Not only is the wall across the Mexican border a very serious, very real threat. But one other wall threatens to change an entirely different community. The annual Burning Man festival takes place in the northern Nevada desert every August throughout Labor Day weekend. The festival has been happening on a dried lake bed in the Black Rock Desert for decades now. Since the land is operated by the BLM, the government organization is asking for the Burning Man festival to comply with some pretty serious requests in order to maintain its permit.
The Burning Man Festival has been implementing changes to its policies in recent months as a way of responding to harsh criticisms surrounding how its attendees use the event. In a blog post published to the Burning Man website, the Burning Man Organization called out companies that use the event for an advertising backdrop. The festival has become one of the biggest music and art events in the world. Companies know that associating themselves with the festival is good branding toward consumers interested in the event. The blog post attacks one demographic in particular—Instagram influencers—demanding that any influencers aiming to use Burning Man as an advertising backdrop simply do not attend.
“Part of Burning Man’s magic is having experiences that are unmediated by corporate influence, where relationships aren’t transactional and are instead based on things with unconditional value,” reads the blog post. “It’s what makes it different from festivals or other pre-produced events and social spaces. That’s why using Burning Man to sell or promote stuff feels so wrong.”
Leave No Trace
The Burning Man festival operates on the ethos of its “ten principles.” This is a list of suggested guidelines that attendees must adhere to in order to be part of the experimental utopia of Black Rock City. One of the ten principles is to leave no trace. It asks every attendee to leave with everything they came with. This includes housing, food, water, garbage, and—yep, human waste (if you came in an RV, that is).
Environmental Impact Statement
The festival requires its attendees to bring in their own—everything. Many ask what the price of the nearly $500 ticket is for. Part of the ticket price already goes toward paying the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its services during the festival. Now, the BLM is asking for more money in addition to a long list of requirements that Burning Man must fill starting in 2020. The event must comply with these requests to be able to maintain its event permit.
Part of the new requirement includes a massive concrete wall that must be built by the Burning Man Organization each year. The wall would extend around the perimeter of the festival’s 10-miles of grounds. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) calls for the Burning Man Festival to comply with a long list of other requests. Things such as paving a 90 mile stretch of road leading to the event, complete searches of every vehicle, and complete federal oversight of the event throughout its duration are on the list. Burning Man footing the bill for these requests. This would make ticket prices raise at least another $200. Meanwhile, the already heavy federal police presence at the event would increase substantially.
“We are held to the highest standard of any permit on BLM managed lands and are proud of our environmental track record. Burning Man is now the largest Leave No Trace event in the world,” reads a blog post published to the Burning Man blog by the organization. “Black Rock City has also become a significant economic engine, bringing $70 million into the Northern Nevada economy each year,” it reads.
Burning Man provides a significant boost to the local communities of Northern Nevada already. In fact, many locals rely on the nearly 100,000 people that travel through the area in order to make ends meet. Because of that, it’s hard to say who, exactly, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is supposed to help. Surely not the Trump family, as they seem to be fans of the festival themselves. A threat of government oversight on an arts festival may seem trivial in comparison to other issues. But the DEIS signals a threat to the very freedoms that this country prides itself on.