- Bitcoin's Electricity Complex
- Nike creates a shoe made from trash
- Biden's Green Job Spree
- How Fishing Regulations in Namibia are saving Seabi
Bitcoin is Electric!
In more ways than one.
In case you haven’t heard, Bitcoin is trending once again. However unlike its pop in 2017, this surge is starting to feel more real and long lasting with participation from major financial institutions and increasing signs that Bitcoin is here to stay at least as a store of value.
And as is increasingly common with all things finance related, Elon Musk put his stamp of approval on it with Tesla being $1.5B in Bitcoin on Monday, surging it’s value up 20% north of $46,000.
With Bitcoin back in the spotlight and with climate action ore important than ever before, questions have been raised around Bitcoin’s environmental impact. You might ask yourself; why? Bitcoin is a digital currency after all. It is, but it’s a currency that depends on using a lot of electricity. So let’s break it down.
Bitcoin’s electricity usage is heavily concentrated in the mining work used to create them.
Mining is the process used to add blocks to the Bitcoin ledger that then hold the bitcoins and their transactions. When Satoshi Nakamoto created the Bitcoin blockchain, he devised a mathematical problem that had to be solved publicly to expand the ledger and verify transactions. One someone solves the problem - essentially a guessing game using a 64-digit hexadecimal code, otherwise known a “hash” - others in the network verify it, and the problem solver gets rewarded 6.25 bitcoins ($287k) and the verifiers get fractions of bitcoins as well.
These are called miners. There are tens of thousands of miners out there all competing in the same guessing game on a first come first serve basis. So to have a chance, you have to be running these computations at a massive rate to keep the guessing going. This requires special semiconductors called ASIC and LOTS of electricity. The hardware and electricity costs make it very difficult to be profitable as a miner, forcing miners to work together in miner pools.
In order to run all of these computations, miners need a lot of hardware running 24/7. That’s a lot of electricity. They also need to be cooled otherwise they will over heat, as with all big data centers. Even more electricity.
In an MIT Review, it’s estimated that Bitcoin today uses up to 0.5% of the entire global electricity output, and that could climb up to 5% if Bitcoin keeps rising like this.
Alex de Vries calculates Bitcoin could soon reach 7.67 gigawatts of electricity, our roughly the same size as the country of Austria (8.2). He has a great breakdown on his math in this article here.
And where do we get our electricity from? Well, fossil fuels mostly. And this problem seems like it’s only getting worse. Not to mention this is just the math on Bitcoin, not the dozens of other cryptocurrencies using similar systems.
A Case for Bitcoin’s Electric Usage
There are also valid reasons out there to believe that Bitcoin’s electricity problem is not all the big of a problem at all.
- There are 18 million Bitcoins mined of the 21 million total. Once we reach 21 million, and in theory there is no more mining of original bitcoins, then we only need to verify transactions, so electricity usage is drastically cut down. However, there are those out there who are not totally sold that 21 million will be the end of new bitcoins.
- As bitcoin becomes more valuable, the effective cost of the electricity to mine each bitcoin shrinks. This is because the majority of bitcoin were mined early on, when there were less miners, more simpler hashes to solve, that required less energy to compete for. This is not the case with commodities such as oil, where the relative cost to drill actually increases over time.
- Some mining pools are indeed moving to renewable energy, such as one in Sichuan using hydroelectric power.
- There is still potential to make the verification system more efficient by moving from a decentralized Proof of Work structure to more localized node pods. However, bitcoin stalwarts would say this is a slippery slope to centralization.
Of course the ultimate determination may be whether or not Bitcoin survives to become a globally accepted store of value and unit of currency. If it does, the energy expended to mine it and verify it will likely be worth it. If it does not, then the additional carbon footprint of Bitcoin will likely be hugely wasteful.
Here is a good read breaking some of this down.
Ether to the Rescue?
Ethereum, Bitcoin’s sort of rebellious younger sibling, has another point of view. Ether enthusiasts like to point out that their crypto currency is far more efficient on the electricity front.
Ether uses Proof of Stake rather than Proof of Work. To put it simply, Ether requires one node on the network to verify a smart contract by staking some of their own Ether in doing so- their incentive for being honest. This is opposed to the Proof of Work of Bitcoin that requires all those thousands of miners working hard to guess the next hash to produce the next bitcoin as its basis for verification.
This is good on the energy front.
However, Ether has it’s pitfalls. The Proof of Stake model is more corruptible. And so far Ether has proven to be a bit more centralized in governance than it promised to be, making some question if Ether actually solves any real financial problems and is more similar to fiat currency in this way.
What's a Pizza really worth?
As a fun aside, did you know the first ever Bitcoin transaction involved a person who offered online to sell 10,000 Bitcoins for 2 pizzas? Well yeah, someone took that offer, gave the dude 2 pizzas, and assuming he held onto those, is now sitting on over $100M of value. Hope he enjoyed those pizzas.
If you want a great podcast on all things Bitcoin, subscribe to the below:
Nike’s New Shoe Takes A Big Step Towards Sustainability
Nike recently unveiled their latest basketball sneaker, and we are excited. Not because we are huge basketball fans, but because this sneaker, the ‘Cosmic Unity’, is Nike’s first performance shoe under the Move to Zero initiative which seeks to reach zero waste and carbon emissions.
Looks Aren’t Everything
The sneaker itself is made of 25%+ recycled materials. Its sockliner, laces, and swoosh are all made from partially recycled materials and its upper material is made of recycled cable yarn with a direct fiber replacement in the cabling system to reduce waste. In addition to all of that, no binding materials were used to secure the Zoom Air Stroblet.
