~ In which we answer your burning questions about the MOOP Map, its creation, and what you can learn from it ~
Welcome to Resto!
It’s an exciting time. The two weeks leading up to the BLM site inspection represent the culmination of our entire community’s efforts over the past year, working together to improve our shared commitment to Leave No Trace (LNT). This is when we get to see how well we did, and what we can learn going forward.
This is the goal that led to the creation of the first MOOP Map in 2006.
D.A., the Playa Restoration Manager, explains: “I love the Burning Man community and all of the wonderful things that they are doing on the Black Rock Desert. But as beautiful as it is, the desert environment can still be harsh, dangerous, and difficult. People’s cleanup efforts fall short sometimes, and could use some strategic improvements in order to be sustainable.”
“This is what the MOOP Map is for. It’s not about shaming. It’s about constructive feedback and improvement.”
Every Picture Tells a Story
“I created the MOOP Map because I wanted participants to better understand the problem caused by MOOP. And I realized that, to make them understand it, they needed to see what I was seeing. They needed something visual.”
Using the Black Rock City map, D.A. devised a simple system of color coding, with red, yellow and green indicating areas of high to low MOOP.
“When looking at the MOOP Map, I wanted to present a clear way to indicate Resto’s line sweep progress through Black Rock City. Green means we were moving quickly and easily, indicating low to no MOOP. Yellow is stop and go, a slower moderate pace, indicating that there is MOOP in the area and to be on alert. Red is generally a full stop indicating that there is a lot of MOOP in the area and needs a lot of focus and attention.”
“The MOOP Map tells a story; you can look at is and visualize how hard of a day we just had and where we had it.”
Since the introduction of the MOOP Map the Burning Man community has made enormous improvements due to better LNT planning and strategies. As a result, the city has been getting greener and greener overall despite growing in size and scale.
In other words, the MOOP Map works.
(Not) Karma Police
Playa Restoration’s job isn’t just helping to clean up the city, but assisting the entire Burning Man community in becoming better at leaving no trace. The MOOP Map is only the first and most visible step of this process. The real work happens after Resto ends.
“Yellow and red marks on the MOOP Map typically represent the beginning of a conversation with the camps in question,” explains D.A.. “Our goal is to help camp organizers better understand what went wrong and to support them in their plans to improve.”
“It’s about outreach, education, and support. And that’s a long, involved process that most people will never see, especially if their camps were green.”
This is also why we don’t identify individual camps on the MOOP Map.
“We provide our feedback directly to camp leads. If they want to make that feedback public, they’re welcome to. It’s great when we can all learn from each other. That’s why I shared what happened at my own camp this year. But we’re not going to call out someone else’s camp.”
Everything In Its Right Place
D.A. also warns about jumping to conclusions based only on preliminary versions of the MOOP Map.
“When we say it’s a rough draft, we mean it. Once the Resto season ends, I go through all of the GPS coordinates, photos, and notes and make sure everything is in its right place. Additionally I have to get a final map from Placement, because sometimes a few theme camps get moved at the last minute and these changes need to be reflected in the final hi-res MOOP Map.”
The process of correlating all of the data and producing the final hi-res MOOP Map is meticulous, and continues for months after the event up until the new year.”
“For our feedback to be useful it needs to be accurate. We carefully cross-reference data from every possible source, including our Scribes, Special Forces, Placement, and even the BLM inspection. Only then do we start contacting theme camps with their results.”
If you want to learn your camp’s final grade, D.A. suggests waiting until the new year before emailing the Placement team.
But if BRC is growing steadily greener, why the urgency about improving our LNT efforts?
“Basically, with 70,000 participants and 156 million square feet in Black Rock City, it’s up to all of us to find the MOOP that hits the ground. Burning Man happened, and generally speaking the community does an amazing job leaving no trace. But realistically, given the conditions, we sometimes miss stuff. If the community misses it, then it’s up to Playa Restoration to find it. However even Resto can miss it too! That means you missed it and we missed it. And if that happens, there’s a chance that MOOP will be found during the BLM Site Inspection.”
“And that’s what’s been happening. And it’s not that some camp is bad for missing it, or we’re bad for missing it but because the weather conditions on the Black Rock Desert are very challenging, and dust storms are common, obscuring the presence of MOOP and making it difficult to find and extract from the playa surface. The BLM Site Inspection standards are actually very strict and we are quite proud of passing them every year. But the margin by which we pass has been getting dramatically slimmer for the past couple of years.”
“I call this the rise in MOOP and I’ve spent the last year talking about it. It’s real. You can measure it. And unless we do something about it, it could mean we don’t pass inspection.”
How To Disappear Completely
As always, D.A. remains positive, with high hopes for the future of Leave No Trace and the Burning Man community.
“This is a breakthrough year for Playa Restoration. We have the biggest and best crew ever, and we’re operating like clockwork. The community has done a great job, and even the weather has stabilized and is working in our favor. We have all the momentum and are making fantastic process. I’m excited for the endgame, and looking forward to the BLM Site Inspection.”
“We got game.”