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Las Vegas, founded on the idea of getting people to not think about the consequences of their actions, seems a most unlikely place for Earth’s best shot at sustainability. But look closer. Las Vegas is also the City of Second Chances, the surrounding Mojave Desert a land of mirages. Here the line separating reality and fantasy gets blurred. So do the lines separating academic research, business, journalism, and fraud.

 

As the Great Recession craters Vegas in 2013, the surrounding Mojave booms with solar energy. I had been a young science writer in San Francisco, hustling jobs until the journalism industry imploded. Then I scored a chance to go to graduate school without going into debt - with just one catch: I had to move to Sin City. As I go local, I make new friends – and a few enemies. Among them: a young British tycoon who bought Mike Tyson’s mansion from The Hangover, , professors and students, poker players and golf hustlers, mountain bikers and exotic dancers, FBI agents and ex-cons, friendly neighborhood bounty hunters, and one charismatic frenemy: a young, clean energy technology entrepreneur named Xavier.

 

As The Strip seduces me, my master’s thesis transforms into a real-life scavenger hunt that uncovers a sprawling renewable energy/video game/business coach/real estate/trust fund charity/intellectual property theft scam spanning from the Vegas Underworld to China and back to Silicon Valley. As privacy disappears in the 21st century, turnabout is fair play. The hunter becomes the hunted. And in Sin City, you can be whoever you want to be – but you have to pay the consequences.