How green is bitcoin?

Among computer-based currencies, aka crypto-currencies, Bitcoin is the unabashed leader at today’s price of £4300 – but don’t expect it to stay there long! 

It’s gotten big. Five years ago you could buy a bitcoin for £40; today a whole bitcoin is well over £4000. Average this out and you get over a trebling of your money per year, and at a time when savings interest rates are weaker than beer, this is astonishing. Initially favoured by computer geeks worldwide, the idea has caught on that it’s clever and you can invest in this cleverness by buying in. But be warned: had you bought at the start of 2014 and sold at the end, you would have lost money. As for trend, bitcoin is on an up – but don’t risk what you can’t afford!

For many, it’s a bubble, a South Sea fantasy, a Ponzi scheme, a Nasdaq ready to crash. Plenty of really clever people have lost huge amounts – not least our own banking sector in 2008!

But bitcoin isn’t where my monetary enthusiasm lies.

My enthusiasm is for a Basic Income, for redefining our economy so it doesn’t wreck the planet we stand on, the air we breathe, the land we rely on for food. If bitcoin causes 0.03% of CO2 emissions, then the standard economy presumably accounts for 99.97% of global emissions, as well as a system in many countries, including our own, of vast exploitation of labour and resources, here and abroad, as well as concerted efforts to dispossess the majority of people of what wealth they may have accrued so far (eg UK plans for house repossession due to elderly care).

Creating fairer societies and sustainable human activities, globally, are a million times more important, but the people who rule us, here and there, clearly do not think that. So, while the value of labour and the Earth continue to be trashed on a daily basis, people will look around for somewhere to store what little of value they own. For most people in Britain this is bricks and mortar, less so in other countries. Current housing policy is a tyranny of landlords and homeowners over the young. Here, where we supposedly value home ownership, our society, by voting in governments who won’t build houses, are simply excluding many of the next generation from owning.

Bitcoin is now 0.1% of the financial market (with a global capitation of $94 billion). But in causing only 0.03% of CO2, its supporters get off lightly. We can temper this by pointing out that money you hold in your hand is a mere 3% of what we call money. 97% of money is now digital; it’s numbers in various bank accounts, mostly held by large institutions. And a huge amount of money is debt, debt we owe on credit cards, mortgage debt, country debt, used to enforce austerity, etc, meaning we all have to work very hard as well as exploit the Earth as much as possible, if that’s our job, or else by mindless consumption. The debt system is a great way of enslaving everyone – not just wage slaves but debt slaves, entraining planetary resources too.

What’s the opposite of debt? Savings or profit or investment. Instead of being a slave to money, make money work for you. All business people know this and try to keep costs low, debts low, or at least serviceable, and profits high.

But there are green problems with this. We overfish the seas, we strain the land with any number of industrial inputs, we kill people by polluting the air, etc. This is why we need government; to regulate so we don’t wreck other stuff we value – like the planet, the seas, the land, the air, the idea of our children owning their own home (British market). 

Instead we have neoliberal governments in bed with big money, big landlords, institutions investing in UK properties, and all the other things lobbyists achieve: the annual energy price hikes, the annual railfare hikes, all impoverishing the majority more and more whose wages don’t keep pace. But it’s fine for the richest 1% who have a lot of power, based on exploding wealth and with willing servants across the media.

In the face of this onslaught, the performance of bitcoin, generally, is being seen globally as a bit of relief! You buy in, wait a bit, sell out, and no-one gets killed (for a change) and with minimal pollution. It may sound too good to be true, but in part that reflects the actual world situation being too bad to be admitted! Surely, if we admit it to ourselves, we couldn’t possibly elect or put up with these craven governments we have!

Bitcoin is a global, computer-based, decentralised currency not controlled by any banking system. It’s a rebel. And valued by millions.

But don’t get me wrong: bitcoin isn’t a solution. Bitcoin is a symptom. It’s an offshoot of a highly malfunctioning economic system. But let’s not pretend it’s a mortal sin to buy in! It’s working as a store (and increase) of value for millions of people worldwide.

But Bitcoin is like smoking a cigarette while your house is on fire. We should rather put out the fire. Shouldn’t we?