Mourning the limits of Radical Inclusion

Paul Addis was a few years older than me, and had been around Burning Man a lot longer. I bumped into him twice off-playa, made fun of him in print once, and know two long-time community members who at one point considered him a friend.

That was the extent of our connection – yet I find myself pushing his recent death before me wherever I go, a burden that does not belong to me but that I cannot lift alone.

Maybe this is because our community has lost several stars from its constellation this year, and while I didn’t know any of them, the sense of loss is cumulative, building up until those outside the funerals are in mourning too.

Or maybe it is because Paul, in his own troubled way, was trying to do exactly what we all are: he was trying to be an artist. He was trying to burn brightly. He was trying to act on the inspiration we all get from our common heritage in Burning Man and the Cacophony Society. The devil’s in the details, but from a thousand foot view he would be seen on the same path as all the rest of us.

I mean … we’re all crazy. Let us not forget that for most people in the world, the act of going out to the desert to build a giant man and burn him is itself far crazier than the decision to burn it on a Monday instead of a Saturday.

But I think what really troubles me is the way in which his leap reminds me of just how easy it is for any of us to fall through the cracks.

We like to think Burning Man can protect us.  Instead, I fear that Paul Addis represents the limits of radical inclusion. (more…)

Black Rock Solar Celebrates Five Years & Two Megawatts

[Marnee Benson is the Deputy Director of Black Rock Solar, the solar non-profit spinoff from Black Rock City LLC.]

And then one day in July, under a blazing Nevada sun, the veteran Black Rock Solar crew put the finishing touches on a gorgeous hundred-kilowatt array at the Desert Research Institute in Reno.  Not only would the array provide clean, renewable energy to the internationally-recognized research center for decades to come, it also marked the two millionth watt of solar installed since Black Rock Solar dedicated its first free array in the tiny, remote outpost of Gerlach some five years ago.  An array built by a ragtag team of DPW volunteers working for breakfast at Bruno’s, packs of cigarettes, and a bunk in the town’s dusty trailer park.  Well, that’s the legend anyway…

The 2007 crew on the playa during Burning Man. Photo by Marnee Benson


The Black Rock Solar crew in Gerlach, circa 2007. Photo credit unknown.


100 kW at the Desert Research Institute in Reno. Photo by Paddy McCully

 We’ve come a long way, baby

Now it’s 2012 and Black Rock Solar has one of the most experienced construction crews and professional project development teams in the state.  In the past two months alone the 501(c)(3) non-profit has commissioned six more systems, bringing the grand total to 53 and the number of individual panels installed by hand to 12,313.  Some, like the tiny 2.9 kW off-grid array at Urban Roots Farm, provide a small amount of power where it’s needed most.  Others, like the 200 kW array at Western Nevada College, are keystone systems at statewide institutions of higher education, visible to thousands of students and educators every day, helping to make solar power part of the right now rather than the maybe someday. (more…)

MOOP Map Live 2012: Your Questions Answered!

Your pal The Hun! Photo by Vertumnus; click for full size.

Hello out there all you MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! It’s been a couple of weeks since Burning Man passed its BLM site inspection, and I’ll be honest: I’ve missed you! Almost as much as I miss my Playa Restoration family, now scattered to all corners of the earth to return next August.

You and I also have some loose ends to tie up. While I tried real hard to respond to every comment during MOOP Map Live 2012, I eventually ran out of time. Now I’m back to answer your questions!

First, A Note.

Going forward, let’s agree to be good to each other. The Restoration team understands that people are giving huge gifts of time, money, art and entertainment! We also understand how disappointing it can be when you don’t score as well as you’d like on the MOOP Map. Please, remember that the MOOP Map is a collaborative effort. The Restoration team’s job is to report the facts of what they find, and they do that as accurately as humanly possible.

When I post results here, do I call people names or insult what they did? Of course I don’t. Please offer me and my teammates the same respect, and extend that respect to every single one of your fellow Black Rock Citizens.

Now. These are some of the most common questions I’ve been asked this year. Don’t see your answer? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best!