PDF download: The Green Protocol
This is a proposal to plant one billion new trees in North America over the next ten years.
I’m not asking for your donation to make this possible. I’m not lobbying local, state and federal agencies to spend tax dollars on this. I’m not writing grant proposals to get foundation or endowment money for planting trees. In fact, I may not plant a single tree myself.
This is a project that I hope will encourage you to want to plant trees, to want to pay money to people who are planting trees, to want to join this effort, not out of guilt or fear, and not only out of a sense of civic responsibility, but also out of good old-fashioned greed.
This is a project to establish a cryptographic protocol – the Green Protocol – that allows you to do well by doing good.
I think this is how crypto saves the world. Not as “money” and not as Bitcoin! TM and not as a security. Not by facilitating a market of goods, but by facilitating a market of good. Not by mining, but by growing.
I think this is how ESG saves the world. Not as shambolic ESG! TM metrics foisted on us by Wall Street and oligarchs, but as real-world, trustworthy instantiations of positive environmental, social and governance practices.
Will one billion new trees save the world? Nope. Not even close. A tree does a lot of good things for the environment – like carbon capture – but it just can’t compete with the environment-destroying capacity of a machine. A mature tree absorbs about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year. Not bad! It takes a lot of air by volume to weigh 48 pounds. But a car that gets 22 miles per gallon and goes 11,000 miles in a year will put 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. That is not a misprint. A single automobile puts more than ten thousand pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Those one billion trees – and this is after 10+ years to reach maturity, mind you – will sop up the CO2 production of about 4.7 million cars. Which sounds like a lot until you see that the US has more than 270 million registered cars and trucks. Oof.
But you know what one billion new trees are? A good start.
We plant a billion trees on the way to planting a trillion trees.
We plant a billion trees on the way to reforesting the planet.
We plant a billion trees on the way to getting off our asses and taking individual and small group action to save the world.
Will this One Billion Tree project support all of the traditional tree-planting efforts out there, like The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project, or the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Keystone Ten Million Trees Partnership? Yes, absolutely! But not in the way these organizations are used to being supported.
My goal with the Green Protocol is to stimulate a long overdue evolution within charitable and philanthropic organizations, an evolution that will make many of them obsolete, by creating a decentralized approach to good works.
That’s not a knock on The Nature Conservancy or the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. I think they are two of the good guys in the not-for-profit space! But a billion trees is a lot of trees. To accomplish my goal – one billion new trees in North America in 10 years – we will need to plant one million trees in Year 1 and double that number every year for the following nine years. That’s half a billion trees in Year 10. To accomplish that, we will need to invent entirely new technologies and develop entirely new agricultural efficiencies, and that’s where our current system of doing good deeds simply fails.
I believe that our current system of philanthropy and good works squelches technological innovation by crowding out the capital formation that drives technological innovation. Government-mandated good works, too. Government-mandated not-so-good works, even more. And that’s perfectly fine if technological innovation is not central to the social good that you wish to achieve.
But if you believe as I do that our best hope … frankly our only hope … to stop and reverse our current disastrous path of man-made climate change lies in technologies that have not yet been invented, then our current system of philanthropic and government-mandated do-gooding is itself a disaster.
It’s not enough to raise money through philanthropy or taxes to plant a few million more trees.
What is required is a system of for-profit capital formation that spurs for-profit technological innovation and for-profit social practices to plant a few billion more trees.
This is the Green Protocol.
The Green Protocol is a set of rules for the tokenization of symbolic betting markets in positive social goods.
The Green Protocol channels what I believe is the most powerful and pervasive social transformation of the past fifty years – “the speculation layer” – into a decentralized system of capital formation for social good.
Here’s how it works.
The Speculation Layer
Within five years, I believe that almost every form of organized social behavior will be fully abstracted into a speculation layer made up of 1) objects: a set of symbols representing real world entities formerly at the heart of those organized behaviors, 2) protocols: a government-sanctioned and oligarchy-established set of rules for a virtual betting market in those symbols, and 3) tokens: a similarly sanctioned and established set of casino chips providing liquidity for the betting market in those symbols.
The future is a world of bets, on everything, all the time.
So is the present.
Absorbed by the speculation layer, “the market” is no longer an exchange for buying fractional ownership shares of real-world companies doing real-world things, but instead is a virtual casino for betting whether the numbers associated with a three or four-letter symbol will go up or down.
Absorbed by the speculation layer, “sports” is no longer a venue for passionate support of a team’s real-world competitive success, but instead is a constant exercise in odds-making across every conceivable derivative aspect of the individual competitors and the competition itself.
Absorbed by the speculation layer, “politics” is no longer a mechanism for sorting real-world policy preferences and engaging in good faith bargaining to find real-world policy equilibria across those preferences, but instead is a competitive mass signaling exercise for charismatic symbolists to position themselves for in-group rewards and ceremonial jousts at scale.
The speculation layer is easiest to establish in organized social behaviors that already possess a language for symbolic representations and betting markets, which is why it first found purchase and now oozes over every square inch of Finance, and why Sport is not far behind. Politics has a few more years left before it’s enveloped by the speculation layer, I suppose, but only a few. Beyond the distinct social systems of Finance, Sports and Politics, the only other ubiquitous organized social behavior is Religion, which should be uniquely resistant to the speculation layer. Unfortunately, it seems to me that finance, sports and politics ARE the functional religious beliefs for the vast majority of people, and that even the distinct social system of Religion with a capital R is rapidly being subsumed by the distinct social system of Politics with a capital P.
Why is the speculation layer spreading Borg-like across all of our organized social behaviors?
Because a world of bets is a world of constant neurochemical hits, as stimulative when the bets pay off (yay, dopamine!) as when they don’t (yay, norepinephrine!). In a very real sense, the speculation layer IS entertainment, but entertainment in a weaponized form which we are biologically powerless to resist. Of course, the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy understand the power of this weapon all too well. How do you control the crowd? Panem et circenses. Bread and circuses. And the speculation layer is the best circus.
Resistance is futile.
In its pure grain alcohol form, the speculation layer is Robinhood. It’s DraftKings. It’s Barstool Sports. It’s FiveThirtyEight. It’s NFTs. It’s crypto. There’s little effort even to pretend that they’re about something other than speculation. And why should they? We’re all adults here! No one’s forcing you to drink, Ben.
In its 80-proof form, the speculation layer is CNBC. It’s ESPN. It’s CNN. It’s Fox News. It’s MSNBC. A wave of the hand at “substance”, but in reality 24-hour non-stop editorial coverage of horseraces that you simply must have a betting opinion about to be a smart investor or a smart sports fan or a smart Democrat or a smart Republican. You want to be smart, don’t you, Ben? C’mon, just a sip. It’ll make you smart. Promise.
The bartenders with a heavy pour, of course, are Twitter and Facebook and Google and the rest of the social media “platform” multiverse, oh-so intent to preserve plausible deniability about their intentions, but in truth completely committed to promoting our personal and collective addiction to the dopamine hits of the speculation layer. Have another drink, Ben, this one’s on the house.
Welcome to the Dopamine Economy. Welcome to the Hunger Games.
And may the odds be ever in your favor!
You know, I often think about how differently my life would have played out if online poker and FanDuel and RobinHood had been around when I was in college. I’ve got guardrails in place against that stuff today, in the form of responsibilities to my family and my partners, but when I was 21? LOL. And I’m not saying that it would have been a bad life or an unsuccessful life. My alter ego, Neb Tnuh, swims effortlessly in these symbolic seas of strategic games and Turing tests. But I am positive that it would have been a smaller life.
Because that’s what the speculation layer does.
It makes us small.
The speculation layer makes us play their game … literally their game! … constructed of ephemeral and abstracted symbols, rather than create our OWN game out of real world relationships with real world humans, imbued with the positive energy of making, protecting and teaching. Yeats wrote that “the best lack all conviction” in the widening gyre, but I don’t think that’s quite right today. The best of us – those for whom symbolic manipulation comes easy – have plenty of conviction, but it’s the atomized conviction of ego. It’s the little voice of conviction that whispers in our ear and says, “Ahhh, you are SO smart” when the dealer flips a winning card and we get that little hit of dopamine and we lean back in our chair and we smile at the screen and we embrace the opportunity to play yet another hand. The best of us are addicts.
It makes me very angry that my daughters are coming of age in a world that conspires to make them small, that seeks to make them addicts.
I am determined to do something about it.
But what? We can’t stop the world and its “progress”. We can’t change our brain chemistry. We can no more prevent the speculation layer from its inexorable spread than King Canute could prevent the tide from rolling in.
No, we can’t stop the future world of all betting all the time. But we can channel it. We can edit it.
We can see clearly how the rules of the current game – the existing protocol of the speculation layer – are established by and for the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy.
We can determine with full hearts a better set of rules, a protocol based on the principles of small-l liberalism and small-c conservatism.
Clear eyes, full hearts … you know the rest.
It’s not going to be easy, and we don’t have a lot of time. The speculation layer isn’t an academic project, and the vested interests that the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy have here are enormous. All of the protocols to date have been written by billionaires and their Renfields, and they’re really good at playing the narrative games that lull us to sleep.
Case in point, the abomination known as the carbon credit market.
