sustainable burning man?

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.
cinnamontwist
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sustainable burning man?

Post by cinnamontwist » Sat Sep 06, 2003 6:17 pm

Heard Erik Davis on KPFK today talking about Burning Man. He made the argument that burning man is now at a critical juncture, as it was in 1996, when it shifted from anarchy to some minimal structure & rules.

The gist seemed to be, it's in danger of simply becoming too predictable, too routine, as a whole.

Perhaps Burning Man needs a new challenge. To set the bar higher for itself, the community.

Maybe Burning Man could aim towards making itself completely energy self-sufficient by 2007. Solar power . . . why not dozens of flatbed trucks with mini wind turbines, fuel cells? Think of all these mad inventors and engineers... what if they started putting their brains together to come up with some cheap energy solutions. cut out all those noisy generators? free black rock city from fossil fuels. This would certainly be in line with the general direction of BMORG in terms of emphasizing the CITY aspect over the party-party angle.

On a similar slant, what about Black Rock Arts Foundation focusing on eco-village experiments as much as art works? An eco-village is the ultimate design & esthetic challenge.

Of course there was the alternative energy village this year, which i'm embarrassed to admit i did not even get to.

Anybody with thoughts on this?

cinnamon twist

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s5
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Post by s5 » Sat Sep 06, 2003 6:27 pm

i have lots of thoughts on this, and i'm glad to see others have been thinking about it too. i strongly believe that "leave no trace" needs to apply to the air we breathe.

i've been pricing out fuel cells, but they're still too expensive per kWh. right now, the best source is fuelcellstore.com. a year or two ago, i made calls and sent emails to all the major fuel cell manufacturers, trying to get them to donate, lend or sell beta products, on the pitch that burning man is a unique environment with unique needs, etc etc, but no one went for it. (though i did exchange some interesting emails.) apparently no one is interested in beta testing anymore, which is actually an encouraging sign.

an array of solar panels might be interesting, and could be scaled according to interest in the project. of course, the issue of storage would come up - whether to use batteries or flywheels - and how to supply backup power. i'm also curious to see if biodiesel could be an option for electric generators.

i wonder if anyone has any estimations of how much electricity is used by participants in the event.

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Post by Ivy » Sat Sep 06, 2003 6:34 pm

On a similar slant, what about Black Rock Arts Foundation focusing on eco-village experiments as much as art works?
Um, I think it's (appropriately) named Black Rock ARTS Foundation for a reason.

Which is not to say that an equal foundation for ecology would not be a bad idea. Or that you could not apply for funding from them for and "aesthetic" AE camp/project.

I've heard the "sustainable" arguement for BM many times and I personaly totally disagree with it.

So you start creating a community out there, with your solar panels on your flatbed trucks and what not. Who is responsible for these things? Who pays for them? If it's factored in the cost of the ticket money, then we all have access to the power geberated, yes? How do we regulate the amount of power each person can use?
Personally, in a society of "self-sufficiency" and "radical free-expression" I might bring a noisy gas powered generator just to make a statement about my ability to do so. And not have to rely on said power above.
And with all these solar panels on trucks...what if it rains? What if it's cloudy the whole week? :)

Burning Man doesn't need to raise the bar. WE need to raise the bar. Burning is nothing more than the canvas that we are free to paint on. Both in terms of art and ecology. Burning Man is so vast and diverse that I can't see the Org standing behind any one thing.

I applaud anyone who harnesses energy from solar or other alterntaive sources. Start with one person, (namely, yourself) and work from there.

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Post by s5 » Sat Sep 06, 2003 6:58 pm

yeah, i don't think it should be up to the org at all. but i think if someone were to make "kits" or gather information so camps or individuals can set up their own thing, that would go a long way. for example, someone could set up a web page detailing different sources for, say, biodiesel generators, and tailor that information for burning man participants.

it might also be interesting if someone were to set up a mass project where anyone could either "buy in" to a grid (where "buy in" refers to contributions in the general sense - cash, labor, hardware, or whatever) or set up a co-op, so that people can trade power to accomodate different levels of usage at different hours.

