MOOP MAP 2014: Resto Love Letter

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~ Leaving No Trace ~
The Burning Man community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Somebody left this message for us. The feeling is mutual. Photo by Tiffany Sinacola.
Somebody left this message for us. The feeling is mutual. Photo by Tiffany Sinacola.

…and just like that, it was over…

It’s hard to describe Burning Man to someone who’s never been — and it’s even harder to describe working for Burning Man. In all the dimensions, all the realms of the vast universe, there can be nothing else that even approaches this experience. I consider myself lucky to have discovered it.

This is the tenth year since I became a member of the Department of Public Works. Green as I was back in 2005, it only took me a few days to fall head over heels in love with these people: the strong, weird, passionate, fiercely individual, workaholic and totally misanthropic friends I’d been seeking my entire life. It is my great privilege to spend two months in the desert with the DPW every year, breaking our backs to build Black Rock City for little to no reward — other than the pleasure of each other’s company.

And what a pleasure it is. Each year, I write the Moop Map blog series not just as a celebration of Black Rock City and of the incredible accomplishment of leaving no trace — but as a love letter to the DPW, the best people I’ve ever known.

Today is the last day of operation for the Black Rock Saloon, our staff watering hole in Gerlach. Tomorrow, the BLM arrives to inspect the Burning Man site. As usual, the people of BRC and the DPW have left the place squeaky clean, ready for (much hoped for) winter rains to wash away our tracks. When the inspection is done, we’ll all scatter, the DPW diaspora extending once again around the globe until next August calls us home.

Thanks for a great year, Black Rock City. Tune in Wednesday for the results of the BLM’s site inspection, which will determine whether Burning Man will happen in 2015.

Till then, enjoy a few photos of the beautiful DPW Playa Restoration crew. You can find more of them here and here.

Burning Man Playa Restoration 2014

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MOOP MAP 2014: Storm Front

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~ Leaving No Trace ~
The Burning Man community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

It’s been a warm September. For those who’ve been out here since early August or before, the heat has seemed relentless: an unending series of hot, still afternoons on the baking Black Rock Desert.

But at this time of year, you never know what tomorrow brings. You don’t even know what the weather will do in an hour. The desert creates its own atmospheric conditions: storms that sweep across the entire West will break up and encircle the playa without ever touching down. Or, they’ll intensify in power as they eddy and swirl, trapped in a rage between the surrounding mountain ranges. The Playa Restoration crew has a detailed evacuation protocol for such situations — like the one that happened yesterday.

There was a rumor that weather was coming, but that’s a rumor we hear often (usually followed by “but it probably won’t hit us”). It wasn’t until the black ridge of clouds crested the mountaintop that we started to worry. And then, out of nowhere, the temperature dropped ten degrees. The wind began to howl. And the desert surface lifted up into the sky.

Witch Doctor & Rebecca brave the sudden onslaught. Photo: Aaron Muszalski / @sfslim.
Witch Doctor & Rebecca brave the sudden onslaught. Photo: Aaron Muszalski / @sfslim.

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Killin’ Time Till Resto

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The signs were not good at all.

First off, we were headed back to the Black Rock desert to visit people who, incredibly, had never left the playa.  Some of them had been there since July, and it seemed the only question was just how cracked out they would be.

All their friends and everyone else who’d been to Burning Man had left them behind. They had to know that we’d been eating sushi and pizza and burritos, and we’d been showering whenever we felt like it, and when we used the bathroom, it didn’t the way only a PortaPotty can stink at noon.

So these folks had to be bitter. And they were probably resentful, too, because who wouldn’t be? By the time we rolled into town, they’d already been working Playa Restoration for days. And they had a lot more mooping to look forward to. They’d been walking slowly across the empty desert, sometimes getting down on their hands and knees, to pick up what the partygoers had left behind.

But worst of all, these lost souls might even be hostile, and that made us nervous. Who the f—were we, all clean and shiny and caught up on sleep, to come sashaying into town? What the f—were we doing there, and who the f—did we think we were?

And then there was the trip itself.

The stench of broken dreams had been with us since before Truckee. The sky was dark orange, clouded by the smoke from fires ravaging Northern California. Reno seemed like some Saudi Arabian town in the middle of a dust storm. The sky there burnt ember, and it  smelled of smoke and destruction.

 

D.A. has been doing Playa Restoration for fifteen years
D.A. has been doing Playa Restoration for fifteen years

By the time we got to the other side of Nixon, where the beauty of the ancient lakebed usually hits us in the face, we were almost ready to turn back. We couldn’t see more than a couple of hundred yards on either side of the road. There was no sun, no glowing, golden hills. There was only smoke, and the growing sense of dread that this was all a very bad idea.

D.A. has been doing Playa Restoration for fifteen years, even though they haven’t called it “Playa Restoration” for nearly that long.  He’s been around since the days when only a couple of dozen people would stick around after everything had been trucked back to the ranch, after everything had been stowed away for the year.

Brukka was telling us about the old days, too, when it was a just small bunch of really ragged people who did the cleanup. They didn’t eat well, mostly stuff out of cans, and they didn’t sleep much. They did drink pretty hard, though, which only served to make things … volatile.

There were no fluffers, there were no support teams, and no one really knew they were still out there. There was no such thing as a Moop Map — there was only the need to leave no trace.

The BLM has always made Burning Man clean up after itself. It’s pretty simple, really: Officers will come to random points in what had been Black Rock City, and they’ll put stakes in the ground, and they’ll stretch out lines. Then they’ll inspect the circles of desert defined by those lines, and if they find too much crap  … boom. Inspection fail. Permit pulled. Event over.

