(Don’t) Monetize the World
Some people just want to monetize literally all aspects of our lives, and some people (there’s likely overlap with the first group) even think that this is a viable solution to solving society’s problems. I just sat in on a presentation as part of a larger half-day webinar which was focused on drought prevention in central Alberta, and it might have been the most ridiculous presentation I have ever watched in my life.
It was presented by a person with a corporate real estate background, who was saying that we can help solve the climate crisis by treating our environment as we would with assets in an investment portfolio. She argued that this could help mobilize private capital for local communities or municipalities through blockchain technologies etc. etc.
Halfway through the presentation I lost interest because it seemed like she and her company are trying too hard to over-engineer a complicated solution rather than thinking about what’s causing the problem in the first place. It just seemed like another technological Band-Aid to a problem that has alternative solutions. These solutions could include changing our behaviour, but that would likely result in a loss of profitability, which I think is what these people are trying to avoid. As Paul Rudd puts it in Forgetting Sarah Marshall: You’re doing too much, do less!
She said that this funding mechanism would be a way to sidestep the need for government or public financing by allowing private investors to put their money into something like a regenerative farm so that the farmer has immediate capital to work with and it would dodge conventional regulations — as if that were a good thing. I recognize that under our current capitalist system, much of what is needed to transition our society will require vast amounts of capital, but I don’t think that relying on private investors is going to get us out of the problem that they helped create. It just sounds like they’re trying to create a new scheme for extracting money from our environment.
I am also worried that because the presenter used big, futuristic sounding, trendy words which are all the rage in the tech and finance industries that people who watched her presentation might genuinely think that she is a genius. I say this because the host of the webinar actually said that she felt that the presenter had come from the future to give us tips on how to be successful, and we are just struggling to grasp her ideas because they are so brain-bending. They’re definitely brain-bending, but I don’t think we should bother with bending our brain in that direction of all the places we can go right now. Her company’s name is Dark Matter Labs and that literally sounds like a villainous corporation from a comic book movie.
At one point she was talking about the idea of monetizing units of clean air into a form of crypto currency or digital token which could be bought and sold on the market to help drive investment into clean air so long as it was managed sustainably for the long term (rather than for short term profits). I think that it would be incredibly naive to assume anyone profit motivated wouldn’t try to game the system to benefit themselves rather than protecting our clean air. I feel like tech-bros truly struggle to realize that Indigenous cultures helped to steward and manage the natural environment without these high tech tools for millennia, yet they continue to think this is the only way forward. Next they will be proposing an NFT of all of Earth’s wilderness spaces so that they exist virtually and grow in value once we have destroyed them permanently.
Paraphrasing the creator of Low Tech Magazine: “We should refuse to assume that every problem has or needs a high-tech solution”.