An Interview with the founder of Bitcoiners for the Future, who want to raise awareness of Bitcoin as a solution to ecological problems.
Stephan, 41 years old and a medical doctor, founded the group Bitcoiners for the Future. It now consists of twenty-one active members and is committed to protecting the environment through better money. The group is facing opposition from both environmental activists and Bitcoiners.
Hyperbitcoinizer: Hello Stephan! You founded Bitcoiners for the Future. What is your mission?
Stephan: We are a community that recognises the socio-ecological potential in Bitcoin and wants to create awareness for it, for example in the face of current environmental challenges.
What do you mean by the socio-environmental potential of Bitcoin?
First, we assume that what is best for nature is not what you do, but what you don’t do. We urgently need incentives to reduce consumption. A disinflationary money like Bitcoin can incentivise people to conserve resources, save money, make durable products and recycle. This can also be observed in the scene. Most Bitcoiners I know wear old clothes and drive old cars. You rarely find the “When Lambo?” mindset.
Many economists associate consumer restraint with collective impoverishment and a regression to a mediaeval, fundamentalist economy. What is your take on that?
We don’t want to go back to the Stone Age, but forward to a new standard that is decoupled from purely material growth. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) puts quantity above quality. It does not make prosperity, but resource consumption the yardstick. If, for example, you buy an electric car instead of two combustion cars, and charge it with electricity from your own photovoltaic system, you gain wealth, but the GDP drops. Or look at the health system. Walking, exercise and good nutrition make you healthy, but create less GDP growth than diseases that require medication.
And Bitcoin can help move away from this GDP obsession?
Bitcoin should encourage people to act more sustainably and thoughtfully – for themselves and for the environment. In the long run, the thoroughly material concept of GDP needs to be replaced by concepts that are more apt for prosperity, such as happiness, contentment and health. Bitcoin could contribute to this transformation with its properties.
However, it doesn’t currently look like Bitcoin will replace fiat money in the near future.
It’s hard to predict what would happen if you abolish fiat money immediately. It could become disruptive in an unpleasant way. That’s why coexistence is fine for now. With Bitcoin, we already have a vehicle that makes it possible to stop abusing other vital structures like real estate to store value, or to consume leftover money at the end of the month. The very existence of money that is limited in quantity is a socio-ecological factor – competition between currencies is very desirable.
But the economic turnaround is not the only reason you propose Bitcoin as a solution?
Yes. We see Bitcoin as a possible accelerator of renewable energy development. When you see wind turbines standing still, they are rarely broken, but produce more electricity than the grid can handle. Germany spends 800 million euros a year paying utilities not to feed in electricity. Bitcoin mining is a fast-connecting consumer that can not only help stabilise the grid frequency, but provide an incentive for the much-needed expansion of corresponding facilities
That has been said for a long time, but relatively little is happening.
In Germany, the incentive to use Bitcoin mining for the expansion of renewable energies is rather low. The government pays eight cents per kilowatt hour, which is more profitable than mining Bitcoins. But it is already happening in other countries, for example in Kenya with micro hydropower plants, where the infrastructure is still lacking. And in Congo, a national park is financing itself with Bitcoin mining. These success stories definitely exist, and if Bitcoin helps to electrify Africa, that is also part of the historical justice for this continent.
Do the other ecological activists understand this? You would think that they would also want a more sustainable economic order.
Many react a bit disturbed at first when you mention Bitcoin. They think that Bitcoin is “climate-damaging money for criminals”. The first reaction is at least 90 percent rejection. Once, one of us, spoke before a meeting of environmentalists. Out of 800 participants, three came to the talk afterwards, and one was interested in Bitcoin. That’s about the quota. About one in a thousand, and that’s after long conversations. The fear of contact is strong, but seems to be dissipating somewhat with the increasingly perceived failure of politics on this topic. Often, dissatisfaction with our inflationary economic system is the first common denominator.
Are you managing to change their consciousness?
Economic-ecological connections are still poorly represented in the green movement. Many are sceptical about the idea of constant growth, but also have no other solution than to call for the state to ban or tax things. Unfortunately, many environmental activists have no answer other than to call for the state again and again. This reminds me of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, always doing the same thing and expecting different results. The potential for decentralised solutions that create individual incentives is still rarely found, which is a pity, since the green movement also denounces state failure and sees itself as a grassroots movement from below.
You don’t have an easy stand with Bitcoiners either, right?
Yes, some think, here come the communists. Bitcoiners are often libertarians or conservatives and think that we are advocating for more constraints by the state, because they know this from the other environmental organisations. But many understand relatively quickly that although we are concerned with the same goals as other environmental groups, we have other approaches to solutions. We don’t want the state to act primarily as a teacher of behaviour through laws and taxes, but we want people to make contributions to environmental protection out of their own incentives.