The Shambolic Protocol of Carbon Credit Markets
Carbon credit markets are my poster child for a “government-sanctioned and oligarchy-established set of rules” that ends up actively perverting their original important and well-meaning social intentions. To be clear, I don’t think the people involved with carbon credit markets are bad people. But I think they are participants in a bad system.
A carbon credit market is a system where companies that put more CO2 into the atmosphere than their regulatory quota (or marketing initiative) allows can purchase “offsets” from companies that either didn’t fill their emissions quota or have carbon sequestration assets that actively take CO2 out of the atmosphere. This sounds smart and wonderful, combining all the best narrative elements of “Yay, Free Markets!” and “Yay, Environment!”.
But here’s the truth:
1) Carbon credit markets limit symbolic measurements of CO2 emissions, not real-world CO2 emissions. In fact, it’s not clear that carbon credit markets limit aggregate real-world CO2 emissions at all.
2) Carbon credit markets squelch incentives for technological innovation that could actually make a real difference in slowing or reversing climate change.
Here’s an example of that first point. Earlier this year, the EU announced with great fanfare that renewable energy generation surpassed fossil fuel energy generation for the full year 2020. A typical article: It’s Official: In 2020, Renewable Energy Beat Fossil Fuels Across Europe. And that’s great! But when you dig a little deeper into the defined symbolic measurement of “renewable energy”, you start to get a little sick.
In 2009, the EU declared that biomass – typically wood scraps from paper pulp facilities and lumber yards that are compressed into wood pellets and then burned much like thermal coal – would be given full credit as a renewable energy source. There were no regulations on the source of these biomass wood pellets, so it wasn’t required that they come from scraps, but I mean … c’mon, you’re not going to tear down hardwood forests and turn them into wood pellets. That would be insane. These trees aren’t “renewable” over any time frame that makes economic sense, and harvesting them and then BURNING them is about as bad for carbon emissions as it gets.
But that’s exactly what happened.
Except no one cuts down European forests to turn into wood pellets. No, no, hundreds of acres of American forests are cut down every day and turned into “renewable biomass” wood pellets for European power generators.
But wait, there’s more. If you’ve got a coal-fired power plant in Europe, then you get debited in your carbon account when you burn the coal and push the CO2 out through your European smokestack and into the European air. Of course the same thing applies when you burn these American wood pellets, right? The CO2 is going up through your European smokestack and into the European air just the same, right?
Silly rabbit. Why would you think that actual CO2 entering the actual air would have anything to do with this? You see, apparently in the late 1990s, some United Nations sub-sub-committee on renewable energy, never contemplating that people would cut down trees and send them to another continent to be BURNED, set up a carbon accounting standard that the carbon emissions from burning a tree would be attributed to the region where it was cut down, not where it was actually burned. Naturally the EU adopted the UN carbon accounting standards verbatim. Naturally the incumbent European utilities noticed this enormous loophole. And voila! An enormous new industry in destroying American forests to fuel European power plants in an absurdly anti-green manner was born. I am not making this up.
So yes, the EU used more renewable energy than fossil fuels in 2020. And spewed more CO2 into the European air. And cut down tens of thousands of acres of North Carolina and Georgia forests in the process. A process that continues today. “Yay, Renewable Energy!”
Now here’s an example of the technology squelching point, not from carbon credit markets directly, but with exactly the same dynamic. This summer, the EU announced that the Big Three German automakers – Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW – have been colluding over the past TWENTY FIVE YEARS to limit their efforts to reduce diesel engine emissions. They didn’t cheat on the legal limits for diesel emissions (no, no … that was an entirely different crime and multi-billion dollar fine), but they conspired not to do any more than the law required, even though they could do more than the law required. Even though doing more than the law required would have provided a competitive advantage. They conspired NOT to compete on diesel emissions and NOT to develop cleaner technologies and systems because … well, why rock the boat when we’ve got the German government in our pocket and the emissions standards are a joke and we’re making tens of billions of euros in profit every year? I mean, no one actually cares about diesel emissions, right? We’ll give the politicians the talking points they want, we’ll all proclaim our green goodness, we’ll all cash a bigger check, and we’ll all share a good laugh. Hahaha! And if we get caught TWENTY FIVE YEARS from now in our little plot, we’ll pay our pittance of a fine. Cost of doing business, nicht wahr?
This is what pollution “markets” do. They set a very comfortable limit on the polluters, which in turn sets a very comfortable price on their pollution. And if pollution is cheap … and if cheating on the pollution is even cheaper … then polluters face zero urgency and see little upside to investing in new pollution-limiting technologies. It’s just math, as the kids would say. Which means that the good guys – the entrepreneurs keen to develop and commercialize pollution-limiting technologies – are met with a big collective yawn. The money’s just not there. Worse, there’s no political impetus or popular narrative to do more from a technological perspective, because the “market-based solution” is already in place, and everyone knows that everyone knows that you can’t do better than a “market-based solution”!
This isn’t a market. It’s an abstraction of a market.
It’s a speculation layer with a crappy protocol.
A government-sanctioned and oligarchy-established pollution market always ends up as a perversion of its well-intentioned social impetus because it always starts off as a perversion of the intellectual foundation of market-based solutions for negative externalities – the Coase Theorem. In a nutshell, the Coase Theorem holds that IF property rights are upheld and IF transaction costs are very low to nonexistent, then over time negative externalities will get sorted out in the most socially optimal way without any government intervention other than the enforcement of property rights. In practice, of course, transaction costs aren’t nonexistent and it can take a loooong time for these negative externalities to get sorted out on their own, so governments always get involved to defray transaction costs, impose penalties for non-compliance, and fix quotas/prices. They are, of course, lobbied constantly and successfully over this process, and that’s how we end up with a government-sanctioned and oligarchy-established set of rules that bears zero resemblance to anything Ronald Coase ever conceived.
The crucial victory for incumbent corporate oligarchs in these faux-Coase Theorem, “Yay, Free Markets!” speculation layers isn’t in the details of an easy-to-achieve pollution quota or a sweet “adjustment subsidy” from the government. That’s all well and good, and that’s why lobbyists get the big bucks, but it’s not the big prize. The structural protocol element that makes these pollution markets so successful for status quo corporations and so terrible for the rest of us is the conflation of a market in positive externalities with a market in negative externalities.
As soon as you allow owners of negative externalities like power plants to purchase pollution “offsets” from owners of positive externalities like forests, then the whole structure stops working for society (and starts working for the oligarch owners of the power plants and forests).
It seems so natural to marry the two, right? Of course there should be trades between the polluters and the un-polluters. How else are you going to incentivize the good guys to build new un-polluting resources if you don’t allow the bad guys to pay them?
In truth, it’s not natural at all. In truth, fewer un-polluting resources are built when negative and positive externality markets are mixed. In truth, it’s an intentional structural flaw introduced by the polluters’ lobbyists to reduce the cost and burden of the game for them, and it works because no one – particularly not the politicians who establish the formal protocol – takes a hard look past the “Yay, Free Markets!” narrative provided by the lobbyists and considers what an externality IS.
An externality is not the thing. An externality is not the goal of the behavior. Yes, it happens as part of the behavior. Yes, it happens because of the behavior. But an externality happens regardless of the goals of the behavior.
CO2 emissions from a power plant are an externality, in this case a negative externality. The power plant doesn’t want to spew CO2 into the air. It’s not a goal of the power plant owner. Ditto CO2 sequestration from a vast forest somewhere. This is also an externality, in this case a positive externality. The owner of the forest is perfectly happy, I’m sure, that the trees are sucking CO2 out of the air, but this occurs regardless of the owner’s reasons for owning that forest land in the first place. Positive externalities do not provide any new marginal “offset” for matching negative externalities. Positive externalities are going to occur regardless of whether or not there’s a “market” for negative externality owners to buy those offsets. The existence of this “market” is a windfall revenue source for the forest landowner and an enormous cost savings for the power plant owner, and because the symbolic CO2 emission quotas in the speculation layer are met, everyone can say “Yay, Markets!” and “Yay, Environment!”.
But there is no real-world net reduction in CO2 emissions.
On the other hand, CO2 reduction from a company that built some new technology or process for this very purpose, or that plants trees for no other reason than to suck CO2 out of the air, well … this is NOT an externality. The goal of this company’s behavior is to reduce carbon emissions, and to the degree they realize their goals by selling their product or service to the polluters, there will in fact be a real-world net reduction in CO2 emissions. But so long as their positive-but-not-an-externality CO2-reducing product or service is lumped in with all the positive externalities that reduce CO2 anyway, the supply of “offset” symbols within the speculation layer is artificially inflated and the price of “offset” symbols is artificially suppressed.
As a result, the positive-but-not-an-externality CO2-reducing companies have less than zero pricing power and are squeezed mercilessly by the oligarch polluters AND the oligarch forest owners.
As a result, we get a lot less real-world reduction in CO2 emissions than we think.
All because of the set of rules governing this speculation layer. All because the protocol was written by the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy in service to their interests and not ours.
