Live at Burning Man: Our Dependence on Oil
Living Green
Meredith Medland Sasseen

Episode 20 - Live at Burning Man: Our Dependence on Oil

Is our nation waking up? Will oil be the catalyst? Will there be one unifying power over the planet and everyone fighting against it? Or, Will everyone work in harmony? Challenge your beliefs and your actions by listening to provocative questions addressing our personal and ecological sustainability, the safety of burning man and our nations bowing to oil riggers as "God". An LA couple questions the message and meaning of a 1000 ft. Mushroom cloud during Burning Man in Black Rock City, Nevada in this live interview. Ben Clayton, Production Coordinator for GLiving TV, and his wife, Christine share the emotional intensity of their experiences, their desire to make sense of "Crude Awakening" and question the decline of the "American Dream" with a direct and deep discussion about the political and social implications of our dependence on oil. You'll be reminded how meditation, deep conversations with family and friends about the possibility of "Peak Oil," and festivals like Burning Man create opportunities for global citizens get reconnected and identify what is important and how to contribute in a way that brings hope to the future of our planet.



Live from Burning Man: Mushrooms Clouds, The American Dream and Our Dependence on Oil

Announcer:  This program is brought to you by


Meredith Medland: My name is Meredith Medland and you're listening to Living Green. We're here at Center Camp at Burning Man 2007. The 'American Dream' has just been announced as the theme for 2008. Last night you heard footage about the Crude Awakening exhibit and explosion. We're right at Center Camp with a few more comments about what Crude Awakening's impact was on Burning Man participants. Right in front of me, I've got my first question of the day for you. So when you took a look at the explosion and the impact that it has on you, what kind of experience did you have?

Christine: Well at first it was so overwhelming, and the heat was just searing. There was a mushroom cloud. I've never seen anything that huge up close. Then as the tower burst into flames, I was sad. I felt a huge sadness and as I thought about it more, I realized the whole fabric of our society is based upon dependence on oil. As it continued to flame, I thought of it as the death of the American Dream - the empire toppling, crumbling. The sadness descended on me.

Meredith Medland: And you were with your husband Ben?

Christine: Yeah.

Meredith Medland: Ben, what was your experience like?

Ben: Someone had told us what to expect, but only by saying it will be something you'll never forget, something very big [laughs]. We were right on the perimeter of the designated standing area and it was pretty far away, further than perimeter for the burning of the Man which is pretty far. We have no idea what the hell is going to happen. I love it when events happen out in the quiet and a whole city forms on the edge of whatever is about to happen. So all of Black Rock is out here and we stood together in anticipation. We were a little scared. We knew it was going to be impactful. I'm of the belief that we are at the end of this era, of heavy dependence on oil and fossil fuels - because of so many reasons. One of them may be that we're at, or about to reach, peak oil. It may that there may be many years left, but it's not sustainable because of pollution and so on. I feel like this era has to end now. We're so dependent on [oil] that whatever happens, as with this tower, is going to be really scary. And it fact it was. There was this enormous explosion and the whole sky turned red and smoke just mushroomed out. What ever that's going to look like in our lifetime, in reality, it may be even more dramatic. We've already been killing people over oil for decades, and will probably continue to do that. The question that I have in this new paradigm we're creating, is whether or not it will lead to one unified power over the rest of the planet and everyone fighting against it underneath, or will it disseminate and everyone work together in harmony. And that's a choice we have to make. It may be oil that is a catalyst towards one or the other. I'm still processing a lot of the impact and what it meant to me, but I was really glad to see [the exhibit] because it was really dramatic. I'm 38, and it's 2007, and only about 10% of my generation are vocal about their political opinions or stance. So it's refreshing to see someone hit us hard over the head with a statement saying: "Wake Up! This is real. We have to do something about this now!". And if it takes something as drastic as an enormous mushroom cloud in the middle of fantasy land, then do it with everything you've got. When I saw this i felt it was incredibly powerful and I thought what what was the message here and how can I get it out there, for me personally. It had such a huge impact on me that I needed to know who the artists were behind it, and what their message was, and how I could help to get it out there.

Meredith Medland: So what do you think the message of Crude Awakening is for people to take back to the mainstream.

Christine: I think the message, as Ben said, is "Wake up! We have to do something!". There are figures underneath the tower bowing, honoring, this huge oil rig and it's like: "That's what we're honoring? That's our foundation? That's what we survive on? Wake up!". I definitely want to talk about it with others when I get back home. It was interesting because the Man burning was very different from [this exhibit]. The Man has a sense of freeing, and recreating. It's exciting and beautiful. Crude didn't give me that liberating kind of feeling, it kind of hit me over the head.

Meredith Medland: One of the things I found most interesting on this morning after, were the trees on the explosion site. I had this vision that they would be green and beautiful. But they were actually trunks that were decaying from the heat of the fire. What I saw reminded me of a line from a Goddess Alchemy Project song [sings] "Meditation is the key, my master taught me". If we notice the 8 figures that are still on the plain now, they're in different forms of meditation, representing a variety of worlds coming together praying towards one. Ben, that's something you spoke about this morning, so if you could wrap up our show today with a little bit of inspiration, touching on the attitudes and values you hold, and what it means to you to be living green.

Ben: Well it's all positive. Everything is beautiful and positive. The message we got here at Burning Man, from Crude Awakening in particular is that we all have our personal struggles, but there is a choice. In everything there is a choice. I choose green, because it's sustainable. I chose to support humankind because it's the loving thing to do. I live as green as I can because it's loving to myself and to my fellow humans, and to the planet I live on. I meditate because it gets me back in touch with that connection, that we are all one. It's very true and we all know it, it's just that we're distracted and we forget. For me it's important, and I recommend to others, that we get reconnected with ourselves and what's important. When we do come from that space, what's important for us is important for everyone. When we operate from that space of the self, everyone wins. It's the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and each other, so why not?

Meredith Medland: Thank you very much. Anything else you'd like to add?

Christine: No, thank you. Thank you for your work!

Ben: Thank you for what you're doing. I really commend you for being out here in this environment. It's a tough place to work. And keeping a schedule [laughs]. There's no time out here but planet time, which is anyone's guess!

Meredith Medland: Not according to my watch! [laughs] One of the few people out here with a watch. Thank you very much. I appreciate the acknowledgment. My name is Meredith Medland and I'm the host of Living Green. For text and transcripts of this show and other shows on the Personal Life Media Network, you can go to You can check out my blog as well, and of course I take listener comments at [email protected]. I'm looking for comments and feedback from all the burners out there so we can incorporate you into future shows. Remember if you downloaded this in Itunes, you can also find all the transcripts at Thanks and I'll see you next week.


Announcer:  Find more great shows like this on