With all the excitement for Miss Universe Philippines 2021 preliminaries which ended on Sept. 26, you might have missed out on the news about the launch of the pageant’s NFT card collection with Southeast Asian blockchain venture builder RedFOX Labs. It’s a troubling collaboration, considering how the sale of an NFT can come with an ecological cost. This also runs contrary to environmental advocacies that a number of MUPH’s contestants have.
“The Miss Universe Philippines NFT Collection [features] the top 30 finalists for the 2021 edition of the pageant. Focusing on the theme of ‘Inspire You,’ each of the top 30 contestants will have four NFTs made in their image, ranging from head shots to pictures featuring RFOX sportswear,” RedFox Labs announced. “If you are lucky enough to get one of [the] Mythic cards [of] the Miss Universe Philippines [crowned winner], you will [also] receive a reward of 1 ETH (approx. PHP 165,000).”
That might sound tempting, but what exactly will you be paying for? Are NFTs simply a new way to buy and sell digital media? How is it different from trading cards and gacha pulls?
Forbes describes an NFT (non-fungible token) as a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, and videos. NFTs have unique identifying codes and have exclusive ownership rights. These untradable codes are stored in a virtual ledger called a blockchain. So why are some people buying these codes for millions of dollars? “Essentially, NFTs create digital scarcity,” Arry Yu, chair of the Washington Technology Industry Association Cascadia Blockchain Council, tells Forbes.
The catch? “Blockchain technology, which also forms the basis of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, comes with enormous greenhouse-gas emissions,” The New York Times writes. “According to an estimate backed up by independent researchers, the creation of an average NFT has a stunning environmental footprint of over 200 kilograms of planet-warming carbon, equivalent to driving 500 miles in a typical American gasoline-powered car… Other attempts to calculate the energy use of blockchain have also arrived at gargantuan numbers. Researchers at Cambridge University have estimated that mining Bitcoin uses more electricity than entire countries like Argentina, Sweden or Pakistan.”
Dr. Susanne Köhler, an expert in life cycle analysis at Aalborg University in Denmark, told NYT that another cause for concern is how “it doesn’t become more energy efficient over time, like other technologies do. It just leads to a bigger emissions impact, unless their energy is carbon free.”
While there have been efforts to offset NFT carbon emissions and transition to low-energy blockchain tech alternatives, NFTs’ current energy consumption levels far outweigh their benefits. In the case of MUPH’s NFT cards, that “benefit” might just be: to further commodify photos of the candidates.
Did the contestants provide their consent to and are they compensated for having their likeness sold off as NFTs? It’s a valid question, considering how there have been several NFTs minted from stolen work. We sure hope that the candidates will be given a percentage of the royalties at least.