Unreal City: Las Vegas, Black Mesa, and the Fate of the West
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Journalist and historian Judith Nies has been tracking this story for nearly four decades. She follows the money and tells us the true story of wealth and water, mendacity, and corruption at the highest levels of business and government. Amid the backdrop of the breathtaking desert landscape, Unreal City shows five cultures colliding—Hopi, Navajo, global energy corporations, Mormons, and US government agencies—resulting in a battle over resources and the future of the West.
Las Vegas may attract 39 million visitors a year, but the tourists mesmerized by the dancing water fountains at the Bellagio don’t ask where the water comes from. They don’t see a city with the nation’s highest rates of foreclosure, unemployment, and suicide. They don’t see the astonishing drop in the water level of Lake Mead—where Sin City gets 90 percent of its water supply.
Nies shows how the struggle over Black Mesa lands is an example of a global phenomenon in which giant transnational corporations have the power to separate indigenous people from their energy-rich lands with the help of host governments. Unreal City explores how and why resources have been taken from native lands, what it means in an era of climate change, and why, in this city divorced from nature, the only thing more powerful than money is water.
effort to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn, throw off the Catholic Church of Rome, and establish the Anglican Church of England of which he was the head, it was also a year when there were 6.5 billion fewer people on the planet than there are today. And it was the year that England began using coal in a more systematic way as heating and cooking fuel. At the time, England had a total population of 3 million and was cold, rainy, and poor. The pope in Rome owned more than a
future tribal council saw things differently. The Hopi’s check sat for years, earning interest, and by 1990 it was supposedly worth $11 million. Meanwhile, there was the question of how the Hopi, a people with a subsistence economy, could keep earning enough money to build tribal offices, pay salaries for tribal government, and pay Boyden’s legal fees. By this time Boyden was also appointed as tribal attorney, a separate designation from claims attorney. In this role he was authorized by the BIA
company that wrote their $5 million insurance bond. Charlie Shea of Shea Construction, an Oregon company that laid out San Francisco’s water-supply system, was using the San Francisco Palace Hotel as his business address; Alan MacDonald of MacDonald Kahn of San Francisco, builder of sewers, storm drains, and the Mark Hopkins Hotel, was known to have been fired from a dozen jobs before starting his own company; Pacific Bridge of Portland, Oregon, with a specialty in underwater construction, was
that began in 2008. Utah, however, had something Las Vegas did not—a debate about the true costs of development and a slow-growth movement. Nonetheless, the state wanted a pipeline. Harry Reid’s position as majority leader in the Senate helped delete the Utah land provisions from the bill, and the White Pine County Land Bill passed as a rider on the Tax Relief and Health Care Bill of 2006. It should be noted that Reid’s old mentor, Mike O’Callaghan, was against pulling water from rural Nevada to
1974 and in the midst of the Vietnam War, another version of the Hopi Land Settlement Bill passed the House and Senate and was signed into law as Public Law 93-531. Sponsored this time by Goldwater in the Senate and by a Democratic congressman from Utah named Wayne Owens, the bill was presented as having bipartisan support. Owens was defeated for reelection and immediately joined John Boyden’s law firm in Salt Lake City, which was moving its offices to the Kennecott Building, Peabody Coal’s new