I went home, threw some clothes and my laptop into a backpack, and headed off toward a friend's house in SoHo, on higher ground, as wind lashed the trees back and forth. As I hurried away, a flash of light illuminated the ominous cloud cover. I heard a gigantic explosion behind me. It sounded like a bomb. Later on, I learned the Con Edison power plant on 14th St and Avenue C had just blown up. An hour later, the entirety of downtown New York plunged into darkness. For the next few days, a large area of downtown Manhattan was without power.

The morning after the storm, I walked back to my house. Everything was closed except for a few delis and restaurants serving hastily made sandwiches and coffee out of thermoses. Deli workers were trying to get rid of everything perishable from their refrigerators and freezers. In the East Village, people stood around on street corners, dazed expressions on their faces, inspecting the damage from the flood. I biked uptown, to stay with my mother on the Upper West Side, higher ground that was comparatively untouched.

I was supposed to fly to Mexico the next day to give a TedX talk at a festival, commemorating The Day of the Dead, in an old colonial town popular with expatriates from the US and Europe. My talk was going to cover, in condensed form, the theme of this book: The ecological crisis as initiation - as an opportunity for us to engineer a self-willed, rapid mutation in human consciousness. But the airports were closed and my flight was cancelled. I assumed I wouldn't be able to go.

Then I received a call with an invite to fly on a private jet to Mexico. The jet belonged to a media mogul, the CEO of a major conglomerate. The CEO and his wife were dedicated Burners - they were power players in the scene. They had started the festival in Mexico to bring some of the Burning Man vibe to their second home. They owned a beautiful villa overlooking the town as well as a company making the world's most expensive tequila.