong to say that it is “green.” Many articles have made the point blatantly clear, burning man is bad for the environment. Whether due to the event itself or the carbon footprint associated with the travel to get there, burning man has a heavy footprint.LA Weekly reported that in 2015 Burning Man generated 45,493 tons of greenhouse gases. And on a per capita basis each burner generates twice the national average of GHGs. The Burning Man statue itself is doused with gasoline and generates more than 100 tons of GHGs.
Despite the bona fide concerns about the environmental impact, burners try to reduce the impact of the event. Here is a Burning Man environmental compliance training that took place on Saturday, August 29, 2015. This is a small part of the training of thirty burners who volunteered to serve as Earth Guardians. In this video Aaron Curtis explains the connections between Leave No Trace, fairy shrimp, migratory birds, and Burning Man.
Here is another video where environmental compliance specialist Evan and Earth Guardian members try to help burners to manage their gray water problem.
Burning Man cannot be assessed solely on its carbon footprint. It is performance art on a gargantuan scale. ‘
It may be ironic but it is true that most burners are environmentally concerned. However, the real environmental contribution may not be so easy to measure.
Burning man is about far more than setting a giant wooden statue alight. it is about changing the way we think and live. Here is a rant from a burning man aficionado that may help to explain the event and why we need to factor its socio-cultural impact on the environment beyond its carbon footprint.