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Post by Halo Joe » Sat Sep 06, 2003 7:04 pm

Ivy wrote:I applaud anyone who harnesses energy from solar or other alterntaive sources. Start with one person, (namely, yourself) and work from there.
Damn, Ivy. Yer hot.
You were burning long before you stepped into this fire. -- EB

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Post by Isotopia » Sat Sep 06, 2003 10:59 pm

Burning Man doesn't need to raise the bar. WE need to raise the bar.
Thanks for that Ivy. We need to be reminded once and again lest the creeping tries getting its foot in the door.

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sustainability

Post by cinnamontwist » Sun Sep 07, 2003 10:58 am

OK, right on. I agree with those critiques for the most part.

We *shouldn't* rely on or expect BMORG to do more than what they already do. Sustainability should *not* be an excuse or motivation for more rules, or more logistical burden on BMORG. That was a sloppy unthought out assumption on my part as I jumpstarted this thread impulsively.

Yes, if we want to see a more sustainable Burning Man, we should take it on ourselves to do what we can.

Yes, some people may want to keep generators around for the cool sounds they make. Or keep using fossil fuels as a reminder of the old school, or just cuz they're more fun & dirty. Cool.

Yes, black rock ARTS. but if you read the mission statement, its all about art that engages and creates COMMUNITY.

On the other hand, BMORG certainly has a big role in taking certain initiatives and setting directions. I assume the ice trucks & the med tent & the radio & the cafe run on regular petrol generators. There are huge solar arrays that can be rented for concerts, I've seen them at work. I wonder if anyone at BMORG has looked into those?

I've actually run one party down here in LA off of a small solar rig, supplying enough juice for a day's worth of amplified music & peripheral gear. I wanted to bring that out to Black Rock a couple years ago but the owner wasn't into it. But this is a good reminder for me to make an extra effort for our camp next year.

Still, I wanted to raise this thread, because my personal vision (but I don't think *only* my own) is of black rock city as a crucible of a new culture, a chaotic evolutionary cauldron out of which new values and new social structures might emerge. For that potential to be realized, it seems to me, black rock city would need to wean itself gradually from the energy paradigm of the existing civilization. In its current form, its a hugely unsustainable endeavor, a perfect mirror of the outside world (think LA, where everything including the water has to be carted in to the city).

Honestly, I wish Black Rock City were a year-round thing, and not just a week long party. I'd prefer living there myself.

Anybody know of a good way of de-alkilinizing the playa? Of course I suppose that suggestion would be heresy from the point of view of the BLM. Not the whole playa, mind you. Just enough to grow some stuff.

Yeah, another wacko utopian thought there... (Utopos='no place' in Greek).

twist

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Re: sustainability

Post by Stormy » Sun Sep 07, 2003 11:27 am

Twist,

Thanks for starting this discussion. I've always wondered about solar power at BRC, but have no idea about what sort of equipment to use for a camp or how much it would cost. Looking forward to hearing more on this.
cinnamontwist wrote: Yes, black rock ARTS. but if you read the mission statement, its all about art that engages and creates COMMUNITY.
Here's where we get down to the definition of art. Architecture is desiging something functional, which has the potential to look artistic. Fine art is generally not made to be a functional appliance, tool, structure, etc. An example of commercial art would be a dress design or a product ad. Fine art is generally something that is created to be experienced merely for the sake of the experience. A sculpture is generally intended to be looked at and possibly touched. While the Temple of Honor looked like a building, it was not designed to be lived in. It was a vessel of ideas and rememberances.

So I shudder at the idea of using an art fund for anything other than pure art. (Can't wait to see who's going to debate me on what is pure art, but I haven't had this kind of discussion for years when I stopped sculpting.)
cinnamontwist wrote: Honestly, I wish Black Rock City were a year-round thing, and not just a week long party. I'd prefer living there myself.
Cute. So will you be buying food with trust fund money or are you going to go work for Johnny on the Spot or the Gypsum Mine? :)
Be the change you seek in the world.

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Post by Ivy » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:05 pm

Yes, black rock ARTS. but if you read the mission statement, its all about art that engages and creates COMMUNITY.
Read agin, with this emphasis:
"all about ART that engages and creates community."

