For three decades, festival-goers from around the world have congregated in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for Burning Man. It’s a days-long celebration of artistic expression, human connection and ephemerality that culminates in the symbolic burning of a large wooden man.

Since its inception, the event’s ethos has been guided by 10 principles, from radical inclusion to civic responsibility. But as the festival grows and evolves, is its message holding up?

The New York Times’ Laura Holson weighs in:

Burning Man is based on a giving economy, with nothing bought or sold except coffee and ice. But the newest crop of technology millionaires and billionaires to arrive began to overtly flex their financial muscle. They hired Sherpas to set up air-conditioned camps, and pack out trash. They brought in chefs to cook elaborate feasts in tricked-out recreational vehicles. Then the models and celebrities arrived. Last year, Paris Hilton was a D.J.

Burners bemoaned the seeming end of Burning Man. In 2016, the Burning Man website posted a funny sendup of all the ways the festival was ruined. Mr. Doherty had this take: The festival evolved. “It is a microcosm of what is happening in society,” he said. “Everyone is as comfortable as they can afford.”

Added Mr. Kelly: “Now it is almost like a huge conference. There is an agenda. There are scheduled seminars.” In the beginning, he said, “it was the individual experience.”

What happens at Burning Man? What impact does the event have on the rest of society? And where is the festival headed next?

Show produced by Avery Kleinman.


Marian Goodell, Founding board member & CEO, Burning Man Project; @mariangoodell

Neil Shister, Author, “Radical Ritual: How Burning Man Changed The World”;

Aaron Taylor Kuffner, Artist; creator of the Gamelatron; @gamelatron

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