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Tuesday, 04 December 2007

How Green was the Green Man? - Page 8

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.


Thus, according to Monbiot, to achieve the necessary 90% emission cut to stop runaway global warming we must both build wind turbines and stop flying. To do only one and not the other is to consign future generations (and perhaps ourselves) to a future that will make Katrina look like a minor weather event. Monbiot argues that the danger of carbon offsets is that they could serve as a modern “indulgence,” invoking the 15th-century church scams wherein priests sold a clean conscience to sinning parishioners for a few ducats.

Revealingly, playa life imitated metaphor at the Green Man Pavilion’s F.I.R.E. (Future Impact Reduction and Education) nexus. Established by students, alums, and faculty of Dominican University’s Green M.B.A. program, the learning center prominently featured an “Eco-confessional booth” which implored burners to “confess your eco-sins and be forgiven.”Eco-confessional

The author of this story stepped behind the curtain and begged faux-Father John Stayton of Dominican to forgive sins such as flying halfway around the globe for a brother’s wedding in South Africa, and collecting unlimited numbers of toys. The Father’s prescriptions generally focused on taking positive steps in other areas of life, but balked at challenging the idea of runaway consumption.

“It’s a playful way of helping people to recognize that a lot of us who’ve had our awareness raised then carry around a sense of guilt of our own impacts. We want people to become aware of their ecological impacts and process those feelings – but do it in a lighthearted way,” said Stayton.

Monbiot’s calculations postulate that if we are to achieve the necessary 90% cut, every person on the planet must be allocated a greenhouse gas emissions budget of 1.33 tons annually. According to Cooling Man’s estimates, the average burner emits .64 tons of greenhouse gas emissions traveling to and from and participating in the event. Thus, Burning Man participants blow nearly six months’ worth of emissions in one week. (As a frame of reference, one cross-country round trip flight more than exceeds the entire budget.)

“Any scheme that persuades us we can carry on polluting delays the point at which we grasp the nettle of climate change and accept that our lives have to change,” says Monbiot – a commentary as applicable to Black Rock City as any city.

Green Living 101?

Much could be said about how the BORG and many theme camps made valiant efforts to bring other environmentally-conscious practices to the playa: solar cooking, solar hot water, wind turbines, greywater systems, composting, recycling, and a community bicycle program. But these efforts appeared to be confined to certain corners of Black Rock City; for most burners, it was (wasteful) playa-life-as-usual. Many burners said that the green theme made little to no impact on their experience.

In truth, Burning Man is not and (for the foreseeable future) cannot be green: 90% of the event’s reported ecological footprint is due to the enormous fossil fuel expenditure required to transport 45,000 people to a far-flung region that is not convenient to public transportation.


(Page 8 of 10)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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