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BLOCKCHAIN FOR SUSTAINABILITY: IMPLEMENTING A BETTER WORLD

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by: Sharai Hoekema
BLOCKCHAIN FOR SUSTAINABILITY: IMPLEMENTING A BETTER WORLD

Much has been written about the technology of blockchain. This invention of the as of yet unidentified person or entity Satoshi Nakamoto, who published it in 2008, is one of the most hyped methods that will affect businesses on a global level. In its simplest form, blockchain is best described as a ledger or database of sorts. One with an unparalleled level of security, through advanced cryptography techniques, that makes it resistant to modification. 

At the same time, its public and decentralised nature ensures that everyone can have access to it and add to it as they want - after which the peer-to-peer network, over which the database is distributed, has to verify the new data before it literally becomes set in stone. This makes it an ideal solution for any industry where it is crucial that data is accurate, publicly available, and can be relied on.

APPLICATIONS IN SUSTAINABILITY

While blockchain has achieved most of its fame as the platform enabling cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, it shows plenty of promise for other, widely varying industries as well. To illustrate this versatility, the World Economic Forum has published a comprehensive report on the use of blockchain in environmental conservation, adeptly titled ‘Building Block(chain)s for a Better Planet’. 

It looks at potential game-changing applications of blockchain in battling the greatest dangers that our planet is facing, including environmental degradation, air pollution and climate change. In this, examples of initiatives per challenge are singled out, that could potentially have a massive positive impact on our globe.

BLOCKCHAIN IN CLIMATE CHANGE

The applications for blockchain in combatting climate change are diverse. It could include initiatives relevant to any of us, for example through a citizen loyalty and reward platform, which allows citizens of a certain area to register and be rewarded for their own smart and green home innovations. This includes lighting, heating, and other sustainable smart home improvements. 

Another application of blockchain in battling climate change is its function in allowing for sustainable land use. Through blockchain, mining and agricultural activities can closely and publicly be monitored, and through automation of data collection, the entire process can become more sustainable and durable.

Similarly, blockchain could enhance clean power initiatives, for example through peer-to-peer renewable energy trading systems or an optimised distributed grid management. 

BLOCKCHAIN IN BIODIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION

Applicaties of blockchain can also be used to increase global biodiversity and conservation. It could, for instance, be used to track the geographic reach and movements of endangered animal species, while at the same time raise more funds for investments in habitat restoration and species conservation. 

Natural resources, such as wood, can also be better protected and tracked if it is included in a blockchain ledger, that requires the input of producers and manufacturers alike. At the same time, it could incentivise farmers and reward them for responsible waste management or limited use of pesticide on their land. 

The word ‘sustainable production’ and ‘sustainable trade’ can also be given more meaning, now that it is possible to track the entire supply chain of produce or livestock. The transparant supply chain will allow consumers to look right back to the origins of a product, and verify whether its production has in fact be sustainable.

BLOCKCHAIN FOR HEALTHY OCEANS

The application of blockchain for the protection of species and habitats in our oceans is mentioned as well, allowing for a decentralised and open-source database with ocean data and tracking data. Secondly, it will allow for more sustainable fishing solutions: fish can be tracked, while illegal fishing can quickly be identified.

Additionally, pollution of the oceans can largely be prevented, for example through incentivised ocean plastic recycling initiatives, as well as a transparent ledger for faster, safer and more efficient shipping routes. Finally, the impact from climate change can be made visible, for instance through real-time monitoring of the ocean temperature and collection of data on ocean conditions. And, once again, the ease of fundraising through blockchain will also make a world of difference for our oceans, as people can easily, directly and safely donate to ocean clean-up efforts or the protection of endangered sea-species.

BLOCKCHAIN FOR CLEAN WATER 

Another huge challenge that the world is facing is the availability of clean and safe drinking water. Blockchain could assist through increasing water supply - through water monitoring and micropayment generation for water meter donations - as well as increased water efficiency, through the introduction of peer-to-peer trading systems of excess water supplies and smart meters. 

The quality of water can be improved through control applications. Similarly, adequate sanitation efforts could “feed” more efficient water treatment systems. All the while, blockchain could empower drought planning through monitoring and forecasting of precipitation and the provision of automated crop insurances for drought periods. 

BLOCKCHAIN FOR CLEAN AIR

Alongside water, a second resource crucial to mankind is air. After all, without clean water and clean air, life would not be possible. As such, the applications of blockchain towards improving the quality of air are potentially very valuable as well. These include filtering and capturing solutions, such as the automatic activation of air-filtration devices and the collation of data on air pollutants from various sources. 

Similarly, air quality can be monitored through intelligent methane monitoring systems and real-time, local monitoring of particulates and NO2. Through early warning systems, operating on blockchain, we can be quicker and more effective in combatting potentially hazardous or health-comprising situations. 

BLOCKCHAIN FOR WEATHER AND DISASTER RESILIENCE

A final byproduct of our current environmental problems, is the occurrence of extreme weather and natural distasters. Once again something that blockchain can offer various applications for: from prediction and forecasting to early warning systems, and from resilience planning and resilient infrastructure to the quick deployment of financial instruments to fund recovery efforts and insurance claims. 

WHY INCLUDE BLOCKCHAIN?

Blockchain has the potential to not only aid, but also transform the way in which we deal with environmental issues. Its potential impact on existing and innovative solutions alike could be huge, especially through the ease and the transparency of the system. Everyone will know what is being done and by who, without any room for error or fraud. Not only will it become painfully obvious where the sore points are, therefore making it easier to identify and punish wrongdoers or great polluters, blockchain is also able to reward and incentivise those who are doing the right thing. 

As such, industry and consumers alike are pushed to take a good, critical look at their use of resources and the way that they treat the environment. A technology that, therefore, does not only have disruptive and transformative attributes, but that also harnesses the collective self-interests to let people combine their efforts to push the world to a better place.

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