AFTERBURN REPORT 2007
Q and A
Thanks to everyone who replied to the Burning Man Project's request for feedback, which we sent to participants via the Jack Rabbit Speaks and on Burningman.com in October 2007. We received over 450 suggestions, comments, praise, criticism, and inquiry emails. Volunteers, board members, senior and other staff sifted through the feedback and we are implementing and/or considering a number of your good ideas for 2008.
While we did respond to many people directly, due to the large number of responses (450 emails totaling 240 pages!) we weren't able to do so for everyone. However, we dedicated resources to the task of grouping the comments into common themes and categories of feedback. Most of your comments are represented in the Q&A below. If you submitted an idea or a comment that is not mentioned below, please don't fret. We read each comment, and have discussed many of the ideas, proposals and recommendations in various areas of the organization for consideration.
Q: Would it be possible to conduct regional orientation workshops for "newbies" prior to the event in order to help them understand and embody the Ten Principles and other Burning Man ethics and values once they get to the playa?
A: This has actually happened organically in several cities including Los Angeles, Phoenix and the North San Francisco Bay Area. We will continue to encourage more such "orientations" at the regional level.
That said, regional groups in some areas have enjoyed these workshops and meet-and-greets, and you can too! The best way to make this happen is to get involved at a local/regional level and volunteer to help make it a reality. Another good idea is to invoke your storytelling skills and seek out newbies in your own community as well as in online communities and let them know about the Ten Principles and other Burning Man ethics and philosophies through your own oral history of allegory and anecdote. If you'd like to propose a newbie meet-and-greet in your area, contact your local Regional Contact (http://regionals.burningman.com).
Q: Is there any plan to make the event longer in order to allow more people to attend, reduce the focus of the weekend and smooth out the Exodus?
A: At this time there is no plan to make the event longer; however, there are constant process improvements, organizational efficiencies and planning initiatives to help facilitate an increasingly smooth Exodus.
Q: What is being done to ensure that people wear some kind of lighting on their person and on their bicycles at night?
A: Burning Man works hard to ensure that all of the pre-event preparation documentation and web content stresses the necessity of participants being well lit, both their bikes and their person, at night on the playa.
Q: What ever happened to the arsonist who tried to burn the man early?
A: The arsonist is currently in custody for an unrelated event and faces charges in Nevada being brought by the Pershing County District Attorney.
Q: Who rebuilt the Man after it was burned early? How long did it take to rebuild versus how long it usually takes to build the structure?
A: The same Man Crew, along with DPW carpenters and staff, volunteered to undertake this monumental task. Ordinarily the construction takes five days and 12 people to complete at our work facility, but they accomplished the feat in 35 non-stop-hours with all work done on-playa!
Q: Is there any plan to fund or otherwise arrange for large-scale community art projects to enhance the participation of BRC citizens in the artistic process?
A: We encourage all participants to get involved with community art projects. Check the Art section of our website throughout the year for the latest information about art projects. Find a project near you and contact the artist if you'd like to get involved. Contacting your regional (http://regionals.burningman.com/) is another great way to get involved in group projects. On the playa you can also visit the Artery to see what projects are in need of help from walk-up volunteers.
Q: Would it be possible to focus on funding more small art projects instead of the current focus that seems to be on a smaller number of very large installations?
A: The Art Department tries to fund as many projects as possible. Criteria include interactivity and relationship to the event theme among other things. The grant amounts start at as low as $100. In 2007 we funded around 3% of our projects at levels under $1000. In 2008 we are funding even more small projects with approximately 5% of the projects approved being funded at under $1000. We love to see submissions of many different sizes and the types of submissions we receive determine the nature of the projects that we decide to fund.
Q: Was there any discussion about the seemingly anti-green nature of the Crude Awakening art installation?
A: We focused more on the statement that the art made and the fact that it was directly aligned with the theme than on the resources used to make the statement. Some recycled fuels were incorporated into the burn, however, the only way to make the project totally green would have been to not do it. We believe the statement it made, and the wide-ranging impact of that statement through many media outlets, was more valuable than not having made it.
Q: Was the Yellow Bike program successful and will it be continued or expanded in 2008?
A: Many of you told us great stories about the bikes and overall we think the program was a great success. It was also the largest per capita community bike project in the world. Next year will see more bikes, as well as improved education about how the bikes are to be shared.
