“It’s kind of a NIMBY thing, but so much more. It’s not just ‘not in my backyard,’ but don’t ruin my backyard,” stated Burning Man Co-Founder, Mr. Roger.
Burning Man draws in thousands of festival goers to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada every year. Now at almost 80,000 attendees, residents in Gerlach have watched on for over 30 years as the festival grows bigger and bigger, but the land surrounding the festival is what big thermal energy company, Ormat Technology, desires. Residents of Gerlach and goers of Burning Man are joining forces with local conservationists and Native American tribes to fight against the potential environmental threats that Ormat Technology poses.
The festival promotes self-reliance and shares an equal respect for the environment, vested in tackling climate change. Ormat Technology has the same vision in reducing carbon footprints but has a different outlook on how it should be done. The Ormat Project is supposed to commence in developing clean energy facilities in the Black Rock Desert area, but many legal challenges and external threats have halted production. The project is said to explore the possible geothermal resources in that area, extending potential threats to the local wildlife and habitats. Geothermal environments such as geysers, hot springs, and steam vents found along the terrestrial and aquatic regions of the “Ring of Fire” are home to a wide variety of biodiverse ecosystems. They also serve as sacred sites for Indigenous tribes and supply drinking water to neighboring rural towns like Gerlach.
“Friends of Nevada Wilderness” has joined in the major lawsuit against Ormat to block upcoming production. Other Ormat initiatives have been stalled or suspended due to recent findings and concerns of threats to the local endangered species–such as the Bleach Sandhill Skipper butterfly, populations of both Sagebrush and Steamboat Buckwheat, and the Dixie Valley toad. Many that reside in Dixie Valley, Nevada believe that the project would drain the surface water springs and cause the toad’s extinction. According to the Great Basin Center of Biological Diversity, records show that the majority of geothermal experiments and projects tend to dry up hot springs, leaving the ecosystem in despair.
Another main concern for Gerlach residents is the depletion of clean drinking water and the continuation of their already sinking land. Ormat already has 15 active energy plants across Nevada that collectively produce 433 megawatts of energy for the state’s electrical grid, enough to power 325,000 homes. Nevada itself also contributes 24% of the country’s geothermal energy, after California weighing in 10%. Ormat Technology has publicly stated that the project would not bring significant environmental loss, but in fact bring numerous benefits to the communities. The company also stated that sustaining the region's resources will bring long-term success to their project.