Op-Ed: The Voices of the Youth on the NFT Debate

2022-06-03

 |  The Starfish

In the first two installments of this series, we explored what exactly is an NFT, as well as its environmental impact. In this final installment, we will take a look at the viewpoints of some environmentalist youth regarding the NFT debate. Given the emerging environmental impact of NFTs, are they for or against them?

Let’s start with those who are on the fence. Note that some of the individuals featured in this article were respondents of an anonymous survey, so if no clear attribution was given to them in this article, that is why.  One voice mentions that their indecision is partly due to how beneficial NFTs have been for the creator and artist economy.  “I have been a bit undecided on this, as I like the aspect of more money going to digital artists, who are finally able to sell value for their work, however, it is clear that NFTs also have a significant and growing ecological cost at hand.” This is absolutely a valid concern and one that is extremely tricky to give a definite answer to, as it involves the livelihood of many creatives.

Image Credit – Ronan Furuta (Unsplash)

Another undecided individual furthers the above-mentioned claim, but also adds that we should place a greater emphasis on evaluating other environmentally draining resources. “On one hand, it helps the economy and provides a way for the artist to get recognition for their work. On the other hand, it uses a significant amount of energy to run the technology. We should evaluate ways to reduce energy consumption, not just with blockchain technology but across the board. Yes, it may be bad for the environment, but there are many things that are detrimental to the environment too. If we can make adjustments to our everyday actions, that could go a long way.” 

Now let’s hear from individuals who are more decided on this debate, with those who are against NFTs-  Emily Morris, a youth environmentalist and student at the University of British Columbia, states “I think they are environmentally unethical and are a huge drain on energy that could be used for actual necessities. I am all for advancing technology and moving towards a world that is less reliant on using physical materials and resources. So at first glance, as someone who knows very little about cryptocurrency, NFTs seemed promising. But, while there are benefits for artists and buyers alike, I cannot be in favour of something that has such a negative impact on our planet with such grotesque carbon emission rates.” A detailed analysis on these emission rates can be explored in my second article.

Image Credit – Markus Spiske (Unsplash)

Alex Cressman, a writer at Starfish Canada is also more decided against NFTs in this debate. He highlights the history of cryptocurrency and NFTs to give background to his response, “Bitcoin is famously the first and most famous cryptocurrency, and was developed by an anonymous math and cryptosecurity genius. While modern cryptocurrencies are famous for being high-risk investments… Bitcoin was nearly worthless for the longest time. It was invented as a proof of theory rather than a commodity or serious currency. Because of that, Bitcoin was never designed to be mined and traded at the rate it currently is.”

Alex goes on to mention their conception, “They were created as a proof of concept by a team of clever programmers who had no intention of starting a multi-billion dollar industry, in a setting that could not support that industry. Solutions are being developed to make the industry sustainable, so the industry should not be written off solely because it outstripped its resources. That said, while NFTs are in principle an okay idea, in practice, they are more like the DogeCoin and TrumpCoins than they are Mona Lisa. Tons of NFT projects have been complete scams such as the Evolved Apes game, and other NFTs have been made and sold as certified on auction sites without the permission of the original artist, meaning investors have spent millions of dollars only to find out they don’t actually own the images. So while I think NFTs can be made and traded sustainably, I remain unconvinced that they are anything more than a get-rich-quick scheme to the majority of investors.”

Another idea that references the strikingly growing rate of NFTs as something to consider mentions, “The rate at which NFTs has exploded in terms of popularity, in which it seems like anyone and any organization can get a piece of it, I think is a cause for concern. I am encouraged to see that there are organizations, and standards, tools, and technologies in development by CCA (Crypto Climate Accord) Supporters that can help to make this better for the environment. But until then, I also believe we should not contribute to the problem by creating and selling NFTs until these online platforms address and fix the problem at the root.” Hence, although initiatives that research how NFTs can be more environmentally sustainable exist, refraining from taking an active role in them until those measures are in place might be the way to go.

Image Credit – Milada Vigerova (Unsplash)

Overall, it seems that the youth interviewed has reached a general consensus- there were no responses that were pro-NFT for this debate. However, we should recognize that there are always two sides to a debate and many items to consider, even if the responses seem to be skewed towards a particular side. Feel free to let us know your thoughts on this issue as well in the comment section! 

Special thanks to everyone who had a hand in making these articles come to life- the individuals quoted and those who sent in comments anonymously, and the amazing editorial and marketing teams at Starfish Canada.