#178 | The Unsustainable Currency: The Environmental Footprint Of Bitcoin w/ Alex de Vries

In this episode, I speak with economist and cryptocurrency/blockchain specialist Alex de Vries. We discuss his research into the energy consumptive cryptocurrency Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency in the world at the present moment. I ask Alex to elaborate on how Bitcoin and blockchain works (in particular how Bitcoin “mining” and transactions work), Alex's research into the disturbing amounts of energy required to keep Bitcoin functioning and growing, Bitcoin's growing environmental footprint, as well as what these trends mean for the future for Bitcoin and decentralized cryptocurrencies more generally.

I first became aware of Alex and his work after coming across several major publications that were reporting on his work, in particular an article published in Motherboard that examined the massive, and continuously rising, amount of energy required to "mine" and process Bitcoin transactions globally -- a trend that may, on its own, lead to a 2°C global temperature rise within two decades (it’s worth mentioning that we are well that path, regardless). To put the amount of energy required to maintain Bitcoin's global use as the dominant cryptocurrency in perspective: “[Alex] de Vries’ research has found that Bitcoin’s energy consumption [is] roughly equivalent to the energy needs of Austria and may be more resource intensive than mining gold.”* To put it another way, Bitcoin transactions and “mining” in 2018 alone globally used about 0.5% of the total electric energy produced. It’s worth noting that that percentage will likely increase as long as the underlying structure of Bitcoin remains the same. In order to understand why this is the case and how we got to this point, I ask Alex to explain how Bitcoin operates, and why the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, require so much energy to operate in the first place. I also ask Alex to discuss the possible ways Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, can move away from being so energy consumptive, while still remaining decentralized in its structure. We discuss this and more in this episode.

Alex de Vries is a Senior Consultant and Blockchain Specialist at PwC, and is the founder of the blog Digiconomist -- an educative cryptocurrency/blockchain blog, featuring news roundups, risk assessments and in-depth analysis. Alex is the author of the paper ‘Bitcoin’s Growing Energy Problem’ published in Joule, the findings of which we discuss in this episode.

*Source: http://bit.ly/2GV1iui

Episode Notes:

- Learn more about Alex’s work at his blog: https://digiconomist.net

- Alex’s research into the Bitcoin’s energy use can be found here: http://bit.ly/2UddcT2

- Read Motherboard’s article on Alex’s work ‘Bitcoin Mining Alone Could Raise Global Temperatures Above Critical Limit By 2033’: http://bit.ly/2GV1iui

- The songs featured in this episode are “Hatoa” and “Nightlite (feat. Bajka)” by Bonobo from the album Days To Come.

#164 | Our Bonus Decade: Peak Oil & The Unmaking Of The Infinite Growth Paradigm w/ Richard Heinberg

In this episode, I speak with Richard Heinberg — Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels.▴ We examine Richard’s recent essay “Our Bonus Decade,” in which he examines the role peak oil played in the 2008 financial crisis and what the long-term consequences will be as a result of the fossil fuel industry’s transition to unconventional oil production this past decade.

In our examination of the themes presented Richard’s recent essay “Our Bonus Decade,” Richard discusses the role skyrocketing oil prices played in the financial crisis of 2008 and how this crisis coincided with a broader shift to unconventional fossil fuel production in our society, including an increased reliance on exceedingly destructive extractive methods such as fracking and tar sand oil extraction (like in Alberta, Canada). What will our civilization’s reliance on fossil fuels mean in the coming years as we come up against not only peak oil production — but also abrupt climate disruption and widespread ecological collapse, in great part as a result of our reliance on fossil fuels these past several centuries? Richard examines this question, and more, in this episode.

Richard Heinberg is the author of thirteen books, including ‘Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines,’ ‘The End of Growth,’ and most recently ‘Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy’ co-authored with David Fridley. Richard is Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels.▴

▴Source: http://bit.ly/RHabout

Episode Notes:

- Read Richard’s essay “Our Bonus Decade”: http://bit.ly/OurBonusDecade

- Learn more about Richard and his work at his website: http://richardheinberg.com

- Learn more about the Post Carbon Institute here: https://www.postcarbon.org

- Richard mentions: https://www.resilience.org

- The songs featured in this episode are “Relentless Drag (Mike Slott Remix)” and “And We Gonna (Samiyam Chopsticks Remix)” by Shigeto from the album Full Circle Remixes.

#152 | Folly Of Man: Fukushima, Nuclear Power, & Unending Consequences w/ Dr. Helen Caldicott

In this episode, I speak with Dr. Helen Caldicott — the "single most articulate and passionate advocate of citizen action to remedy the nuclear and environmental crises.”✇ We discuss the fallout of the current situation regarding the nuclear meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, the myths and lies that surround nuclear power as a sustainable energy source, the danger posed by having nuclear power plants near coastlines and large bodies of water around the world, the current state of the nuclear power industry, as well as other subjects relating to nuclear power and the dangers it poses for life on Earth.

