Earth Guardians

Participants continued to step up to the plate in 2008 and applied Leave No Trace and Green practices in Black Rock City. Earth Guardians continued many of our efforts to reach out to them, bring in new volunteers and support efforts to Green Regional Burns.

Pre-Playa Outreach Activities & Efforts

Open House / Black Rock Rendezvous

In 2008, Earth Guardians once again participated in Burning Man’s Open House to meet new volunteers and showcase LNT and green practices for Black Rock City. For the third year in a row, Earth Guardians also participated in the Friends of Black Rock High Rock’s Black Rock Rendezvous in May. The event is a great introduction to the Black Rock/High Rock NCA for folks interested in learning more about the area, and a great opportunity for collaboration with other Black Rock user groups. We had a booth at the community expo and volunteered with various activities during the weekend.

LNT Back Packing Training

Our annual LNT backpacking trip continues to be a great way to meet Burners from many different volunteer groups and theme camps at Burning Man and introduce them to how Leave No Trace principles/practices and Greening concepts apply to our event. We will continue to make the trip more family friendly and comfortable, in hopes that more participants will feel that they are able to participate. Next year we are even considering locations closer to the Bay Area so that more Bay Area participants can participate.

Theme Camp Announce / JRS

We posted our annual LNT and Green Tips to theme camps in the Placement Announce email list in advance of the event. We also publicized our Camp of the Day Contest on Placement Announce and on several other email distribution lists. While the tips sent out via the Jack Rabbit Speaks Newsletter list were well received, they were sent out in late August due to the backlog of JRS subject-specific issues. Next year we will submit the tips to all lists earlier (May/June) to facilitate better timing of announcements and tips in JRS and lists.

On-Playa LNT Outreach

Camp of the Day Contest / Theme Camp Outreach

The Earth Guardian Camp of the Day contest recognizes the best examples of Leave No Trace and Green Camping practices throughout the city. Any registered theme camp can apply, before or during the event. During Burning Man, Earth Guardian gurus visited camps to view them in action and also evaluate the camps based on their documentation of practices and their post-event cleanup. In 2008, we made more than 25 contact visits with camps, including visits of appreciation to past winners and honorable mentions in the 2007 Camp of the Day contest. We visited each camp that applied for the 2008 Camp of the Day and each camp that wanted to show us specific features, like grey water systems.

Camps are judged on their pre-camp application and LNT/Green camp plans, on site implementation of the green practices, performance on the MOOP map and post-playa documentation available for sharing with other camps. This year there were many outstanding camps with simple and ingenious features. Winning camps earned two tickets to Burning Man 2009 and special recognition in the Earth Guardian web pages. The 2008 Camp of the Day winners were: Pandora’s Fix-It-Shop, Carbon Dioxide, Alternative Energy Zone and Burn Green Express. Honorable Mention goes to NoseFish, BYB, and Snow Koan Solar.

Nature Walks

This year’s nature walks were very popular, with waiting lists for each trip. The walks focus on LNT, playa dynamics, ecology and geology with the field trips led by experts in native biology and geology.  The walks appeal equally to desert rats and participants who’ve never been on a desert before. By instilling a greater understanding and appreciation of our natural surroundings, we are walking the first steps to transforming participants into environmental stewards. We are now building a nature walk team with an ecologist, a Black Rock Desert specialist, and geologist to lead the trips. With our partnership with BLM/Nevada Outdoor School/Friends, we are considering bringing additional experts from facilities such as Desert Research Institute to expand the trips and share the organization and facilitation of the trips. We clearly have the demand to fill nature walks every other day; so are working on additional staff to organize and conduct the trips.

Earth Guardian Pavilion Activities

This year the Earth Guardian pavilion hosted many talks, workshops and environmental networking opportunities. Now in its 6th year, our Pavilion structure is a lovely showcase and beacon for participants. We’ve created a clean, functional space with easy-to-clean rugs, new benches, an expanded and redesigned water bar, and lots of space for conversation, performance and gathering. We continue to have a very active front volunteer desk staffed with trained volunteers. Based on some informal counting, we averaged close to 75 people per hour reading our information and making personal contacts. We gave out hand screened LNT logo MOOP bags and bandanas that are more popular every year. Many participants bring these bags back each year and some have started to make their own as well. This year we made some additional special bags with straps made from donated/recycled neckties and from recycled pants. We also bought a button machine and made dozens of custom buttons for our camp and volunteers which were a huge hit.

For our speakers we had several great professors from institutes such as the Desert Research Institute, sharing their knowledge and their research on Black Rock Desert. Our talks were very well attended, especially the geology talk on Saturday which was standing room only. Thursday’s Earth Party had good attendance and our BLNT – Got Bacon? event was a great draw for LNTV, which played in the background while folks followed their noses to our camp and waited for their BLNTs!

