World in Flames: Black Rock City’s Burning Man Festival

Burning Man is a radical event that takes place every year in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. It starts on the last Monday in August, and goes until the first Monday in September. Over that week, thousands of people come from all over the world to build Black Rock City, a temporary city in the desert, and celebrate art, life, and culture together. Burning Man defines itself on its website as “A vibrant participatory metropolis generated by its citizens.”

Principles

Burning Man prides itself on the 10 principles that are followed by both its organizers and participants; Radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy are all actively practiced by attendees (known as ‘Burners’).

These principles aren’t just lofty mumbo-jumbo — organizers spend the whole year trying to come up with ways to turn their vision into action. Cash transactions are forbidden between participants, instead, people barter for things that they need, or gift them freely. There are small cafes located within Black Rock City that do accept cash, but the profits are all donated to local schools and charities. As well, attendees are encouraged to support themselves while in Black Rock City by bringing in all their own supplies, and the Leave No Trace campaign aims to return the desert to a better condition than before the event.

Christopher Prentiss Michel