Last week, Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit organisation behind open-source web browser Firefox, announced it would be accepting crypto donations to “keep the Web open and free”. Days later, it reversed the decision “due to cryptocurrency’s environmental impact”.
A Tidal Wave of Backlashes
What did it take for Mozilla to do an about-turn on its crypto donation policy? Approximately 20 disgruntled social media users, based on replies to the initial December 28 tweet:
Shortly after, Mozilla put a temporary hold on users’ ability to make crypto donations:
Unfortunately for Mozilla, it turns out that appeasing 20 noisy commenters has in turn created a new backlash to the initial backlash – a backlash squared, if you will.
As environmental and social governance (ESG) issues have become increasingly important in modern public relations, it’s no surprise that crypto’s energy consumption has become a perennial hot topic of conversation.
Given the plethora of blockchains, consensus algorithms and the relative utility of each, a single retort is neither possible nor desirable. As a proof-of-work blockchain, Bitcoin tends to be targeted the most as no one credible denies that its energy use is significant.
While this isn’t the forum to provide a detailed rebuttal of the so-called energy argument, venture capitalist and Bitcoiner Nic Carter has done some exceptional work, the latest of which you can read about here.
In short, the energy debate comes down to two questions:
- Is the cryptocurrency valuable? If the detractor believes not, then no use of energy is worthwhile, however “green” it may be.
- Who gets to decide what is or isn’t an appropriate use of energy?
Is streaming The Kardashians on Netflix or ordering single-serve meal kits an acceptable use of energy? What about Christmas lights, air-conditioning, or the mining of cobalt for your mobile phone? Given that gold mining uses more energy than Bitcoin, should we be pushing for “eco-friendly” wedding rings?
In the context of Mozilla, this line of argument is epitomised in the tweet below:
Being Seen to Be Green
Today, it’s evident that there are societal and financial benefits to claims of being “environmentally friendly” – whether you actually are appears to be of secondary concern. This is essentially what “greenwashing” amounts to, a practice where “green” issues are used to elevate a company’s public perception, rather than actually doing anything useful in an environmental sense. It ultimately comes down to buzzwords over substance.
Mozilla’s decision to pause donations appears to be misguided at best. It has seemingly managed to overlook the value of crypto in funding international non-profits, as well as misunderstand its relationship to energy.
But perhaps there is an even bigger lesson to be learnt – bowing to the mob is often not the smartest strategy, particularly when the facts are not on your side.
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