Greenpeace USA and Artist Benjamin Von Wong Join Forces to Highlight Bitcoin’s Climate Problem
by Gigi Singh
March 23, 2023
Art and activism merge in the striking art installation called the Skull of Satoshi, created by art activist Benjamin Von Wong and Greenpeace USA to highlight Bitcoin’s record of climate destruction.
The world of Bitcoin might seem intangible, but the reality is that Bitcoin has a very tangible impact on our climate, environment, and communities. We’re in a climate crisis, and right now Bitcoin is part of the problem–but it doesn’t have to be. That is why Greenpeace has teamed up with artist and activist Benjamin Von Wong. Greenpeace campaigner Rolf Skar first met Von Wong while studying the impacts of climate change on the Greenland Ice Sheet. It was there that Skar and Von Wong began talking about Bitcoin’s climate impact and what could be done to address it. Realizing that most people didn’t understand the connection between Bitcoin and the Climate Crisis – Von Wong and Skar embarked on a creative collaboration to design a visual symbol that could grab attention and support Greenpeace’s campaign to change the code, not the climate. The result is an 11-foot skull covered in E-Waste, complete with Bitcoin Laser Eyes, titled: “The Skull of Satoshi”.
Why is Greenpeace calling for Bitcoin to change the code? Because Bitcoin “mining” is causing needless harm to communities and our climate. Bitcoin is the world’s largest cryptocurrency and relies on a validation system called Proof of Work (PoW) that uses massive amounts of electricity mostly from climate polluting fossil fuels like coal and gas. In one year, Bitcoin uses as much electricity as the Netherlands and emits over 63 million metric tons of GHG emissions, more than Hungary emits annually.
Greenpeace’s ask to the Bitcoin community is straight-forward: change the code, not the climate. Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency, changed to a much more energy-efficient Proof of Stake (PoS) code in September 2022. After changing to a PoS, Ethereum’s energy consumption decreased by 99.95%.
Since Bitcoin is decentralized and has no formal leadership, it is incumbent on those investing in Bitcoin to join the movement to change Bitcoin’s code. That is why we are looking to financial institutions that have large Bitcoin businesses like Fidelity, Blackrock, and Goldman Sachs to stand true to their climate commitments and use their influence to help change Bitcoin’s code, not the climate.
Why art? Art can be a powerful tool for raising awareness and inspiring action. It has the ability to engage people emotionally, intellectually, and visually in ways that traditional forms of communication may not. This is particularly important with complex issues like the intersection of climate and cryptocurrency.
We hope that the Skull of Satoshi will be an invitation for people to join the campaign and learn more about Bitcoin and its role in stoking the flames of the climate crisis.
How does art become activism? Greenpeace will use the Skull of Satoshi as a visual reminder to Bitcoin’s backers in the financial services industry that Bitcoin is damaging communities and our climate. We will demand that financial institutions uphold their climate commitments and ask Bitcoin to change its code. The first stop is New York City, where the Skull of Satoshi and Greenpeace USA will call on financial institutions to recognize their responsibility and help make change.
Meet the artists behind the Skull of Satoshi and learn how they became involved in Greenpeace’s Change the Code campaign
Benjamin Von Wong is a Canadian artist and activist who uses his talents to raise awareness about social and environmental issues. He is best known for creating large-scale art installations that highlight environmental degradation caused by plastic pollution and electronic waste.
Von Wong’s art has been featured in numerous exhibitions and publications around the world, and has generated over 100M views for different causes through his hyper-realistic photographs and art installations.
Through his art and activism, Von Wong inspires positive change and encourages individuals and organizations to take responsibility for the impact of their actions on the environment and society. His collaboration with Greenpeace USA on the Skull of Satoshi is just one example of how he affects change through art.
“How often do we get the opportunity to erase the climate footprint of an entire country?” said Benjamin Von Wong. “I’m honored that Greenpeace agreed to collaborate and excited that my art can help to create demand for a more sustainable Bitcoin.”
Greenpeace USA is grateful for its partnership with Von Wong and the many volunteers who brought this project to life. Their commitment to climate activism is inspiring, and we hope that the skull will serve as a catalyst for change and inspire others to take action to protect the planet.