Festive times and blockchains

Cork Oak, Santarem, Portugal

Busy, busy, busy as always, but amplified somewhat in the run up to Christmas. I’ve been interviewed for the Association of Sustainability Practitioners, by the lovely Lourdes Gant. Guided the national launch for the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces, new report Better Friends, which details the vibrant and committed Friends group movement in the UK. Kept up with other voluntary commitments, launched online art, continued writing (here and here) and have nearly finished the month-long Christmas craft marathon. Phew!

This time of year, reflective opportunities open as winter solstice draws near. I’m watching the march of caterpillars up the walls of our house in Portugal, day after day they continue to come. Their presence feels wrong, even here, but I’ll admit my local knowledge of flora and fauna is tiny. The wildflowers are now out in abundance, pinks, yellows and lots of wild radish make it seem like spring. I wonder where the rain is.

I’m also immersing myself in the world of digital assets, blockchain technologies and web3. Having originally come to the field researching the impact of Bitcoin on the environment, I am interested in the emerging platforms and their disruptive systems. There are lots of exciting ways that these new technologies have the potential to reduce carbon emissions in the real world and the space is only just getting started.

Lets tackle firstly, the Bitcoin energy dilema, which comes down to whether the carbon footprint is justified for the outcome. Fast fashion has an estimated global carbon impact of 10%, a huge amount, and for someone like myself, this is horribly unjustifiable. Incumbent economic systems produce huge amount of carbon emissions and their cloaked investment vehicles continue to subsidise the most polluting industries.

Bitcoin miners, and seemingly much of the crypto-sector, are fully aware of the need for strong ESG policies. Mining operators are working with energy providers to innovate with renewables. DOVU and NORI are working with farmers to build carbon credit services, Solarcoin aims to build incentives for solar producers, and numerous blockchains are becoming more efficient.

This is before you take into account the potential for disruption to present systems. No.1 on the radar is Traditional Finance, TradFi. By enabling peer-to-peer payments, quickly and efficiently, using smart-contracts to provide loan services, and enabling lending providers to benefit from high interest rates, Decentralised Finance (DeFi) is growing quickly. DeFi can cut out the middle-man and has the potential to bring many of the global unbanked on board, redistributing wealth. This is the tip of the iceberg when looking at the wider potential.

Innovation and technology is part of our human story. There is a forthcoming intersection between the climate crisis and what part technology will play in that story. Without critical, swift action, worsening weather and the terrible impacts these will have, will negate a future rich in culture and imagination. As we must now ask ourselves, what we value for this future, these conversations need to be inclusive and equitable. The new frontiers of technology seek to breakdown barriers to inclusion and the impact on our failing economic model could be swift and complete.

To everyone out there, trying their best, being hummingbirds and holding kindness in their hearts – I wish you all the very best for this festive season and look forward to our collective efforts in 2022 – Michelle Furtado, Dec 2021