If you ask anyone on the street what they know about cryptocurrency, they’re likely to comment on its anarchic nature and damaging impact on the environment due to the immense amount of energy required to mine Bitcoin. Regardless of their status or profession, most people are still unsure as to why crypto is significant and how it can be used to actually improve their businesses, everyday life and yes, even the environment.
As more people realise the drastic effect this technology could have on how we interact with one another on a daily basis, controversial debates have emerged surrounding ethics and the practical application of blockchain technology in making the world a better place.
As members of the crypto community, it is vital that we share examples and support ideas that use cryptocurrency and blockchain technology as a means to create positive environments on a global scale, especially since the boom of interest since 2017 leading to many misconceptions about the technology at hand.
Due to the pace of development in the crypto sphere, many new ICOs and dApps are already working towards solving the world’s biggest problems with the help of the blockchain. The ability to transact digital money opens many doors and raises many questions but it is easy to overlook other qualities like the potential to track identities or trace physical goods and how that can improve people’s lives around the world.
Increasingly, the main discussions around cryptocurrencies force us to consider the world’s issues on a global scale from both a philanthropic and philosophical perspective. The question is; are we ready?
Crypto Benefits to Unstable Nations
The time has come to admit that the majority of what we see and read is from a dominant western perspective. Considering this, and the power of expensive fiat currencies such as $, £ and €, it may be difficult to imagine the impact cryptocurrencies could have in developing nations or anyone with an unstable economy or government. Perhaps our immediate recollection of hyper inflation and government manipulation is in Weimar Germany, but the reality is many countries are experiencing similar disasters today.
Venezuela, for example, was once the richest country in Latin America with some of the largest oil reserves in the world. However, over the last 4 years, it’s GDP has fallen 35% due to government manipulation of the economy. It is just one of many countries where its citizens are losing control over their personal wealth due to government incompetence.
It’s no surprise that the use of cryptocurrencies in developing countries has skyrocketed, with numbers surging from 450 users in 2014 to 85,000 in 2016 in Venezuela alone. Intriguingly, many governments with tumultuous economies are leaning towards creating their own cryptocurrencies, seemingly in an attempt to reduce the overbearing impact US dollar has on their domestic markets.
Crypto & Personal Identity
Aside from economic crises and ill-distribution of wealth, governments are still lacking adequate infrastructure to support their citizens, even in developed nations. Simple actions such as applying for a job or renting a car require time-consuming and unreliable systems to check validity and access your personal history which can then be used by that company at their will.
Although this can easily be overlooked, it’s a significant issue in today’s world with 65 million displaced people left in limbo after fleeing war torn countries and met with harsh bureaucracy in their destinations. Everyday demands are suddenly made much more complicated, making purchasing basic goods and getting on with their lives profoundly difficult.
The adoption of blockchain technology is already making leaps and bounds in this area, with the likes of the World Food Program and unCHAINed giving people space to create their own digital identities and reenter society. Similar projects, such as Arcadia, allow people who cannot prove their identity or residence to contribute to their local economy with identity-less wallets.
Crypto Fostering Financial Inclusion
Despite the prominence of banks and their institutional power in almost every country, 2.5 billion people are lacking access to official financial services. This makes any kind of long-term financial planning almost impossible, as gaining access to loans, support for mortgages or applying for business development financing exclusive to only the elites.
Many ICOs are focused on bringing opportunity to people who have been left behind by their local authorities. Humaniq and Uulala are just two of many examples where the application of blockchain technology can bring financial inclusion to the billions of individuals around the world who are currently excluded from traditional banking systems. By giving them an identity and allowing them control over their own finances, these initiatives will give people the opportunity to elevate themselves out of a cash-only environment and to start planning for their futures.
Blockchain to Verify Ethical Supply Chains
We’re all familiar with the small logos we find on the products we buy, indicating that something is organic, fair trade or sustainable. How many of us actually research those companies and initiatives to ensure what we buy is ethical and not destructive to people and the planet? Better yet, how can we trust that those companies keep their word? Greenpeace’s stance on RSPO certified palm oil indicates we still have a lot of room for improvement, despite a shift towards ethical farming and production in the last few decades.
This is where blockchain technology comes in. With the ability to create an immutable record at each stage of the supply chain, there’s an undeniable shift towards guaranteeing quality with technology that does not require us to trust the parties involved.
This can be done with a combination of fair trade and financial inclusion for farmers, like Agroplexi, or focus on quality and authenticity with Agriledger and Provenance. Other initiatives, such as Everledger, tackle pressing issues surrounding diamond mining, ensuring the product and people involved in its production are appreciated and safe.
Crypto Alternatives to Protect the Environment
One aspect that looms over cryptocurrency and, more specifically, crypto mining, is the ever-present issue of high-energy usage and the costs required to mine Bitcoin. Other coins are not necessarily perfect, but Bitcoin is infamous for using more energy than entire countries due to its energy-intensive Proof-of-Work algorithm.
With such a prevalent issue at the forefront of everyone’s minds, a variety of startups have embraced different renewable technologies to rethink how we approach energy. Several solar powered start-ups such as SolarCoin and The Sun Exchange incentivize users for embracing solar energy and paying them for the energy produced, whereas others such as Earth Token, BioCoin and ClimateCoin focus on overall optimized investment in green energy for both individuals and businesses.
As for energy-efficient mining, Sea Foam has been advising the team at BitPlus in their mission to take on the global mining problem. They tackle this by installing Mobile Mining Rigs on abandoned natural gas reserves around the world, offering a real alternative not-only to mining but also to the energy sector.
Golden Fleece, a Georgia-based mining data center, makes use of hydropower from the Black Sea to power their farm. With the increasing demand for renewable options, cryptocurrency having the tools to change the game and contribute something truly revolutionary isn’t so far-fetched after all.
The future of blockchain technology is not limited to digital transactions. Rather, it holds serious potential to fix incessant problems around the world which continue to disrupt people’s’ day-to-day lives. By bringing transparency and trust to industries and populations who have, until now, been excluded from the dominant narrative, the application of blockchain technology on a global scale could capsize traditional authorities and offer faster, safer and more reliable alternatives to improve the lives of everyone, regardless of their location or background.