This is not an unknown problem. Everyone involved in carbon credit markets understands that a large share of the actual money that changes hands within this speculation layer, in many circumstances the overwhelmingly large share of the actual money that changes hands, is going to the positive externality CO2 reducers instead of the positive-but-not-an-externality CO2 reducers. Everyone involved in carbon credit markets understands that the real-world reduction in CO2 emissions are a fraction of the symbolic reduction in CO2 emissions within the speculation layer. And so a range of administrative “solutions” have been proposed to address the problem (hey, I know, let’s establish a government-sanctioned standards-setting organization to evaluate all this! Then we can give tax dollars and tax breaks to the companies that make this green nomenklatura list!), but none of them have made a dent in this cozy system designed by the oligarch polluters and the oligarch forest owners.
I think that’s because all of these administrative solutions are … administrative solutions. I think that’s because all of these solutions get farther and father away from the Coase Theorem and closer and closer to Five Year Plans and MiniPlenty. I think that’s because all of these solutions are built on top of a fundamentally flawed protocol.
So here’s how we fix it.
The Green Protocol
The Green Protocol is a NEW set of fundamental rules for thinking about carbon capture and every other market-based system established to support social good.
But this is crazy, Ben. You can’t change the rules in the middle of the game, not for something as big as carbon capture and the way we think about reversing climate change.
Sure you can.
In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee published the first version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), arguably the central building block of what was then called the World Wide Web. This protocol was not set in stone. Over the next five or six years, that core protocol was revised multiple times until it was effectively standardized. In fact, almost every protocol associated with the internet was developed and redeveloped and standardized from 1991 to 1997. Like the internet in 1991, the speculation layer in 2021 is just getting started. Its protocols aren’t set in stone, either.
I believe that 2021 is to the speculation layer what 1991 was to the internet layer – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence the operating system of a global network that will shape human society for centuries.
I’m not throwin’ away my shot.
The Green Protocol is a set of rules for decentralized financing of:
1) the organization of social good (projects-of-good, or POGs),
2) the objects of social good (tokens-of-good, or TOGs), and
3) the outputs of social good (coins-of-good, or COGs).
Structural Elements of the Green Protocol
The POGs set the goal and administer the project.
Plant one billion trees in North America in ten years.
The TOGs are the non-fungible, unique tokens that represent the non-fungible, unique objects that accomplish social good.
Plant a tree and you will receive an NFT Tree TOG.
The COGs are the fungible, non-unique coins that represent the fungible, non-unique outputs of the objects that are accomplishing social good.
Each NFT Tree TOG yields New Carbon Capture coins and other related coins.
The speculative markets in TOGs and COGs will directly spur more human work and effort to plant more trees that do that good thing.
Structural Element #1: the One Billion Trees project is a POG – a project-of-good.
You are welcome to join this POG. I hope you will! You may come up with your own POG. I hope you do that, too! Maybe you want to encourage the reintroduction of bowling leagues across the country (and if you’re read Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, you know how valuable that might be). Maybe you want to develop a new device that captures carbon in a novel fashion. The potential range for projects-of-good is limitless. Anything that helps people to Make / Protect / Teach can be a POG.
What does it mean to Make? It means you are an inventor. A manufacturer. An artist. A craftsman. A kid at a Maker Fair. A farmer. An engineer. A home builder. A coder. It’s the creation of some THING through the application of some creative IDEA.
What does it mean to Protect? It means you are a soldier. A policeman. A fireman. An EMT. A nurse. A doctor. It’s a Neighborhood Watch. It’s a mechanic fixing a car. It’s also a unionization drive. It’s also a fiduciary managing a portfolio.
What does it mean to Teach? It means you are a teacher, of course. Or a writer. Or a researcher. Or a priest. Or a home-schooling mom. Or a Little League coach. It means you’ve got something to say to your Pack, and you’ve got the guts to say it.
What is NOT Make / Protect / Teach? Basically, if you are in the business of money or in the business of business, then it is unlikely (not impossible, but unlikely) that you are a Maker or a Protector or a Teacher in your day job. Almost all of banking is out. Corporate lawyering. Consulting. Trading. Sales and Marketing. Out. Out. Out. Out. There are no hard and fast rules here, and I mean to be more inclusive than not. But I think you understand the distinction. And yes, I realize that the vast majority of people reading this note would not be practitioners of Make / Protect / Teach, at least not in their day job.
But Make / Protect / Teach doesn’t have to be your day job. It just has to be your identity. It just has to be the story you tell yourself about who you are.
Make / Protect / Teach is a social movement for people who are IN the world-as-it-is but not OF the world-as-it-is. Your success IN the world, financial or otherwise, is neither laudable or damning. It just is. Your success IN the world, financial or otherwise, does not DEFINE you. Unless you let it.
Don’t let it. Find your pack. Find your project(s)-of-good. Find your identity in making, protecting and teaching, and watch how your world changes for the better!
To support the Green Protocol on a POG and channel the speculation layer in support of the POG’s goals, we need to create a comprehensive database that knows everything there is to know about:
1) the objects of the POG (the unique, non-fungible, real-world things that create the social good you want to achieve), and
2) the outputs of the POG (the non-unique, fungible, real-world manifestations of the social good you want to achieve).
In the case of the One Billion Trees POG, that’s a geographic grid of all of North America at the highest possible GPS resolution, and structural plant data to drive a recognition software app. There’s more detail on this protocol set-up stage in Proof of Plant: A New Vision for Crypto, Pt. 1, so I won’t repeat all that here. Suffice it to say that this an extremely large database! But it’s only that … extremely large … not extremely complex.
It’s important to note here that the Green Protocol requires unique geographical markers that allow the adjudication of property rights. As a result, the Green Protocol is NOT a trustless or censorship instantiation of a distributed ledger. The Green Protocol is NOT like Bitcoin. The Green Protocol IS subject to whatever laws your nation or legal jurisdiction applies to property rights. If you steal or cheat within the Green Protocol, you ARE liable to prosecution and the ledger MAY be censored or edited to eliminate your tokens. Why is it so important to enforce property rights that are external to the ledger within the ledger? Because THAT is the key to the Coase Theorem – upholding property rights. Because THIS is how we apply the Coase Theorem to create a true free market in positive externalities from the bottom-up and not the top-down.
Participation in the One Billions Trees POG is simple. Use the app to take a before and after picture of the planted tree. We know the specific GPS location of the planting and we can determine the species, age and condition of the tree from the photograph.
And that’s when the fun begins.
Structural Element #2: every tree that is planted in the One Billion Trees POG generates a unique TOG – a token-of-good.
These are non-fungible tokens, unique representations of the unique human effort that went into the proven execution of this project-of-good in its specific and unique instantiation – a living, growing tree planted in a space that did not have a living, growing tree before.
Ultimately, there will be a billion NFT Tree TOGs issued within the One Billion Trees POG, each with a unique set of attributes as shown below. Some of the Tree TOG attributes will relate to the tree itself, others will relate to the creation and validation of the token, others will relate to the yields that this specific tree will produce, and still more will relate to the transaction history of this particular NFT.
Each Tree TOG will be issued to the planter of the tree. For free. The work of planting the tree is what generates the token. Plant a tree, get your efforts validated, and you receive a Tree TOG. You can keep the Tree TOG. You can sell the Tree TOG. It’s yours to do with as you wish, free and clear.
You don’t get a Tree TOG for an existing tree. You only get a Tree TOG for planting a new tree. And once you’ve planted a living, growing tree in some space that did not have a living, growing tree before, you can’t get another Tree TOG in that same space. Paper companies can’t game this system by planting trees, getting Tree TOGs, harvesting the trees some years later, planting new trees in the same space, and getting another set of Tree TOGs. You can keep the yields going with a replacement tree, but you can only plant a new tree once!
The Tree TOG has absolutely zero claim on the tree or the space in which it is planted. There are no cash flows here, no ownership of anything real here. The Tree TOG exists purely within the speculation layer of virtual reality. What is the intrinsic value of a token in the Green Protocol? Zero.
But it is unique in all the world.
And it is an honest and trustworthy representation of the honest and trustworthy planting of that specific tree in that specific space that did not have a tree before.
The value of these tokens is found in their reflection of your affective attachment to the proven human effort that went into the cultivation of a positive social good. Their value is not found in the thing. Their value is found in your positive attachment to what comes from the thing. Their value is an externality.
The Tree TOG is good art.
I think that will give these Tree TOGs a lot of value to those of us who care about planting new trees, and it is just and proper that this value will accrue initially to whoever put in the actual work to plant that actual tree. Over time, I’d expect a vibrant NFT market to exist around these Tree TOGs, particularly those that have the most narrative-attractive attributes and the strongest set of yields in this virtual speculation layer.
Now about those yields.
Structural Element #3: every good thing that a new tree does in the world is a yield, and each yield can be measured and paid out by a COG – a coin-of-good.
Trees do lots of good things! But one thing that all trees do is capture carbon, so that’s our first example of a coin-of-good: the New Carbon Capture COG.
(to be clear, the word “New” doesn’t refer to the freshly minted nature of the COG, but to the coin’s representation of incremental carbon capture that did not exist in the world before; the goodness of the coin-of-good is precisely that we are rewarding the effort to create NEW output of a social good.)
All trees capture carbon, yes, but some tree species capture more than other tree species. A mature tree with lots of leaves captures more carbon than a young tree with fewer leaves. Still, if you know a tree’s species, age, location and condition – which we do from the initial Tree TOG registration – you can predict how much carbon it will capture over a year.
That predicted amount of carbon capture is associated with the unique Tree TOG of that unique tree in the form of a carbon capture yield, and – when validated – that yield is paid in the form of New Carbon Capture COGs to the owner of that NFT Tree TOG.
