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Burning Man: More Than an Electronic Music Festival

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

The Burning Man festival recently gained popularity across all social media channels and news outlets. Not just due to the event itself, but also as a result of a sudden shift in the weather that turned the seven-day event into a mud nightmare. As it rained heavily in the Nevada desert, where the event is held, it turned into a mud pit, forcing some attendees to stay for almost one more week before they could safely return home.

More than the disaster, it was how the revelers handled it in a good and humorous way, joking about and surviving in a community while helping one other through it that stunned people on the internet. That’s because most people mistakenly believe it to be nothing more than a wild party in the desert attended by filthy and crazy rich people, since they are unaware of its true purpose.  

Burning Man’s history

In 1986, Larry Harvey and Jerry James created an improvised wooden statue of a man, ignited it on fire, and watched it burn on a beach in San Francisco. After that, a curious audience gathered to watch what would later become one of the biggest events in history.

With the statue on fire and a large crowd in attendance, Harvey was so touched by his idea that he repeated it three more times before the police were notified. The public disapproved of the ban on burning the statue the next year, so the event was moved to the Black Rock Desert in 1992. 31 years later the event went from 600 people to 100,000. 

Not only the event, but the Burning Man community is so important to those who regularly attend that in 2020 when it was canceled, they recreated it online on many multiverse platforms. The Burn was executed and shared live, and ever since the pandemic, a memorial with everyone from the community who passed away has been a part of the event. The event was still unable to proceed normally in 2021, but because the pandemic was in better shape, the community was encouraged to organize local events, come together for charitable acts, take part in significant community projects, and brainstorm more sustainable strategies for when the event could happen again. 

The Burning Man developed quickly, and many people learned of its existence but not its true meaning. The goal of burning man is to establish a new culture in which individuals are more socially engaged, participate in community to the larger realm of civic life, and more connected to the natural world. The entire event is non-profit, and the funds are used to pay for the venue, the staff that make it happen, and fundraisers that support the event’s values. Lary Harvey, the event’s founder, passed away in 2018, leaving behind 10 guiding principles based on his vision because the media and his detractors were always attacking his idea. The principles don’t represent dogma but rather merely describe how it works. They can all be found here, in Burining Man’s offical webiste.

Radical Inclusion

Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.


Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.


In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance

Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on their inner resources.

Radical Self-expression

Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort

Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility

We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace

Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.


Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.


Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

How It Works (expenses, transportation, accommodation and more)

The ticket price this year was $575, and the vehicle pass cost $150, making the original cost of attending the event , including taxes and fees, close to $900. There are a lot more charges waiting for you so you can eventually reach the desert. Each of the 1500 camps (community of people) has its own unique characteristic and culture, in addition to the entertainment venues that are specifically set up for the festival. Accommodation prices vary depending on how comfortable you want to be, and there are numerous options such as tents, yurts, and RVs. You will also require your own generator and gas for it if you want electricity, for example, to charge your phone.

Given that the only products burning man legally sells are coffee, tea and ice, food and water are additional essentials for survival that can be exceedingly expensive and challenging to manage. It must be brought by the individual or arranged with campmates so that each person brings an unique item as a contribution. Since the project’s goal is to teach people the value of community and sharing, any kind of commercialization is “illegal” inside Burning Man (camps must purchase permission to share some specific meals, though). 

A plane ticket is also required for travelers from other nations and states in order to reach Reno and then board a vehicle to get to the desert. 

More Than an Electronic Music Festival

Over the years, there have been many complaints and even hateful remarks about Burning Man from individuals who don’t get the idea, think it’s ridiculous, or just think the festival is needless and would harm the environment. Comments like “$500 to play in the mud for a week,” “Thanks for dumping all your trash in Reno,” “You are all a waste,” “Cancel this fest,” and “Stop the fantasy that taking drugs changes the world” can be found at the gratitude post of burning man this year, for example.When talking about the environment, is understandable and relevant the concerns, because the burning ceremony leaves a great amount of CO2 and there are still a lot of attendees that leave a great amount of trash, these year because of the mud disaster there were many bikes, tends, food and clothes left behind that were not pick up by the organization, destroying the sustainability that the festival try so hard to promote and leaving space for users and mostly habitants of Reno to call the whole project, hypocrite. 

The comments and experiences of those who participate, however, are completely at opposites.  The burning man community expressed their immense happiness and satisfaction with their experience in the same post where the hateful remarks were posted. It was normal to expect people to never want to return after a difficult week, but instead, you can see many comments stating that it was the “best burn ever” and even thanking the burning man organization for their support as well as the community for their assistance, empathy, and solidarity. This is in contrast to the hateful responses that claim these people don’t understand what they’re talking about and that you have to experience the transformation in person to understand that it is more than a festival.

The post has almost 900 comments so the link is below for the ones who want to read more arguments from both sides. 

The article above was edited by Fernanda Miki Tsukase.
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Victoria Acquaviva

Casper Libero '26

Jornalista em formação apaixonada por moda, entretenimento e atualidades.