NFTs can be a huge way for smaller artists to get paid for their work, but there are also people who are opposed to the movement—saying that NFTs can actually damage the environment. So, what does that even mean?
NFT stands for non-fungible token. It’s one-of-a-kind item you can’t get anywhere else. You spend money on, in this case, Ethereum (which is a type of cryptocurrency) to purchase the one-of-a-kind item so now it’s yours forever, or until you sell it off. But instead of an item that you can hold, they’re basically pixels in your computer screen. So they can be art, music, tweets, or whatever you want them to be—as long as it’s in a digital format.
So the question is—why are people investing in NFTs when people can still have copies of them? People make the argument that you can get printed copies of a Da Vinci, but only one owner gets the original. But the original is an actual item.
“The art world is a little nutty. You look at a painting and wonder ‘why is that painting worth this amount of money’? It’s based on whatever someone is willing to pay for it… it’s very similar to buying a Mona Lisa or a Monet,” said Shahrizan Ferouz, admin of the Cryptocurrency Malaysia FB group.
Shahrizan also explains that owning NFTs can be flex. When you own an NFT, only you have it. People can make copies of it but “the blockchain can verify who the owner is”. And that’s only just the appeal of NFTs for the investors.
With NFTs, art has become a lot more popular, and more accessible. And it’s more opportunities given than if artists were to sell them traditionally. It’s a huge positive, but sometimes smaller artists feel the need to compromise their earning potential with the fact that NFTs can harm the environment.
Ethereum, a cryptocurrency used to buy NFTs, uses up an insane amount of energy to mine. This in turn would mean that NFTs need that same amount of energy, and that can be really damaging to the environment—depending on how your country generates electricity.
According to Digiconomist (as of 26 November 2021), one transaction is 194.16 kWh, with the annual total Ethereum footprint of the Phillippines. Shahrizan explains that the energy consumption soars up because Ethereum is more expensive. So when it’s more expensive, it’s more worth it for smaller miners to mine Ethereum.
Because of that, more miners on more inefficient machines are mining Ethereum… which leads to more energy consumption. Unless we use a more energy-efficient method to mine, that energy rate is gonna go higher and higher.
Of course, people have pointed out things like trying to figure out our own carbon footprint was promoted by BP to distract from the real polluters—the oil companies. And using metal straws instead of plastic straws might be kind of pointless, but we now have this awareness we didn’t have before. Hopefully, the awareness will help people think about the environment before they make a decision.
I’m not shaming anyone who gets into NFTs at all. Sometimes it can be all they are able to do as an artist. Also, there are ways to have more sustainably sourced NFTs like Tezos, which claims that it doesn’t need as many computers to maintain the same network as Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Getting into NFTs would just be a tiny percentage of what is harming the environment, compared to something like fossil fuel extraction. It’s better if you don’t get into NFTs at all if you’re worried about it, but NFTs will probably thrive anyway. Investors will still be interested and artists will be interested too, because of how much you can make from it—even with the awareness of its environmental impact.
But what do you think? Is being aware of its environmental impact enough to keep you away from the world of crypto, or are you not phased by it? There’s also the third option of it encouraging you to get into NFTs, as well. But I sure hope it didn’t.