Every year – when validated – that living, growing tree will pay out a little more in New Carbon Capture COGs to the owner of the NFT Tree TOG that represents that living, growing tree, because every year that tree matures a little more and captures more carbon from the air.
The validator will receive some New Carbon Capture COGs, too. So will the original planter of the tree. So will the administrator of the POG. So will the administrator of the NFT TOG market and the COGs liquidity pools.
What is the validation process? It’s an updated photo of the tree using the validation app, so that we can confirm that the tree is still alive and recalibrate the yields. Without a validation, there are no yields paid out on the Tree TOG. It’s like a non-performing bond. But like a non-performing bond that is made good, validation at any point unlocks all of the accrued yields, creating really interesting opportunities for both fundamental research and raw speculation within both the NFT Tree TOG market and the associated COGs market.
There are a lot of associated COGs for every tree, but not every tree will share the same associated COGs. This, too, creates really interesting opportunities for fundamental research and raw speculation within the TOGs and COGs markets.
For example, not all trees are planted on the banks of rivers or other places where they can prevent soil runoff or erosion. But some are, and if you know a tree’s location and age and condition – which we do from the initial Tree TOG registration and subsequent validations – you can predict how much runoff it can prevent in a year. Those Tree TOGs that are associated with a real tree that prevents soil runoff will have a soil runoff prevention yield payable in the form of New Runoff Prevention COGs.
If you care a lot about soil runoff and erosion you’ll probably want to buy the Tree TOGs with that particular yield. You’ll probably want to trade those New Runoff Prevention COGs.
Or maybe you care a lot about getting chestnut trees replanted in North America. There’s a COG for that.
Or maybe you care a lot about planting new trees in densely populated urban areas. There’s a COG for that.
There is a potential COG for anything good that a new tree does in the world, and the speculative market in that COG will directly spur more human work and effort to plant more trees that do that good thing.
There is a potential NFT Tree TOG portfolio for anything good that a new tree does in the world, and the speculative market in those NFT Tree TOG portfolios will directly spur more human work and effort to plant more trees that do that good thing.
One more structural point.
Trees are not the only things that capture carbon. I can think of dozens of projects-of-good completely separate from the One Billion Trees POG that would also make or build or grow things that would capture incremental carbon from the atmosphere. Each of these POGs would also generate New Carbon Capture COGs as the yield from their associated NFT TOGs and would also spur the speculative market in New Carbon Capture COGs.
There is a one-to-many relationship between TOGs and COGs, and there is a many-to-one relationship between POGs and COGs.
The result is a robust, self-reinforcing protocol for the decentralized financing of the organization of social good (POGs), the objects of social good (TOGs), and the outputs of social good (COGs).
Any social good. Whatever social good means to you.
One Billion Trees is just the beginning.
I started this note by talking about how the speculation layer makes us small, about how it turns us into addicts within the dopamine economy.
The Green Protocol can make us large again.
Not by fighting the Nudging State and Nudging Oligarchy head-on, but by turning their oozing, pernicious, addictive, ubiquitous speculation layer against them from the inside-out.
From the bottom-up.
So, yes, One Billion Trees is just the beginning.
But what a beginning!
PDF download: The Green Protocol
This is such an improvement over the current nebulous corporate displays of environmental-mindedness. I’m imagining Exxon-Mobil showing off its TOGs and me actually being impressed since I can compare that to other companies’ TOGs.
Flexing by showing off your TOGs > flexing by showing off your CryptoPunk (hopefully soon).
It is an impressive and thought provoking vision.
Has me thinking about a POG I’m involved with and if this is feasible for it
Thank you Ben
Very exciting stuff! Let me know if you need any beta users.
Outstanding work, Ben. In the blockchain space, you have produced what’s called the “white paper” for this project, or something close to it.
Do you have the technical competence to pull this off? The most important part of this is the “community” of developers you can attract to the project. (BTW - as you probably know, “community” is a defined term in the blockchain space where you will hear the following narrative: “…a vibrant developer community is essential to the success of an early-stage token project.”) It would be very helpful to be able to recruit an industry heavyweight who wants to put part of their efforts into this sort of a project.
Blockchain coders are in high demand right now–but I think your pitch will appeal to a certain number of them for obvious reasons. The thing is, you have to be in the flow, in the blockchain space, so you will have to find developers and coders who are already in the flow. Unless you are familiar with the various puzzle pieces, it’s easy to lose your way. Most protocols have distinct flaws as they trade off among speed, scale, and security. You can have 2 out of the 3, but not all three (yet). But you undoubtedly already know this stuff, having come up with this elegant approach.
The semi-centralized aspect of your protocol to remove certain blocks for certain reasons can be accomplished technically, but the rules and methods for detection and enforcement are going to be a bit more difficult if any discretion is involved. While there are plenty of examples of blockchains that aren’t Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, many (maybe even most?) developers like the DAO model pretty strongly. Among many of the more passionate (and relatively high-profile) in the space, the concept of coding, testing, building a community (i.e. a network), and then essentially walking away is as much a part of the blockchain ethos as are certain libertarian ideals.
But not all crypto-enthusiasts are wild-eyed libertarians. And they all do want to disrupt the existing power structures–first in finance, later in other protocols that disintermediate. They are being co-opted, though, which is one reason your Green Protocol strategy might be able to attract the coder equivalent of an ACLU attorney.
Anyway, fascinating approach, thanks.
One project I’m involved with, Helium, does not have a DAO but instead currently has a corporation which has a percentage of the returns guaranteed to it “by the blockchain”.
It’s still heavily centralized in that Helium Inc controls all of the code going into miners and validators, it picks it’s oracles who are providing USD/HNT data for it’s two token system of Helium/Data Credits which are it’s “stablecoin” like peg of bytes transferred for client devices to USD.
Generally it’s project’s users are not opposed to this level of centralization at the moment, but it did move it’s entire token generation model from a (imo) more sensible fixed inflation system to a “capped” system so that it could be more like “bitcoin”, so that the project could attract more capital. That was something which turned me off and where the lack of a real vote was really felt.
This is a really great read. Almost lost me at the beginning, but by the end I was fully into it. Love the idea and very interested in participating going forward.
One of the first thoughts I had after reaching the end was wanting to make a plan with my kids to plant a tree and show them how we can use the app to provide progress on it. Start small and grow it from there - one tree at a time. I think that would be a great way to help pass on some of my values and let them watch how it progresses.
I love this concept.
What about some mechanism for maintaining existing trees too? Might that be a separate POG? I am thinking of ways to disincentivize planting a bunch of trees, capturing the TOGs, then cutting them down and building a subdivision.
I’ll have to put aside some time to read your entire post, but I want to point you towards Project Drawdown which is a research-based effort to prioritize existing methods for getting to the theoretical future point of drawdown, or when the emissions curve reverses its trajectory and starts going down for good. There is a big debate in sustainability and cleantech circles whether we have to spend enormous amounts money on R&D to solve this (all about the flow!) or if really we just need to spend our resources deploying existing and proven tech like wind, solar, and EVs. I think we must do both but there are pretty good arguments to be made about the profit motives of those who only advocate R&D and future tech.
E.g. this opinion piece in Scientific American about how Bill Gates should STFU about how he thinks Africans should plan their food system, the outcome of which has important consequences for those people and our shared planet. Food for thought of what kind of system you are motivated to build, or perpetuate.
I thought about this too. In addition to the plant a billion new trees POG there should be a keep existing trees POG. I would think that the annual validation system for the TOG and COG’s would solve the subdivision problem as their TOG might exist for the year but once the subdivision goes up, at the next validation point the TOG would be removed or inert or canceled etc.
Great post, @twclix … thank you! To your question “do you have the technical competence to pull this off?”, the answer is definitely NO! I’m a coder and I’ve founded a successful software company, but I’m late to the crypto game and have different skill sets than I did 15-20 years ago. So as you suggest I’ll need to enlist/recruit both a core and peripheral community to help put this together.
I’m definitely a believer in the DAO way, but I don’t think it works for the Green Protocol. My strong sense is that to solve this puzzle of positive externalities using the Coase Theorem, there must be a preservation of property rights, which requires an adjudication and censorship function, which in turn requires a relatively high degree of centralization … at least on those functions. In other words, I can see the validation functions being perfectly decentralized, but I don’t think the embedded contracts here can be fully autonomous. My hope, though, is that even the most fervent DAO-enthusiast will recognize that implementing the (very) libertarian-minded Coase Theorem is just a different way of solving for a shared decentralized goal!
Thanks for this post, @Anaplian, very instructive! I agree with you on the downside to a capped supply just for being more “Bitcoin-esque”. That’s an important feature for the goals of Bitcoin, but makes zero sense for the goals of the One Billion Trees project.
Great to have you on board with the One Billion Trees project, @Khines327! Love the idea of incorporating progress-tracking for the newly planted trees. Would be easy to attach to the NFT Tree TOG.
Thanks for the post and reply, @bdiggity24 and @jtpocean. to your points: yes and yes!
Yes, there can definitely be a POG for existing trees, although I think it will be much more difficult to get the speculation layer up and running for this. Just too much supply.