Q: Is there any possibility that there could be a communal lifting of the Man (by hand) like it used to be?
A: Due to the complexity of the Man base a communal lifting has not been structurally feasible since the 90s.
Q: Did people feel that having the Crude Awakening explosion on the same night as the burn in any way overshadowed the "main event" status of the burning of the Man?
A: Yes. Some people didn't like the fact that the burns were on the same night. However, the fact that the burn and the Crude Awakening exhibit happened on the same night was precipitated by the weather. Due to a significant dust storm on the day that the Crude Awakening finale was scheduled to take place it was re-scheduled for the same night as the burning of the Man.
Q: Would it be possible to create a take home or an online version of the census so I can fill it out later?
A: The census is created and administered by a volunteer who is an anthropology scholar. Keeping the research methods consistent are vital to the integrity and immediacy of the project. For this reason you should not expect to see an online option.
Q: Is it possible to ensure that the coffee lines don't interfere with the art installations at center camp?
A: We make every effort to ensure that the sale of coffee at the Center Camp Café doesn't interfere with the art and performance taking place. That said, every year we evaluate the organization and layout of the space we have available and institute any adjustments that might make things flow more smoothly and enhance the presentation and availability of the art while still supporting the Café beverage service.
Q: Why is there only one (often longer) line for people who brought their own cups for coffee and several lines for people who are buying disposable cups.shouldn't that be the other way around?
A: 2007 was the first year we instituted the Bring Your Own Cup (BYOC) program and we are evaluating the opportunity to provide a more expedited Café experience for those who are supporting the "green" revolution at Burning Man.
Q: Is there any plan to eliminate disposable cups from the Café and make BYOC the mandate?
A: We have considered it. We are not going to eliminate them in 2008, but could in future years. We launched the BYOC campaign in '07 and saw some increase in people bringing their own cup, but not a major shift in behavior. We will continue in '08 to encourage less waste and more BYOC.
Here are some quick comparisons between 2006 and the greening efforts in 2007. In 2006 the Café generated three dumpsters of trash (landfill).
In 2007, with composting, recycling and BYOC efforts in place the Café generated less than one dumpster of trash. The second dumpster was compost (cups & grounds) that went to a processing center for later use in agriculture. There was no third dumpster at all, as all the packaging (plastic/glass/metal) was recycled, eliminating two dumpsters worth of landfill and abolishing the need to haul a third dumpster in and out of Reno. We significantly reduced our 'carbon footprint' and, we feel, made a big positive leap, despite the use of disposable cups.
Q: Why does the Gate hold exiting traffic from BRC when a lost child is reported?
A: We have always considered the safety of children to be of the utmost importance. We have developed a joint protocol between several Burning Man departments and three different law enforcement agencies. We feel the benefit of ensuring that lost children are quickly returned to their parents is worth the slight inconvenience to our population.
City Design & Location
Q: How much larger was the city this year?
A: The 2007 population of Black Rock City reached 47,097, which was a 20% increase from the 2006 peak population of 38,989. The layout of the city increased in size, the perimeter was slightly larger and there was 20% more camping space due both to more streets at the back of the city and the decreased size of the blocks.
The city layout will increase again in 2008.
Q: Could the Esplanade be de-emphasized in order to make it less of a "boardwalk" type environment and spread the interesting camps and exhibits throughout the city?
A: The "zoning" of Black Rock City is re-evaluated each year in order to allow a distribution of art, theme camps, sound camps and special interest areas (children's camps, adult camps, etc.) that supports a holistic and integrated experience. While many elements are clustered around the Esplanade there is also a wealth of experience to be had around the plazas, as well as in the outer playa and scattered throughout the city. Part of the purpose of extending the "spokes" of the theme camps further into the city was to encourage more and deeper exploration of Black Rock City.
Q: Will there be more emphasis placed on the "neighborhood circles" in 2008?
A: The "neighborhood circles" are called the plazas and the ones located at 9:00 and 3:00 have been part of the city layout for five years. The plazas at 7:30 and 4:30 were new in 2007. We've put more emphasis on all of the plazas in the last few years in an effort to develop them as centers for civic activity. The response to these satellite community centers was positive and will likely serve to enhance the visibility and utility of these spaces in the coming years.
