The David Suzuki Foundation created an NFT to make a point about NFTs

Who: The David Suzuki Foundation and Camp Jefferson, with visual artist McPherson and Colony Project for PR.

What: The “Nature Friendly Token,” a $50 billion non-fungible token (or NFT) created to make an expensive point about the environmental impact of NFTs.

When & Where: The Nature Friendly Token was posted for sale on Rarible for approximately $50 billion or 25,000,000 Ethereum (ETH), the popular cryptocurrency being used for many NFT transactions.

Why: NFTs have exploded into the worldwide digital zeitgeist in just a few months. Digital works of art and other assets are being sold using crypto currency, and are commanding eye-popping prices. They’re being sold on the blockchain, which ensures their authenticity. The craze has led to lots of hype, speculation and mainstream media coverage.

However, crypto art bought and sold using Ethereum produces a lot of pollution, because each transaction uses a proof of work system that requires an extraordinary amount of energy. The Verge recently explained the complicated problem here: “Proof of work acts as a sort of security system for cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and bitcoin, since there’s no third party, like a bank, that oversees transactions. To keep financial records secure, the system forces people to solve complex puzzles using energy-guzzling machines.”

As we all know by now, using excessive amounts of energy is really bad for the environment. The David Suzuki Foundation says that a typical NFT generates carbon emissions equivalent to flying for two hours, or driving for about 1,000 kilometres.

“The world has recently become fixated on the price of NFTs, but the cost of this digital medium on the environment is often overlooked,” said the David Suzuki Foundation’s Yannick Beaudoin in a release. “The NFT space is yet another example of the absurd overuse of a scarce resource, carbon, for something that has no tangible value or use.”

How: To raise awareness of the environmental cost of NFTs, Camp Jefferson came up with the paradoxical solution of creating an NFT. The catch, though, is that the price is so high, it would take someone with near limitless wealth and the morals of a Bond villain to actually buy it (don’t worry, Donald Trump’s worth is “only” an estimated $3.66 billion).

“We saw an opportunity to make the public more aware of the fact that these NFT’s carry a huge environmental impact. And we wanted to get awareness at the source of the issue, which is why we decided to go into the platform, on Rarible,” said Phil Coulter, creative director at Camp Jefferson.

The goal is to drive a new conversation with those interested in NFTs and perhaps in mainstream media about the need for better systems to buy and sell the digital assets (again The Verge explained the proof of stake option here). “It’s not at all about chastising people, but more so hopefully intercepting them, and offering a different perspective on it,” said Coulter. “We wanted to make sure that everyone was aware, and hopefully then get people excited about potentially looking for an alternative that could help.”

Why $50 billion? Aside from being too expensive for anyone to buy, the number holds symbolic value. According to DSF, Canada’s boreal forest represents an estimated $50.9 billion per year in natural benefits to the country.

The NFT itself consists of a boreal forest scape on one side of a coin, and a depiction of blockchain technology on the other. “So on one side it’s this shiny, glossy thing that everyone’s looking at, and on the other side we see what is the real value balanced up against that,” said Coulter.

And we quote: “We don’t mean to condemn art or creativity, but NFT development and trading is a recreational activity. With what we know about the climate crisis, we need to understand that a one-of-a-kind digital collectible is not worth the expense to our one-of-a-kind planet.” — Yannick Beaudoin, senior economist and director general for Ontario and Northern Canada,  The David Suzuki Foundation.

David Brown