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Environment suffers from pollution of pricey festivals


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gracie_mugGracie Hays
A&E Editor

Of all the self-contradicting, head scratching, eyebrow-raising festivals taking place this summer, look no further than the 23rd annual Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert, Nev. Though commonly thought of as a seven-day escape from the stress and superficiality of modern society, as Burning Man has gained popularity over the years it has also drifted dramatically away from its initial aims of achieving community, self-expression and self-reliance.

In contrast to the first Burning Man at Baker Beach — which had only 20 participants in 1986 — 50,000 participants are expected this year. Likewise, admission was free of charge for the first eight years of the festival, but prices have risen with the number of attendees, skyrocketing from $35 in 1995 to a whopping $300 in 2009. If $300 won’t buy self-expression, then nothing will.

As the popularity for Burning Man steadily increases, the festival becomes a bigger threat to the environment, despite its 2007 theme “Green Man.” With no trash disposables present, festival participants are expected to follow the “Leave No Trace” policy, packing out a week’s worth of waste. That said, it unlikely to expect the majority of festival-goers to pack up things like cigarette butts, which may seem unnoticeable and harmless, yet have a collectively, deceivingly destructive impact on its surroundings.

Aside from the trash, the size of the “Man” itself continues to grow, creating yet another threat to not only the Black Rock Desert environment, but also the earth’s. In 1986, the “Man” was a measured eight feet and quickly climbed its way up to 84 feet in 2008. In 2007 approximately 2,000 gallons of liquid propane and 900 gallons of jet fuel was used to burn the “Man” which then produced a resulting mushroom cloud roughly 300 feet above the ground. Even more frightening, Reason Magazine calculated the 2007 event used enough energy to power the entire Bay Area for one minute. Needless to say, the act of burning the Man alone produces enough damage to the ozone layer each year, thus becoming yet another source in global warming.

Even the gas used to fuel vehicles of traveling Burning Man participants is becoming an even more daunting threat, especially as the attendance skyrockets with attendees traveling farther distances to witness the spectacle. Though most participants travel from reasonably close locations in the West Coast, more festival-goers are driving from as far as Canada and the East Coast to attend. I don’t care if you have a vegetable oil fueled car built out of granola and hemp — if you’re driving from Maine to Nevada you’re not being green.

Though the initial hopes of sharing art and living freely in a non-judgmental society were noble, the modern day Burning Man festival is not representative of these traits. By discontinuing the festival, attendees could use their $300 to build up their community rather than pollute it or to create their own creative outlet, rather than depending on a tired trend created by an organization.

Bottom line: Anyone who pays $300 to run around naked on drugs in the desert for a week could probably have just as much “fun” in his own house with the luxury of a shower, for a change.

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The student news site of Convent of the Sacred Heart High School
Environment suffers from pollution of pricey festivals