Gaia’s Debut in Video Games, AI tools, and Cryptocurrencies

Sign inviting participation in the Crescent City Gaian Guild gathering. (Image by Bart Everson)

I began collecting clips of “Gaia in the News” way back in August 2013 as a curated newsletter. The concept was simple: I tracked mentions of Gaia in the news media. I kept at it for over four years, then ran into some limitations and stopped. (Browse the archive.) Though I continued monitoring for a while after that, as a private pursuit, I didn’t really get started again until May 2020, after I connected with the Gaian Way community. I was intrigued to discover a global uptick in mentions of Gaia around that time, triggered by the pandemic.

I started sharing clippings with my local Guild in July of 2020, and I’ve been sharing them with the global Gaians discussion group since the spring of 2021 at least. Now, we thought we’d try a quarterly roundup for even broader dissemination. Please let us know if you find this useful or if you have any questions (and sign up for the discussion group if you want regular Gaia in the News updates).

Combing Through References to Gaia

I start by collecting these clips using Google Alerts and then filter out the results to remove any false positives, such as articles about the Gaia space telescope, the Gaia TV channel, and those by the journalist Gaia Vince.1

I’m sure there’s plenty that my methodology misses, but even so it indicates something significant: we humans aren’t really talking about Gaia all that much. In fact, on any given week, I may come up empty-handed. We talk far more about Taylor Swift, or even her boyfriend Travis Kelce, than we talk about Gaia.

The listing that comes out of this search isn’t intended as an endorsement of the content behind the links, but instead reveals how Gaia (explicitly named) is showing up in news stories. Sometimes the items are amusing, amazing, or infuriating.

The Latest Batch

In the first quarter of 2024, stories ranged from a new boat and new shop named after Gaia, to a new dance in Rochester, and a symphony in Boston,2 to a new eco-horror video game where you play as Gaia as she restores life after a post-apocalyptic event.

This ship might be named after Gaia but that’s about all. (Image from Solitude)

Beyond that there was an AI tool named Gaia used by central banks, a space junk tracking program, a Daisyworld-like experiment to test the Gaia Hypothesis,3 a couple of events including a sound healing gathering in which folks sent a sonic valentine to the Gaia Matrix, and several op-eds including one asking the question “who will survive to write the obituary of Gaia?

Most interesting, perhaps, was the open-sourced Nature article that explores “CyberGaia,” or Earth as a cyborg. The author, Logan Thrasher Collins, proposes CyberGaia “as a metaphor to describe our biosphere in a fashion which acknowledges human technology as an integral part of nature.” It’s a provocative argument and definitely worth a read.

Problems with Crypto

But of all the articles mentioning Gaia, the one that generated the most dialogue within our nascent Gaian community was the launch of GaiaCoin. It seems that despite a substantial downturn, cryptocurrency is still a hot topic. In fact, it’s a sore spot for those who love Gaia. The idea of crypto named after Gaia? That seems like an insult.

Even as I wrote this, I got an alert from the local Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, urging me to oppose Louisiana HB 488. It’s a pro-crypto measure that would “limit the ability of local governments to respond to citizen concerns around noise, energy use, and ratepayer impacts from cryptocurrency mining operations.”

The profligate use of energy especially alarms Gaians, as well as the associated collateral damage. Many crypto-generating activities are referred to as “mining” operations, and the label fits all too well. Even though crypto-miners don’t actually dig into the ground, the ecological consequences can be nearly as devastating.

On a small scale, it seems trivial, almost harmless. A crypto “mining” program grinds through some meaningless math problems to show “proof of work.” It becomes a big deal when expanded to the mind-boggling levels we’ve seen recently. The UN reports energy consumption from Bitcoin alone was equivalent to the country of Pakistan. The carbon footprint? It’s like burning 84 billion pounds of coal, or operating 190 natural gas-fired power plants.

So much greenwash that it’s leaked onto the hand model’s fingers. (Image from GaiaCoin).

Bitcoin is by far the most famous cryptocurrency, but there are many others, often predicated on the same destructive proof-of-work model. The second largest cryptocurrency is Ethereum, which launched in 2015. Almost immediately, Vitalik Buterin and Ethereum’s development team began seeking an alternative to the proof-of-work standard. In 2022, they made the switch to something called proof-of-stake. Instead of doing complex math problems, participants put up a financial stake. Instead of mining, they validate.4

It’s important for our community to understand this chief difference. Mining for proof-of-work is computationally intensive and thus consumes massive amounts of energy. Validating for proof-of-stake is radically less intensive and thus consumes a lot less energy.