Q: Will the GPS coordinates of select theme camps, facilities and art installations be made available to participants in 2008 (possibly as part of the What, Where, When Guide)?
A: We've heard this idea from a number of our more tech-savvy participants and while we may consider implementing this we also feel that much of the experience of being on the playa stems from "getting lost" and stumbling into camps, events, random acts of community and art and other unplanned interactions. Would the event be any better if you knew exactly where you were going at all times?
"Not all who wander are lost." JRR Tolkien
Q: Why was it hard to find a spot to set up camp and/or was I asked to move because the space was reserved?
A: We had a big population jump in 2007, and every year more participants are arriving earlier in the week. In 2007 our city was designed to hold 50,000. We had over 47,000.
There was actually a lot of open camping space between Center Camp and the last road near the 6:00 radial road late in the event. For some reason people don't want to camp there, probably because it's so close to where they enter the city, and people think it must be full already or, they need to "go deeper" for a good spot. But it's really pretty nice and close to Center Camp.
As for being asked to move for a "reserved" space, the reserved areas are marked to the best of our ability by survey flags and signs. Our early city maps on the website cannot accurately predict the expansion that occurs as hundreds of camps register, so we must reply with flagging and signage to communicate reserved space.
The city design is being greatly expanded in 2008, which (we hope) will address this and many other issues.
Q: Why is space saved, both by the DPW for theme camps and by theme camps, for people who don't arrive until later in the week?
A: It's not. Or it shouldn't be. The Placement Team, not the DPW, reserves space in some pre-designated areas. People who arrive early to build BRC infrastructure or art installations need some reasonable space to live.
Placement has historically ended Tuesday of the event, and may be changed to even earlier for 2008. In 2007, we did not save space - even reserved space - after Tuesday. Late arriving theme camps found their space gone. But the questionnaire they filled out prior to the event warns them of this potentiality.
Entrance & Exodus
Q: Can you put more porta-potties along the route during Exodus?
A: We put several banks of porta-potties there in 2007 and we'll do that in again in 2008.
Q: Is there any plan to burn the Man and the Temple earlier in order to lengthen the departure window and reduce the wait time to get out of the city?
A: Each year the Exodus crew re-evaluates its process and looks for ways to reduce wait times. They will take this idea (among others) into consideration and make recommendations accordingly. Stay tuned for the latest Exodus info as we approach the event.
Q: Why did BMIR say that the wait times to get out of the city were significantly less than what they actually were?
A: Wait times differ depending on where one enters the queue. All times announced on BMIR were estimated based on the average wait times being reported at any given time.
Q: Will BMIR report the incidence of accidents between BRC and Reno in order to help inform the citizens about the hazards of driving tired or impaired?
A: Yes! Exodus is working closely with the Nevada Highway Patrol to minimize the types of accidents that typically occur.
Q: Wouldn't it be more efficient and more environmentally friendly to enhance the infrastructure of the city to provide expanded access to electricity, water and potentially a trash pick up and grey water disposal service? This in lieu of having people run generators 24/7, transport 55-gallon drums of water and (many people) improperly disposing of trash between BRC and the Bay Area.
A: There's a reason that radical self-reliance is one of the Ten Principles of Burning Man. One thing participants can learn from this experience is that by holding ourselves responsible for our own trash, water, and electricity needs in Black Rock City, we might also become more aware of our impact and responsibility for ourselves in the rest of our lives. The best neighbors are the ones who are prepared to take care of their own needs -- or to band together to create shared infrastructures that serve those needs in a communal way, rather than relying on some top-down organizational framework just because it seems easier. Further, because of the distance such resources would need to travel, it is unclear whether it would truly be more environmentally efficient for Burning Man to contract those services than it is for participants to provide them for themselves -- in other words, either you're shipping in drinking water, or we are, but either way it would have to be trucked in to the desert; trash would still have to be hauled away.
Additionally, the organization's ability to provide such services for a growing and isolated population is already stretched to its limit. Beyond ice and human waste disposal (both public health issues that are very difficult or impossible for participants to provide for themselves in such a remote area at our scale) we feel that finding portable solutions to power and dealing with one's own trash and water are part of the experience of Burning Man.
More information on how to sort recycling and trash, and where to dispose of waste on the way out of Black Rock City will be available in the upcoming Survival Guide. We also definitely encourage theme camps, villages, and neighbors to pool their resources to maximize efficiency at the local level. This is best accomplished by cooperation and planning ahead.
