The electric company prunes or removes a massive amount of trees each year – 1.2 million, according to a press release from the company; more, since trees began dying off en mass in 2014. And Burning Man needs lumber to build the massive temple (called The Temple) it erects (and then burns to the ground) each year.
Not that the news of PG&E’s donation, which is calls “a one-of-a-kind opportunity” to help “recycle the forest in a unique way,” isn’t without irony. These are trees that were removed from forests because they posed a possible fire hazard – and now they’re being purposefully set on fire.
More than that though, Burning Man purports to be a spiritual event, free of consumerist culture and driven by civic responsibility and decommodification.
PG&E is a corporation, as pointed out in this blog at SF Weekly . The writer (who is full of snark and doesn’t seem to care for PG&E or Burning Man) calls the whole thing a “synergy between two for-profit entities with extensive experience with humongous fires” – a poke at the 2010 pipeline fire in San Bruno.
To its full credit, PG&E did not donate the wood to Burning Man, directly. Rather, it worked with the group that won the bid to design and build The Temple. Donating to these kinds of projects is not an uncommon thing for PG&E to do and creating a giant artistic structure, seems like a good use for the wood, even if it only stands for a few days. Still, the Temple Crew, which manages the design and build of the structure seems to have left the donation off of its fundraising page.
If you want to watch the temple burn yourself (the festival runs Aug. 27-Sept. 4) you better already have tickets. It looks like Burning Man has sold out. Also, there are no tickets available.