This morning the Playa Restoration crew awoke to gray, threatening skies.
Throughout the day storm cells swept across the playa, bringing cold winds and a sharp temperature drop. Despite the suddenly wintery conditions the crew soldiered onward, layering up for warmth and moving around the playa frequently to avoid dust storms kicked up by the high winds.
Temperatures on the Black Rock don’t typically get this cold until early October. But there’s nothing predictable about the high desert, and today’s weather was a dramatic reminder of just how abruptly things can change here. This also helps explain why Playa Restoration works as hard as we do when we can, as one sunny day can easily be followed by a week of rain, forcing us off the playa and threatening to derail our work entirely.
Thankfully, today never quite reached that point, with only intermittent light precipitation. Mostly it was a game of cat and mouse, as small white-outs kept appearing and forcing us to relocate to another area with better visibility. In this fashion we were able to complete a full day’s work, albeit without the steady, unbroken rhythm that comes from making steady, uninterrupted progress along a single arc of the city.
By day’s end we had not only managed to complete the swing around the front of the city that we’d begun on Tuesday, sweeping between Esplanade and Ceremony from 8:00 all the way to 2, but we also pushed back inwards, sweeping Ceremony to Genuflect from 6:30 to 7:30.
As with yesterday, the majority of the blocks we swept came up green. But one notable camp delivered an ironic surprise. We wound up grading MOOP Map HQ—Playa Restoration’s own headquarters—as yellow (with a spot of red).
D.A., the Playa Restoration Manager and camp lead for MOOP Map HQ, explains: “The MOOP Map reflects what the line finds, regardless of where we find it. We could do our work on a map without any camp names or boundaries and it would come up exactly the same. And to our standards MOOP Map HQ just wasn’t green this year. And that’s just what it was.”
So what happened? And what can be learned from it?
“Ultimately, I never made the time to lead a line sweep of my own camp. Other aspects of Playa Restoration’s growing leave no trace operations kept taking priority. And the next thing you know, MOOP Map HQ was the last thing on my list. We weren’t very messy—a 15 minute line sweep would have earned us a green. But I kept throwing all of my resources and my attention everywhere but my own camp.”
“But,” he adds sagely, “that’s exactly how this sort of thing happens.”
This, D.A. explains, is why it’s so important that each camp have a designated LNT lead, with few or no other competing responsibilities.
“You need someone whose only job is managing your leave no trace efforts. Not your art project, not your shade structure, sound system, or bar. Those may all be important, but with limited resources and no dedicated advocate, LNT tends to get shortchanged.”
Overconfidence due to prior successes can also create the conditions for an LNT slip-up.
“Since we first created the MOOP Map in 2006, our camp has always been green. If your camp has always gotten a green, it’s easy to assume that it always will, and focus your resources elsewhere. But leaving no trace doesn’t just happen. It’s something you have to work at every year.”
“MOOP Map HQ is the camp that set up a trebuchet to throw a flaming piano and then cleaned it up in 7 minutes. We live and breathe LNT. We’re really good at it. But experience isn’t some magic substitute for doing a line sweep.”
Overall, D.A. remains strongly positive about participants’ growing success at leaving no trace, and takes visible pride in a greener MOOP Map.
“MOOP is decreasing. We’re seeing less and less red, less yellow, and more green. 2017 is shaping up to be the greenest MOOP Map yet. Ultimately I’m happier about all the camps that are improving and earning green than I am unhappy about us being marked yellow.”
For other camps that don’t get green this year, he offers this encouragement: “I believe Burning Man is good. There’s immeasurable goodness happening. But it’s also hard. It’s dusty and it’s crazy and it’s an intense experience. And sometimes your cleanup effort doesn’t go perfectly. And that’s okay. Just keep doing better, learn from the feedback, and we all can improve together.”
Of course, the irony of Playa Restoration’s own camp being graded as yellow by Playa Restoration isn’t lost on D.A..
“All we had to do was one final line sweep,” he says, laughing and shaking his head. “That’s what I’m always telling people. Just do your line sweeps.”
On that humorously cautionary note, here’s a look at how the MOOP Map stands after Day 3.
>> Remember, this map is only a rough draft. For the final MOOP Map, wait until the new year and contact the Placement department. <<