Burning Beetles | Urban Living

Burning Beetles

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By the time you read this, my ears will be full of yellowish alkaline playa dust from Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada. My wife and I volunteer there each year at something known as the Temple. The "Man" of Burning Man might be the heart of the event, but the Temple is the soul. The Man burns on the Saturday before Labor Day each year—it's a huge party. Half of the attendees leave the next day, but that Sunday night is when our Temple burns. It's a more solemn event. You see, we bring mementos and ashes of our loved ones to release them to the sky. Thousands of Burners come and sit or walk the Temple and look at the messages, poems and personal items left behind. It's a place of refuge, cleansing and healing. But, like all other Burning Man events, we will leave without a trace.

The Temple, the Man and the dozens of art installations are brought to the playa for the largest festival of its kind in the world. Trying to explain it would be like trying to describe the color blue. Dozens of countries and virtually every U.S. state have spinoffs each year, but the mothership of all events appears and disappears 90 miles north of Reno. Some of the art is burned, some is sold and displayed permanently around the world, and some returns another year in a different form. Each year comes with a theme (this year's is "Radical Ritual"), which is also reflected by the Man and the Temple.

This time around, the Temple is a bit more special because the lumber is coming from an unusual and unexpected place. Millions of our forests' trees are dead or dying because of an infestation of bark beetles brought on by "human interruption of forest-fire cycles and climate change," reads an extensive and informative page on temple2017.org. "They actually pose a real threat as they become kindling in a forest fire."

A Bay Area sawmill has provided bark-beetle timber for the Temple to be built (as always) on site—a project led by Structural Engineer Mark Sinclair.

Bark beetle damage can be seen all over Utah. Our largest fire to date in 2017 raged through beetle-damaged forests in Southern Utah. At Bonneville Golf Course, you can count at least 30 dead pines, and the same goes for the area surrounding the course in Rose Park. They've yet to be cut down, and the evil beetles are spreading.

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