Burning Man, the annual festival of art, music, and self-expression in the Nevada desert, is facing a decline in attendance this year. Many veteran burners are opting out of the event, citing various reasons such as COVID-19 concerns, environmental issues, and dissatisfaction with the organizers.
COVID-19 Pandemic Still a Threat
One of the main factors that deterred many burners from attending Burning Man 2023 is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Although the festival requires proof of vaccination or a negative test result for entry, some burners are still wary of the potential health risks of gathering with tens of thousands of people in close proximity.
According to a survey conducted by Burn.Life, a website dedicated to Burning Man culture, 41% of respondents said they were not going to Burning Man this year because of COVID-19. Some burners also expressed frustration with the lack of clear communication and guidance from the organizers regarding the health and safety protocols.
Environmental Impact of Burning Man
Another reason why some burners are skipping Burning Man this year is the environmental impact of the festival. Burning Man takes place on a dry lake bed known as the playa, which is home to various species of plants and animals. The festival generates tons of trash, emissions, and noise that disrupt the natural ecosystem.
Some burners are also concerned about the effects of climate change on the playa, which has been experiencing more frequent and intense storms in recent years. In fact, this year’s Burning Man was delayed by two days due to flooding caused by Tropical Storm Hilary. The storm left parts of the playa muddy and impassable, forcing the organizers to close the gates until Wednesday.
Dissatisfaction with Burning Man Project
A third reason why some burners are staying away from Burning Man this year is their dissatisfaction with the Burning Man Project, the nonprofit organization that runs the festival. Some burners feel that the organization has become too corporate, bureaucratic, and out of touch with the original spirit and values of Burning Man.
Some of the issues that have angered some burners include:
- The increase in ticket prices from $425 in 2019 to $550 in 2023.
- The introduction of a new ticketing system that requires burners to register and verify their identity before buying tickets.
- The lack of transparency and accountability in how the organization spends its money and handles its affairs.
- The perceived favoritism and elitism shown to certain camps, artists, and donors over others.
- The failure to address issues such as sexual harassment, racism, and cultural appropriation at the festival.
Burning Man Still Going On
Despite these challenges and criticisms, Burning Man 2023 is still going on with an estimated attendance of 60,000 people, down from 80,000 in 2019. The festival will feature hundreds of art installations, performances, workshops, and theme camps that showcase the creativity and diversity of the burner community.
The theme of this year’s Burning Man is “The Great Unknown”, which invites burners to explore the unknown aspects of themselves, others, and the world. The festival will culminate with the burning of a giant wooden effigy known as “The Man” on Saturday night, followed by the burning of a temple on Sunday night.
Burning Man 2023 will also be livestreamed online for those who cannot attend in person. The livestream will feature footage from various cameras around the playa, as well as interviews with artists, organizers, and participants.