BWB, born in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has a storied history of facilitating global grassroots volunteerism and civic participation in everything from disaster relief to beach clean-ups.
Burning Man Project is now seeking a high caliber Program Manager to administrate Burners Without Borders. Please go here to apply — the application deadline is Monday July 6.
As part of this transition, Carmen Mauk, BWB’s founder and longtime Executive Director, will help onboard the new program manager and then continue her own community outreach efforts, including her most recent work on alternative currencies in Africa. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Carmen for her outstanding work over the years guiding and nurturing BWB to amass an impressive list of accomplishments, from Haiti to Peru, New Jersey and Japan.
Festivals Concierge Services, part of a larger European-focused concierge company called The Key, offers VIP-priced packages for events and festivals around the world, which is great for them. They also want to offer them for Burning Man, but that’s not going to happen.
We believe strongly that paying upfront for a prescribed, curated experience that doesn’t require individual effort misses the mark and erodes Burning Man culture, and it’s absolutely not okay to sell people “the Burning Man experience” as a vacation package. This is precisely the kind of service we hope to eliminate from Black Rock City: one that essentially offers participation and “self-expression” in a box.
Read on to learn about our interactions with Festivals Concierge Services, the actions we’re taking to stop what they’d like to do in Black Rock City, and how you can help.
We first learned of Festivals Concierge Services (FCS) in the summer of 2014 when we received reports about their website — burningmanvip.net — which was selling concierge services involving Black Rock City. We reached out concerning their unapproved uses of Burning Man’s intellectual property (IP) and offer of unauthorized services. Festivals Concierge Services changed the website as we requested, and they claimed that they were not offering any services at or to the 2014 Burning Man event in Nevada.
We next heard about Festivals Concierge Services in March 2015 when we received reports about the “Art on Playa Foundation,” an organization that Festivals Concierge Services started, purportedly to help their wealthy clients provide financial support to Burning Man artists. We saw that the Art on Playa website was using our logo and other IP, and causing confusion among artists and other participants about our involvement with them (we had none). So we reached out to Festivals Concierge Services again, explained our principles and policies again, and asked them to stop using our IP on their websites. Once again, they agreed to comply with our requests.
Sadly, we can’t say we were totally surprised when we learned that Festivals Concierge Services recently added a new “Burning Man concierge” page to its website. They have since changed the leading graphic — bearing a garish, computer-generated private jet flying over Black Rock City — to read “Black Rock City” instead of “Burning Man,” but FCS still uses the Burning Man name liberally (for example, at press time, FCS lists Burning Man as one of its “Products” on its Facebook info page). The page makes unauthorized use of Burning Man’s IP and claims to offer concierge services at our 2015 event (everything from transportation and tickets to Mutant Vehicle rentals and on-site theme camp management). This is all completely unauthorized by the Burning Man organization. Our community also took notice, and offered their pointed opinions protesting these activities in a Facebook thread that was deleted by Festival Concierge Services on 5/20/15.
We have contacted Festivals Concierge Services yet again, reminding them that they can’t offer “Burning Man concierge services” or use our IP to promote their business. We’re also taking a number of other steps to protect our principles and our stance on this issue:
Notifying applicants to our Outside Services (OSS) and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs that if we learn they are doing business or subcontracting with concierges services (such as FCS) or their clients, we will deny access to the OSS and ACS programs.
Revisiting and revising the overall OSS program structure so companies like this can’t exploit the system (this process began after the 2014 event).
Notifying BLM that FCS will not have a contract with Burning Man and should not receive a BLM Special Recreation Permit to operate its concierge business on public land.
Coordinating with DMV and Placement to ask Mutant Vehicle operators and theme camp organizers not to provide services or camping to FCS or their clients.
Working with our Ticketing Team to prevent FCS staff from acquiring event tickets for resale to their clients.
Communicating with YOU, our community, to keep you informed about these activities, and to solicit your help with combating the packaging and sale of our culture now and in the future.