Q: Why was there such a large police presence in BRC this year?
A: Technically there were only two more BLM officers and two more Pershing County Deputies than in 2007. However, we did hear reports that in some circumstances the BLM's presence may have been aggressive. The Organization is doing everything in its power to curb this kind of law enforcement practice. This includes lobbying at the state and national level among other things. After 9/11, Congress enacted the Patriot Act which consolidated all federal law enforcement personnel under the Department of Homeland Security. Before the Patriot Act, BLM Rangers reported to their local district directors. Under the Patriot Act they now report directly to the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. with little oversight from local offices. This has impacted Burning Man significantly in that the Organization has little control over their activities.
Q: What is being done about reports of aggressive law enforcement on the playa last year?
A: A grassroots group calling themselves "Lawyers for Burners" has stepped up to investigate the concerns of our participants about aggressive law enforcement on the playa last year. So far they have represented and/or advised about 60 defendants. Their efforts have been successful so far in getting cases dismissed or plead down to a lesser charge. They have proved to the Court that the BLM did not follow its own regulations with respect to notice requirements for Closure Order violations. The Court held that the BLM could not issue citations for the speed limit set by Burning Man. Also, the Court held that BLM did not give proper notice of the open container restriction last year. Next year BLM will more than likely give proper notice, which would give them the right to issue citations for these violations next year. There have also been victories regarding illegal searches. One case in particular was dismissed for lack or probable cause to search. Other search cases are still awaiting trial.
The Burning Man Project is discussing this issue, and is looking into what can be done to redress the violations by the BLM last year. For more information see the Legal Afterburn Report (http://afterburn.burningman.com/07/admin/legal.html). Another grassroots effort called LOOP (Law enforcement Operations Oversight Project) is coming up with ideas to educate participants on the playa about their rights and responsibilities if stopped by law enforcement. If you would like to learn more or become involved then visit http://www.lawyersforburners.com or http://www.loopworks.org.
Q: Will the medical services at BRC be expanded next year?
A: Each year we work to anticipate the needs of the population and each year we scale our medical services in order to provide emergency services to our citizens.
That said, the principle of Radical Self-Reliance should motivate all citizens of Black Rock City to come prepared with anything they may need to survive for a week in the desert, including a well-stocked first aid kit, especially since most cases in the medical tent are simple cuts and scrapes.
Q: Did the "Green" theme of this year's event help reduce the amount of MOOP left on the playa after the event?
A: Judging by the results of the 2007 MOOP Map...YES! In 2006, the first year the MOOP Map was created, the city was 40% green (little to no MOOP), 40% yellow (needs improvement) and 20% red (substantial amount of MOOP left behind); while in 2007 the city was 80% green, 12% yellow and 8% red.
But it wasn't just the theme itself that reduced the amount of MOOP on the playa...it was the participants themselves. It seems that the Green Man Theme really inspired Black Rock citizens to take their Leave No Trace game to the next level and reduce our overall impact on the playa.
The 2006 MOOP Map, which was the first, really gave everyone a gauge by which we can measure both our standards, as well as those of the BLM, and camps got a clear look at their opportunities for improvement; this probably also contributed to a cleaner playa in 2007.
Music & Sound
Q: Is there a way to help encourage types of music other than electronic?
A: Burning Man is a creation of its participants. What that means is that if you want to see something happen the best way to ensure that it does is to try to get it started yourself. Remember "radical self-reliance." That said, the project does work to ensure that the zoning of the city works to foster various kinds of art, performance and music within the city.
Q: Is there any plan to institute a "quiet time" (say sunrise until 10am) to allow people to enjoy the vast stillness of the playa?
A: While we love the goal of this request it would be too difficult to enforce, and not everyone wants quiet at the same time.
Q: Will Burning Man allow me to sell the photos and or videos I shot at the event?
In order to protect participants' privacy rights, all video and motion film cameras must be registered and tagged. This can be done at Greeters on your way into the event, at Playa Info in Center Camp or at either of the Ranger Outposts. Personal still photography cameras do not require registration unless you plan to exhibit your photos publicly, or in a commercial context. Any use of motion or still footage beyond friends and family must be approved in writing by Black Rock City, LLC. For inquiries contact press(at)burningman(dot)com.
