A World Wildlife Fund UK (WWF UK) digital fundraising initiative, using blockchain powered NFTs (non-fungible tokens), has sparked a social media backlash amid concerns around the technology’s impact on the environment.
The #WWFTokensForNature fundraising scheme launched this week using the @OxPolygon blockchain platform.
The charity claims that each transaction “has the equivalent carbon emissions of a glass of tap water”.
But campaigners and experts have raised concerns, saying they remain unconvinced of the scheme’s eco-friendliness.
Criticism around the use of the technology focuses on the evel of power needed to generate the unique blockchain it creates to retain the value of crypto art and currencies.
It is estimated that one transaction using the Ethreum crypto currency, which the Polygon platform uses, has the same level of carbon emissions as several thousand Visa card transactions.
Among those to criticise the charity is computing and social responsibility expert Dr Catherine Flick, of Leicester’s De Montfort University.
She urges the charity to reconsider saying that the platform “is not an eco-friendly blockchain”.
Another critic of the charity is journalist and campaigner George Monbiot who dismissed the sale of digital tokens by WWF UK as being “when the solution becomes indistinguishable from the problem”.
When the "solution" becomes indistinguishable from the problem. https://t.co/GRfYxpQzL2— George Monbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) February 2, 2022
Meanwhile author Lissa Evans said she is cancelling her direct debit to the charity due to the NFT fundraising scheme.
Another Twitter poster, Dave Bulmer, likened WWF’s crypto fundraising as if “David Attenborough did a piece to camera about his environmental activity while politely snapping swans' necks throughout”.
This is like if David Attenborough did a piece to camera about his environmental activism while politely snapping swans' necks throughout.— Dave Bulmer (@DemonTomatoDave) February 2, 2022
What an amazing way to reverse the cultural meaning of that panda logo in an instant.
A WWF UK spokesperson said that the charity is “always looking at innovative ways to engage WWF supporters and fundraisers and trial new ideas”.
The spokesperson added: “This is a hugely expanding area that many other organisations and some charities are already operating in, and we are keen to build up our knowledge.
“We know that NFTs are a much-debated issue and that this is an untested market, which is why this was planned as a very small, time-limited test of 13 NFTs, built on Polygon which has negligible environmental impact.
“The money WWF-UK earns from these sales will go towards our vital conservation work across the globe to tackle the climate and nature crisis. We will be fully assessing the impact of this exercise including its comparative carbon impact.”
Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF), Helping Households Under Great Stress, RNLI, Save the Children and the Turing Trust are among charities to look to attract crypto donations.
Last week, youth charity One Young World launched an NFT art sale and auction to raise funds to help young people attend its summit in Toyko later this year.