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!

Corruption In Ukraine & The U.S. Mutually Rewarding

Alleged to be Ukrainian Minister of Defense Resnikov’s newest ride, this Mercedes Benz SLR MacLaren 999 has gilded tires, a diamond-inlaid cabin, and costs $11 million.

I don’t often write about corruption. It’s not that interesting to me as it seems quite predictable. The powerful will feather their own nests in any system that allows it, and most systems do — having been built with this purpose in mind. So, there are a lifetime’s worth of posts about wealth flowing to corrupt leaders from ordinary people who are struggling to get by.

The Obamas’ “palatial” home on Martha’s Vineyard is an example of U.S. political corruption. The former president has been rewarded lavishly for presiding over banks getting bailed out while we, the people, got sold out.

Even in countries where virtue rather than venality is on display it’s easy to find allegations of corruption emanating from the political opposition. It’s sort of like war crimes. All militaries commit them while accusing the other side of committing them, and it doesn’t seem like a good use of my time to sift through third-hand evidence for the truth.

But I’ve got to say that Ukraine’s leaders are so over the top that it’s becoming impossible to ignore. Add in the fact that they have been enriched by U.S. taxpayers more or less directly despite crumbling infrastructure, catastrophic homelessness, apartheid healthcare, and a host of other problems that the U.S. could address with adequate funding.

From RT (whose editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, just survived a second assassination attempt):

On July 7, US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl spoke about a new package of aid from the US which includes cluster munitions – which are banned in 120 countries. The cost was $800 million.This is the 42nd delivery of aid that Ukraine has received from the US in the past year and a half.[emphasis mine] Since the beginning of Russia’s offensive, the US Congress has approved military and economic assistance to Ukraine amounting to over $70 billion – and that’s only counting direct expenses..

“Ukraine needs only one thing… To have someone come to power who won’t steal. Someone who won’t do it himself and won’t allow others to do so. Unfortunately, so far we haven’t been lucky,” [Aleksey Arestovich, former advisor to President Zelensky] said.  

Ok, so Arestovich has a motive for trashing the government that used to include him. How about Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. investigative journalist Seymour Hersh? Hersh does not approve of Russia’s entry into the war but he nonetheless published a piece on rampant corruption in Ukraine, “Trading with the Enemy,” back in April.

Zelensky has been buying fuel from Russia, the country with which it, and Washington, are at war, and the Ukrainian president and many in his entourage have been skimming untold millions from the American dollars earmarked for diesel fuel payments. One estimate by analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency put the embezzled funds at $400 million last year, at least; another expert compared the level of corruption in Kiev as approaching that of the Afghan war.

And we’re all familiar with the tale of Hunter Biden’s six figure salary as a director of Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company where he played no role other than sitting next to “the big guy.” President Biden was also alleged in chats recovered from Hunter’s infamous laptop to have received 10% of deals made by his son.


Then there is President Zelensky, elected on pledges to end corruption and, incidentally, the war on the Donbas. 

Homes outside Ukraine owned by Zelensky and/or his wife Olenka. Screenshot from Scott Ritter’s video “Agent Zelensky – Part 1

Screenshot from Scott Ritter’s video “Agent Zelensky – Part 1

Pre-2022, i.e. when corporate media headlines about Ukraine did a 180, even The Guardian found he was part of the problem and not likely to be part of the solution.

Neither is the U.S. government likely to be part of the solution. The Pentagon failed its fifth consecutive audit last year, appearing to lose track of 61% of its $3.5 trillion in assets.

From the Washington Examiner:

“DOD’s inability to adequately track assets risks our military readiness and represents a flagrant disregard for taxpayer funds, even as it receives nearly a trillion dollars annually,” Republican lawmakers wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Liberals will be annoyed with me for quoting a conservative, GOP-aligned media source. Because everything — war, graft, and other corruption — must be viewed through the lens of false dichotomy. If a Republican wins the White House next year, as seems increasingly likely, Democrats will suddenly care (again) about financial malfeasance at the Pentagon and enriching the oligarchs of Ukraine.

Time for those guys to purchase a few more offshore villas before the jig is up.