The Finish of Burning Man Is Additionally Its Future

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 throughout the week. The ensuing epic mud pit, crammed with 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.

Nevertheless it additionally may hit the reset button on the occasion. Up to now 5 years, Burning Man has gained a repute for being a playground for billionaires and influencers, crammed with 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 lure for Burners has raised questions on whether or not there’s such a factor as “radical self-reliance”—one in all Burning Man’s most cited ideas—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 seek out tickets was absent. As a substitute, the alternative 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 time, a shocking variety of tickets had been being provided for beneath face worth on social media.

Quite a lot 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, during which fairly (largely feminine) influencers had been unable to seek out rich sponsors to fly them in and put them up in luxurious RVs. Camps that often aimed for 80 % returning members had to absorb round 70 % 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 wished 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 an alternative of on Mad Max cosplay. Folks had 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 had been indignant.”

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