Could a thought be polluting?
The answer, my dears, is unluckily yes: it could.
In 2008 a mysterious man signing with the fictitious name Satoshi Nakamoto, spread a paper illustrating his idea for a new digital currency. Take a step back in 2008: the economic stability sounded like a sweet and far memory since banks and financial institutions were bankrupting or having liquidity issues, along with their clients. Houses, in particular in the US, were fractioning their original value and families were engaging in severe debts. Central banks were trying several almost-new methods in order to dampen the effects of the “worst economic depression since the Great Depression” (some say), including quantitative easing.
Money: if you still owned some, it looked like it had no place to feel safe in.
And then, a bunch of months later, in 2009, the first 50 Bitcoins were issued.
Simply there was general suspiciousness towards traditional investing.
Bitcoin presented itself as a smart, futuristic solution: a peer to peer technology that enables anonymous transactions of encrypted codes, which compose the virtual currency. A shared database contains all the codes, in order to assure a one- time only use.
The codes were studied also to be limited in number (21000000000), to reach the value of 1000000 $ per Bitcoin (some day…) and no superpower (in a standard economy: a central bank) could govern, modify or withdraw the distribution of richness among users.
Of course it is an interesting trial, which by some is defined to be successful.
But Bitcoin didn’t come without any problems.
As the interesting article published on Wired (https://www.wired.com/2011/11/mf_bitcoin/) describes, issues were to be found in the fluctuation of its value over time and in fraudulent e-wallets services offered to store “securely” owners’ bitcoins.
But there is another issue, which has to be watched very closely, which may be very well summarised in Mr. Lane’s ( a sustainability expert) words published on the website bitcarbon.org:
“Unfortunately, the geeks who invented bitcoin failed to account for that fact that we humans live inside the biosphere of planet Earth and not an orbiting space-station powered by fusion reactors”
A Solution that became a Problem
How could a virtual something cause material polluting drawbacks?
Easy: through workforce.
In fact the process of creating a bitcoin, that is actually a computation to solve complicated mathematical algorithms, is called “mining”.
A very different mining in comparison to gold mining, but still: it is very much energy consuming.
As this BBC articles shows (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160504-we-looked-inside-a-secret-chinese-bitcoin-mine) hundreds of computers working 24hours produce only 50 Bitcoins a day.
This means that the amount of electricity used to produce 21billions of Bitcoins is tremendously enourmous.
And unsustainable. According to this article 70% of global Bitcoins are currently emitted in China, which is absolutely no carbon free economy. The electricity employed in producing Bitcoins have an high Carbon footprint.
The picture below shows some extreme and scary computation available on Bitcoin.org
Steamgreeners, with this example, we should always remind ourself to think about the cost of our brilliant ideas.