The environmental issues of cryptoart | Everest Pipkin

A depressing deep-dive into the world of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), cryptoart, and why crypto-anything is an ecological and social disaster.

Also contains some really interesting, ELI5 descriptions of the blockchain, Proof of Work (PoW), Proof of Stake (PoS), and other terminology.

I vaguely understood that PoW requires you to solve harder and harder math problems in order to "mine" coins, but hadn't realised that PoS was effectively a lottery tied to existing wealth. Everest touches on it, but what a horrifyingly elitist system.

I also hadn't been aware that Bitcoin directly ties the difficulty of each "solution" (i.e. coin) to the market price. In other words, the higher the value of Bitcoin gets, the more expensive each new coin is in terms of electricity and environmental impact. Good Lord, how is this a thing?

On how Proof of Work systems are intentionally designed to consume more energy as they age, thus driving up profit by creating a guaranteed futures market:

After a decade+ of a growing cryptocurrency market, what we’ve been left with is a financial network that uses more energy than Argentina, with no regulatory structure or federal oversight whatsoever.

On why Proof of Stake and other schemas are never a true saviour (aka oh good, Bitcoin/blockchain is both an environmental and societal disaster):

I’m sure you’re seeing the problem here- there is not a schema that doesn’t reward those who already are already wealthy, who are already bought in, who already have excess capital or access to outsized computational power. Almost universally they grant power to the already powerful.

This is also a climate issue. Climate justice is social justice.

On why cryptocurrencies are always a pyramid scheme (albeit a more stable one than a Ponzi scheme) and how incredibly bad that is for PoW coins:

Because PoW coins ask the investors of tomorrow to buy in at ever increasing computational power, we have ended up in a horrific spiraling excess of energy usage and ecological devastation.

On why the argument that crypto's carbon footprint isn't debatable if you own a car, or eat meat, or do anything ever:

First, it is not a gotcha that there are worse things in the world than the thing you are currently talking about. I am capable of hating cryptocurrency AND capitalism AND art fairs. I contain multitudes.

On why NFTs will not fundamentally change the art world, but instead will bolster its worst excesses:

Much like the world of blue chip, some NFTs may be bought and sold simply as artworks, intended for personal collections and acquired for aesthetic, conceptual, or personal reasons. However, every single one is made from the outset to be liquidated- an asset first, artwork second. They are images attached to dollar figures, not the other way around.

On the false saviour of green energy:

Green energy is incredibly important for the continued future of society, but it isn’t free energy. Cost of production for solar cells, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams and thermal capture are still sunk ecological costs in mining, fabrication, and construction. Per usual, they are better but not best. Best is simply to reduce consumption as much as possible.

On why a "greener NFT" is still a problem, just maybe a smaller one:

Fundamentally, cryptocurrency AND cryptoart are valuable because they burn energy. Because they turn sunk energy cost into futures.

On why we should reject the very concept of NFTs:

The only viable option is total moral rejection. Anything less (selling, collecting, posting links to artists selling NFTs, yes even trying to find a less ecologically devastating model) holds up the power of the worst parts of this platform.

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