We welcome your questions and comments below. If you’re aware of any other companies using Burning Man’s intellectual property to sell “VIP Burning Man experiences” or the like, send a report to ip here: ip (at) burningman.org.
With the influx of concierge companies seeking to capitalize on Burning Man’s popularity, we are taking a hard line with companies that want to provide tourism services and turnkey camping at the event. We don’t believe in spending money to avoid self-reliance in Black Rock City, and it’s absolutely against our principles to sell people “the Burning Man experience” as a vacation package. But there’s a balance to be struck between a “No Spectators” ethos and keeping our culture open to everyone.
We’re reviewing the ways we strike this balance and may make additional changes in the future, but for now, we’re continuing to make an exception to our approach to turnkey camping in the case of the adventure company Green Tortoise, with whom we forged a relationship in the year 2000. It’s worth explaining how in this case, Green Tortoise is the exception that proves the rule.
In the beginning…
In 1998, heavy rain flooded the event site just as Burning Man was coming to an end. With vehicles unable to leave Black Rock City, many Burners were stuck on playa. To make contact with the outside world, they trekked into Gerlach on foot, leaving a muddy mess in the small community (if you’ve ever been on playa when it rains, you know the deal). In response to concerns from the Gerlach community, participants were not allowed to leave during the event in 1999, creating challenges of its own: this time Gerlach lost the economic benefit of Burners frequenting its stores and facilities during the event.
Beginning in 2000, Green Tortoise agreed to provide shuttle service to Gerlach, enabling participants to purchase supplies and make contact with the outside world using the local payphones, while minimizing impacts on the local community. Most importantly for us, Green Tortoise provided a much-needed service for our participants that we couldn’t provide ourselves.
Then and now…
For a while, we gave Green Tortoise a small number of tickets they could resell as part of their compensation for providing shuttle service because, while we were short on money, we had plenty of tickets. Over the years, we grew to know and trust the Burners running the company and their staff and customers made valuable contributions to Burning Man, so we allowed them to expand their presence by offering a trip to Black Rock City, which is a noteworthy exception to our current policies.
For 2015, the Green Tortoise package costs $995 for the week (the event ticket is sold separately). It includes transportation to and from Black Rock City, along with water, shade, and food for cooking meals. Campers must bring and set up their own tents/sleeping accommodations and participate in meal preparation. These are not luxury trips to Burning Man. Green Tortoise encourages participation and has an excellent Leave No Trace record.
Though the need for daily bus trips to town has declined (participants tend to come more fully prepared these days), our relationship with Green Tortoise has continued. The current contract provides Green Tortoise with infrastructure for their camp, and the option to purchase up to 185 tickets (at $390 each) for resale to their customers only. Green Tortoise does not share a portion of its profits with the Burning Man organization; Burning Man does not benefit financially from this relationship in any way.
What Green Tortoise Brings to Burning Man
Green Tortoise campers include first-time Burners and 20-year veterans. They span a wide age range and are primarily backpackers from overseas. The service is particularly appealing for people who travel long distances to participate in Burning Man, as it makes some of the logistics and supply acquisition easier and more affordable. Of the 150 participants who will go to Burning Man in 2015 with Green Tortoise:
69.3% reside outside the U.S.
The largest group of international campers are from Australia (24% of all campers), The Netherlands (24%), and the U.K. (11.5%)
Other home countries include Colombia, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Argentina, Singapore and the Bahamas.
The average age is 37
The youngest is 18
The oldest is 79
And Green Tortoise campers have made significant contributions to BRC over the years. These include:
Art Projects: Green Tortoise campers have played an integral part in the conception, design, building and implementation of various playa art projects, including a wall of light (multi-colored technology-driven LED display), The Rolling Light Balls project, and pieces for CORE (The Circle of Regional Effigies), including two from Victoria, B.C.: PsychoPhilia (the big head) in 2012 from and Fleur pour les Morts in 2013.
