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Burning Man Ends in Epic Traffic Jam, Trash, and Covid

A dream lived amid heat, dust and Covid.

Burning Man 2022

Once a year, tens of thousands of people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. In this crucible of creativity, all are welcome.”

Burning Man, the legendary annual event in the western United States, has made a long-awaited comeback this year with a theme of “Waking Dreams”. 

The dream…

Stuart Mangrum, director of Burning Man Project’s Philosophical Center and host of the Burning Man LIVE podcast as well as a veteran burner since 1993, quoted ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zi in his feature article on this year’s theme:

I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?

Zhuang Zi

Mangrum celebrated the “transformative power of dreams” and encouraged burners to use the “potent energy” to their advantage and in possibly life-changing ways.

From August 28 to September 05, 2022, 80,000 revelers lived their dream amid the summer Nevada desert’s heat and engulfing dust storm. Stunning photos from reporters and burners’ posts on social media testified to the boundless creativity and imagination characterizing the Burning Man.

The traffic…

However, the burners’ “exodus” on Labor Day was particularly trying. Burning Man Traffic, the official Burning Man traffic Twitter account reported a 5.5-hour wait time by 12 p.m. and a 7-hour wait time by 5 p.m.

The Trash…

“Leaving no trace” is one of the ten principles promoted by Burning Man. “Wherever we go, we seek to leave the places we visit in better shape than we found them,” claims the Burning Man website. Every year, staff and volunteers clean for weeks to ensure “the Playa”, or burning man campsite, returns to its pristine condition. 

But the discipline deteriorates as burners drive away from the Playa. The Nearby City of Reno and tourist attraction Lake Tahoe once again fall victim to excessive illegal dumping from Burners on their way home. “I just hope that people will treat our community with the same respect as they do the playa,” says Anna Klovstad, Town Councilor of Truckee, according to SFGATE.

And Covid…

In the meantime, staff and burners report Covid infection as they arrive home. The event did not enforce any Covid-related rules for 2022 but encouraged burners and camps to take precautions by themselves, which many feel responsible for the rising Covid cases among participants.

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