Tales from the crypt(o)

NBA commentator Jeff Van Gundy’s well-placed, near-extemporaneous “back at the crypt” comment notwithstanding, ubiquitous references to crypto currency range from annoying to cloying. Everything about digital money is either scammy or… that seems to be mostly it. Scammy neatly encompasses the over-hyped, Ponzi-schemed, last-one-in nature of the the collection of binary data that necessarily requires us to put all the usual finance-related terms in quotes: “ownership” “collateral” “token” “transaction.” You could go on.

And besides the obvious downsides of NFT’s – from terrific money-laundering possibilities to the proliferation of really bad art – we’d be remiss in not noting crypto’s climate impacts:

Crypto’s overall climate impact remains massive, with certain currencies swallowing up entire nations’ worth of processing power from individual computing units and data centers—much of whose power comes from fossil fuels. The most common form of cryptocurrency mining, proof of work, requires a massive amount of processing power. Alternative mining methods have a mixed track record so far, with some ostensibly “sustainable” mining systems still requiring significant amounts of dirty or clean power. And transacting any tokens across the blockchain, whether an NFT or a Litecoin, sucks up the collective energy feeding into the transaction, no matter the product at hand. One estimate claims that a single NFT trade across the much-used Ethereum blockchain uses enough energy that could power an entire house for several days. And this is all so the buyer can have bragging rights about “owning” an image.

Celebrities who are selling NFTs and also claim to care about the environment: What are you doing? Whatever it is, there sure are a lot of you. Here’s a list—surely incomplete—of luminaries who brand themselves as climate-conscious yet have also been hawking NFTs in some form or the other, ensuring this bizarre digital culture product will linger in the public discourse while possibly ruining the art world, the planet, and our collective sanity.

Not even-close-to-exhaustive list of scam-adjacent proponents at the link. Yes, engaging in yet another form of workaround for doing not the things we need to do about global warming: what are we doing? The climate question at the center of everything, that we’ve been needing to ask for decades, that we still need to answer.

Image: the crypt in question

A Female Deer (reprise)

We’re the world’s biggest polluter who has no idea what to do about it – can’t use less, absolutely cannot tax ourselves more. Meanwhile, our best and brightest have been working nights and weekends:

The Justice Department is investigating whether former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton illegally used her position to benefit Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company that later hired her, according to officials in federal law enforcement and the Interior Department.

The criminal investigation centers on the Interior Department’s 2006 decision to award three lucrative oil shale leases on federal land in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary. Over the years it would take to extract the oil, according to calculations from Shell and a Rand Corp. expert, the deal could net the company hundreds of billions of dollars.

Norton, 55, was President Bush’s first Interior secretary. She had worked as an Interior Department attorney before being elected Colorado’s attorney general. Later, as a private lawyer, she represented mining, timber and oil companies.

As Interior secretary, she embraced an industry-friendly approach to environmental regulation that she called “cooperative conservation” and pushed the department to open more public land for energy production.

I hear people say, quite frequently, that corruption in the US isn’t as bad as it is in Europe and elsewhere. If that’s somehow true, it must be a comment on the failings of our system of government. And media. And embarrassment. Norton’s alleged traverse is all too common, and when that’s the case, who needs other forms of corruption? We seem to have found the sweet spot. The revolving door that lets foxes traipse into and out of the hen house with impunity, all the while castigating government as ineffective and ‘the problem’ would be the height of contempt were it not for the self-lubricating irony with which we find no bounds to our amusement (nor depths of silent admiration for these guileful players and their cunning stunts), even as we free ourselves from all possible insult. And this is not to single out literary critics for special abuse. In medicine, they induce this kind of insentience with anesthesia.

And what will it take for this to be reported with the relentless scorn given to ACORN, Van Jones or Henry Louis Gates yelling at that cop not to arrest him in his own house? Wait… those stories had black people in them! Wait… there’s a black guy in the White House!

This Norton thing hardly compares.