Art Cars: Green Tortoise campers have created three art cars: The Tiki bar (a VW van chopped up and re-fabricated into a tropical-themed, roaming bar), The Cloud (the same chopped-up VW van fabricated to resemble a fluffy, mobile thunderstorm), and the Galapagos Tortoise. All art cars were hop-on, hop-off style and were built with accessibility in mind to encourage any and everyone to ride them.
Regional Contacts: Two Green Tortoise campers have gone on to become Regional Contacts (from New York and Georgia).
BRC Departmental Support: Green Tortoise campers often sign up to volunteer for various departments prior to arriving on playa. Others have become more engaged upon arrival or in subsequent years. Green Tortoise campers have become Black Rock Rangers, BRC nurses, Lamplighters, Center Camp Cafe staff, Earth Guardians, Temple Guardians, and more.
In 2014 alone, Green Tortoise campers:
Built and performed on a stage at Green Tortoise camp. This included acoustic guitars and a flute player ensemble, as well as DJs with ambient lounge chill-out music, providing a relaxed atmosphere for anyone to drop in on.
Built a sultan-like tent for the Caravansary theme and held meditation sessions.
Held free massage sessions by licensed massage therapists.
Hung a slew of hand-made birdhouses in random locations.
Performed for the public: sang at center camp, drummed at the pre-Burn ceremony and other events, hula danced, fire danced during the Burn ceremony and in other performances using batons, poi and other various flaming crazy-fun props, stilt-danced, and sang sea shanties on several of the pirate-themed ships.
Created a BRC Junior Ranger Program (not affiliated with the real BRC Rangers); over 300 participants received booklets describing participation-based tasks. Upon completion of the tasks in the booklet, each of the applicants were awarded patches.
Formed the French Fashion Police, complete with aviator glasses, tight shorts, whistles and ticket books, and held “Fashion Friday – a Costume Giveaway” and offered face and/or body painting to whoever passed by.
In short, this is no frou-frou, chichi turnkey camp. It makes significant contributions to BRC that have flourished for many years.
While we appreciate the long relationship we’ve had with Green Tortoise and are continuing to support their efforts in 2015, we’re also working with them to make some changes to how they operate to bring them more in line with Burning Man’s principles. The owners of the company understand and are working with us to address our community’s concerns around turnkey camping, and we may make further changes to this arrangement in the future.
Participant posing in front of a portapotty. (Photo by Mario Covic)
One of the best things about Burning Man culture is that its participants are also its creators. Burning Man is what its participants do and say and make about it — and that includes creations that reference Burning Man.
Burning Man is unique in the way it encourages participants to incorporate its logo and imagery — including the Man symbol and design, the names Burning Man and Black Rock City, and the shape of Black Rock City — into their creations and offerings to the community. We see these uses most frequently in the season leading up to the event, often as part of fundraising efforts for art projects, theme camps and products offered to Burners.
The challenge comes when those creations conflict with the 10 Principles, and it’s usually an issue related to Decommodification. We don’t support projects that turn Burning Man into a commodified product for sale. We do license the Burning Man identity for certain third-party projects, but we do so very carefully for projects that represent the best of Burning Man culture. An example of this is allowing the use of “Burning Man” in the title of a book of photographs from Black Rock City. But we don’t license Burning Man for use as a commodity. You’ll never see Burning Man Brand LED GlowyFur™ available at your local BoxStore™. When a work crosses that line, we step in to protect the culture from misrepresentation and exploitation.
A recent example is the Burning Man Board Game. The developers reached out to us a year ago, and after extensive review, the developers were told they would not receive permission to use any of Burning Man’s legally protected intellectual property, including the Burning Man and Black Rock City names, the Man logo and the signature shape of the city.
Last month the game appeared as part of a Kickstarter campaign. While our fundraising policy allows the creation of crowd-funded campaigns that directly fund art, theme camps and mutant vehicles, the board game Kickstarter was being used to fund the creation of a product, with only a portion of revenue to be donated to theme camps or playa projects.
