Burning Man 2023 – why all the hate?
People loooooove to hate on Burning Man and I get it. It’s got tons of problems and I criticize aspects of it all the time. And then I go back. 2023 was our first year back at Burning Man since 2019. We camped with Anonymous Village, the largest sober camp on playa! If you want, you can read more about some of our past burns in 2018 and 2014 (tw: before sobriety!).
In 2023, Burning Man made national headlines after Black Rock City, our temporary city of 70,000 people, got more rain than ever before in the history of the event, resulting in flooding and ankle-deep mud you could barely walk and couldn’t drive through during the last weekend of the event. A simple google search will reveal a lot of hyperbolic news articles about the “catastrophe” and a lot of hate for Burning Man. This post is just to share a few of impressions from this year, and why I think a lot of the Burning Man criticism is missing nuance.
The thing is, you can’t label anything as all good or all bad. You can’t say “Burning Man has a horrible carbon footprint and is only for rich people!” without doing more complicated math about the impact of the event MINUS all the cars 70000 people DON’T drive for 2 weeks plus all the money they DON’T spend while on playa because….NOTHING FOR SALE! 🙌🏻🤯🌞(Also, low income tickets! Also, go every year and reuse the same stuff every time! ♻️🤑)
You can’t look at “sparkle ponies” (slang for fashionable but unprepared burners) and celebrities staying in “plug n plays” (slang for rich people camps where you pay high prices to have them take care of you) wearing shiny new rave wear and lump 70,000 people into that same category. Black Rock City is a huge, diverse place. The bougie camps with sky-high fees make the news but our camp is run on donations and everybody’s in a tent or a beat-up RV! 🌺❤️🔥🚐
So yes, Burning Man needs to try harder to reduce its carbon footprint. But how much carbon did you emit in your life over the last 2 weeks? How much of your money went to giant greedy corporations vs an arts organization paying the Bureau of Land Management and awarding art grants?
The playa is a great equalizer. Tech bros dance with crusty hippies. No money should be exchanged while out there (except for ice).
You can see famous DJs but usually the best sets are the ones when you don’t even know who’s spinning.
Wear what you want, or nothing. Take care of yourself and each other. Leave no trace. Give gifts. Try something new in a city where you can be anyone. If you come home smiling and a better person, good!
I saw a lot of positive change this time after 3 years off – way more BIPOC burners, way more healthy and sober or sober-curious options, way more solar power. We’ve got work to do in every aspect of society but I bet it will be easier if we let ourselves have fun while we change the world, instead of just judging each other online. 💚💪🕉️
I mostly took videos this year so I’m sharing those on Instagram as reels! Go follow to see the dusty and muddy adventures! And if you’re interested in joining our mini festival which will surely not turn into a Mudpocalypse this October, check out Desert Fest! If you’d be interested in camping with us next year if we made our own Burning Man camp, please send me a message!