As an environmentalist looking at the climate and biodiversity crisis, I could easily fall into the vision of the future where technology has diminished and humanity has reconnected with nature. It’s a beautiful vision and one that calls many environmental types. It is also highly unrealistic. Technology, for good or ill, is a manifestation of human innovation and therefore, is unlikely to be suppressed to achieve climate stability.
As I explained recently, there is no single pathway through this crisis. Each person needs to regain their citizenship (listen to this podcast – it is utterly brilliant) and have agency over decision-making going forward. My pathway leads me to interrogate new innovations, those which talk of changing the world and our lives, and how these can be applied. Here, at this intersection, between the real and virtual, our climate and biodiversity needs, the future paths are tangled. Our new project, the Rural Tech Network, aims to explore, share and learn about this space, where permaculture and regenerative farming can utilise technology to diversify income streams and build resilient communities.
I’m ready to get vilified for this by some sustainability practitioners. Only the other week, a passionate and committed environmentalist, whom I admire and respect, was discussing how potentially destructive blockchain, Bitcoin and other technologies are. I have done a fair bit of research around this subject, and like anything, it’s not black and white. Yes, there is energy consumption with blockchain technologies, but this is like any other industry, it is where the energy comes from that determines how ‘green’ the process is. Two useful links are here and here.
Now, this might be my own cognitive bias at work, but I have long been part of multiple networks that recognise the failure of our economic system. We are seen and treated as consumers (please listen to the podcast!) and this shapes our world views. Bitcoin was created expressly to combat the frivolities of economic puppet-masters. There is no central bank, no bankers who lunch with politicians, no billionaire get-togethers to discuss the future of the planet without any little people involved. There is only an algorithm, a transaction settled by cryptography and the ability for me to pay you without any one else involved. No Visa, no Mastercard, no entity that you’ve never heard of, nada. This excites me; a liberated currency.
There are lots of problems with this space. It can feel like capitalism on steroids, but equally I’m getting some returns, interest if you like, that I wouldn’t be getting with our money sitting in the bank. The space feels male dominated and again, here I think we need to encourage a wider range of voices (as we do with COP), not try to stop the technology. Out there are great projects, ones that aim to tackle our climate challenges, ones to connect far flung parts of the world to the internet, ones that aim to crowdfund and open the use of this funding through Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs). This again is exciting.
Back to our Rural Tech Network and how this will be used to explore the space. There are some big challenges around rural development – depopulation, quality and standards for small-scale producers, climate resilience, diversification of income to name some. Technology offers support for some of these challenges. One recent UK-based project could be easily replicated across local areas, supporting the rewilding of landscapes, improving biodiversity and potentially reducing the risk from wildfires across unmanaged lands.
We are crowdfunding, both in fiat (Euros) for the initial start-up costs and in Bitcoin, for the wider development. The business plan is being written and the networking platforms created. Watch this space, the space between.