Nuclear power has been heralded as a safe, clean, and necessary source of energy for the modern developed society, but what are the risks inherent in developing and using nuclear energy, and what examples can we look to that stand in the face of this assertion? Dr. Helen Caldicott discusses the lasting and long-term impacts the development of nuclear energy has had on the health of living beings on this planet since the first nuclear tests in the 1940’s. The most glaring example of the dangers posed by nuclear power comes from Dr. Caldicott’s examination of the meltdown of several nuclear power units at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan in March 2011 after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami impacted the power plant and caused several facilities to collapse. To this day, highly radiated water enters the Pacific Ocean from this source — the effects of which work its way up the food chain through genetic mutations, impacting the health of every living thing on Earth — including human life. Dr. Caldicott describes the hubris and insanity required to produce such a toxic and everlasting problem on this planet, as well as other subjects relating to the subject of nuclear power, nuclear waste, and the nuclear weapons testing that occurred during the Cold War era.

Dr Helen Caldicott has devoted the last forty-two years to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age and the necessary changes in human behavior to stop environmental destruction. Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1938, Dr Caldicott received her medical degree from the University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She founded the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital in 1975 and subsequently was an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Boston, Mass., until 1980 when she resigned to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war.  She has written for numerous publications and has authored several books, including 'Nuclear Madness,' 'The New Nuclear Danger: George Bush’s Military Industrial Complex,' 'Nuclear Power is Not the Answer,' and edited the 2017 book ‘Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation.’✇

✇Source: http://bit.ly/CaldicottBio

Episode Notes:

- Learn more about Dr. Caldicott’s years of work at her website: https://www.helencaldicott.com 

- Learn more about Dr. Caldicott’s most recent book ‘Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation’: http://bit.ly/CaldicottSA

- Dr. Caldicott founded the US-based Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI), which became Beyond Nuclear: http://www.beyondnuclear.org

- The song featured in this episode is “Loops” by Kneebody & Daedelus from the album Kneedelus.

#135 | The Sustainable City: The Future Of Urban Living w/ Steven Cohen

In this episode, I speak with Steven Cohen — former executive director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, a professor in the practice of public affairs at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, and the author of ‘The Sustainable City,' 

Steven, in this interview, provides an overview of the broader trends in sustainable technological development, particularly within the context of the ongoing urbanization of human life, with “54 per cent of the world’s population liv[ing] in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66 per cent by 2050.”☨ Steven provides an overview of these technological trends regarding their application in city planning within major urban areas around the world. Steven details the increasing efficiency of battery storage, the evolution of solar and wind power, and the rise and growing prominence of the electric automobile — and ties these evolving technologies to the ongoing development and planning of “sustainable cities.” Toward the end of the interview, Steven provides a nuanced perspective on the ongoing policy decisions by the Trump Administration, under the former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt, to deregulate environmental protections enforced by the EPA, and how these decisions will ultimately play out into the near future. 

In this interview, I attempted to challenge some of the underlying assumptions presented in Steven’s work, regarding the notion that sustainability can really be achieved within the socio-economic paradigm we exist within — a system that demands infinite growth in order to function. I don’t really know how successful I was in this regard, but I greatly appreciate Steven’s input and perspective in this episode.

Steven Cohen is the former executive director of Columbia University's Earth Institute and a professor in the practice of public affairs at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. He is the director of the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy and the Master of Science in Sustainability Management at Columbia. His books include ‘The Sustainable City,’ ‘Understanding Environmental Policy,’ ‘Sustainability Management,’ and ‘The Effective Public Manager.’ He has written numerous articles on public management, sustainability management, and environmental policy. Dr. Cohen also writes a weekly blog for the Earth Institute’s ‘State of the Planet’ website.✧

☨ Source: http://bit.ly/2LqeutH
✧ Sources: http://bit.ly/2LriR7C / http://bit.ly/2LDvdsP

Episode Notes:

- Learn more and purchase Steven’s book ‘The Sustainable City’ at Columbia University Press: http://bit.ly/2LDvdsP

- Learn more about Steven and his work at The Earth Institute: http://bit.ly/2LriR7C

- Visit Steven’s frequently updated blog ‘State of the Planet’: http://bit.ly/2LIe6px

- Steven on Twitter: https://twitter.com/StevenACohen

- The song featured in this episode is “Sincerely, Future Pollution” by Timber Timbre from the album Sincerely, Future Pollution. 

#101 | Bright Green Lies: Dispelling The Myths Of Sustainable Energy w/ Derrick Jensen

In this episode, Derrick Jensen discusses his current project "Bright Green Lies," a book that exposes the misconceptions and deceptions surrounding "renewal" energy sources (solar, wind, bio-fuels, etc.), and how the underlying ethos of the global environmentalist movement has been hijacked by the "green" energy faction of the industrial economy. Derrick strips these "bright green lies" bare, and asks for activists in the environmental movement to pledge their loyalty to the living earth itself, and not to human industrial civilization and the culture that attempts to rationalize and excuse industrial civilization's excesses, pushing this planet's living systems to the brink of irreversible collapse.  

Derrick Jensen is an environmental activist and author of well over a dozen books, including Endgame, The Culture of Make Believe, A Language Older That Words, The Myth of Human Supremacy, as well countless articles and essays that address a more radical understanding of human civilization and it's impact on the living planet we all share. 

Episode Notes:

- Learn more about Derrick and his work at his website: http://www.derrickjensen.org

- Derrick is the host of the radio show "Resistance Radio," a weekly released show on Derrick's website: https://goo.gl/dsQhBM

- You can also listen to the show on the Deep Green Resistance YouTube page: https://goo.gl/YpW8Zq

- The song featured in this episode is "Center Your Love" by Machinedrum from the album Vapor City.