How much less? Something like 99.95%. Ethereum’s energy consumption under the old model was similar to that of a small country. Now that’s fallen off drastically, and its carbon footprint has shrunk significantly. That’s why proof-of-stake is hyped as greener and cleaner and more ecologically friendly and responsible.

Is Bitcoin fueling the firing of the world? (Image by Marco Verch via flickr)

The Other Side of the Crypto Coin

I’m knee-jerk skeptical of such claims, but I’m also intrigued. Our current, mainstream, conventional economy does not serve Gaia well. To the contrary, “business as usual” is something of a catastrophe. We need alternatives. Could cryptocurrencies like Ethereum facilitate radically different economic practices?

Though proof-of-stake might foster consolidation of wealth, Ethereum retains a decentralized structure. Boosters claim that structure favors inclusivity, by cutting out the middle man and providing more direct access to financial services, allegedly empowering individuals and communities. Ethereum’s governance is community-driven. Stakeholders can actively shape the platform’s development.

This plays out in the real world with applications such as so-called smart contracts. One example is Etherisc, a “decentralized insurance protocol,” which can do things like offer affordable crop insurance for small farms. There is also the concept of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), which may have potential to advance social justice causes with a more democratic, grassroots, community-driven approach than traditional nonprofits.5

I’m not terribly impressed by the real-world examples I’ve seen so far, but this model is still in its infancy and seems worthy of investigation. It promises several advantages over approaches using traditional currency: operations would be transparent and decentralized by default, no banks need be involved, the whole thing can easily be global, and smart contracts can be used to enforce the agreed-upon rules.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no economic expert. Recently, I’ve been trying to get my head around the concept of degrowth, as we organize the Gaian Degrowth Pod. It’s my understanding that degrowth can be fostered through decentralized, peer-to-peer economic activities, as opposed to the centralized, resource-intensive institutions that currently dominate. That sounds broadly like what crypto is aiming for. We need alternative economic models focused on meeting basic needs rather than endless growth. There’s no easy techno-fix for this, but technology will certainly play a role. Could platforms like Ethereum provide the technological foundation for such models?

And what about GaiaCoin? It’s a new cryptocurrency that uses proof-of-stake and aims to fund carbon-reducing initiatives. Is this more “green growth” twaddle or does it align with principles of degrowth? Check out their project criteria and judge for yourself. The focus on economic efficiency and financial viability as a primary criteria of green might raise a red flag, to say nothing of the cookie-cutter language around climate change and green stock images.

I don’t want to sound like a crypto fan. I’m cautious and skeptical, but I think we should keep an open mind about such initiatives, particularly as new systems emerge using methods like proof-of-stake. We should investigate their potential for enabling an economy that is truly sustainable, just, resilient, circular, regenerative, collaborative, and communitarian, an economy that values well-being over growth6 – in other words, a Gaian economy.

Could cryptocurrency actually help build a more sustainable economy? Share your thoughts below. (Image from Edwin.images via Wikimedia Commons)


1) The Gaia Space Telescope may interest Gaians, as might the many environmentally-focused articles by Vince, but these aren’t stories about Gaia, the living Earth, so are excluded.

2) This symphony actually premiered in 2013 in Los Angeles, composed by Wayne Shorter. He was quoted in The Boston Musical Intelligencer: “To me, Gaia, is the planet we live on, and the fact that we’re all here is symbolic of the limitless description of what life is all about.”

3) For those unfamiliar with Daisyworld, this is the initial experiment James Lovelock used to argue that life plays a role for self-regulating to sustain the conditions of life.

4) Note this is greatly simplified. For more, read here.

5) The Crypto Altruism website offers an intriguing explanation on how it can work:

DAOs can be set up to accept membership from anyone interested in supporting the cause, through the purchase of governance tokens, and the group can decide collectively how the funds are dispersed. For example, let’s say 100 individuals purchased $100 of the DAOs token each, granting them membership and voting permissions, and 25% of the value of the tokens goes towards the DAOs charitable fund. The members (token holders) could then vote on which cause they want the $2,500 raised to support, based on a number of projects proposed by community members. As new members join, more funds are added to the pool, which can be paid out to charities at a pre-determined basis with collective input from the community.

5) Of people, and of other species, all within the context of staying within Earth’s limits.

Bart Everson is the convener of the Crescent City Gaian Guild and a member of the Gaian Leadership Council. He helped found the Green Party of Louisiana as well as Friends of Lafitte Greenway, the Earth-Based Spirituality Action Team of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the Earth-Centered Special Interest Group of POD Network, and the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition.

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