A group of cryptography enthusiasts now has a newly discovered transparent frog from Ecuador that bears his name. Nouns DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) that uses the Ethereum blockchain, has won the right to name a new species of glass frog after funding the Rainforest Trust’s conservation efforts in the amphibian’s native habitat.
But the significant carbon footprint of cryptocurrency mining calls into question the real impact that cryptographic initiatives, even those that may have a conservation mindset, can have on the environment. The cryptographic mining industry already has a carbon footprint comparable to that in some countries, an impact that is expected to grow if no action is taken.
“Having creative solutions for conservation is really important, especially today,” says Rebecca Brunner, a biologist at the University of California at Berkeley who helped describe the new glass frog. “I am very grateful that Nouns DAO does this, but I really hope that if cryptography continues to be a phenomenon, it will be re-evaluated in the context of climate change and conservation.”
Donations of cryptocurrencies that fund environmental causes are simultaneously using a mechanism that consumes a huge amount of energy and produces tons of e-waste, which only strays from our climate goals. DAOs are cryptographic communities built on blockchain technology that are formed for a common mission and are governed by their members. Members gather their cryptographic assets and vote on how to use them. One of the most famous examples is the now defunct DAO Constitution, which tried to buy an original copy of the US Constitution but eventually failed.
Nouns DAO is made up of people who have noun NFT. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique, non-replicable digital assets that are bought and sold online, primarily with the Ethereum cryptocurrency. These transactions are recorded in the blockchain, which serves as an online record. Each digital asset is almost invariably linked to some other asset that most often lives off the blockchain. In the case of DAO nouns, a new NFT will be auctioned every 24 hours and each NFT is equal to one vote. For the proposed pooling of funds to name the new species of glass frog, 27 members voted in favor and eight against.
The new species, Nouns Hyalinobatrachium, is one of the more than 100 species of glass frogs on Earth. Its skin is transparent with a yellow-green hue, which makes visible its internal functioning, including its red heart. This transparent feature provides a camouflage advantage that can help the species survive.
Ecuadorian biologist Juan Manuel Guayasamin was first seen H. nouns sitting on a leaf over a creek while on an expedition in the tropical Andes in 2012. He initially thought it was a previously identified species and did not confirm that it was actually a new species until genetic work revealed significant differences in its DNA. The results were published this March in the journal Peer Jalong with the description of another species of glass frog that Brunner discovered in the same region.
The tropical Andes, a mature region with undiscovered plants and animals, has attracted biologists from around the world and now also attracts the eyes of the cryptographic community. For nearly a decade, Rainforest Trust and its Ecuadorian partner Fundación Ecominga have been working together to preserve the natural habitat in the tropical Andes, focusing their efforts on the Choco bioregion, where recent expeditions have discovered several new species, including H. nouns.
The two nonprofits decided to use the name of this frog as a fundraising opportunity, a strategy they, as well as other conservation groups, have used in the past. But this is the first time a DAO has bought the right to name a species.
“We are very reluctant to be seen as promoters of cryptocurrency,” says James Deutsch, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “We are certainly concerned about the energy cost of cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin in particular.”
Deutsch points out that the Rainforest Trust has decided to accept the offer because Nouns DAO works with Ethereum which consumes less energy instead of Bitcoin, and the donation was made in dollars instead of cryptocurrency. The Nouns DAO member who offered the donation is also a member of the Rainforest Trust board, another reason why the organization decided to walk around this “gray area,” Deutsch says.
Bitcoin’s energy consumption, which uses the working test mechanism, is comparable to that of the whole country of Thailand. Proof of work is the main way to validate monetary transactions and generate new currencies in the decentralized system. The reason it consumes so much energy is because it involves high-capacity computers competing with each other in a global guessing game. Finding the right number becomes more difficult over time, so more computing power is required if the user wants to be the first to get it. To increase their chances of winning, an individual needs to introduce more machines into the game. This has resulted in giant data centers full of cheap-powered cryptographic mining computers.
Ethereum also works with working test. Its environmental impact is about half that of Bitcoin, but it still has a carbon footprint comparable to that of Libya. Cryptocurrency is expected to move to a more sustainable mechanism called proof-of-stake this June, a move that would reduce its energy consumption by 99 percent by eliminating the competition factor. But Ethereum lead developer Tim Beiko recently said he will need one a few more months with no final date. Ethereum has promised to change the participation test since 2014.
“No one should believe that Ethereum is a game test until it is completely out of the working test,” says David Gerard, a cryptographic writer and author of 50-foot block chain attack. “I believe when it happens and not a moment before.”
Gerard says that while he believes working-proof mining is a “crime against humanity,” he can understand why charities continue to accept funding for cryptographic initiatives, as “funding is desperate by definition.” Some charities, however, have decided to cut ties with crypto. The Mozilla Foundation no longer accepts working test cryptocurrencies. The Wikimedia Foundation is also reconsidering its relationship with cryptocurrency funding.
“When charities get involved in cryptography projects, they legitimize them: they legitimize an entire ecosystem that has a very high environmental impact,” says Peter Howson, a researcher at Northumbria University in the UK who has written extensively on the environmental impact of cryptography.
Howson also warns of greenwashing involving the involvement of cryptography in the environmental sphere. NFTs have tried to connect with environmental goals, but the integrity of these efforts is still questionable. In some cases, it may be more of a strategy to pump the value of the token, Howson says.
As for whether cryptography can be really “green,” there are potential scenarios. Some cryptographic initiatives operate on “side chains” rather than the main blockchain, which means they do not require mechanisms such as proof of work or proof of participation. But these apps did not attract a large number of followers. Another potential scenario is whether the two major cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum, have actually made the transition to a non-working proof mechanism.
Recent cryptocurrency conservation projects, such as Black Rhino’s NFT Early Adopters and Outside’s Nervous Passport NFT, have found a home in the Solana blockchain, which runs on a hybrid of participation and history testing, suggesting a carbon smaller. footprint. But that doesn’t solve the problem that the vast majority of cryptographic transactions still take place on Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The intertwined irony in the conservation funds of Nouns DAO is just one example of the many ways in which cryptography enthusiasts are trying to unite their passion projects with conservation goals. But from now on, the reality is that Bitcoin dominates the cryptographic mining industry and Ethereum serves as the backbone of most of the NFT market. Both cryptocurrencies work with proof of work. This means that conservation non-profit organizations will have to decide whether to blacklist an industry that, on the one hand, is extremely wealthy, but on the other hand, contributes to significant environmental damage.
“I am impressed that this group of very energetic, creative and wealthy people have taken the NFT art concept and used it specifically for charity,” says Deutsch. “But having said all that, it still wouldn’t justify buying something that was inherently destructive.”