NFT projects are often tarred by the same brush. Since the meteoric rise in 2021, NFTs are usually seen through the materialistic gaze; the imagery created is designed to be used as a profile picture across social media and forums. The push-in PFP images, along with a wealthy community bankrolling new projects certainly shape a world where many are paying for exclusivity, clout, and opportunity.
For some, the hyper-popular NFT projects such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, Meebits, and CryptoPunks are the equivalent of a verified blue tick. But among the noise of floor prices skyrocketing and celebrity tradings, there are creators and entrepreneurs using NFT technology for the good of the world and our society. These creators are taking NFTs far beyond the visuals.
In a Time of Crisis
We cannot look at this shift of using NFTs for good without examining their use in the current humanitarian crisis happening in Ukraine. As the invasion of Ukraine by Russia rocked the globe, many were left wondering how they could send aid towards those losing their homes, identity, and history. The war, understandably, has created volatility in global financial markets, with fiat (traditional) currencies taking a hit.
One of the first projects launched to aid those in Ukraine came from a collaboration between Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and the digital artist Trippy Labs. Together they minted 10,000 NFTs of the Ukrainian national flag on the Ethereum network. This project, to date, has raised over $6.7 million to support the military of Ukraine. Elsewhere, 500 Ukrainian artists have gathered together to launch the Holy Water NFT project, funds from which will be used to support the people of Ukraine.
There are many projects being launched across the world which aim to bring financial support to those in desperate need. Cryptocurrencies, alongside the NFT sphere, are enabling those in Ukraine to take in donations not set against the turbulent fiat markets. Since tweeting out their crypto wallet addresses, the Ukrainian government, through Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, has received nearly $40 million in crypto donations, along with many NFTs which can be sold on secondary markets to raise further capital.
Artist Yam Karkai, principle creator of the World of Women (WoW) NFT project, says this about her work: “The mission of my art was always to showcase women, put them in the spotlight, and bring more diversity into the space.” The World of Women project sought to focus on women within the traditionally male dominant industry.
Launched in July 2021, WoW released 10,000 uniquely generated NFTs with a floor price of 0.07ETH – around $203 currently. Since then the project has had artwork featured with auction house Christies in London, as well as support from high profile celebrities. This has raised that originally low floor price to around 9ETH – around $26,300 currently. Throughout the campaign, WoW has donated over $250,000 to women’s charities, including She’s The First and Too Young to Wed.
Elsewhere, female creators are releasing highly successful NFT campaigns which aim to heighten awareness of women’s rights in various areas. Boss Beauties champions female empowerment, selling out the entire collection in just one hour after the initial minting. A subsequent campaign was released recently, in partnership with the United Nations for International Women’s Day 2022. The new collection featured inspiring women from throughout history. Included in the NFTs were; Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, among others. Proceeds from the charity sale were donated to fund scholarships for women and girls.
While progress is being made within the NFT space to further equality, ‘It’s Nice That’ notes that the art movement is distinctly white, leaving many black and ethnic creators without a voice. Aiming to tackle this issue is illustrator Aurelia Durand, in collaboration with The Black Arts Project. Together, the team has created a 10,000 strong collection celebrating those of African descent and African diaspora.
The collection will benefit important black causes “from grassroots to the metaverse” and champion equality. In discussion with It’s Nice That, Anthony Gibbs, founder of The Black Arts Project, believes the creative space “isn’t welcoming to black people” and “this is even reflected in the fact that NFTs with white complexions are selling for more than those with darker complexions”.
It’s Our World too
It’s no secret that the planet is rapidly sliding into a climate crisis. And many would argue that NFTs and cryptocurrency are accelerating this issue, despite positive steps in Proof of Stake. Some creators are hoping to tip the scales in the other direction, or at the very least use NFTs to boost awareness of the environmental issues at hand. The priority is leaning towards using NFTs as tokens to represent conservation efforts worldwide.
