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Burning Man Or Drowning Man? Climate Apparently Can’t Change Human Behavior

My friend and neighbor is a past chief of the Penobscot Nation here in Wabanaki territory. He’s been on social media recently harshly criticizing indigenous elders who fly in to big conferences about — well, anything really. His point: flying harms the climate significantly, and anyone who claims to be concerned about the environment should not be flying.

I thought of his long-standing advice when hearing about the Burning Man festival this year being inundated with rain and then immobilized by mud. One person has died out of approximately 70,000 who are locked down in the campsite since motoring, bicycling, or even walking through the thick, soupy mud is nearly impossible. And there’s more rain on the way.

Mud photos by Trevor Hughes/USA Today Network

This made me think of another friend, an adventurous grandmother who traveled to Burning Man this year. I hope she’s okay. When she told me she was finally going to attend after years of wanting to, I realized how much I avoid large crowds that I would have gleefully joined in my youth. Maybe it was the experience of attending a solar eclipse festival in India in 1980 with one million people? Or maybe it was traveling to big antiwar demonstrations in various U.S. cities that led me to reflect on why my political advocacy carbon footprint was so big.

“Phoenix” was the first of several burnings at the festival this year, with a trident emerging from the ashes that creators said represents the resilience of Ukrainian people.

Another notable thing about Burning Man 2023 is that the festival opened with an homage to Ukraine. From Evan Haddad writing in the Reno Gazette Journal:

The project was funded by Come Back Alive, a foundation that provides support to service members in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The organization, which was created by Ukraine’s deputy minister of defense, Vitality Deynega, purchases equipment to help equip Ukrainian service members.

The creators probably knew it would play well with a wealthy audience that is heavily invested in the military-industrial complex: “Charter planes are descending on the Nevada desert — and the pop-up Black Rock City airport — as tech bros and billionaires gather for Burning Man” wrote Grace Kay in Business Insider.

“Phoenix” was the first of several burnings at the festival this year, with a trident emerging from the ashes that creators said represents the resilience of Ukrainian people.

But what it reminded me of was this piece I had just seen in Canada’s Globe and Mail: “Ukraine’s substandard medical supplies are endangering soldiers as the war intensifies.” 

Vladyslav Wolovin and Anton Skyba posting from Kyiv wrote:

“This guy should have survived,” Dr. Sobolevskyy said, as he recounted treating an injured soldier at a stabilization point in Orikhove, less than five kilometres from the front line in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Despite the short distance, it took several hours for the soldier to be safely evacuated to the medical post. He arrived with three tourniquets that had been tightly wrapped around his legs by fellow soldiers. One was broken. None of them created enough pressure to prevent blood loss. “Simply put, he bled to death because of these substandard tourniquets”

Nowhere in the article is corruption named as a contributing factor, but medical volunteers shared that they’ve tried in vain to go through official channels in Ukraine to remedy the problem of sub-standard medical supplies. Ironically, the very corrupt Biden administration scolded Ukrainian officials over corruption this week and invoked the rule of law (doubtful if the Ukrainians brought up Julian Assange).

We aren’t going to burn, fly, or bomb our way out of climate catastrophe. NATO’s proxy war on Russia in Ukraine has been terrible for the environment, including climate. But hey Lockheed Martin made a lot of money off the Ukrainian people’s suffering! Never mind the globally widespread flooding and off the charts temperatures this summer in the northern hemisphere. Gaze upon your stock portfolio instead!

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