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September 02, 2007


Joseph Dunphy

> The first time I was on the playa, I
> was disgusted.

My experience was the reverse. I loved what I saw immediately, and disenchantment came later.

> I hated the destruction of the
> desert quietude with the racour of
> dance clubs.

Dance clubs that have grown in number until there aren't enough dancers to fill them, leaving music blasting out onto empty dust to no effect, but to disturb the sleep of the neighbors of some highly inconsiderate would-be disk jockeys. I've heard the stories and can't say that I'm surprised that this was the direction that Burning Man would end up taking.

> The destruction of the cracked
> surface into a fine powder. This
> was another way people - supposedly
> enlightened people - we just abusing
> nature. But then I saw this is not
> about Nature. It's about humanity.

Except that regardless of what we decide that "this is about", the damage to nature remains real and is likely to be enduring. An ePlaya user named bocalake observed something, and it seems plausible: where Burning Man is meeting, the Playa floor has been slowly dropping.

It makes sense. That cracked desert pavement maintains its texture because the material that makes it up has a certain amount of cohesion. Pound it into powder, the cohesion is gone, and sure enough, the acnkowledgement is widespread that the amount of dust being blown away greatly increases because of the event. New dust is not going to magically teleport in to replace the old.

Fantasies have been offered, by way of rebuttal, of the wintertime flooding, measurable only in inches, flattening out the shallow, miles wide crater that this is going to be forming, conveniently ignoring the fact that wagon ruts from the 19th century could still be seen on the Playa in the early days of the festival, according to the official Burning Man site itself. The shallow flood waters don't erase that much.

What is being formed is a shallow drainage pond. As rainfall onto the Playa is unlikely to increase substantially in the near future, this would seem to mean that the area covered by the wintertime flooding has to decrease, at the expense of the wintertime ecosystem. That's nature being harmed, not just for you or me, or for the partiers, but for everybody, and if the lesson you carried away from Burning Man is that this doesn't matter because of private meanings that private individuals have decided to assign to an experience?

Then what you've learned how to do is how to validate gross, uncaring selfishness, and that is not a step in the direction of enlightenment.


and like the playa, which gets blown away bit by bit each year, perhaps parts of you will be crumbled to dust, blowing away on the wind.

By whose definition is nature being harmed. We are egotistical human beings if we think we know the way the earth wants to move.

However if you think I have a lack of concern about nature and the changing environment, and your take away is it's ok to be selfish if you get something out of an experience, you are reading your own thoughts and fears into my words.

The evolution/transformation of nature and the ecosystem does not equal stagnation. Change is the only thing that is constant. We as humans, have a small possibility of affecting the direction some of the changes take.

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Heather Vescent

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