There’s an important distinction between using Burning Man’s IP in the appreciation gift one receives for making a donation (which is fine, as long as the guidelines are followed), versus in the product that is being crowdfunded itself. If we were to allow the use of our name and symbols in the product (in this case the board game), then it would open the door for other entrepreneurs to sell Burning Man merchandise under the guise of fundraising. This could set a dangerous precedent in terms of protecting our cultural integrity.
In the case of the board game, the campaign organizer stated the fundraising effort was designed to comport with the 10 Principles in that one portion of the donation would go toward the cost of producing the game and another portion would be donated as a gift to one of several high profile theme camps. However, in keeping with the Decommodification and Gifting Principles, we allow participants to use Burning Man’s intellectual property to fundraise directly for Black Rock City-bound projects, including specific artwork, theme camps, and mutant vehicles. Any other use requires special approval and a licensing agreement from the Burning Man organization.
The Burning Man board game is just one example a project that comes in conflict with the Principles. Others have included an individual selling jewelry with the Man symbol to raise funds for his camp, a high-end concierge service using the Burning Man name and logo to market their services, and companies offering to ship large quantities of their product to Black Rock City to give away for “free on playa” in return for the right to market the experience to the world.
In the vast majority of cases, these kinds of issues are resolved with a phone call. Only very rarely have we been forced to resort to more formal action.
Here’s the thing: We are truly inspired by the creativity of Burners — the range of ideas from our community continues to expand in impressive ways. And on the surface, many of these ideas sound great. But we take the responsibility of protecting Burning Man’s long term cultural integrity seriously, and we have to examine all of the possible outcomes and unintended impacts of a project.
Participants are welcome to gift items that incorporate the Man, the Black Rock City design, etc. to their donors. But that’s different from manufacturing a product at cost and selling it, which is not allowed. For more information about Burning Man’s approach to intellectual property, check out http://burningman.org/network/about-us/press-media/trademarks-images-faq/ on our website.
Remember: It’s not a gift if there’s a price tag attached to it.
San Francisco, Calif., April 13, 2015 — Burning Man announced today that Burners Without Borders — a grassroots group that supports community organizing and disaster relief worldwide — will transition June 1 to become the cornerstone of Burning Man’s Civic Engagement initiatives.
“We’re very excited to bring Burners Without Borders into the Burning Man fold,” said Burning Man co-founder Harley Dubois. “This incredible group has an outstanding track record of facilitating grassroots volunteerism that truly represents what Burning Man is all about. This functional reorganization allows Burning Man culture to flourish through the civic efforts of Burners everywhere, in their local communities.”
BWB came into being after Hurricane Katrina when Burning Man participants left the event to help with the disaster cleanup effort. The organization has a 10-year history of supporting disaster relief and local grassroots volunteer initiatives around the world through its annual grants program and direct on-the-ground assistance. It’s expected this transition will have no major immediate effect on existing projects, grants or grant applications. “We want to thank the community for its unwavering support of BWB over the past decade — we are continually inspired by the impact this community makes every day,” said Carmen Mauk, Burners Without Borders’ Executive Director. “I am looking forward to the future where we can continue to grow and thrive.”
BWB’s international projects include relief efforts in Pisco, Peru after that city was hit by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in 2007, relief efforts in the remote Tohoku Prefecture of Japan following the Fukushima disaster, delivering relief supplies to Haiti, supporting communities in the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda, and providing relief to New Jersey communities not receiving adequate assistance following Hurricane Sandy.
About Burning Man Burning Man Project is a 501(c)3 public benefit corporation whose mission is to facilitate and extend the culture that has issued from the Burning Man event into the larger world. Black Rock City is the seminal manifestation of the 10 Principles-based culture known as Burning Man. The gathering, which last year included participants from all 50 states and 40 countries around the world, happens the last week of August in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. For more information, visit www.burningman.org.
