North Texas Daily

NFTs are not just bad for the environment, they are also stupid

NFTs are not just bad for the environment, they are also stupid

NFTs are not just bad for the environment, they are also stupid
April 09
13:00 2021

If you’re like me, you probably had your social media feeds light up with a new acronym in the past few weeks. If you haven’t, I might need to make a point to spend less time online. Regardless, NFTs have become the newest internet craze, much to the dismay of those who know how they already work, and ones who care at all about the environment.

First of all, what the heck is an NFT? It stands for “non-fungible token,” and don’t worry, I’ll break down what that means. The first part is the token, which means it is associated with cryptocurrency — think Bitcoin or Ethereum — which is the platform NFTs are bought and sold on. The second part is the phrase “non-fungible,” which essentially means that for every NFT bought and sold, there can only be one of each and they cannot be split. Bitcoin is fungible, you can go and buy half of a Bitcoin, or even 0.0001 of a Bitcoin, and it will still be something you can own. NFTs are non-fungible, meaning you cannot split them up into tinier parts.

NFTs are the keystone of a new interest in cryptocurrency known as cryptoart. Cryptoart is taking any piece of digital media such as text, images or even music and tying it to an NFT. To be clear, the NFT itself is NOT the art that is being bought and sold, it is simply a certificate of authentication. If your piece of cryptoart has an NFT tied to it, it is a sort of guarantee that this art is one of a kind. At least, as one of a kind as digital art has the possibility to be.

Upon hearing this, most people might see this as thrilling. Having been on the internet and in fandom spaces since before I was a teenager, I have nearly always seen artists lamenting the fact that digital art is not treated the same way as physical art. It’s quite tempting to put on blinders and see cryptoart and NFTs as the path forward to a more equitable future for digital artists, and a victory for the world won through the power of technology.

Sadly, this isn’t the case. First of all, NFTs and other things on the Blockchain don’t exist in a vacuum. You see, in order to mine cryptocurrency you need to “task” your computer to spend its energy solving a code that is always increasing in difficulty. As more Bitcoin is mined, these codes that need to be solved in order to mine more deepen in complexity, and as a result, require more computing power. A lot more. It’s been calculated today that mining cryptocurrency uses more energy than the entire country of Argentina.

NFTs are no exception for gratuitous energy use, in a recent sale of six NFTs, the energy cost of minting the NFT (the cost of making a certificate of authentication, not the actual art itself) was 8.7 megawatt-hours of energy. For scale, the average american household uses 877 kilowatt-hours in a month. This sale of six NFTs used ten times the amount of energy that the average American uses in a month over the course of an hour.

In terms of the ongoing climate crisis, the usage of NFTs is reprehensible. NFT minting does not pull from green energy — and cannot — unless there is a massive overhaul in our nation’s power system. Cryptocurrency and cryptoart are pyramid schemes built on models of ever-expanding growth, with the added bonus of setting the world on fire.

To top it all off, NFTs and this concept of non-fungible digital art is just dumb. You can take the art that comes with an NFT and simply copy it. Now you have two of that art. Digital art was meant to be shared and to have a nature that is infinite. The nature of NFTs is not to empower artists, but to let the rich use digital art as an asset to store the wealth in a non-taxable shelter. You see this in examples like Chris Torres, the person who created Nyan Cat selling an NFT of this PopTart-bodied cat for $580,000. NFTs are not being used to bring equity to everyday digital artists, they are being used so the wealthy can take advantage of yet another degree of labor they did not perform.

If you or a loved one are using NFTs, please seek help. They may be tempting at first glance, but aren’t worth it. At the end of the day, imagine sitting in a room of 100 people, and 10 of them have flamethrowers lighting the building on fire. Using an NFT is like seeing this and standing up and demanding a flamethrower for yourself, not caring who will get burned in the process.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Javi Cavazos Weems

Javi Cavazos Weems

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