Again, I have no probelms with BRAF frunding art the is ecologially efficient, as long as it's art, not just a way of camping. I don't think it would be appropriate for BRAF to fund AEZ, for example. But an AE art project? By all means, I think that would probably be a worthy endeavor.


Honestly, I wish Black Rock City were a year-round thing, and not just a week long party. I'd prefer living there myself.
Honesly, IMO, I don't. It wouldn't be special to me anymore. As it becomes a year-round sustainable community, it would require infrastructure in terms pf power, water, sewage, et. al. It would become (like your example) LA in the BRD.
Someone on one of the other BM lists I'm on asked why we don't burn 4 times a year and I replied that if it happened all the time, it wouldn't be special. To me, the fact that it exsists for such a short period of time makes it special. YMMV.

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Re: sustainability

Post by PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:10 pm

cinnamontwist wrote:Anybody know of a good way of de-alkilinizing the playa?... Just enough to grow some stuff.
That's easy: add acid and ship in lots of water. Since there's almost no organic matter in the soil you'll have to haul in and add lots of that too, plus fertilizer. And because the Playa is made of dust with very small and uniform particle diameters you'll need to ship an enormous quantity of soil in to mix with it or the plants' roots will clog.

Might be easier and more cost-effective to farm someplace else, where plants can grow.

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Re: sustainability

Post by PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:14 pm

cinnamontwist wrote:Honestly, I wish Black Rock City were a year-round thing, and not just a week long party. I'd prefer living there myself.
There are reasons why almost nobody lives around there. Note that most of the year it's either much hotter or much colder, and much windier and dustier. The only thing close to a viable way to make a living is mining--and the smartest people in that industry are in an airconditioned office building in a nice city, not at the mine.

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Post by TestesInSac » Sun Sep 07, 2003 1:46 pm

Directly across the street from my camp, there was a fellow who had 4 PV panels on a frame attached to his van. The frame pretty much occupied the entirety of top of his van, and I'd guess weighed more than 50 kilos. I didn't inquire, but I'm guessing he had 2 or 3 deepcell batteries, each at maybe 20 kilos, and probably an inverter, unless everything he was running was DC. They appeared to be in the area of 90-125 watt panels, so he *may* have had an aggregate of 500 watts of power if everything worked ideally.

So, basically his 500 watt system weighed around 100 kilos (200lbs+). Meanwhile, my 1000 watt, 57db Yamaha ginny weighs 20 kilos and the 12 gallons of unleaded I brought for it maybe weighed 20 more kilos. I only used half my gas partly because the ginny runs for 3 hours on .6 gallons of gas.

Result: my quiet little ginny gave me twice the power, weighed half as much, fuel included, and took up less than one fourth of the volume (probably much less) and so was far easier to transport.

Mind you, I'm not knocking his system, it was well engineered and all 'round quite admirable. It also had the advantage of silence and generated no fumes. If we'd been there longer than a week, I might well have run out of fuel while he'd still have juice. But for the one week we're there, the ginny still wins, IMO.

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Post by s5 » Sun Sep 07, 2003 2:02 pm

good points, casnimot. i wonder how much gas it would it require just to transport the PV cells.

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Post by PJ » Sun Sep 07, 2003 2:05 pm

casnimot wrote:...his system, it was well engineered and all 'round quite admirable. It also had the advantage of silence and generated no fumes. If we'd been there longer than a week, I might well have run out of fuel while he'd still have juice. But for the one week we're there, the ginny still wins, IMO.
In discussions of alternative energy sources, it's always important to bear in mind that the price of traditional biomass fuels (petroleum) can be cut such that other sources, even "free" ones, become uneconomic to harvest. There are big sources of petroleum in the mideast that can produce oil for $0.08/bbl. A wholesale price of $20.00--$30.00/bbl leaves plenty of margin for price cutting.

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Post by TestesInSac » Sun Sep 07, 2003 2:08 pm

Yep. And if thermal depolymerization does prove half as efficient as Changing World Technologies claims, biomass fuel could be with us for as long as there's oxygen in the air.

