Growth: the monster that ate Vegas

Know the story of St. Matthew Island? It’s one of the most popular ways of illustrating the concept of carrying capacity: animals in an environment with no natural predators eventually wipe themselves out by outgrowing their supply of necessary resources.

In the future, however, St. Matthew Island may get less attention. After all, as the animation above shows, we can just tell the story of Las Vegas and its gated communities.

True, Vegas hasn’t gone bust yet in ecological terms: still plenty of the invasive species there. But you’ll notice that the outward expansion decreases pretty rapidly in the last few years. A crappy economy hit Nevada hard and early, and while I’m no economist, I’d guess that costs of necessary resources played a role – when I lived there in the 90s, conventional wisdom had water running out by 2010. Add to that the necessity of shipping food and fuel (among other things) in, and it becomes pretty clear that Vegas can’t sustain such growth, even if the tourists are coming back: the economy can’t grow that fast. And I’m not sure that recent efforts at more sustainable development can really make a difference long-term.

Vegas headed to apocryphal story status? Or am I just seeing the ugliest potential outcome here? Share your thoughts.

via The Awl


Featured image credit: Rich_Lem via photopin cc