Because Burning Man chooses to situate its event in the Nevada desert, resources, including food and generators, need to be trucked to the site—a challenge given heavy rain has made roads impassable. It’s this, in part, that explains why Chris Rock decided to abandon the event: In an Instagram Story, he posted that he understood portable toilets couldn’t be emptied, supplies delivered, and extra generators sent because of flooding.
But others haven’t given up. For Anya Kamenetz, who attended her first Burning Man in 2003, the rainfall hasn’t fazed her—or her fellow campmates. “We’re really prepared,” she says, though she admits that the weather’s impact means “you can’t get around the city at all.” Vehicles are banned from traveling around for fear of making the ground worse or getting stuck and blocking routes earmarked as exit routes for when it’s safe to leave. Those who choose to walk around the site can still party as always, but some have decided against doing so. Kamenetz and her campmates are continuing as normal, with some significant alterations. “We don’t know when we’re going to get drinking water—or if—or portapotty services, or fuel, or gray water services,” she says. As a result, they’re conserving as much water as possible. They’re not urinating in the portapotties, but on the ground. “We’re not rationing food, but we’re just trying to make [sure] everyone is as thoughtful as possible,” she says. Showers are out—as is dishwashing.
The rainfall began on the afternoon of September 1 around 1.30 pm, and didn’t stop for around nine hours, Kamenetz says. “At first you’re like, ‘Well, it’ll clear up and we’ll go out more later.’ But then we were making dinner and [it] was like: ‘Wow, this is going to be impossible.’” By nightfall on September 2, with the ground turning from desert to quagmire, Kamenetz had resigned herself to being stuck on site. For how long that will be, she’s less sure. “Every time it rains more it sets the clock back a little bit,” she says. However, when there are breaks in the rain, the timescale gets expedited. On September 2, people were uncertain they’d get to leave before September 7; now they’re hopeful to be free sooner.
Kamenetz has been surprised by how well the 70,000-strong community has taken the weather’s impact on their party. “Burning Man people really pride themselves on first of all being prepared to confront the elements, and secondly, being co-operative and being in a good spirit,” she says. She has seen a few confrontations between those who are demanding to leave, getting into their cars and making a break for it, and other “Burners” (as attendees are called), who are stopping them, but mostly Kamenetz has seen people accepting their fate.
An annual getaway for hedonists and a particular subsection of the ultra-rich Silicon Valley tech community has always been a bit of an odd sell: Pitch up a vast, temporary city of 70,000 people every year, with attendees jetting in from all four corners of the globe to party. Some attendees of the event have repeatedly highlighted concerns about the impact the festival has on the planet. The event reports its carbon footprint to be 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide, more than 90 percent of which is accounted for by travel to and from the site. By comparison, Glastonbury’s carbon footprint is net negative, according to one analysis. Burning Man looks likely to miss its 2030 target of being carbon negative.