Yes, there’s a mechanism in place for cutting down a tree for which an NFT Tree TOG has been issued … 1) the value of that “inert” TOG will plummet, and 2) no more yields on that TOG. I think this will mean that the initial value of TOGs representing the new trees planted by good stewards, like your local high school, will be valued much more highly than the TOGs representing the new trees planted by paper companies.
The protocol seems straightforward enough when viewed through a home owner/land owner lens. However, in my mind it gets a little more fuzzy when viewed through a renter’s lens. As a renter, I lease my land/space from my landlord and they have no issue with me planting things in a planter or pot (usually). Do I get a TOG for this? Is the One billion trees solely focused on trees (as the name states) or would it encompass all plant life? Would I need to create a new POG for other species besides trees?
Assuming I have the space/land in my rental unit to plant a tree, who does the TOG belong to? If it is in the physical ground then it would make sense for it to be the landlord as it is their land but I am renting it so do I get the TOG and associated COGS while I am renting and then they drop off once I move or does the landlord accrue all the TOG and COGs despite my effort in planting and maintaining? Would that need to be adjudicated through the lease? Handshake deals? Or do we leave it to the courts to decide? As with all things rental related, there is the proper legal way and then what the landlord and renter allow for.
If it is in a pot on my balcony do I get the TOG or does it accrue to the owner of the building? What happens when I move and take my potted tree with me? Can a new renter now put their pot into the same spot?
Like I said, the green protocol’s ownership and property rights make sense when viewed through a landowner’s perspective but they appear muddied and less thought out when viewed from a transitory or rental perspective. And considering a large share of the population rents, it might not be a great way forward to prevent them from easily participating.
Ben, In thinking more about this, I think you need to standardize things a bit better at least at the outset. Walk before you run, For example, perhaps you can select a single species of tree, and work with multiple suppliers to sell seedlings. The provenance of the seedling can then be established immediately using a bar code or QR code. That can be integrated as an on-ramp to the main chain, and an NFT can be established at the point of sale.
I would consult with a timber specialist to find out the right way to do this. I might be able to put you into contact with a timber manager who would know all about this topic. They are the real assets team from an Ivy university that spun out a few years ago. They are one of the leading global experts on trees and certain other orchard crops.
Ideally, the suppliers would buy into the program and you cold integrate them each as an on-ramp. Multiple suppliers, maybe for multiple species? I would think you would want faster growing, very hardy species that would be likely to survive in multiple conditions.
But standardization and simplicity should be the first things you do. I can tell you from hard entrepreneurial experience that gaining the initial momentum, even for the obvious, is always challenging.
This sounds sensible, but monoculture in crops or forests is its own form of environmental degradation. Sure, it’s probably the most “efficient” way to capture carbon, but why not restore habitat and build a resilient forest? That means planting a variety of locally adapted species that provide mutual support for each other and wildlife. One other way to capture carbon, and reduce its future production, is to not replace many of the almost 8 billion people on the planet. Perhaps we can make the new forests places of internment. That might keep them from being bulldozed, too.
@bdiggity24 When someone chooses to plant a tree, and documents it as the article states, that generates the POG. That makes perfect sense. When someone cuts down that tree, it seems that it might convert from a POG to a TOG/COG; after all, it’s a bundle of sequestered carbon.
That bundle of sequestered carbon certainly has value, and in a different way from the growing tree. And that bundle of sequestered carbon can be gainfully used in a number of ways:
Pelletized and then shipped to Europe to be burned in a pellet stove, it provides useful work to a number of people/industries along the way, as well as providing heat/energy to the end user. And that process comes with a number of externalities that impact the value of that token.
Milled into lumber and used to build a habitat (whether for humanity, another person, or a raccoon). There’s a positive value to having that sequestered carbon remain in sequestration as part of a “permanent” edifice. And as before, there are a number of externalities that modify the value of the original POG (energy costs of the process, useful work performed by others along the way).
Buried deep in the earth. Once that dollop of carbon is captured, it runs the risk of prematurely being converted back to carbon through fire. If cut, and buried in a trench with thousands of other trees, then the soil tilled, there’s still been a successful sequestration and there seems to be value to having done that. Sure, burying organic material not a geologic depth means the carbon will slowly escape to the atmosphere, perhaps as methane or some other greenhouse gas, but it’s been safeguarded from immediate loss. And new trees can be planted atop that tilled land, or turned into cropland.
There are a myriad of ways that the initial value of that tree can be converted into something of greater value. It’s that miasma of outcomes and the challenge of valuation that stumps (pun intended) me.
Cheers - Jon
Definitely true. That initial kernel is needed to build a functional system around, and then afterward you can build in more business logic and/or add more products (trees, or whatever) but it will never makes sense to skip that initial step to achieving an early proof of concept. Also, it would be very challenging to build a liquid market for the COG until the system (and the POGs of good that it drives) reaches the scale and breadth to support the PR and promo campaigns that would be needed to establish and sustain investor interest in the COG.
It will take considerable time to complete those steps along the path to a dynamic system and a liquid market for the COG. During that time, the NFT market as well as the related technology, will also evolve. The system architecture and development plans should have enough flexibility built in to effectively adapt to that, particularly during the early years.
The biggest risk, imo, is that the COG do not offer investors enough utility (either/or/and investment returns, feel-good vibes, or personal entertainment) and thinking that part through at the outset will be a critical challenge to the system’s ultimate success.
I also believe there’s a non-trivial chance that The Nature Conservancy or some similar ENGO could and would pervert/racoonize this concept the minute it showed signs of becoming successful, and we could expect that others would try and replicate the model and offer other versions of COG for whatever they and others consider “good”. The potential for these and other responses from the marketplace are sources of risk and uncertainty that do exist but will be hard to evaluate and plan for during the early stages of this project.
As I read the note I couldn’t help but think to negative externalities we have introduced to our lands, specific to me is the invasive honey suckle surrounding my property. It would be interesting to include a COG for the reduction of an invasive species with the TOG’s and COG’s of planting of a native tree. Somehow the app has to consider what is native and good for the land and avoid benefiting people for planting Bradford pears that would do more harm than good to native species.
Count me in as well. Manipulating the ‘current’ by guiding it in a societal and environmental positive flow? Yes, indeed.
Creating a POG around invasive species is a really good idea, @Trey!
The land itself must be of a good enough grade to support forestry. Changing the use from grazing or corn to long term forestry is a difficult decision for a farmer or land manager to contemplate.
To plant young trees (whips) at scale, bare root is an economic reality. For a good survival rate they must be carefully hand planted with compost and watered in.
The next and continuous issues are weed competition and foraging deer.
Thank you, @Phyllis. Some very interesting ideas in there that resonated with my more systems oriented mind.
His critical point that optimizing for number of trees is a good sound bite but not systemically healthy is very thought provoking. Additionally his observations about the actual effectiveness of carbon reduction through planting are also very provocative.
Ben, I am curious what you think of “Terraformation”? Full disclosure: I am joining its current crowdfunding campaign myself. Terraformation gets $30M to fight climate change with rapid reforesting – TechCrunch
You may want to team up with William Gates and Klaus from the WEF. Aren’t they also in favour of limiting people as a way of making things better for Mother Earth?
You can measure and track change in the nutrient profile of soils, and biodiversity in the soils’ microbiome profiles as indicators of success in restoring a forest composed of the species that will work best for the land and natural wildlife that lives in or migrates through the area. Monitoring rates of wildlife recover also can provide another logical metric for evaluation. If would be possible to include such measures as part of an evaluation and scoring system regarding “tree planting initiatives”, and monocroping of trees would likely perform poorly compared to areas planted with their indigenous species. Forest planted with their indigenous species should achieve greater wildlife restoration as well as more efficient natural regeneration over time. The hardest part is competing with the racoons capitalizing on the popular misconceptions that planting a whole bunch of trees is “good”. A major question of interest concerning Green Protocol - How do we know or how can we proclaim any project to be “good”? A robust approach may be needed to assess and challenge claims of goodness in a way that places all the information on the table for all to see, which should limit or reduce the racoon effect,
The following article describes the application of NFT that’s much closer to what I had in mind before Ben introduced Proof of Plant. This seems worth including in our thoughts - there is a real-world profit-seeking business, DC Comics, using NFT to create a virtual community of NFT-holders and plant the seed (pun unintended) for what could become the narrative-driven trading of the NFT in a way that should help to drive awareness of DC Comics products and strengthen the loyalty of DC Comics fans. It is also quite possible that DC Comics can in the future earn money from facilitating trades of the NFT, but who knows what the future will bring in that regard…
Here is a quote from and link to the article. Discussion welcome.
“The NFTs are digital versions of the covers of iconic comic books. Every fan who registers for the event will be rewarded with an NFT from the collection for free. A second NFT can be won by sharing the NFT and event information on social media, helping DC to promote the webcast.”
I have this feeling of frustration, like I’m a border guard with people on both sides needing what the other side has to offer. But I’m expected to follow directives from bureaucrats far away not seeing how obvious the needs and the policy solutions are. Actually they probably do, but the media drones overhead make it SO easy to co-opt for rallying your side using the EXACT… SAME… VIDEO… as the other side, just with different narration.
