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Tuesday, 04 December 2007

How Green was the Green Man? - Page 9

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.

 

Ironically, even the man himself – though he glowed green at night – was less than environmentally friendly. Tom Price states that despite vigorous efforts, the BORG was unable to obtain an effective green neon glow material that did not contain mercury, a toxin with a reputation for inducing brain damage. (Price says that the amount was small enough not to pose a hazard).

Most burners I spoke with – including Burning Man founder Larry Harvey – argued that the real value in the green effort was not in how it altered life on the playa, but how it might educate and influence people to change their lives and take action back home. Harvey conceived the theme as an exploration of “humanity’s relationship to nature.” One burner I met at Camp Hook-up’s green building workshop said his boss had paid for his Burning Man ticket in order for him to learn how to make a resort chain in Arizona more environmentally sustainable. Solar PV engineer Peef reported several inquiries on how to install solar panels back home.

At the Green Pavilion – which was closed for more than half the festival due to the premature immolation – kiosks and art displays offered a variety of educational resources: from descriptions of environmental crises such as unsustainable harvesting of hardwoods, to proposed eco-innovations like kite-powered cargo ships.

“This has been an opportunity to have a public conversation. More people are talking about this issue than I’ve ever heard before, and that might even offset [Burning Man’s] impact,” said BORG spokesperson Andie Grace. “I don’t think we’re in such dire circumstances that art has become irrelevant.”

Mechabolic creator Jim Mason reflected on the Green Theme, “I find trying to run a green experiment in the midst of the most highly consumptive collection of creators to be a rich contradiction. Green gestures are so often tinged with ludditism, human loathing, and general defeatism. It is usually a narrative of ‘do less, be less.’ What happens if the people who are about ‘do more, be more,’ with a major theme of burning things, want to also be green? That's a mess. It’s much more truthful to our situation. Thus why the theme was so rich.”

Life After Burning Man

But other long-time burners say they’ve had it up to here with Burning Man. Kachina Katrina commented after the burn, “I saw a lot of participants not contributing to the whole green movement. I don’t think that there was a lot of care and consideration given by the organization.”

 

Kachina KatrinaKachina Katrina frantically coordinated final details before the burn.

 

Kachina Katrina says the BORG could have done a lot more, despite inherent limitations. “We all know it’s not an event that can be 100% greened, but judging by the participants’ take on it, it’s got a long way to go.”

For Kachina Katrina and other disaffected burners, it’s off to…well… greener pastures. “Some friends and fellow colleagues in the greening Burning Man movement are starting a new festival called Water Woman – where they’ll take all of these ideas and values we proposed to green Burning Man and incorporate them into a festival-like atmosphere. This isn’t the only festival that is going to be more ecological – others such as Future Now, Entheon Villagers, and Symbiosis are creating eco-gatherings.”

Kachina Katrina is pleased to have experienced some new eco-practices this year on the playa – she’s planning to bring her updated greywater know-how to the kitchen at Symbiosis.

Water Woman founder and creator Ray Cirino, a twelve-time burner, talks about how different his baby will be from life on the playa. “Instead of building a city and tearing it down or destroying it, we’re going to keep the city. Burning Man says leave no trace – every single drop of ‘trace’ we’re going to be recycling or composting.”

 

(Page 9 of 10)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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