So this Playa Restoration is serious business, and it is quite literally true that the future of the event depends on leaving the desert the way we found it.

Sometimes you have to get down on your hands and knees to clean the moop.
Sometimes you have to get down on your hands and knees to clean the moop.

And all the work is being done by people who haven’t seen home in months, and who have spent very little time with anyone but each other.

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MOOP MAP 2014: Leaving No Trace Around the World

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~ Leaving No Trace ~
The Burning Man community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

I’ll be straight with you, Black Rock City: The map I have to show you today is not from Burning Man 2014. It’s not from Burning Man at all. It’s not even from this continent.

Today, I’m proud to show you the 2014 Moop Map from Tankwa Town, South Africa.

Click the map to read AfrikaBurn's 2014 moop report.
Click the map to read AfrikaBurn’s 2014 moop report.

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Coyote Nose: Astro-not!

Was reading an article about Burning Man the other day where the writer remarks on how serious the participants can be about Black Rock City’s principle of “Leave No Trace”. He mentions a happening at a bar where someone flicks a cigarette butt down and the instant scolding he gets from his campmates. The writer also mentions how impressed he is with this because the playa was already protected with AstroTurf. Participants were so concerned with leaving no trace that they would never let it hit the ground even if it had a protective barrier on it.

Upon reading this it occurred to me that people can think that putting down yards of AstroTurf in their camp will safeguard it from MOOP.

This year’s public service announcement:

AstroTurf is MOOP!!

AstroTurf is some of the worst and most difficult to get rid of MOOP ever, and more and more camps are using it.

AstroTurf shreds and sheds worse than a dried up Christmas tree, and when you finally pull it up after an event’s worth of trampling and occasional soakings, there’s a billion little green plastic grass blades embedded into the hard pan playa. And this can stretch for a block’s worth sometimes.

The Playa Restoration crew dubbed this spot "AstroTurf camp."
The Playa Restoration crew dubbed this spot “AstroTurf camp.”

For understandable reasons, AstroTurf is exponentially growing in popularity. It gives your camp a lush and dust-free floor, and I’m betting that many believe that it doubles as a MOOP catcher. Turns out that it’s a MOOP nightmare!

We all need to get the word out far and wide that AstroTurf is right up there with boa feathers, wood chips, and pistachio nut shells as “Worst MOOP Ever”.

Leave no trace – leave no couch – leave no AstroTurf!!
Never let it hit your pack job.

ASTRO – NOT!

Coyote Nose

MOOP MAP 2014: Greenest Esplanade Ever!

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~ Leaving No Trace ~
The Burning Man community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Dear Black Rock City:

Normally today I would write a blog post about how we can all continue to do better at Leaving No Trace on the playa.

Instead, it is my great pleasure to tell you that we have passed a new milestone, reached a new high water mark, accomplished a feat never before seen in the history of Burning Man: An almost entirely GREEN Esplanade.

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David Best and Artichoke Building a Temple in Northern Ireland

Temple of Grace interior, 2014 (photo by Robert Bruce Anderson)
Temple of Grace interior, 2014 (photo by Robert Bruce Anderson)

David Best, creator of the beautiful Temple of Grace at Burning Man this year, will be traveling to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland for his next project.

In Derry, a city historically split by religious and political divisions, there is a long-standing tradition of burning and building extreme bonfires. UK-based charity Artichoke, who specializes in large-scale interactive public art installations, wants to bring David and his crew to build a temple with the local community that will turn the notion of bonfires and burning in Northern Ireland on their head. The temple will serve as a source of healing, uniting people as they come together for the epic build. Four people from Derry came to Burning Man this year and studied with David as he worked on the Temple of Grace.

The Burning Man Project is thrilled to support this collaboration with its first official grant from the new Burning Man Arts program. Burning Man Arts has also awarded a grant to support longtime Burner and documentary filmmaker Laurent LeGall, who is working on a full-length film about David Best’s life and work. He will shoot the temple project in Northern Ireland for the film, which is expected to be released sometime in 2015.

Artichoke is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise £30,000 for the project and they’re reaching out to the Burner community for their help. Please show your support!

MOOP MAP 2014: 3 Steps to Get the Green

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~ Leaving No Trace ~
The Burning Man community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

There was a time (ten short years ago) when Burning Man had no Playa Restoration crew. Volunteers from the Department of Public Works would stay long after the event for “cleanup,” which ended when the playa was clean. The Burning Man community had always taken great care and individual responsibility in Leaving No Trace, and the cleanup crew was always able to ensure that the BLM would approve of Black Rock City’s efforts and allow our city of dust to keep flourishing. But slowly, as our population grew, it became more and more difficult to restore the playa to a perfectly moop-free state.

Playa Restoration was founded by D.A. in 2005. His goal: To change attitudes about what it really means to “clean up” Black Rock City. In 2006, we created Burning Man’s first Moop Map. The community could finally see what it meant to Leave No Trace, and how it was possible to improve. The effect of the map was dramatic: an immediate and lasting improvement in Burning Man’s impact trace.

Over the years, the Moop Map has been an excellent way for the Resto team to report back on the effectiveness of Black Rock City’s efforts to Leave No Trace. And as you can see, even as the city has grown, Burning Man’s overall moopiness has actually improved. Make no mistake: That is due to the dedication and hard work of the people of Black Rock City.

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