A discussion on the potential for cryptocurrencies and blockchain to change forest governance or come up with new digital infrastructures that determine forest futures has to include insights on the by now controversial issue of energy consumption for the mining of these cryptocurrencies as well as the electronic waste that is created in continuously upgrading computational power.
In the case of Bitcoin, the energy that is needed annually to power and cool computers for Bitcoin mining seems to be growing exponentially and can nowadays be compared to the annual energy consumption of a smaller country (see this image from an article published in the New York Times). Ethereum, is currently another high-energy consuming cryptocurrency, but is also preparing for a shift to a new validation system in the first half of 2022 that is estimate to use only 1/10,000th of the energy that Ethereum currently consumes. Besides these currencies, there are thousands of other currencies, some more experimental than others, and some that do not rely on a validation process that uses large computational power such as Bitcoin and Ethereum 1.0, but instead rely on concepts such as "proof-of-stake" (e.g. the Ouroboros protocol), an "Open Representative Voting" system (e.g. Nano, where account holders vote to confirm blocks of transactions). Other alternative systems using less energy are also further explained and reviewed here. However, it is important to remain critical of how promises or claims towards more sustainable validation systems are eventually realised.
The question of how cryptocurrencies and blockchain change forest environments brings up a variety of challenging issues and interrelated concepts. These include questions regarding their sustainability such as energy consumption and co2 emissions, which directly impacts forests in terms of resource usage. At the same time, newly emerging systems for cryptocurrency mining and validation are also offering possibilities to rethink how value and trust is created on financial markets, which inspires some artists, designers, and developers to experiment with forests and ecosystems differently.