Duran Duran is behind the planting of a micro forest in Queenstown as a way of offsetting its carbon footprint after the British rock band released its first set of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) late last year.
The band released its latest album Future Past, followed by 100 unique NFTs based on surreal artwork created by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology Huxley. The AI artwork can be seen rolling through the video of Duran Duran’s single Invisible and the NFTs are based on those images.
However cryptocurrency and NFTs have increasingly come under fire for the level of carbon emissions they produce, with critics saying blockchain activity uses more energy than many small countries, including New Zealand. That criticism has caused the crypto world to look for greener alternatives and to offset with carbon credits.
As a result, Duran Duran gifted the 100 “Invisible” NFT owners a second NFT featuring 15-second video clips from the AI Huxley artwork, each linked to a native tree planted in Queenstown. Through a Kiwi connection with Duran Duran’s management, the band was introduced to blockchain technology company Cube that links trees to NFTs – now nicknamed NFTrees.
That same Kiwi, Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Linc Gasking, introduced Cube’s co-founder and chief technology officer Muddy Bhatt to Queenstown-based environmental entrepreneur Michael Sly, who oversaw the planting of 100 native trees at Queenstown’s Jardine Park near Lake Wakatipu.
Says Bhatt: “Each tree in Queenstown is connected to the latest Duran Duran NFTs via a state-of-the-art ‘green’ blockchain technology that uses a tiny fraction of the carbon of traditional blockchain like Ethereum.”
The micro forest initiative harks back to the band’s single Planet Earth in 1981 in which Simon Le Bon sings, “Look now, all around, there’s no sign of life.”
The micro forest is part of Gasking and Sly’s Digital Native project to establish more micro forests in New Zealand as part of a worldwide initiative using methodology pioneered by late Japanese botanist Dr Akira Miyawaki.
Each of the new NFTs and trees are fully tradeable online. Duran Duran, Huxley and Cube are donating all the proceeds from secondary sales towards building more micro forests in perpetuity. And NFT owners who give 50 per cent or more of their sales revenue to the cause will be given a special “key” to the forest that will unlock future benefits, including new NFTs.
Sly admits it’s all a bit new and crazy – A rock band, artwork created by artificial intelligence, NFTs and native trees. But he thinks it’s just the beginning.
“Coming from this environmental stewardship journey that I’ve been on it was an opportunity to connect these energy-intensive processes and digital currency to ecological restoration. It would be a continuous way to fund what is a massive journey globally.”
Finding ways to fund that restoration is what Sly does full-time. He runs a company, Wilding & Co, which harvests the invasive wilding pines spreading rapidly through Otago and distills them into tonnes of Douglas fir essential oils. He sells that to major US company doTERRA which produces essential oils, fragrances, skin and haircare ranges, soap, body wash and diffusers.
Using the profit from that, Sly funds a tree-for-tree native planting programme, and a waste-to-wilderness initiative, making compost and mulch to distribute to community gardens and planting programmes.
“We saw it as an opportunity to connect the metaverse with the real universe, connecting the digital space back to natural ecology.”
He hopes the idea of the micro forest will spread throughout New Zealand.
“What I like about it is that it’s obtainable. You’ve got a relatively small area that can be really healthy. You can start with something the size of a tennis court.”
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