About Burners Without Borders Burners Without Borders (BWB) was born in Biloxi, Mississippi during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort where Burning Man participants had instinctively gathered to fill in where government relief efforts were falling short. Since then, BWB has emerged as a grassroots, volunteer-driven, community leadership organization whose goal is to unlock the creativity of local communities to solve problems that bring about meaningful change. Supporting volunteers from around the world in innovative disaster relief solutions and community resiliency projects, BWB is known for the unbridled creativity they bring to every civic project they do. To get involved, visit the Burners Without Borders website.
While the list of things you can do at Burning Man is about as long as your imagination, the list of things you can’t do at Burning Man is very, very short. But things on that very short list are the things that can either outright kill you (weapons, speeding vehicles, serving iffy food) or screw up the environment (burning stuff right on the playa floor, visiting the hot springs during the event).
Why is the list so short? Because radical self-reliance, that’s why. We firmly believe that people should exercise their own personal responsibility when it comes to their entertainment and personal safety. The Burning Man organization has long resisted establishing rules when we could instead establish community guidelines that would accomplish the same thing. We believe in acculturation and education over creating a rule when something needs fixing — Leave No Trace is a great example.
But sometimes you have to make a rule, because it’s the right thing to do. And this is one of those times.
At the 2014 Burn, a member of our Black Rock Rangers reported that somebody in the crowd scanned her face with a laser, and that as a result she was blinded in one eye and partially blinded in the other. We didn’t know of any other incidents like this one in the 30 years of our event, but once her story went out on the airwaves, we started hearing from other folks who’d been hit by lasers but had not reported anything to us.
When handheld lasers first came onto the scene, they were expensive and not very powerful. In recent years, they have become stronger and more easily accessible. Lasers are now so powerful that even the handheld ones can do permanent damage to somebody standing 10 miles away. And that, by any definition, by any standard, is a weapon. And dangerous weapons — ones that can permanently and irreparably injure somebody standing literally on the other side of Black Rock City — really have no place at Burning Man.
So this is one of those times. Starting in 2015, handheld lasers will be prohibited in Black Rock City. Mounted lasers are only permitted on art pieces, Mutant Vehicles and in theme camps if they comply with specific restrictions.
To learn more, visit our Lasers page on the Burning Man website.
[Nicole Brydson is an artist and journalist from New York City. She can be found at nb.interchang.es.]
The burning question of the 2015 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference has finally been answered. How exactly did two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich get to Burning Man?
“I drove,” he said.
“I’ll tell you what happened, I was in London and somebody tells me – I’m in London meeting with, um, uh, what’s his name? Julian Assange. And so he’s telling me about Almedalen Sweden and … so I go to this event in Sweden on an island, it’s called Almedalen.
“It’s like a celebration,” he continued, “it’s an elm festival, but beyond that, it’s where people merge with all sorts of political thinking and disciplines and they have this very civil discussion – so foreign to where I’m from – so I met Gustav Josefsson at Almedalen and Gustav told me about Burning Man” – the crowd roars – “so thank you! Here I am.”
A few hundred Burners from around the world cheered for Gustav, a community leader from Sweden, seated in the center of the Imperial Room of Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood.
The presentation by the former congressman and mayor of Cleveland followed one by Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell on the strategy and goals of the organization as it strives to scale the culture of Burning Man in service of the next creative renaissance. Goodell shared that she will soon travel to Washington, DC to negotiate with Bureau of Land Management representatives and is positively hopeful about increasing the size of the population of Black Rock City beginning with the 2016 event.
Kucinich followed to discuss the theme of humanity as an interconnected and interdependent organism, the physics of which can be changed and progressively propelled through personal education, leadership and transformation, or alternatively set back in the face of a culture and climate of fear.
Most people are probably wondering if Kucinich really “got” Burning Man. So when he stepped across the line into Black Rock City for the first time in 2014, what exactly did he see?
“I saw the colors the textures the forms, that imaginarium that all of us hold within us, but don’t always get a chance to see a physical representation of the images and the fantasies that stream through our head about the world that could be – and suddenly I stood there and I saw a representation of it and I thought how miraculous how beautiful and how true.
