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Tuesday, 04 December 2007

How Green was the Green Man? - Page 7

Written by Matthew Alan Taylor
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Can 45,000 people journey vast distances to a lifeless desert and participate in an environmentally sustainable festival devoted to burning stuff? This year, Burning Man attempted to do just that: go green.


Hitch believes Burning Man needs to evolve from its current emphasis on individual self-reliance to an increased ethos of community self-reliance.

“If there were a cultural shift in that direction, we could decrease our ecological footprint every year when we throw the event and increase awareness for people to live in a greener way throughout the year.”


waterMiss Rosie drinks deeply out of a disposable water bottle in front of a display warning of the environmental dangers posed by such objects.



“What I’d like to see is a re-emergence of community: community that would create efficiencies in transportation, in food distribution, in the consumption of water, and other things that are going to reduce the impact on the environment, and would support the individual on a number of levels they need from an emotional, cultural, and spiritual standpoint,” added Hitch.

Price doesn’t see it the same way, at least as far as water bottles are concerned. He talks up Burning Man’s efforts to persuade area supermarkets to stock large-size water bottles as opposed to the smaller single-serve sizes, and notes that burners who want to could bring their own large, refillable water drums as Price himself has done. “It’s not our job to be nannies or babysitters… I don’t accept the premise that people can’t be responsible for themselves,” said Price.

Offsetting Apocalypse?

Global warming is front and center of any environmental discussion these days. So what is an effective way for burners to tackle their contribution to global warming? The Cooling Man project is an independent effort initiated by environmental scientists and economists David Shearer and Jeff Cole of San Francisco to persuade burners to purchase “carbon offsets” to cancel out their playa-related greenhouse gas emissions. As many frequent flyers know, carbon offsets are offered by various companies as a way to make up for the global warming-related impact of personal transportation and other activities. For instance, Native Energy offers to offset the two tons of carbon that a traveler emits by flying round-trip from New York to Reno (the closest major airport to Black Rock City) for $36. The purchaser has the option to channel the funds into projects such as a wind turbine farm on Sioux land in South Dakota, or a rural Pennsylvania family farm methane-capture system that will generate electricity from manure.

“The opportunity is to be strategic and fact-based in how you use the offsets…. If every burner invested in .7 tons of carbon offsets, we’d be the first carbon-neutral city on the planet. If every burner invested in one ton, we’d be carbon negative,” Shearer claims. Cooling Man reports that it helped to offset 780 out of the 33,250 estimated tons of greenhouse gas emissions generated by Burning Man 2007.

But even if Cooling Man could build the offset fee into ticket prices next year as Shearer hopes, are carbon offsets a legitimate way to stop global warming? According to Guardian UK columnist George Monbiot (author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning), no way.

Take, for instance, airplane travel: every year, over 6,000 burners fly across the country and the world to attend the event, billowing out tons of greenhouse gases. Monbiot reports that airplane travel is the single most offensive and unredeemable sector of the economy. Unlike automobiles, there isn’t even a glimmer of a green techno-fix: as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated, “There would not appear to be any practical alternatives to kerosene-based fuels for commercial jet aircraft for the next several decades.” The only apparent option would be to switch from jets to Zeppelins (hot air balloon ships).


(Page 7 of 10)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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