Can Voluntary Sustainability Ever Work?

I’m sitting in the Phoenix airport after three days in Las Vegas. Never mind that I flew in a jet to watch Supercross races, that is fodder for a different post regarding my ecological sins.

Low Lake Mead

The amazing thing is that over four million people flew into Vegas last month alone to join the rapidly growing 1.1 million people living in the valley. There is no reason a city should even exist in a desert that barely grows sage brush.

  • I guess it could be argued that they can get all of the electricity from Hoover Dam, but the dam’s output is off 15% from low water levels, and Nevada only gets 4% of its power from the dam. So, what is powering all of those air conditioners?
  • Same with the water. Get it from Lake Mead, but the lake’s level is falling fast. Predictions are that the lake has a 50% chance of going dry by 2021. That seems likely when looking at the lake from the sky.
  • Food is only five hours away in California, but nothing will grow next to LV without massive amounts of water, and even then, the temperature is too high. There is a reason it is called a desert.

I could not help but ponder this the entire time I was visiting, but I was watching people completely oblivious to the problems. Millions of people worried about their tans, fake boobs, tattoos, and winnings. I cannot imagine many of them changing their ways voluntarily.

What does it take to get people to change? Maybe the shock of high energy prices will be enough. As Peak Oil approaches (or is here) prices will rise so much that this propped up fantasy land cannot be maintained, and it will simply collapse under its own weight. Or on a brighter note, maybe everybody will get a clue, conserve, put up massive thermal solar arrays, figure out how to catch every drop of the 3.5″ of annual rainfall, and the world can keep its fantasy land. Or not.

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