I’m a festival nut. Even when I can’t attend, the live-streams and social media blitzes usually make me feel like a part of the crowd. For years I’ve tried to quell my parents’ worries, their far-fetched thoughts of their daughter scaling a stage in celebration of PLUR. “Not all festivals are like that, Dad,” I’ve repeated time and again, “some of them even help the communities.”

And then there’s Burning Man. It is like that. The end-all, be-all; the Level 100, the perfect enigma of a festival all wrapped into, what looks like, one big take from the set of Mad Max. In my eyes, Burning Man has always been the gathering place for the pro-level festivalgoers and anyone with a penchant for mud-slathered dancing around wooden sculptures. Many describe it as a transformative experience. Perhaps it’s the week spent in the desert? Or the incredible workshops and art installations? The growing techie crowd? Or the thought that you’re becoming one with the Earth which, it turns out, you’re apparently killing?

LA Weekly has discovered a site called “Cooling Man” where locals have been tracking the festival’s environmental impact on their town of Black Rock City for years, and their results are not pretty. 70,000 Burners are expected to touch down in the Nevada locale in 2015, carrying tens of thousands of tons of greenhouse gasses in their hemp-sewn backpacks. The irony in all of this comes when you realize that the festival boasts itself as “the largest leave no trace event in the world.” Attendees are heavily encouraged to leave the desert in better condition than it was found, among following other abstract principles. Could the Omega of festivals be heading towards a serious environmental overhaul once the body paint washes away? We’ll have to wait and see.

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