Burning Man Went Virtual This Year, But Is Its Future Sustainable?
Like many largescale events and festivals in 2020, Burning Man’s in-person gathering at Black Rock City was canceled in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than flocking to the Nevada desert last weekend, Burners entered an online Multiverse. Here, attendees accessed a digital rendering of Black Rock City, complete with virtual art installations, theme camps, and VR performances.
The pandemic has pushed the world of live entertainment to innovate in unprecedented ways. Event organizers are reckoning with the very nature of the experiences they aim to create. Can technology translate the festival experience into newer, possibly better formats? What is the future of live entertainment? Most importantly, what should the future of live entertainment look like?
The Environmental Impact of Large-Scale Events
The infrastructure behind large-scale events creates an ecosystem that makes an impact on the local land, governance, and community where an event is hosted. The way events are structured and designed also influences the environmental impact of event attendees. Between the amount of waste created and the carbon emissions created by traveling fans, events like music festivals have a huge ecological footprint to solve for.
So, almost exactly a year ago in the fall of 2019, the Planet Home team teamed up with Burners Without Borders in an EcoSprint that would do just that – develop solutions that will create a more positive relationship between the Burning Man experience, the local community, and the planet.
What is an EcoSprint?
We designed EcoSprints as a collaborative process for developing solutions that can be fostered, implemented, and amplified to make a tangible impact on the planet. The goal is to unpack current global challenges, identify new possible futures, and reverse engineer the path forward. EcoSprint workshops bring together solutionists from diverse backgrounds to innovate through the lenses of socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental, and political factors for positive change.
Burners Without Borders EcoSprint
Burners Without Borders (BWB) is a grassroots organization founded by Burning Man participants (Burners) dedicated to creating meaningful change through a variety of programs, from disaster relief to community projects. BWB collaborated with Planet Home to facilitate an EcoSprint in support of the development of Burning Man’s recently published 2030 Environmental Sustainability Roadmap.
In October of 2019, about 100 solutionists gathered in the Nevada desert at Fly Ranch to participate in a collective visioning of a sustainable future. Attendees included sustainability engineers, biologists, artists, local land stewards from Fly Ranch, representatives of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, and BWB members from around the globe.
Over two days, we embarked on a journey of creative thinking, reverse engineering, building human-centric design principles, future casting, and iterative group sessions. The collaborative session led to the development of solutions that would make a positive impact on the environment, Burning Man, the local community outside of Black Rock City, and potentially the world of large-scale events.
The Result: Regenerative Solutions
After the EcoSprint, the Planet Home team synthesized the ideas from the session to create a number of actionable solutions, including:
Carbon Positive Contribution: Implementing a carbon tax to raise funds to invest in regenerative projects that will offset Burning Man’s carbon footprint.
Composting Toilets: Introducing composting toilets to Black Rock City to repurpose human waste instead of letting it become, well, waste.
Playanomics: A framework that shifts all the actions and processes behind Burning Man towards regenerative practices that will reach 100% sustainability by 2030.
The future of Burning Man, and hopefully all festivals and live entertainment experiences, is bright. When you bring together a community of innovators, change-makers, and creative minds, the result of regenerative solutions is more than just possible – they’re waiting to be discovered. More importantly, our Planet Home is calling for these solutions to become a reality.
Together as solutionists, change is on the way!
Interested in getting involved? Here’s how:
- Sign up for future Burners Without Borders community events
- Join the Planet Home community to discover more environmental solutions
- Explore Planet Home events to attend in the next EcoSprint
Special thanks to solutionists Kristofer Kish (designer), Becca Dakini (head of programming), and Robert Suarez (chief solutions officer) for their contributions to this story and for making this EcoSprint possible.