“If you remember Keats, ‘beauty is truth, truth is beauty’ – the interchangeability of those principles – I saw it represented, and truth as equates to light. When you stand, when you move through the playa at night, you see how the darkness is illuminated in so many different ways, you start to think about how each person has the ability to bring their own awareness into the world, their own consciousness and to let that light of awareness penetrate the darkness in what is so beautiful, and I saw the potential of that physically represented. We all have this yearning for transformation; we all have this yearning for transcendence. I think that each one of us lives if only for a moment to experience that.”
During his half hour on the stage, Kucinich shared personal stories, including his eight principles of making change happen locally as he relayed an excerpt from his forthcoming book about challenges he faced as a politician.
“Envision the alternative outcome,” he advised. “If we are to be architects of a new world, you better have the plans in your back pocket.”
Kucinich’s must do list for organizing change, in his own words:
Know your subject, research, research, research
Envision the alternative outcome
Create a concrete plan, your roadmap
Enlist the help of people who are like-minded
Work your plan
Be relentless, cheerfully.
“All the world loves a cheerful relentlessness,” he added.
As he wrapped up his question and answer session, a moved Kucinich shared that, “I sure am interested in working with all of you because I think that what you’re involved in is really creating a world that is not just worth living in, but that everyone loves to live in, and that really is what it’s about, its about connecting with a deeper sense of joy.”
As Kucinich’s stage time was winding down the most burning and obvious question of the morning was finally shouted out by Burning Man co-founder Crimson Rose – when would he be running for president? After all, a pile of Kucinich campaign pins and bumper stickers had been sitting at the registration table.
“Check please,” he quipped.
“I’m involved,” Kucinich continued delicately, “as we all are. It’s about being involved in our community in our country, in the world, and I would advise all of you who are looking for candidates: our first obligation is be as presidents of our own lives, and to show people that empire of self can become something that can merge with others who achieve a kind of self sufficiency and an ability to be able to function without a state,” he paused, seemingly in awe of his own statement. “Wow.”
“So rather than being accused of not answering that question, no comment.”
The Burning Man Global Leadership Conference (GLC) is an annual conference of Burning Man community leadership that happens each spring in San Francisco, and it starts April 9. The conference is for organizers and community leaders in the Burning Man Regional Network, and space is limited, so attendance isn’t open to the public, BUT …
We’re going to be covering key sessions that are of interest to the larger Burning Man community here on the Voices of Burning Man, as well as on Twitter (for a full-throated coverage, follow @burningmanglc; for more select coverage, follow @burningman and/or watch the #bmglc15 hashtag).
If live video is more your thing, we’ll be livestreaming our plenary sessions, including keynotes on Friday and Saturday mornings. If you’re not an early riser, no problem, the videos will be available afterwards. Here’s the livestream schedule:
Friday, April 10 9:00-10:30am PDT
Plenary Session 1: The Next Creative Renaissance, Busting it Out, Building it Up, Bringing it Home!
Plenary Session 2: Updates — From the Desert to the World
Saturday, April 11 9:00-10:15am PDT
Plenary Session: Keynote Talks with Marian Goodell and Dennis Kucinich
Speaking of which …
We are excited to welcome a special guest keynote speaker to this year’s GLC! Former U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich will join us in person on Saturday, April 11 to address why Burning Man culture matters to humanity at this time of great global change.
Dennis is a statesman and philosopher who believes the fundamental truth of our existence is human unity — that we are all one, and that we are interconnected and interdependent. This belief has guided him through public life and he shares it with audiences everywhere. An internationally known environmentalist, Dennis is passionate about the great evolutionary potential which comes from repairing our relationship to the natural world and to each other.
He has had a long and distinguished career in public service, including serving as a Cleveland City Councilman, Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio State Senator, and U.S. Congressman. He was a two-time Presidential candidate.
Dennis participated in Black Rock City for the first time in 2014. Through the creativity and human connection of Black Rock City and the Burning Man Regional Network, he sees that “Burning Man represents an incandescent vision of a world within our grasp.”