And I’m seeing both sides focus on the counter-narrative and How The Other Side Clearly Looks Like the Enemy while missing the obvious win-win. So here’s my strained attempt to communicate to this side of the fence, where I most often reside, from the other side, where I am happier to identify. I do believe this side is best equipped to adjust and not be mistaken as the racoons we might look like, but aren’t. The other side doesn’t rail against cartoon Musk Environmental Activist™ like this side calls out all sorts of BS in our industry. The other side is focused on their frustration from stepping on the wrong dirt (I’ll get to it), and on teaching future generations to respect, protect, and enjoy nature. How do I know? Well, that’s my childhood. And it’s RIGHT NOW in my family legacy.
So this IS about nature, the environment, and Ben’s green protocol. Let’s assume that a collective reawakening to the awe inspiring beauty and wonder of nature is already baked in given how many kids have been denied active outdoor experiences the past few years. They should have an unquenchable thirst for outdoors, space, and freedom of movement. And they will care about the environment. So we just need to make sure it isn’t destroyed in the next 15 years before they have enough influence to alter social norms.
And I will share about another Ben crossing boundaries, risking his own social acceptance in a small town to clean up a tributary to the Mississippi River. And his wife, Heather.
Heather Hucka is my nationally renowned naturalist cousin- I’ll skip the professional awards, your kids will LOVE her What Would Heather Do? YouTube series…
…well, this week she’s leaving her DREAM job at Story County Conservation Board, an amazing and passionate team of 20+, and unlimited resources from Iowa State. She’s taking a job in northern Iowa-- doing the same job but with 1 part-time assistant and no large university. They will be moving with their two daughters to THE family woods, Meri Go Mish, a certified tree farm. Our grandparents created it from a rocky cow pasture.
Why would she do it?
But it’s so much more than a beautiful, serene place. It is the embodiment of our family legacy…
of planting trees…
and teaching about their value, and appreciating, and stewarding nature.
When our grandparents bought fifty years ago it was an almost bare cow pasture.
Hooked yet @bhunt? Anyone else wondering if he’s as fallible to a good confirmation bias as the rest of us?
As kids, we moved around A LOT. Between 3rd grade and 8th grade, my family moved from Indiana to Georgia, to Texas, to Pennsylvania and back to Indiana. Most places we lived in apartment while looking for a house. Five moves in five years. Heather’s family moved just as much, but further (CA, NE, Okinawa, NM, OH - Air Force bases). For us four grandchildren, Meri Go Mish was (and is) our actual home. That’s where we had identity and stability. And it was ours. We knew that no matter where we could live next year, come summer, for a few months we would be at home…
We played, explored, canoed the Shell Rock river (a secondary tributary to the Mississippi), camped, assisted the dog defending grandma’s garden, experimented in the wood shop often unsupervised (thankfully all 40 digits in tact, even though grandpa shortened a few of his over the years).
If I wasn’t around to intervene when Heather was getting picked on by her older brother (right) and my younger brother (left), she would escape to a hidden cave that only grandma, the bugs, spiders, and snakes knew about. She still loves sitting in it.
Plenty more I could share. It’s hard to avoid because it is still such a big part of my identity.
Damn Aaron, get to it!!
I frankly don’t know how to shortcut the the planting of the trees from my identity. Maybe it’s because of this year especially. Not because of Heather moving, but because my middle daughter is in college in Colorado solely focused on becoming Heather.
Emily catching up with Heather’s Iowan teens in Indy on the way to backpack the Smokies because a spot was open. Afterwards she said, "That’s exactly what I want to do!
And she’s LOVING it. Being the only swimmer / lifeguard means you get the fun of playing the rapids ‘victim’ over and over according to the prof. For an Indiana kid who loves water, nothing better.
Em was screaming giddy when I called to let her know that HEATHER called to invite our family to HER woods for Thanksgiving this year. We go every year. But always to Heather’s parents woods. Now it’s HEATHER"S WOODS!!
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert arborist as the trees in my yard would prove. So don’t ask.
Alright!!! I’m really Sorry!! You were forewarned and could have skipped.
The woods is near the small town of Nora Springs in northern Iowa. Nora happens to have a sizeable foundation relative to population (2019 990 > $22 million)… Digging into the 990, there’s not enough grant requests to keep up with that spending policy. Not enough students going to college. Funds are going to neighboring communities. Makes sense when an upgrade to the community pool elicited widespread outrage at the waste.
But waste from the back side, well the town’s frugality got them in trouble. And now it’s costing them dearly. For decades Nora ignored mandates to upgrade their circa 1950s wastewater treatment plant. Regular DNR water samples showed that half treated water was flowing towards the Mississippi. Iowa DNR finally sued the town, forcing them to build a facility that can process 1.5 mm gallons per day. The average person uses 50-70 gpd. That means less than 10% of capacity will be used… ever.
So the DNR made an example of them. Now the entire town is fuming over the massive sewer taxes they are being charged.
You know who needs lots of sewer capacity, and is happy to pay for it? … RV campgrounds
Doesn’t require cap ex like a hotel (that would flop in Nora anyway with neighboring towns having plenty). A campground doesn’t attract permanent residents, just as Nora residents would prefer. Come winter they’ll be gone. But in the summer, feel free to support the economy if you mostly stay in your corner.
Here in Elkhart, two of Heather’s cousins happen to have a few connections related to RVs. Like all of them.
Oh and Ben? Ben works for the DNR. Guess who the DNR charged with driving 2 hours to Nora to sample water quality? That makes for a fun visit to the in-laws and around town. No doubt EVERYBODY knows Ben. And knows about Ben. And some probably even watch for his truck by the river and call neighbors. “And now he has the nerve to move here Janet! But not in town where he would also have to pay those ridiculous sewer bills. Out in the country with a septic system. How do we know their septic isn’t also running into their creek to the river? His in-laws should make him pay their sewer bill now that they’re moving into town.” --That’s going to be Ben’s life, probably for the rest of his life. Or at least until people don’t have obscene sewer bills.
Ben is also monitoring water quality from newly built sediment containment ponds–including feeding the creek in the woods. The creek that will be HIS creek in a few weeks.
Between the woods, a railroad track, and the river, and town is 272 acres (highlighted in yellow). 153 of that is currently farmed in parcels attached to bigger fields west of the train track. The weekly train requires farmers to drive all the way around to get to their small fields to the east.
The north / south road is gravel. Pretty easy to run water and sewer. And frankly, if the town wasn’t so short-sighted, they would annex to the highway interchange (just out of view to the west at the bottom) and run services in case someone decides to develop. The highway is relatively new. Unfortunately for Meri Go Mish it brought unwelcome noise along with an hour shorter drive and easy access. The Avenue of the Saints connects St. Louis and St. Paul. Importantly, the woods is now a little over 5 hours from western Chicago suburbs.
You know what else a campground / RV park needs? Bandwidth.
Sure we want to get out in nature. But this group appreciates that sometimes there’s an emergency that requires good bandwidth - like Friday office hours or a Fed meeting, or kids, LOL. The woods has 2 dedicated fiber strands, according to my brother who has a fiber business with Bain, there’s enough capacity for a small data center. Shocking how little that cost to install. Or I mean how much was funded by tax dollars. Rural kids with no internet are falling behind!
So what’s missing here?
More nature. And people to enjoy it. And kids to learn about it and explore it. And Heather, who will be busy and stressed trying to recreate the programs she had before with far less resources.
What’s the limitation? I really don’t think there is a real one. Just the narratives everyone (including Heather) is listening to. Maybe a little bit of timing. But mostly narrative.
I’m guessing that most of you see the low-risk opportunity. So much lower than other opportunities many of us have taken at times. Even in the worst case, it seems to solve more problems than it could cause, especially if mostly funded by the foundation.
Since the foundation needs grants, it’s reasonable to expect a majority contribution of the funds to 1) acquire the half farmable but not convenient land, 2) to turn it back to nature, 3) build foot bridges and paths, bathrooms, handicap accessible paths, and more. Rumor has it, an influencer naturalist is moving in next door who might prefer to teach about nature rather than take on bureaucratic challenges, writing grants, begging for funding, etc. There’s a lot of land that farm owners would likely LOVE to diversify into a campground for a portion of ownership and no responsibility.
Oh, and there’s trails north and south along the river in other counties. In the summer they are horse trails, and snowmobile trails in the winter. Have you heard about this equi-tourism fad? Rich people take horses all over the country to ride them in various places. Heather was bribed with a horse when her parents moved to Nora from Ohio while she was in high school. Another lay up.
And there’s an RV dealer in town that really needs to move out by the bigger highway.
I absolutely adore my cousin Heather. And bringing any of this up just overwhelmed her, and added to the pressure she was putting on herself in deciding take over the woods and be responsible for the family legacy. This isn’t a family farm you hope doesn’t fail. So I put it away. But then @bhunt comes up with this scheme of “planting trees.” I thought it was a good theoretical exercise at first. Then this dear pack started seriously considering it, and adding collective wisdom to looking like this really has legs. So now I feel compelled to share some perspective. I won’t enjoy Meri-Go-Mish this Thanksgiving otherwise-probably just end up with a bunch of brainstorming notes.
Destructive corporations–they’re the bad guys. They are the ones who ruin the environment™. They don’t rebuild it. Sure, they pretend to - Starbucks paper straws, while churning out Keurig cups LOL. Heather can’t seem to accept that anyone with money, even the town foundation, might be in her pack, or even be a useful resource to take advantage of, when someone else will. Over a year of conversations, about her decision, and she still can’t even see me in her pack… It seems like there’s an understanding that money and nature don’t mix.