If you choose to be a Nemus guardian, you’ll own an NFT image that acts as a token representing a portion of the Amazon rainforest. Of course, you don’t own the slice of land itself, but your money does aid and benefit indigenous people living within the rainforest, while also creating a protective border to prevent deforestation. The project’s most expensive option rewards the buyer with “diamond rarity’ artwork, representing 81 hectares of land which locks in approximately 28k tonnes of carbon.
Sticking with the lungs of the Earth, the Woodies project also sold 10,000 NFTs which can be used as PFPs. The project raised 73.824ETH – currently $223,961 – and this money trained 1,600+ farmers and planted over 837,000 across sub-Saharan Africa, which results in over 30,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide being sequestered over twenty years.
Utilising blockchain gaming and NFTs are Purple Penguin, a project which aims to “revolutionise climate conservation”. Working with Project Ark, Purple Penguins has created carbon-neutral NFTs by minting them on the Polygon network, which is known for its low fees and low energy approach to blockchain programming. The funds raised from the NFTs and their blockchain gaming platform AntARTica will go directly to charities conserving the climate and wildlife in the southern hemisphere.
In its very early stages is the project Good Cactus Frens which aims to sell NFTs to raise money for Charity Water, an organisation that provides clean drinking water to those in need. While this project has barely left the ground, it’s admirable to see more of these concepts brought to the fore.
What’s the Next Step?
Ultimately, NFTs and blockchain generally, have a trifecta of issues that taint even the noblest of causes with a daub of darkness. Dubbed by many as the “trilemma’ these flaws in the technology will, until solved, frequently hold back the effectiveness of goodwill campaigns and projects. The trilemma breaks down thus:
Decentralisation – Blockchain technology needs to further distance itself from centralised companies, giving equality to all users.
Security – Each blockchain must have better than ironclad defence to malicious attacks, phishing scams, and hacks.
Scalability – Blockchains need to be able to handle large volumes of transactions at speed and without fault while reducing the costs of fees to the user.
It’s the second and third points that could hamper progress for charitable causes. Without being able to guarantee the security of their patrons, fewer people will be willing to take a chance and invest their money. This lack of security can be seen in two ways; vulnerable blockchains open to hacks and bad actors who could set up a charitable fund only to ‘rug pull’ buyers and disappear with a bounty of cash into the anonymity of blockchain. A way to combat this issue is for groups to doxx themselves and bring down that curtain that hides their identities, which would go some way to setting potential investors at ease.
We can’t forget the issues of scalability, though. Currently, there’s a dilemma occurring and its name is Ethereum. Ethereum is the blockchain daddy right now. Only Bitcoin is close in computing power and market dominance. But Ethereum is both an energy hog and a money sink. Gas fees are still outrageous and the number of nodes needed to compute the algorithm burns through energy.
On the flip side, Ethereum is popular, reasonably secure, and reliable. This makes it an appealing place to launch goodwill projects, despite the inherent flaws described above. A balance will hopefully soon be struck allowing for environmental conservation without the impact of the blockchain counteracting it.
Can Blockchain Better the Planet?
In short, yes it can. Eventually. The unrestricted movement of funds due to cryptocurrency can hugely benefit charitable causes, particularly when avoiding the ups and downs of fiat currency. However, the problems crypto faces, as explained above, are not the only issues. The biggest perhaps, is adoption.
While there are now millions of people who hold a cryptocurrency wallet, many of these users will own several wallets, due to crypto compatibility, while many of them will remain empty. Until governments begin proper legislation discussions and adopt crypto as an alternative to traditional currencies, it’s hard to imagine crypto being welcomed by society as a whole, meaning these NFT projects are ultimately being sold to an incredibly small market.
The world of crypto and, by extension, NFTs is riddled with jargon and instructions many would find obscure. Once this issue has been overcome, the wider public will be more accepting and open to supporting charitable NFT projects, which would also help in breaking down the current climate of non-utility PFP projects.