A group of climate protesters in Nevada were arrested by environmental authorities after they blocked the only road leading to the annual Burning Man festival. The blockade caused a miles-long traffic jam and led to a standoff between the activists and angry drivers.
The incident unfolded when members of the climate campaign group Seven Circles chained themselves to a makeshift barrier, preventing cars from passing through the road. Park rangers in a white pickup truck rammed the barrier, with sirens blaring and guns drawn. They ordered the protesters to the ground and handcuffed several of them when they failed to comply quickly enough. A video of the incident showed one demonstrator pleading that they were nonviolent, while another denied involvement in the protest. The rangers informed the activists that they were trespassing on tribal land and took several of them into custody.
The roadblock was located between the town of Gerlach and Burning Man’s temporary city, Black Rock City. This disruption further added to the already heavy traffic experienced during the opening days of the festival. Burning Man attracts around 80,000 people to the Black Rock Desert for a week of dancing, themed camps, events, and according to some accounts, copious drug use.
Seven Circles claimed that their protest aimed to draw attention to capitalism’s failure to address climate change and the commodification of the Burning Man event. They criticized the event’s goals of becoming carbon-negative by 2030, highlighting the participation of affluent individuals who often arrive via private jets. These attendees contradict the values of Burning Man, which promotes radical self-reliance and bans the use of currency within its gates.
In January, the Burning Man Project sued the federal Bureau of Land Management for allegedly violating environmental laws by approving a geothermal energy project near Gerlach. The company behind the project defended the use of geothermal energy and criticized Burning Man for its consumption of fossil fuels during the festival.
While the arrest of the climate protesters caused significant disruption to the Burning Man festival, it also sparked a larger conversation about the environmental impact of the event and the need for sustainable practices. As attendees and organizers grapple with these challenges, it remains to be seen how Burning Man will continue evolving in the face of climate change and the increasing scrutiny on its environmental footprint.