But I believe WE have to bridge that real or imagined divide with those who are truly giving their lives protecting the environment, which doesn’t include anyone flying around the world on private jets giving speeches.
And I believe we have to align interests, and learn, and join along side them before jumping in at the risk of being mistaken as racoons by the true pack because of how we look.
We can’t just get rid of the suits and put on hiking boots and expect a naturalist to go along. MONEY and desk jobs are prima facie evidence of Environment™ racoons. I know Heather trusts me. But man, just a casual suggestion that maybe a foundation would give money to develop a nature preserve and the walls go up. I didn’t share 25% of what I put here before I stopped. Add in the narrative of Bitcoin Destroying the Earth!, and tokenizing environmental initiatives almost certainly smells of racoon. It could then be easier for actual racoons to align with the true pack under the enemy of my enemy premise.
Most outdoor educators (separate from political environmentalists) don’t spend hours consuming a wide spectrum of information, sorting through to find likely truths (or sub ET to divide narrative from news and consider the implications). So that little official information they choose to take in, from a smaller group of sources, is at greater risk of of manipulation and half-truths, or outright lies. Remember lemmings?. They spend their time honing other skills, like scat identification.
I promise, at the first hint of questionable motives, many of us would be lumped in as exactly the same as the worst people trying to establish a carbon credit exchange for them to front-run. We know that We are the exact opposite. But our scat looks the same–like when her daughter’s day care called- “Your daughter is fine. Can you come look at this scat and tell us what got in?” Racoon.
My daughter just got back from 3 days rafting in Northern New Mexico. This weekend is rafting the Colorado in Utah. What did she tell me about? Awe at how a boulder broke loose on her roomate, so she fell back and it landed on her and as she caught it landing on her, it broke in half, like she was Wonder Woman. The nationally competitive climber had a small scratch and nothing else. Oh and the canyons were amazing!
Then she got somber all of the sudden…
“Dad, I stepped out of the footprints onto cryptobiotic soil. Twice!” Not one to hike in deserts, I had never heard of it. So in my head I’m laughing and fighting the urge to ask if that’s a new NFT or DeFi? She was close to tears as she told me how she got light headed hiking out of the canyon, lost her balance and stepped on the cryptobiotic soil. Twice! In a later online search I learned that is soil with a whole biosphere in it. Her footprints will take hundreds or even thousands of years to grow back.
To my daughter, she killed nature. Permanently. And she committed the ultimate sin. She left a trace of her former presence.
Two footprints. And she was near tears. She knows how to shoot a gun. And she could handle the average man in a fight, and probably would if necessary to protect nature. So you don’t want to be mistaken as a racoon that doesn’t care about protecting the soil. OG naturalists will sacrifice everything. To them it is life or death. And not Musk racoon, environment, global warming, fly my private jet life or death. It’s literally one tree, or a butterfly, or a stink bug, or cryptobiotic soil.
To be successful, I believe we have to figure out how to work with the true naturalists, not against them, or not try to surprise them with how we were on their side the whole time. That’s the only way to avoid the cartoon of Musk Environment™ and actually help the environment.
We know this is what Ben is proposing with good intent. And that this is also about preventing the cartoon of Carbon Credits™ from those who will strike the final blow to the environment without concern, just to win at their own game in a rigged trading casino. Or to be the house. But please consider a dialog with your local university agribusiness or environmental education faculty as part of the overall strategy. Most serious naturalists are still connected to their original pack where they learned, in small groups… where they ventured out exploring the wild together. You might get a few to join the pack with a better informed overall strategy. Inform them about what’s happening in the cartoon Carbon Trading Environment! and how the same blasphemy has bastardized the world of finance, and that the environment is the next target. It might also help to go hiking with them.
But assume, when approaching the OG naturalists pack, we look exactly like racoons from the world of nature destroying corporations in search of money. To them, nobody who truly cares about nature gets paid to sit at a computer. So we need to figure out how to not look and act like racoons, or prove that we aren’t BEFORE really moving on a widespread initiative.
I know WE can do this, and will do this if WE choose to. But I fear, given the slam dunk in Nora that might be DOA, conflict that could happen in less opportune situations. I believe this pack is better resourced, experienced, committed, wise, and far more cunning than institutions people believe are unstoppable in their crimes, including against the environment. I’m just asking for us to consider working to bring along those who were already in this fight before we thought about jumping in. Especially those who teach. Maybe they’ll tell us that an NFT on a block of sustainable woods with a diverse tree population, similar to a conservation easement that reverts back to land that could be developed at a far future date, is better than geo-tagging every maple sapling right before deer chew it down to a nub in the ground as @siffcapital alluded to. I don’t know. But I know someone who does. And I am blessed to be her cousin…
And as of this month, she and her husband Ben own a sustainable tree farm called Meri Go Mish (Miꞌkmaq for a place of merrymaking, also healthy woods) that was a nearly bare cow pasture 50 years ago.
“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
~Nelson Henderson (and Loyal and Dorothy Coates)
Humbly submitted to the pack for your consideration…
Matching frequencies of lissajous-patterned lasers, and kilowatts of sub-bass electro signal peaks breathing passionate life into a previously slumbering ancient woodland clearing is a question of perspective.
It is not similar to ‘how many rare mice does a barn owl have to predate before it becomes pestiferous’. The owl acts on instinct not on reason. In this
respect the human mind can separate from nature. The sometimes faculty of abstract reason, given to us by nature for her purposes, that our mortality cannot completely fathom. Of this our spontaneous difference from the machine mind.
It is a thing that I like existing in our world. Meek veillards able to grant to vigorous and rash youth, pristine natural beauty. To place an old head on young shoulders.
Are there not times and situations where the human mind is driven fully by instinct, not reason? When it is incapable of stepping back for perspective, such as in the adrenaline rush of fight or flight? To those who have embedded themselves to be “one with nature” in certain conditions, may not stop to ask if they are truly being attacked.
Maybe sometimes perspective is simply conditioned on not ‘feeling’ attacked. Or frankly, even just startled. Casually holding a bush knife to whittle tinder can quickly turn bloody when one is alone and lost in the wilderness, and startled by another who has come for rescue. The rescuer should make themselves and their intentions known a long way off, and provide the opportunity for perspective that would surely result in joy and welcome relief.
Bears are rarely dangerous to those making themselves known with plenty of noise when hiking through their territory as long as they continue through. I’m told that knowledgeable hikers rarely find use for their bear spray. Such may be true of humans in the other times, when reason fails to be abstract, and our minds are no different than machines, as Zuckerburg can or can’t attest to, depending on who’s asking.
It appears to me that we are primarily driven by instinct or associative memories. A pure, natural survival instinct is corrupted by civilisation. Choice architecture greatly affects our reason. Many lifelong choices have to be made with little experience or understanding of the subtleties, complexities or ramifications .A life replete with timely and sage advice is a great blessing.
This is not to say that we should not become habituated with reasoning for ourselves, but without an amount of practice, the results are likely to be biased toward emotion and short term dopamine.
Agreed. To all of it. I believe, unfortunately, that the “emotion and short term dopamine” experience is also much easier to sell to others. Much like the corner dealer sells crack to those attempting to escape urban blight- the answer is hard, hard work and extreme sacrifice to rise above and escape the criminal economic disparities. But a drug hit seems better.
The gateway drug here being a support of businesses coated in green (formerly the international symbol for low fat before gluten became the issue, green became environmental). The next drug up is likely a check to the Sierra Club. But the good stuff is that beautiful Tesla- for most people. I, obviously, get my hit by wielding my high horse of being related to (and/ or funding college) people who care and teach others to.
The dealer crimes here would be obvious if not for the majority getting the hit of pretending to make their contribution. I have no idea whether The Sierra Club has engaged its activism against those razing hard wood forests that Ben’s note brought up. And frankly, it shouldn’t be possible that any mildly attentive American would be unaware of it.
I believe that the ancients figured this out long ago and have been trying to tell us for millennia. Young ears don’t listen well, it turns out.
Another interesting NFT application here - Swiss postal stamps.
"In announcing its very own “crypto stamp,” Swiss Post allows its users to own a digital token that provides digital representation for a physical stamp and will be stored on a blockchain. According to a representative from the Swiss Post, “Each design forms a nonfungible token and is stored in the Polygon Blockchain.”
Buyers will be able to discover a digital twin of their physical stamp online through a QR code printed next to the physical stamp. Allegedly, there are 65,000 copies of “the most common” digital design and only 50 “rarest.” This suggests the expansion of exchanging, collecting, and trading of the crypto stamps, which can be done separately from the Swiss Post."
Noteworthy racoonery here based on tree planting. Previous discussions on tree monocropping aside, instances such as these likely support arguments favoring the use of blockchain for added assurance of legitimacy in tree-planting programs.
"## Memorial ‘trees’ often just seedlings
Frontrunner charges $39.95 to plant a tree which, Go Public found, is often a seedling that’s donated by outside organizations and governments and which are planted by students or volunteers, according to the Canadian Institute of Forestry (CIF), the non-profit group that co-ordinates the plantings."
