Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Summer 2014

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Resource Management

Committee Chair

Kathleen Barlow

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Lipton

Third Committee Member

Rex Wirth


In response to a dual problem of critical water scarcity and rapid population growth, leaders of metropolitan Las Vegas implemented a region-wide, internationally marketed sustainability campaign. Preliminary studies found that, while sustainability policy attains its rhetorical goals, solutions initiated not only perpetuate but also purposefully expand the original dual problem to justify continuous water resource acquisitions. To examine this sustainability conundrum constructed by leadership—problem-perpetuation rather than problem-resolution—a critical examination in resource management asked two basic questions: what is being sustained and by what means? Via this inquiry, specific processes by which leaders perpetuate problems can be identified; and, so-informed, new choices capable of resolving human-constructed dilemmas can be applied. Drawing on Las Vegas’ sustainability campaign as example, this paper argues that sustainability policy inherently sustains polity rather than natural or cultural resources and does so by means of policy structure, policy content (and omissions), and policy goals.