2007 Early Man Burn

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In 2007, the man was set on fire by Paul Addis during a total lunar eclipse on the Monday of Burning Man.

Concept art for the Green Man pavilion

Background

The theme of Burning Man in 2007 was The Green Man, which was Burning Man’s response to criticism that the event has an outsized carbon footprint. It attempted to address this criticism in a number of ways:

  • Funded art: the largest installation was a piece called Crude Awakening, a series of metal figures discovering fire and then worshipping a 100’ tall wooden oil derrick.
  • Carbon offsets: during ticketing, burners could elect to offset their carbon footprint in partnership with an offset organization.
  • Black Rock Solar: a program that provides solar energy to northern Nevada schools and Paiute reservations was established and exists to this day.
  • The Green Man pavilion: most controversially, Burning Man allowed corporations involved in green initiatives to demonstrate new technology in a sort of “world fair”-type showcase beneath the man. The companies paid Burning Man for the privilege, and had to agree to remove corporate branding. The companies showed off things like algae biofuel and, famously, an unmarked Tesla Roadster prototype.

The Green Man pavilion proved extremely controversial, and a highly critical Business 2.0 article slammed the org for selling out and enriching themselves.

Paul Addis had attended burns in the 90s and was loosely affiliated with Cacaphony Society. Asked later about his motivations, he stated he believed Burning Man had become too safe and gotten away from its chaotic roots.

The Burn

While the entire playa was entranced by two cosmological events: the near-peak of the Perseid meteor shower, and the totality of a lunar eclipse, Paul Addis climbed up the man pavilion and set the man’s leg on fire with a blowtorch. By the time fire suppression efforts began, it was too late: an entire side of the man was torched.

Aftermath

The Green Man pavilion did not reopen for the rest of the week, and criticism about Burning Man selling out was never mentioned again. International news reported on the incident.

The Man Crew scrambled to build a new man. They briefly considered using the bamboo from Opulent Temple’s collapsed tensegrity dome project, but it was determined the injection foam used was too dangerous to set on fire. Instead, an entirely new man was constructed from wood and burned on schedule on burn night.

Paul Addis served time in prison for arson. He was arrested several years later for an unrelated incident where it was suspected he might commit arson against a church. In (year), he committed suicide by jumping in front of a BART train at Embarcadero station in San Francisco.