Donald Trump’s main policy initiative involves building a pointless wall across miles of empty desert. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that his administration has proposed doing the same at the annual arts and culture gathering known as Burning Man.
The Bureau of Land Management, which administers the Black Rock desert in Nevada where Burning Man has been held since 1990, released a wildly unusual proposal calling for major changes to the event’s permit in March.
These include making the nonprofit Burning Man Project pay for a private security force, as well as constructing a 10-mile, 19,000,000-pound concrete barrier around the weeklong event.
The 372-page BLM proposal, if implemented, “would forever negatively change the fabric of the Burning Man event, if not outright kill it,” the Burning Man Project wrote in response last week. It estimated BLM’s requirements would cost a total of $20 million every year, raising the price of tickets — which average around $400 — by $286 apiece.
“BLM would benefit financially from these increased expenses,” the organization added, noting that the bureau takes a percentage cut from each ticket. It calls the proposals “beyond excessive government oversight.”
Burning Man, also known as Black Rock City, proudly proclaims itself the world’s largest “Leave No Trace” event. It runs a Department of Public Works that walks every inch of the permit space for months after the event, also cleans up the nearby road, and disinvites groups that perform poorly on its environmental impact assessment — as the highly exclusive Camp Humano found out to its chagrin earlier this year.
The notion of picking up after yourself is so baked into the event’s core principles that MOOP — Matter Out of Place — is the ultimate insult for attendees, also known as Burners. When a camp that brought a Boeing 747 was delayed by a few weeks in moving the plane to private land last year, angry Burners returned to the playa just to spray-paint “MOOP” on its undercarriage.
Oblivious to the event’s success at encouraging attendees to pack everything out, the BLM proposes surrounding and filling Black Rock City with dumpsters. It also wants to replace the organization’s MOOP-catching trash fence with a concrete barrier — one that is actually less likely to catch trash.
“Hardened physical perimeter barriers, such as jersey barriers [a modular concrete wall, usually used to separate lanes of traffic] or K-rail fencing, would reduce the risk of vehicle entry through perimeter fencing,” the BLM report says. This is, however, a solution in search of a problem.
There have been no reports of vehicles attempting to enter via the fence in recent years. Which isn’t surprising to anyone who has seen the situation on the ground. Only one access road, Gate Road, allows safe entry to the event without the strong possibility of getting your car stuck in the dust, or being caught by the event’s radar- and night-vision enabled Perimeter team.
Nor would the wall proposal adversely affect any theoretical illegal migration into the event. “It’s actually easier to climb over a concrete barrier than a taut 10-mile trash fence,” says one veteran Burning Man volunteer.
The Burning Man organization doesn’t mince words about the barrier proposal, which it calls “logistically onerous, environmentally irresponsible, unnecessarily redundant, prohibitively expensive.” Instead of allowing wind and dust to blow through the space, it says, a wall would create 10 miles of dunes that would “need to be remediated with heavy machinery” — an odd requirement for a bureau that claims to care about the desert.
The event has its own volunteer force of Black Rock Rangers, who for decades have worked alongside local Nevada sheriffs and official BLM Rangers. Nevertheless, the BLM proposal calls for “private security at all portals of entry to screen participants, staff, and volunteers entering the event” and to “report weapons and illegal drugs directly to law enforcement as violations are observed.”
Burning Man argues that this constitutes a fourth amendment violation, since the only “probable cause” offered as a reason for widespread searches is that the targets are attending Burning Man. As attendees know, the Gate Road line for entry (which already include a cursory search of each vehicle) have been known at busy times to take as long as 12 hours to get through.
“The delay from this private security operation would cause entrance times to be extended by days,” the Burning Man organization writes. “Not hours, days.” [Emphasis theirs.]
Rumors abounded in 2017 that the Trump administration would attempt to close the event because it was a favorite destination for west-coast liberals. However, Black Rock City is also home to conservative defenders such as Grover Norquist and business leaders such as Elon Musk, who famously co-founded SolarCity at Burning Man 2004 and brought a prototype Tesla Roadster to Burning Man 2007.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are longtime attendees, and hired their first CEO, Eric Schmidt, purely on the basis that he had been to Burning Man.
Now the Burners — this loose-knit coalition of punks, hippies, libertarians and Silicon Valley utopians — are being invited to fight back. April 29 is the deadline for public comments on the BLM’s proposal, which can be submitted online here. The Burning Man Project has produced a guide for making those comments as substantive and effective as possible.
Because if building a 2,000 mile wall across the entire U.S. southern border makes no sense, the same goes for a 10-mile wall around the country’s most temporary — and self-reliant — city.
from Mashable! http://bit.ly/2WYClSj