Engines of the earth, forests are an ancient power, once upon a time stretching across continents, an ancient network of nature connecting east and west, north and south. Now is an exciting time in which we humans can choose to elevate the power of these engines, or to continue to dismantle and destroy them. Should we choose to work with nature rather than against it, we can empower forests and trees to do what they could not do before: to reproduce and extend their networks across space and time.
Yes, the digital world has broken the time-space continuum. Digital information can travel at revelatory speeds. While trade winds may spread seeds far and wide, trees have never had this kind of opportunity to connect to each other (and to us).
Until now! If we were to ask trees what the cyber age could do for them, what might they ask for? Security for their forests, health and safety for their descendants, that humanity works with them and not against them?
If we ‘spawn’ physical trees via cyberspace, is that a way to get trees to “go viral?” The virality triggers a cascade of carbon-neutral or ideally carbon-negative actions, circles the globe a few times and we find ourselves with a bunch of newly reforested land? Ahh smell the sweet scent of newly generated oxygen healing the planet!
So some of you are probably thinking: meh, what we need to do is to pull the plug! Throw out capitalism, dirty energy, mobile phones, social media, computers and return to the old days! Let’s just grow our own vegetables, use fabric shopping bags and all go to Burning Man to learn how to be real with each other!!! ok, I’m not being cheeky. I kind of half think that, but, hold that thought and read on?
You may know a little about decentralized cryptocurrency and how in its ideal form, anyone can ‘mine’ this currency (like gold and silver miners did 100 years ago) and it is possible that crypto will topple banks from their pedestal as the arbiters of monetary exchange… or something like that. This new form of currency is indeed fraught with issues, but it may still emerge as a universal currency because its digital transactions are truly irrevocable. We will have to see.
So, back to the trees and the forest. Trees decay and die, yielding their carbon to future generations of the forest (you can read about mycelium, fungus and forest intelligence here). Deforestation robs forests of this process, and we are losing about 18 football fields worth of trees across the world every hour (according to onetreeplanted.com). With all the attention and money NFT (non-fungible token) exchange is getting, could we put a real stake (pun intended, see proof-of-stake) in this game, and give our critical earthly infrastructure meaningful support in a traceable, definitive way?
With at least 20 different “plant-a-tree” NFT offerings already in circulation, it appears already hip to plant and nurture a few trees for every NFT transaction (minted on a carbon-neutral cryptocurrency), even if these NFTs are not yet widely traded. What might it take to make reforestation more popular than funny looking apes?
If we start talking Treeborgs or hybrid forests, maybe we spark the imagination and captivate interest? A powerful, new Ent-ian hybrid forest yielding seedlings in both proximity and via the metaverse…. A Borgesian forest of endlessly forking descendants that perhaps aren’t necessarily physically connected but are instead connected via a ledger of non-fungible (non-fungi? that’s kinda funny right, if you know about mycelium) transactions that root ‘descendant’ trees all over the world.
This is what the Power of Tree is all about. I take a tree branch from a decaying dead tree. To document this branch’s existential beauty, I cast its body in porcelain. Next, I 3D scan it. I sell you the sculpture and 3D scan of the tree branch as an NFT and then according to the rules, I take 30%-60% of those proceeds and plant a tree or two or a hundred (it’s about $2 to plant and care for a tree according to onetreeplanted.com and then we have to account for the carbon offset, about $1.5 for every transaction and use the rest to make more sculptures). If you then sell it, you must do the same as stipulated by the smart contract. If you then print that 3d tree branch (with an environmentally friendly filament) and sell it, you enable that tree to ‘reproduce’ beyond its original capacity! You have in fact invoked the Golden Ratio (see here), which is essentially when one branch of a tree splits in two at a certain ratio, and continues to fork as long as the tree’s morphology dictates. And maybe you might even make a little bit of money in the process.
We could conceivably stretch this hybrid forest around the world a few times… and yield 2-to-the-n new trees with a few 3-d printed sculptures to prove it. What do you think?
Let’s get it going! This piece at the MassArt auction has sold ( the porcelain cast and its corresponding NFT), with the benefit going entirely to MassArt and the trees-to-be. Follow this link to read more about the very first physical-digital tree power hybrid! I will be making a similar drop in the next two weeks, the preview of the sculptures are here on my website.