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Post by dirtytuba » Sun Sep 07, 2003 2:21 pm

s5 wrote:i have lots of thoughts on this, and i'm glad to see others have been thinking about it too. i strongly believe that "leave no trace" needs to apply to the air we breathe.
I have been wondering about this. only because of the amount of fuel that everyone uses to get to the event, AND the amount of Lumber that is puchased for the explicit purpose of burning.

First I ask why there hasn't been a push to get a passager train to the event. I realize the logistics of getting a passager train on to the frieght line would be a HUGE task. and then there is the problem of getting all yer stuff there if you take this fantacy train but maybe there is a couple of cargo cars on that train....
just an idea...

and then there is the man itself... is that all new lumber? seems like BMorg is promoting deforsetation rather than recycled wood.

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Post by Isotopia » Sun Sep 07, 2003 2:59 pm

and then there is the man itself... is that all new lumber? seems like BMorg is promoting deforsetation rather than recycled wood.
Please, can we get a fucking rest from the PC whiners?

Seriously.

Consider the amount of wood it takes to build the man probably equal less than the amount of scrap wood generated by the construction of two or three 5000 ft^2 homes.

The amount of particulates generated by the burning is probably less than those exhausted by the autos that get the 30+ thousand folks to the event

Blah, blah, blah....

A good number of us here have heard the assumptions that your post suggests. There's a whole cadre' of doom sayers arguing this very same point over in Craig's List (www.craigslist.com) and most of what's posted are anchored in ill-informed, unfounded accusations that quite frankly hold little water as far as this writer - who hold a degree in environmental science - is concerned.

Your argument that BM is somehow 'promoting' deforestation is a lame one . That might be the opposite case were the Man built of teak from SE asia.

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Post by TestesInSac » Sun Sep 07, 2003 3:18 pm

Isotopia wrote: Please, can we get a fucking rest from the PC whiners?

Seriously.
You rock.

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Post by Catblack » Sun Sep 07, 2003 3:18 pm

Ivy wrote:

Someone on one of the other BM lists I'm on asked why we don't burn 4 times a year and I replied that if it happened all the time, it wouldn't be special. To me, the fact that it exsists for such a short period of time makes it special. YMMV.
I think that as the regionals start taking shape, one will be able to experience Black Rock City's inbred cousins throughout the year, gaining the ability to form social connections which will serve you through the chaotic and ever growing main Burn.

Remember, the only way to experience everything on the Playa is to meet everybody on the Playa. You won't be able to do that at the main Burn, even if the BM org lets you do your "Greeter On Speed" marathon shift.

So for a lot of people, the intimacy of a smaller Burn is going to be more important than the spectacle of the Main Burn.

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Post by Halo Joe » Sun Sep 07, 2003 3:21 pm

Ivy wrote:Someone on one of the other BM lists I'm on asked why we don't burn 4 times a year and I replied that if it happened all the time, it wouldn't be special. To me, the fact that it exsists for such a short period of time makes it special. YMMV.
Hear, hear. I "party" with burners all the time in Florida, and we have some great special events. But The Burn is The Burn is The Burn, and the fact that it's an annual event is one of the elements that make it so. (And I'm not even a disciple of the Church of Burning Man, so there. NYAH!)
You were burning long before you stepped into this fire. -- EB

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Post by s5 » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:34 pm

Isotopia wrote: Please, can we get a fucking rest from the PC whiners?

Seriously.
whining about whining is still ... whining.

;)

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Post by s5 » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:40 pm

dirtytuba wrote: and then there is the man itself... is that all new lumber? seems like BMorg is promoting deforsetation rather than recycled wood.
well, even home depot ("burning man depot") uses managed, renewable forests for the lumber they sell. so, burning wood does not equal raping the earth. if you felt strongly about it, you could spread the word that buying wood from sustainable sources is better and serves the same purpose, for little or no difference in cost.

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Re: sustainable burning man?

Post by Tristan » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:40 pm

cinnamontwist wrote:Maybe Burning Man could aim towards making itself completely energy self-sufficient by 2007. Solar power . . .
I love the idea!

