Bad for the environment: Bad for Artists

By Ann Vettikkal

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are as insane as they sound. 

Riding the coattails of recent cryptocurrency excursions like bitcoin, a new form of cryptoart has formed. While bitcoin is considered fungible, meaning it hold equal value with another bitcoin and can be traded in a precisely equal manner, NFTs are a form of cryptoart that are not mutually exchangeable with other NFTs; they cement art in the digital world as unique and easily ready to be “owned.”

For instance, a creation by Banksy was bought for $95,000 and then burned. The existence of such an event was turned into a digital asset and is now an NFT. 

But frankly speaking, what’s the point? 

That is, what is the problem it set out to solve? One defense lies in the idea that it clearly sets parameters for ownership in a digital atmosphere. But who really benefits from this process? We’ve seen the effects already: the select few artists who were well-off before cryptoart are cashing in along with rich investors who can put their money into a new craze. Because cryptoart isn’t much of anything, attempting to mimic the way physical art is bought and sold on a platform that is antithetical to scarcity. 

On top of this NFTs have one of the ugliest and most preventable carbon footprints out there. Cryptocurrency is predicated on the notion that computers expend energy in order to encrypt transactions to replace the purpose of a bank or governing force. This act called “mining” done by computers is incredibly wasteful and an ecological disaster. 

On the whole NFTs seem superficial and it doesn’t take much investigation to corroborate this judgement. In one comically confusing moment, I watched a serene gif called “Yoink!” by artist Beeple pop up on my feed. It had just been sold for $6.6 million dollars. The intricacies that create the groundwork for NFTs pale in comparison to the obvious scam that I watched play out in front of my eyes. 

This currency may be non-fungible. But it is also non-sustainable, non-effective, and a non-equitable gimmick that is hoarding the attention as the average artist continues to struggle in a system that undervalues their art, no matter how “non-fungible” it claims to be.