This comes at a time when basketball shoes have plummeted in sales over the years, dropping from 14% of all sneaker shoe sales in 2014 to a mere 3% in 2020. The reason? They have become less practical and desirable for everyday use while trends have shifted towards as athleisure wear took over.
Its safe to say that Nike is hoping the Cosmic Unity is groundbreaking enough to crossover into the lifestyle sector and boost sales where they have been lacking. We of course hope this shoe is a major success as well, for it could encourage other competitors to follow suit and put forward stronger sustainability standards.
The Cosmic Unity is set to be released on February 26th for a price of $150. Compared to other basketball kicks this actually isn't that pricey, especially considering the sustainable production it entails. The shoe will be released in a ‘Green Glow’ color scheme, with more versions dropping in early March.
Upcycle vs. Recycle vs. Biodegradable?
So which of these is best? And what the heck is the difference?
Recycled typically means we take reusable materials from past products, and, well, reuse them.
Upcycle means we take waste from the making of products, and turn them into something valuable rather than throw it away.
Biodegradable means a product can literally, 100% biodegrade back into the soil without any side-effects and typically the consensus is this should happen within 6-12 months for something to be called biodegradable.
Are there biodegradable shoes? Apparently there are - Oatshoes.com - although we at Animalia have not been able to verify how legit these are on either the biodegrading or the quality and usability, but we plan on finding out!
Looking for a Green Job?
Want to help out the environment and get paid to do it?
Lost a bit in the sea of executive actions and climate policies Biden has raced to implement was the announcement of a Civilian Climate Corps that he aims to employee millions of Americans to help deliver on promises such as scaling up renewable energies and protecting 30% of our lands and oceans by 2030.
This was also part of the promise in the Green New Deal championed by AOC, and the CCC is something she directly advocated for with John Kerry, Biden's appointed Climate Policy point person.
While there are plenty of detractors and worries this will usher in a boatload of wasted spending, there is no question that any effort at this point to save this climate is effort worth taking, and there are A LOT of Americans right now who need work. Expect a big marketing campaign upcoming similar to ads from yester year on joining the Army.
Biden Harnesses His Inner FDR
The formation of the CCC takes a page directly out of FDR's New Deal that created a program of the exact same name, almost.
FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps created 3 million jobs coming out of the Great Depression and lasted for 9 years. The CCC set to protect and build national parks, plant trees, and erect fire lookouts. In fact you all have likely enjoyed the fruits of their labor as for 9 years they created most of the hiking trails in our national parks that we still use today.
The CCC was a personal favorite of FDR and something he spoke a lot about on his radio talk shows. He used to say the CCC killed 2 birds with 1 stone (although we'd like to see this phrase kind of phase out lol): "We are conserving not only our natural resources, but also our human resources."
Really makes you wonder what the heck happened between 1942 and 2021 huh? (WWII followed by unchecked capitalism that fueled a Cold War and made America dominant globally with not willingness to relinquish that power so more exports, more growth, more developed had to be made and, well, here we are).
But what will Fox News Say?
Who cares, right? Well, let's remember that sadly they are the #1 cable news channel in America. You'd think even conservatives would be pro job creation of any kind, but there are a couple arguments they'll make.
For one, there is the chance these jobs end up as low-wages, high labor in order to maximize output. Not a great combination so let's hope Biden and crew don't go there.
For another, there needs to be a systematic plan on where and how these resources will be used vs. being deployed in the more sporadic nature of the disaster relief arm AmeriCorps.
But we think Biden sees this pitfalls and will steer clear. I mean, Fox News will still find something to complain about. Maybe Jewish Space Lasers?
Check out this video for FDR's Forest Army:
Fishing Regulations In Namibia Successful at Saving Seabirds
Namibia is celebrating a major conservation success after a recent study found that government regulations introduced in 2015 drastically reduced the number of seabirds accidentally killed by the fishing industry. This study, published by Biological Conservation, found that since regulations were put in place in 2015, the bycatch rate of seabird has dropped by at least 90% aka 20,000 birds annually.
This is a huge success for Namibia, especially considering that their fisheries have been regarded as the world’s deadliest for seabird in the past. Much of this bycatch is a product of longline fishing, where seabird get lured in by bait, swooping down onto the fishing lines before they sink and consequently becoming caught in the hooks and drowning as a result. Trawler fishing, where nets are dragged behind a boat and cause fatal injuries to seabirds who collide with the cables, is also a culprit.
Regulations CAN Work
So as you can imagine, when Namibia implemented these regulations in 2015, it was much needed and long overdue. The study showed that seabird death by longline fishing dropped from 22,222 to 215 after the regulations were passed. For deaths due to trawler fishing, that number dropped from 7,030 to 1,452
Included in the seabird populations that are benefitting from these regulations is the endangered albatross species. The study attributed some of the success of this drastic decrease in bycatch to the work done by the Albatross Task Force (ATF), who launched campaigns to promote bycatch mitigation practices among fishing crews.
If you're wondering what these magical regulations were that really did the trick, the answer is simple; they required all Namibian vessels to deploy bird-scaring lines (BSL) while fishing. A BSL is a low cost device, consisting of colorful streamers that is extended off the rear of the boat that actually scare the seabirds away and prevent any interference with the fishing equipment. This, along with ATF’s educational campaigns and programs made all the difference.
Birds of a Feather
This successful conservation story mirrors a similar one in South Africa, where ATF saw a similar decrease in bycatch rate (95%) in 2014. ATF now aims to focus and achieve similar results in Argentina and Chile, where they have dedicated teams and bycatch is an issue. And for the areas that already saw success like South Africa and Namibia, now the work lies in keeping up the reductions.