But don't forget other clean power sources, like human and wind :)

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Re: sustainable burning man?

Post by s5 » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:44 pm

Tristan wrote: But don't forget other clean power sources, like human ...
good point! now with thermal depolymerization coming onto the market, humans can be effectively made into a low-cost energy source. :D

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Re: sustainability

Post by Tristan » Sun Sep 07, 2003 4:46 pm

cinnamontwist wrote:Honestly, I wish Black Rock City were a year-round thing, and not just a week long party. I'd prefer living there myself.
Yeah, and don't forget:

- a cellular tower, so that cellphones will work on the playa.

- paving the playa (no dust, no more mud when it rains)

- bringing water and electric hook-ups to RV's (no more buzzing generators!)

- sewage and garbage collection

- permanent 365 days/year BM event

- an ATM distributing special BM-dollars that can be used at the central cafe

- BM becomes part of the Disney-world entertainment group

Image
Last edited by Tristan on Sun Sep 07, 2003 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: sustainable burning man?

Post by TestesInSac » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:01 pm

s5 wrote:
Tristan wrote: But don't forget other clean power sources, like human ...
good point! now with thermal depolymerization coming onto the market, humans can be effectively made into a low-cost energy source. :D
Suddenly, ZPG loses a supporting argument...

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year round black rock

Post by cinnamontwist » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:12 pm

Thanks Tristan! For taking my wacko vision to its ultimate absurdist limit. I admit it was an acid-drenched hallucination I had coming out of the playa in 98 or 99. I don't take it particularly literally.

But outrageous propositions usually help to jumpstart a dialogue.

On the other hand, if you tried to tell somebody in 1980 about a city of 30,000 people camped out for a couple weeks on a dried lakebed in 100+ degree heat and sandstorms reviving psychedelic culture and realizing the surrealist/dadaist dream with tweaked out art cars and theme camps and hi-tech, they would know for a fact you were crazy.

Also, you guys might want to check out a project - www. tribaloasis.org - some friends here in LA are scheming up. Significantly inspired by this question -"what if. . . we could live like at burning man year round." But not on the playa.

Maybe the point of this thread would be to network all the Black Rock denizens who are more interested in eco/sustainability and develop a mutual support network for moving all our camps gradually in this direction.

Also interesting is looking at the total resource usage that goes into Burning Man. If you added up all the $ on gas, the time off of work, the $ on costumes, decor, theme camp props, food, etc for each participant, multiplied by 30,000, you'd come up with some insanely huge amount of money. Think of what 1-5% of that $$ could accomplish in some other more 'permanent' 'sustainable' direction. . .

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Post by TawnyGnosis » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:21 pm

hey cinnamon twist, I know you. It's Tawny, Dawn's friend. we met at moontribe a while ago and then several other places too..

alternative energy sources...woo hoo!
-T
Heaven's going to burn your eyes

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Post by Tristan » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:27 pm

> Thanks Tristan! For taking my wacko vision to its ultimate absurdist limit.

If you think about it, we're getting closer and closer from having a permanent event.

Already the city's map/blue-print is basically frozen, the same circular city every year, the same central cafe location and architecture, the same man at the same place on the playa, much of the same art camps on esplanade, now a temple always at the same location, always burning the next day after the man.

Looks like all that becomes more and more predictable, don't you think ?

Yes, I think we need some radical changes to keep BM alive.

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Post by Isotopia » Sun Sep 07, 2003 6:22 pm

Yeah, and don't forget:

- a cellular tower, so that cellphones will work on the playa.

- paving the playa (no dust, no more mud when it rains)

- bringing water and electric hook-ups to RV's (no more buzzing generators!)

- sewage and garbage collection

- permanent 365 days/year BM event

- an ATM distributing special BM-dollars that can be used at the central cafe

- BM becomes part of the Disney-world entertainment group
Weren't some of these the reasoning behind the 'Impeach Larry' campaign that was sprouting on the playa this year?

The gripe about him and the DPW not getting plumbing installed on the playa this year was almost enough to get me to sign on.

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