Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

A hurricane hitting the desert was not on anybody’s Burner bingo card for 2023.

Burning Man, the annual 80,000-person bacchanal, occurs about three hours outdoors of Reno, Nevada, within the Black Rock Desert each Labor Day. It’s a spot of extremes: excessive temperatures, excessive mud storms, and an excessive lack of water.

Local weather change, and all its excessive unpredictability, has arrived on the playa, the dusty-dry lakebed the place the occasion is located. Final yr, temperatures soared to 103 levels Fahrenheit. This yr, not solely did a tropical storm roll by, however an unseasonable rainstorm adopted inside the week. The ensuing epic mud pit, full of all method of litter and trash, may pressure the sources of the Burning Man Group—the gathering’s governing physique, additionally known as the Org—to the breaking level.

However it additionally may hit the reset button on the occasion. Up to now 5 years, Burning Man has gained a status for being a playground for billionaires and influencers, full of luxurious RVs and personal, air-conditioned domes with open bars. This newest wallop may pull it again from the brink of full Coachella-fication and into its radical, community-focused roots.

Extra importantly, the playa’s devolving right into a muddy, trash-filled entice for Burners has raised questions on whether or not there’s such a factor as “radical self-reliance”—certainly one of Burning Man’s most cited rules—on a boiling planet. Maybe the opposite, much less fetishized tenants of communal effort and civic duty may shine a lightweight ahead for the occasion.

If it survives.

Sparkle Pony Shortages

As Burning Man approached this yr, the same old mad scramble to search out tickets was absent. As an alternative, the other occurred: There was a mad scramble to promote them.

In years previous, those that did not get tickets within the preliminary sale needed to work all their connections to discover a spare one. With regular-priced $575 tickets vanishingly uncommon, some threw down $2,750 to safe their spot. However this summer season, a stunning variety of tickets have been being supplied for under face worth on social media.

A wide range of causes was given, the main one being that the current layoffs within the tech trade had gutted Burning Man’s goal market. A satirical Medium article spoke of a Sparkle Pony Recession, through which fairly (principally feminine) influencers have been unable to search out rich sponsors to fly them in and put them up in luxurious RVs. Camps that often aimed for 80 p.c returning members had to soak up round 70 p.c newbies to fill their roster.

Different causes: It felt distasteful to do one thing so reliant on diesel throughout a local weather disaster. Folks understandably needed to take the $5,000-plus {dollars} they’d usually lay out for journey and provides and spend it on a trip to Europe as a substitute of on Mad Max cosplay. Folks have been exhausted from the scorching and really un-fun 2022 Burn and, seeing this yr’s doubled RV costs, determined to take a yr off.

“Final yr was my worst burn,” says Kristen Nadaraja, a longtime Burner from San Francisco who was on the fence about going. “Folks have been offended.”

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