“After Nathan complained and got a lawyer involved, Frontrunner removed one of the tree purchase links, doubled what mourners paid for the trees, and donated that money — more than $2,000 — to the educational fund.”
So did they pay the attorney fees too? Article doesn’t say. If not, this article actually makes the raccoon look less bad, as someone might read this to think that they made it right by doubling the amount. Guessing as the ESG narrative swells there will be even more of this. And these types of people will be punished because Environment!
Not the elites / bureaucrats creating, and regulatory permitting off balance sheet carbon credit swaps at LIBOR+ that can be used as collateral to hedge out your oil stocks while still owning S&P 500 futures. And to expatriate tax obligations to a friendly jurisdiction that ‘cares about global warming.’ Hwang’s next play will own the other side of the trade as any good Christian would.
Here are two articles that relate directly to elements of Green Protocol contained in the Note or discussed on this forum. The first is on NFT as a vehicle for charity fund raising. The second is on a new $500 million JV for timberland investment using a strategy where carbon sequestration and carbon credits are key to generating returns. Posting these here in case anybody is interested to read and comment.
Thanks for this thoughtful post, @fidnie! I want to give some serious thought as to how we can design a POG for protection of the Amazon. I think it requires a very different structure than the Billion Trees POG, but should be amenable to the Green Protocol. To your second point re: property rights, weak external property rights (or maybe more accurately, inconsistent and sometimes corrupt gov’t adjudication of property rights) increases the required level of centralization in the project, which has its own ripple effects in price and participation, but it’s not a prerequisite, particularly if the POG is not trying to achieve a Coase-like outcome. On your third point, that’s a really good observation, and I need to be clearer in the terminology here!
Great. I’d love to part of that - ideation and execution. I have been thinking for a few years now that it should be possible to invert incentives with crypto.
The current norm is “number go up” <-> “nature go down”. Can we invert that relationship?
Your post is the best proposal I’ve seen so far.
FYI I initially did not see the value in this. The whole project relies on participants willing to give a lot of actual real world cash strictly for virtue signaling purposes (no ownership, etc), with the addition of a small but growing speculative layer on top.
I’ve now seen the light and come here to eat crow.
The phenomenon that is Donald Trump’s DWAC is almost exactly this same model. There is no business activity. There is no revenue. But buyers are literally right now giving a lot of actual real world cash strictly for virtue signaling purposes, with the addition of a small but growing speculative layer on top.
This is not a political post for or against Donald Trump, Republicans, Democrats, or any of that. This is just me realizing that people are very willing to buy an otherwise completely valueless token for virtue signaling purposes only, and that others will speculate on NGU/NGD. I can’t believe I haven’t seen this before, but Jesus now that I have -it’s everywhere-.
I agree with your view @chudson but I think we are doing a disservice to the PoP idea if we just concentrate on the speculation element.
Speculation comes later - after the Tokens have been generated.
The power of this idea is how we generate the Tokens.
Right now, if a small farmer grows a few tomatoes in his plot, no-one knows. The farmer may get some cash for their crop but that does not reflect the positives of their growing activity. Price masks a lot of information and does not incentivise us to do the right thing. Quite the opposite if you read the ET articles.
To persevere with the hapless tomatoes… they provide some small benefit to the planet (CO2 reduction perhaps, improved soil health, etc. No-one rewards the farmer for that element of his work. No-one knows and therefore cannot choose his tomatoes over some other crop that is not grown so sustainably.
So PoP is a way of creating a representation in the “real world(via Tokens)”, of that effort that is currently “invisible”. I would certainly not call them valueless even at a theoretical level.
“Then” comes the speculation layer. That is a human trait from old and will not change any time soon. But that is not the main power of PoP, the validation and documentation of the invisible “good” is the powerful point.
This is now possible because we can use modern technology and blockchain tech to identify, validate, verify and represent this invisible value. It can be done in a way that cannot be meddled with and that provides transparency, security and all the good things we value in an asset. Then we can buy it, hold it, trade it and do all the other financially unspeakable extreme activities to a Token.
That is the end of my diatribe but if you are interested below is an anti-pattern-type story that illustrates this concept albeit in a less pleasant way.
Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of power. “Mining’ is actually the term used but its purpose is to secure the bitcoin network. Miners get paid for that activity. When it was created - that seemed like a good old Capitalist way of doing things. Now, there are better ways to do the same thing. Too many ways in fact but the Bitcoin mining way is theoretically the best way.
So if a “poor” nation had a way of making cheap electricity but was not near a population centre (400 miles) that could consume it what can they do? Well they could, theoretically speaking, build the hydro-electric project or the desert sun generation project. Then they install bitcoin miners to use the electricity to do what they do - secure the Bitcoin network. Remember electricity transmission has a maximum range, information does not.
So what has been achieved? The poor nation has used its natural resources to provide a service for which they get paid for. By the way a not so poor nation currently does this using geothermal power generation - Iceland!
The PoP idea is exactly the same - but for a much better cause.
@fidnie, you can use this idea in the Amazon as well. However @chudson, I do not think Donald’s scheme fits in either of the points made above. That is another type of activity altogether!
Absolutely love this. Invert incentives. Keep in mind, that there’s only a need to invert the incentives for harmful activities. Executed well, it would reward positive activities.
Right now, included in my prior diatribe, those focused on making honest positive environmental contributions accept that it will likely be a constant sacrifice, especially financially.
My daughter, being a planner, budgeted out her education and loans, and what comp she is hoping for in her career, and even how she’s going to supplement that with side jobs.
She then accepted that she would never have children, just a dog. She would still have to live extremely frugally and would never likely have retirement savings. That’s what she knows she is doing. And for good reason. She knows my cousin, one of the best in her profession, isn’t overly secure financially.
Even equalizing rewards for positive and negative behaviors would be a huge leap forward.
I’ve been trying to explain this concept to more people but I realized the base concept is not quite as “readers digest” as I would like.
However, I remembered that Tim Urban has a series related to the concept of changing the environment to change behaviour, also fully equipped with his signature stick figures which seems to make for more mainstream introductory reading.
Aaron, that’s perhaps the most serious tradeoff I have heard of. Crypto might help with this over time, but if I chatted with your daughter, it would be difficult to restrain myself from nudging her toward creative options that might solve for both her chosen career and having children.
It reminds me of a chapter named Calculation and Serendipity in Clayton Christensen’s How WIll You Measure Your Life? It talks about balancing the deliberate and the emergent.
I feel you, both my daughters live in that world of planning and scouting out futures. This is usually where we sit down and have a conversation of everything I had planned out at their age that turned out radically different by the time I was 55.
I learnt that as your 25 year old self, any reliable plans you make for your fifties require the world to remain immutable for 25 years while you get there. That stopped being a viable strategy when technology accelerated everything.
An old high school friend of mine posted about this on Facebook the other day. He posted it to highlight that he had purchased a subscription to continually offset his carbon footprint.
It would seem that Carbon offsets and the speculation layer are upon us. In case anyone needed further convincing that the green protocol coins would be valuable (in the sense of being worth US dollars).
I appreciate the sentiment. Keep in mind that having kids isn’t really helpful when your job is taking people on multiple day packing and rafting trips most weeks of the year. But that’s entirely not the point I was making. My point is that ideally the protocol would somehow benefit those who willingly choose to sacrifice to help the environment.
Maybe the effort necessary to plant a tree and tend it to viability would be like an ETH gas fee.
So @bhunt I am thinking about a cousin POG that I might want to borrow from your project on. Was picking up leaves around the kids’ trees (they all have one planted when they were born. Here’s the naturalist daughter’s red sunset maple.
I’m thinking of doing plots of land that will be re-forested. Each plot will be large enough to have lots of vegetation, but not large enough to be developed. It will be For the Children ™. Ideal property might be contaminated sites near large cities and / or important waterways. Families will be able to buy plots for kids being born. So as they get to teenage years, they can walk in the woods and find the section that they are recorded as legally owning on the blockchain. There will be gas fees / inflation to pay someone to get it going. And I am thinking about the option of tying it into a conservation easement. Some might be permanent. Some might allow the possibility of a future collective vote transfer to a municipality for building paths and nature centers, or other public good, or even some selfish purpose like timber harvesting, or development.
An informative and thought-provoking read here on “How NFTs Create Value”, and different ways they may be used to add value or utility. I think some of the concepts discussed have been raised on this thread, and it’s interesting to note the examples of how various organizations have or are using NFT so far.
“NFTs enable new markets by allowing people to create and build upon new forms of ownership. These projects succeed by leveraging a core dynamic of crypto: A token’s worth comes from users’ shared agreement — and this means that the community one builds around NFTs quite literally creates those NFTs’ underlying value. And the more these communities increase engagement and become part of people’s personal identities, the more that value is reinforced.”
There was a short discussion near the end of our 2/3/23 office hour between Ben and a pack member regarding the importance of crypto as an accounting system rather than a (trivial) monetary token.
Natural language and artificial language are the same to me.
They are both tools, created and invented by man the toolmaker.
As a result, for me, I don’t fear crypto any more than I fear natural language.
If I could channel Marshall McLuhan, I think he might agree.
10,000 years of centralized juris prudence may have met its decentralized match.
Ben’s Green Protocol, Part 2, IMO, speaks to this.
This is way, way, beyond my pay grade.
Continue the discussion at the Epsilon Theory Forum