Coordination with Other Burning Man Departments

We had increased exposure on BMIR (thanks to EGs stepping up as DJ). Our BMIR session during the Monday dust storm was particularly fruitful. We also had great connections and communication with Playa Info, and two collaborative MOOP censuses with DPW. We hope to expand on these connections next year and do more advance publicity on the successful MOOP censuses.

Coordination with Other Groups

Outreach to Regional Burns

This year, Earth Guardians started efforts to connect with regional Burns around LNT awareness and education. We began by researching active Burns worldwide and reaching out to their representatives, requesting contact information for those who were working on and passionate about LNT and Greening their Burns. All the responses to EG outreach and invitations were positive. We participated in the Regional Leadership Summit and traveled to one regional Burn (Apogea) and to Bonnaroo in Tennessee. EG presence at and outreach to other large festivals is a great way to seed LNT awareness and practice.

The Regional Green Earth Soiree, held at Burning Man at the EG pavilion, was a good first face-to-face contact between regional and Black Rock City LNT advocates. At the workshop, Earth Guardians listened to regional concerns and questions. Most of these focused on how to communicate pre-event with participants regarding LNT preparation; also, whether LNT practices could be molded to fit single day/night events, such as decompressions which are typically held inside buildings. EGs shared our own journey of creating our volunteer group and integrating LNT into Burning Man, and offered further support to regional folk. It was agreed among the EGs in attendance that the face to face was worth the effort and that we would seek ways to connect with regional burn planners at their regions and again at Burning Man 2009.

The American Dreams in Conflict Exhibit

For several years we have worked in partnership with BLM and other wilderness groups to explore different themes in outreach to the residents of Black Rock City. This year’s exhibit focused on Dreams in Conflict on the playa by different users of the Black Rock NCA. This included an Interpretive Exhibit contained in two yurts and a trailer sponsored by Friends of the Black Rock High Rock, BLM, Nevada Outdoor School, and others. This cooperative exhibit enhanced our connections with these groups and provided participants with extensive information about the Black Rock Desert. Volunteers from the Friends of Black Rock, the BLM and the Nevada Outdoor School also volunteered to host the exhibit to answer questions from Burners.

National LNT Traveling Trainers

The National LNT organization sent their Senior Traveling Trainers to Burning Man in 2008. They were well-prepared and jumped right in with a Leave No Trace workshop taught in Elvis gear. They also pitched in and volunteered for several different Earth Guardian teams, including the information desk, nature walks, the ‘Toxic Avenger’ burn patrols and camp tear-down and clean-up.

Other Activities and Operations at Burning Man

Hot Spring Patrols

This year we tested several new sunshade / camping shelters at the hot spring areas, which were very much appreciated by the volunteers that stayed at the hot springs for their 4-8 hour shifts. We learned that the A-frame design worked best with the winds, so we will produce additional A-frame shelters for the remaining sites next year. In terms of participant performance, we had very few problems with violators at the hot springs this year! We’d also like to note that prior to the start of the event, Frog Pond was checked and was found to be very clean. During the course of the week, our volunteer monitors cleaned up approximately three cubic yards of trash at the springs.

Burn Platform Patrols

Our Burn Platform volunteers noted that the messaging about burning less and burning responsibly seems to be reaching people. The Burners Without Borders wood recycling program also helps raise awareness and reduce burning. The offsite recycling and disposal options could use additional pre-event and on-playa publicizing.

Ideas for 2009

We have been in the process of evaluating new pavilion designs for the last three years. We want to create a structure that is a showcase for our educational and environmental programs; attractive to participants; comfortable; easy for our volunteers to set up and take down; reconfigurable and modular enough to transport and use in multiple settings, such as regional events.

Earth Guardians would like to continue to send our LNT and green experts to regional burns. To begin our efforts in 2009, we hope to create an email list for regional LNT representatives to facilitate broad, consistent, and diverse communication throughout the year. We would like to create a calendar to reflect regional Burn dates so EGs can better coordinate and offer support to the Burns during the weeks prior to their events. Senior Earth Guardians are also working on a Regional Burn LNT/Green resource guide to provide to new regions considering how to LNT/green their events.

We plan to attend several Regional burns in 2009, such as the Seattle Regional, to assess their needs, as funds are available. Also, to provide more hands-on LNT training to regions, Earth Guardians will reach out and coordinate with the appropriate state LNT advocates and the national LNT organization regarding training opportunities across the county. Earth Guardians will also work with the new non-profit organization, the Sierra Environmental Education Collaborative (SEEC), created by Earth Guardian Management, to seek additional funding for LNT training. SEEC has already successfully obtained one grant from the Nevada State Parks Department, to conduct LNT workshops in Nevada. We may be looking to SEEC to partner with other groups to fundraise to support some of our LNT activities.

Submitted by,
Karina O’Connor