How NFTs Can Save the Planet

A project in Ghana hopes to plant more than 240,000 trees on 200 hectares of forest in an effort to create a three-tiered canopy of forest that will generate funding from the atmospheric carbon it captures.

Leading the project, UK-based Ecomint wants to harness the power of free market capitalism to create an economically viable environmental project that will eventually finance itself.

This isn’t a new idea, but the novelty of the Angry Teenagers project is that the initial investment needed to plant trees will come from selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs) — an unregulated and often risky investment.

NFTs done A fad among millennials in recent yearscan be considered The modern equivalent of the trading card collection. They represent a provably unique piece of code, meaning that its owner knows it cannot be duplicated and therefore stolen. To create some tangibility, NFTs are represented by supposedly unique artwork (although the image is much easier to copy than the encrypted code).

An area of ​​Ghanaian bush cleared for rice crops is being examined by rebuilding volunteers. Inset is an example of Angry Teenager artwork.

Like collectibles, their value comes from their uniqueness — if someone else wants it, they have to pay what the seller wants for it — but at the end of the day, they’re just a symbol, and that intangibility makes for a very volatile market, which crashed last year and peaked The bankruptcy of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX in November.

So it would be understandable to have some skepticism towards the idea of ​​using NFTs as a stable investment stream for a project estimated to require around $1 million.

“Essentially, the cryptocurrency market has evaporated,” said Ben Whateley, co-founder and CEO of Ecomint. “With the FTX movement, there’s no more sales from there. So what we did was move to selling to businesses and selling credit cards outright so people don’t have to interact with owning cryptocurrency in any way.”

The company’s model attempts to make investing more responsible than other crypto assets. Their NFTs will be allocated to a specific square of land in Ghana, and the money obtained from it is used to plant trees on that land. What I make quite clear is that the money will go to a total pot for the entire project, but investors will get progress updates on their patch.

More funds can only be unlocked when the investor agrees to access the project’s milestones through satellite imagery and on-the-ground images. When the forest begins to produce carbon credits, investors will be able to decide which projects these returns are directed towards.

But are NFTs a necessary part of this, or are they just a gimmick to get young investors excited? Can the same be done without them?

Reconstruction volunteers roaming the Ghanaian bush
Volunteers in Ghana trawl through the bush to sketch the land they will rebuild in August. Five decades ago, what is now grassland was overgrown with trees, said Solomon Yamoah, a teacher from Ghana.
Alex Phillips / Newsweek

“On a basic level, it’s not like that [needed] Really,” he responds. But he argues, Angry Teen’s artwork aims to “make doing the right thing for the climate cool, exciting, exciting, and fun.” “

He added that directly investing in a specific plot of land for people “who donate a**t, that’s enough. But the vast majority of the public is at this point where green things kind of bore them, green branding, pictures of trees—it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, yeah Poor hippies. I just don’t want to know anything about it. ‘It just turns people off.'”

Whatley said each lot costs about $200 to redevelop, which will end up planting about 46 trees. So far, Ecomint has raised $15,000 to $20,000—less than the “buyers’ pipeline” willing to invest the first $100,000 in August, but enough to plant the first 3 hectares, and found that small businesses make up 75 percent of the interest.

Solomon Yamoah rebuilds Ghana
Solomon Yamoah, a teacher from Ghana’s capital, Accra, is in charge of actually planting the trees. He said he wanted to create a natural “paradise”.
Common Forest Restoration Project

“Big companies, like BrewDog, can go out and buy a big piece of land in Scotland and plant trees on it,” he said. “But if you’re a small business that still cares about climate change[…]It’s a lot of money.”

The man responsible for planting the trees is Suleiman Yamoah, a teacher from Accra, the capital of Ghana, and his group of young volunteers.

“Globally, people see or feel how disaster devastates people,” Lee said, noting that the coronavirus pandemic has made even those in the most developed economies “extremely vulnerable.” He cites a local saying that “We do not inherit the earth, but we borrow it for our posterity,” adding, “We must be conscious of putting it into a much better condition than we came to meet it.”

Volunteers drowned in a rainwater swamp in Ghana
Volunteers stumble upon a bike-powered truck on their way to Insunnyam-yei after heavy rain.
Alex Phillips / Newsweek

Yamoah and his team have an unquestionable dedication to the project. Anyone wishing to drive four hours to a town from Accra, then drive 45 minutes to a village to get into the back of a bicycle powered van and then drive another hour on a mud road to another village of 650 people, must obtain permission from the local chief to drive for Another 45 minutes in the Ghanaian jungle, he has some serious commitment. Trust me: I was right next to them when I visited them in August.

But Yamoah said it was worth it to create “Paradise”. Land clearing has begun and the seedlings are in a tree nursery, ready to be planted in March, due to the spaces of conservation leaves needed for a project like this.

The reason the land is so far away is a result of local standards: the land is owned by the local chiefs, and there is no Zoopla listing – available land must be searched for, as the chiefs said.

Ritual libation of the village chief Vikeri
Nana Oduro Fikyiri, the Asante Chief of Ensnoniame-ye, makes a libation to summon the spirits of his ancestors to guide the rebuilding team. He hopes the project will take over more of his land in the future.
Common Forest Restoration Project

After going through it, the rebuilt land already looked wild. But five decades ago, Yamouh said, what is now a meadow was dotted with trees. Compared to what it could be, he said “this place is a joke” and wants it to be “a hundred times better”.

The descent of the land was not an accident, but rather the result of destructive agricultural practices. Areas not cleared for maize and rice cultivation face being torn apart by cattle allowed to graze on them. Wildfires are set deliberately to prevent cows from roaming too far, and as a quick way to clear more arable land.

Part of Yamoah’s mission will be to convince local residents not to disrupt work. But on his side is Ensnonyame-ye’s boss, Nana Odoro Vickery. In a ceremony, he pledged his full support for the project, and in a libation he called upon the spirits of his ancestors to guide the team.

Vowing to stop locals from cultivating the land or burning trees, Fakiri told me, farms there were “illegal” because they didn’t ask his permission, and there was “plenty of farmland they could transfer to.” He hopes the project will take over more of his land in the future.

Ghanaian forest rice cultivation
A rice plantation borders 200 hectares to become a forest reserve in the Ghanaian jungle. Agricultural yields are low, and converting the land using local assistance will give them “a source of livelihood,” said Nana Odoro Vikere, head of Insununyam Yei.
Alex Phillips / Newsweek

Asked why he supported the project, the chief — who at 66 still rides his leopard-print motorcycle along dirt tracks — referred to climate change, seeing an economic benefit to his village: farming yields are low, and converting the land using local help would give them ” livelihood”. He said he would do “whatever it takes to improve my community”.

“If a community doesn’t take advantage of the fact that there’s a forest now there, you can’t count on the forest to stay around — that’s why it was cut down in the first place,” Whateley said. He added that the money earned from the carbon credits – which is expected to start flowing in after two years or so – will help provide “a scalable scheme for land renewal across Africa”.

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