Burning Man and Yucca Mountain not what they seem
August 3, 2007
Burning Man and Yucca Mountain have something in common – both are highly dubious projects in the Nevada desert. Let me explain.
Burning Man, the annual naked drug festival co-sponsored by San Francisco-based Black Rock City LLC and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), will take place over the Labor Day weekend in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach. It will attract some 40,000 “free spirits” who will pay between $250 and $400 apiece for the “privilege” of baking in the sun for three or four days. Doing the math, it’s clear that the festival will gross more than $10 million for its aging hippie organizers. And the BLM will rake in about a million dollars – last year’s BLM take was approximately $843,000 – for looking the other way as participants do drugs and get naked in the presence of young children.
For years the Burners have claimed that their event is nonprofit and non-commercial and that they’re dedicated to art and assorted consciousness-raising activities. But seven-time Burner Chris Taylor, who writes for the techie magazine “Business 2.0,” has revealed the truth about the festival in the July issue of that magazine. Taylor confirms that Burning Man is a $10 million business that is now seeking corporate sponsorships. So much for the high-minded New Age baloney that Burning Man organizers “lord Larry” Harvey and “Maid Marian” Goodell peddle to the media every summer.
“We’ve got four properties in Nevada totaling more than 200 acres,” Goodell told Taylor in an interview, “and three people in accounting managing a budget of $10 million.” And, sounding exactly like one of those despised CEOs, she confirmed that Black Rock LLC is now seeking corporate partners who will exhibit their products at this year’s event without displaying their logos.
This has created a conflict with some old-timers, who believe that the festival “has grown too big and lost touch with its anti-commercial roots,” according to Taylor. “We’re inviting the Greeks into the heart of Troy,” said Burning Man Environmental Director Tom Price. “Burning Man may have to destroy itself to save the planet.” How noble!
Another veteran Burner, John Law, who co-founded the event in the early 1990s, sued his former partners earlier this year to strip them of their exclusive rights to the festival’s name and logo. “Burning Man belongs to everyone,” Law told the AP, implying that BLM, Harvey, Ms. Goodell and their co-conspirators are making money (Gasp!) on a “nonprofit” event. When asked about profits, Maid Marian turned coy while acknowledging that the drug festival has earned “comfortably about $50,000” annually in recent years. I suspect that her estimate is way low; nevertheless, I welcome the Burners back to Black Rock and urge them to spend lots of money in Nevada. Thanks in advance.
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I have often wondered why the federal government continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars down the Yucca Mountain rat hole even though an overwhelming majority of Nevadans, and most Americans, oppose the toxic project. Today, I offer a possible two-word answer to that question: Dick Cheney.
Here’s what the Washington Post reported about Cheney’s position on the proposed nuclear waste dump: “The vice president … pushed to make Nevada’s Yucca Mountain the nation’s repository for nuclear and radioactive waste – a victory for the nuclear power industry over those with long-standing safety concerns.” But are we surprised? No, because Cheney has had a cozy relationship with Big Energy ever since he took office in January 2001.
Public opposition to Yucca Mountain is strong and growing even as the Nuclear Energy Institute continues to buy politicians and pseudo-journalists. A recent national poll by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that only 28 percent of 1,200 respondents believed that nuclear waste could be stored safely at the Southern Nevada site, and statewide polls have shown that more than 70 percent of Nevadans oppose the multi-million-dollar boondoggle. As the Appeal noted in a recent editorial, “The people have spoken on Yucca Mountain … A vast majority of people in Nevada don’t want any part of a nuclear waste dump within our borders.”
Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, has declared Yucca Mountain “dead,” The U.S. Energy Department (DOE) presses forward with construction plans. Gov. Jim Gibbons waffled on the hot-button issue earlier this summer when he allowed DOE to use state water for test drilling at the site and moved to appoint a toxic dump supporter, Nye County Commissioner Joni Eastley, to the Nevada Nuclear Projects Commission. Fortunately, the governor quickly came to his senses, rescinding the Feds’ state water permit and canceling Ms. Eastley’s appointment. DOE is appealing the permit denial.
Note to Gov. Gibbons: Along with most of my fellow Nevadans, I urge you to stay on the right side of this life and death (literally) issue. Your constituents have spoken loudly and clearly on Yucca Mountain and our bipartisan congressional delegation is unanimously opposed to the project. Your predecessor, Kenny Guinn, spoke out early and often against the toxic dump and you’ll do the same if you value your political career. Enough said!
• Guy Farmer, of Carson City, is a semi-retired journalist who has been a Nevada resident since 1962.