I won’t explain how it came to pass that — only two days after a trip to NYC to present Greenhouse Development Rights at a meeting of the UN’s Committee for Development Policy — I went to Las Vegas.

I will say that that my wife, an Aussie, wanted to see the place, that we have a 11-year-old boy, and that the Hilton contains an installation honoring the United Federation of Planets. (The flag of which has a notable similarity to the one displayed in the UN’s own, rather more dilapidated, halls.)

Some quick thoughts:

First, I know I’m a living, breathing cliche, but it was hard being in Las Vegas without wondering about its ecological footprint. I’d look it up, but ecological footprint databases are still pretty primitive, rather like last-generation climate models. The resolution comes down to countries, regions if you’re lucky, but rarely to cities, and even more rarely to economic sectors.

Anyway, what I’d really like to know isn’t Las Vegas’ footprint, but rather the “gaming” industry’s. And I’d like to see it expressed not in tons of carbon or hectares of arable land but rather as a percentage of the Gross World Product. This desire, no doubt, is the residual influence of the UN meeting, at which the “cost” of climate stabilization, and debates about how best to understand and estimate and present it, figured rather large.

Actually, the real question — the old question that people are still ducking, even John Edwards, elegantly, in response to Dave’s question last week — is “Who pays?” Keep it in mind when reading the coverage of the next climate jamboree, which starts in Bali in only one short week, because this time around it’s not only going to be the elephant in the room, it’s going to be wandering the halls.

Anyway, back to Vegas. What is it, ultimately? The cheap answer is “a machine for separating people from their money,” but there’s more to it than that. In particular, there’s the small matter of fantasy, of release, of “fun” — and judging by the crowds, the need for same is not abating. Were I more of a misanthrope, I’d talk of banality and degradation, but actually, they’re not really the point, at least not here. Besides, we had a good time.

What I’m trying to get to here — and I see that I’m not doing a very good job — is what’s sometimes called “structural adjustment,” as in (to recall the UN discussion now busily evaporating from my forebrain) “the need to prepare the American people for the coming structural adjustment of the North.” And if anything is certain, it’s that such an adjustment isn’t going to be easy.

P.S. If anyone knows where to find data on the total size of the world gambling industry, and the “entertainment” industry in general, and in fact various economic sectors of all kinds, globally, please advise.