Q: I took some cool photos at Burning Man last year. Do you want to put them on your website?
A: Everything you ever wanted to know about how to submit your photos to our image gallery can be found here: http://www.burningman.com/galleries/
Q: What was the final population total for 2007?
A: 47,097 as reported at 12:00 noon on Saturday.
Q: When will Burning Man start imposing limits on the number of people coming to the event? In the words of one participant "the hard reality is.there is a finite limit---self-imposed or otherwise---to the number of people and vehicles that can attend.due to the physical constraints of Black Rock City and the surrounding public infrastructure."
A: The Burning Man Project has worked with several government agencies in Nevada to study the impact of the event on the surrounding roads and cities. We have also studied intensively our own infrastructure and ability to acculturate participants. So far we have not reached the limit.
The BLM has setup some population limits and while we will respect the limits of our BLM permits, we are also engaged in educating the BLM on what we feel are reasonable and quantifiable limits. That said, we are also looking into managing growth rather than letting it grow unchecked. This year tickets will not be sold at the Gate as part of that effort.
Q: Why are gas powered scooters allowed on the playa?
A: In some people's opinion, scooters can be a bit of a nuisance. However, that's a small price to pay instead of creating more rules and prohibitions on what people are allowed to do in Black Rock City. We do expect them to follow all rules of the road including the speed limit.
Q: It seemed that some of the people who work or volunteer for the event have an attitude of entitlement that can make them act anywhere from rude to downright mean and aggressive. Is there anything that can be done to educate the staff and volunteers to the fact that we are all in this together?
A: Each year we educate new staff about what duties and responsibilities come with being part of the Burning Man staff. Since we get new staff each year the acculturation and education will be an ongoing effort. We also encourage participants to take the opportunity to talk to staff in a non-confrontational way to help educate everyone.
Q: Isn't the "2008 American Dream" theme a bit isolationist? What about all the international burners?
A: Interestingly we have received more international art applications for this year/theme than we have in previous years. Check out the newly updated theme text on the Burning Man homepage. The theme asks participants to interpret how the vision of America has either met or not met their expectations and to express this creatively. Since the entire world has been affected by America's influence (good or bad) international burners can also reflect on what America has done, not done or should be doing or not doing, for the world.
Q: Why do some theme camps get preferential treatment in terms of their placement?
A: We try to make as many people happy as we can. Our placement questionnaire allows participants to state their preferences. Sometimes in our process we discover camps that will work well in close proximity to one another, but their preferences do not align. In those cases we pick up the phone to try and work out the best solution for the city. A high degree of interactivity is our main criteria.
If you have additional questions about theme camp criteria you can check out the guidelines on the website at: http://www.burningman.com/themecamps/theme_criteria.html
Q: Why is so much space reserved for theme camps?
A: Nearly 60% of Black Rock City's population is comprised of theme-campers! We actually hold back some prime real estate from our staff and the theme camps, until the gates open to the general public.
Our community is committed to the idea of Radical Participation. Theme camps are the "interactive core" of Burning Man. Theme camps are gifts to the community and are not funded by the Burning Man Project.
What, Where, When
Q: Why were the locations for events not included in the What, Where, When guide?
A: There was a mistake in the guide for the 2007 event and the locations and times of things were difficult to discern. We recognize the issue and will have it resolved for 2008.
As a consolation to anyone who couldn't find something in the What, Where, When, here is what one participant wrote to us:
The What, Where, When is cool, but there is just way too much to see, do and experience. I always have more fun just wandering around and letting cool things happen to me. Then I just consult the guide after the event, as a way of remembering all the cool stuff that I experienced there.
Q: How can I get involved in local/regional activities?
A: There are lots of ways to stay active all year long. You can volunteer for Burning Man, or for the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF - http://www.blackrockarts.org/), Burners Without Borders (BWB http://www.burnerswithoutborders.org/), or Black Rock Solar (http://www.blackrocksolar.org). You can also get active with your local Burning Man Regional Community. If there isn't a Regional near you, you can even ask us about starting your own, which is how all of the Regionals began. For more information visit: http://regionals.burningman.com
For more information contact:
Ray Allen, Executive Project Manager
Black Rock City, LLC
(415) 865-3800, ext. 137