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The outdoors + Web3 – it's not all bad but sometimes it feels shitty.

A new National Parks NFT project aims to provide gear and experiences to its membership community, while also donating 10% of minting proceeds to National Parks.

If you’re not familiar, web3 (very roughly) is any stuff that has to do with Bitcoin, blockchain, NFTs, DAOs or any other of those buzzwords you may have been hearing about lately. I’m not going to get too far into the specifics here, but if you’re interested in learning more, Odyssey DAO is a good start. Onwards.

Before I go any further…

  • There is a legitimate and interesting conversation to be had about digital art, collectibles, ownership, and more effectively rewarding creators for their work.
  • A significant number of people right now are *not* concerned with these things —or the whatever story/mission/etc is behind the project but primarily as an investment vehicle
  • Many blockchains have significant environmental issues — although this is frustratingly hard to track. Most of the emissions are due to the mining process, which is likely to happen independent of what folks are building with blockchain. There are solutions in the works, but that’s a separate conversation.

Anyways, I stumbled across an outdoors-focused NFT project.

Meet National Parks NFT.  In their own words:

The first National Park NFT community, where members of our National Park Club gain access to gear and experiences, while giving back to the environment.

Here’s how it works:

  • NFT collections are generally large sets of similarly themed NFTs. Each individual NFT often has a set of unique characteristics available at a ‘rarity’ within the collection. NFTs can increase in value, be bought and sold, and verified ownership can be used as a login/membership “card”.
  • If you buy one of these National Parks NFTs for .07 ETH (probably around $220-$280 USD) you get access to their membership community for future rewards/benefits.
  • They plan to donate 10% of minting proceeds (initial sales) to National Parks. There are ~4800 available, so if they sell them all, the creators will (theoretically) pocket ~$1M and donate ~$100k.

Here’s what I like:

  • I’m all for finding unique ways to drive $$ to parks. That’s potentially a big chunk of money. Web3/blockchain has drawbacks/trade-offs but I’m not completely against interesting uses of blockchain technology. Money towards parks = usually a good idea.

Here’s what I don’t like

  • It’s inherently exclusive. If there’s one thing the industry doesn’t need, it’s more of that. This project is limiting their community to an *extremely* narrow group of people (outdoors + web3 + in the know). We’re talking about a “community” of less than 4,800 people here, and potentially significantly less than that, considering that many of their whitelist members will probably buy multiple NFTs (as more of an investment).
  • It’s not a truly altruistic project when only 10% is going to parks. Maybe some money is better than nothing, but this isn’t a charity — it’s clever positioning to fund the creators future projects (if they can even execute).
  • The community stuff. “Access to gear and experiences at drastically reduced prices. Access to photography experts, hiking guides, and park experts”. Surprise surprise, one of the creators already runs a photography trip business. “Access to discounts and giveaways on products and experiences”? It’s illegal to hold subscriber-only (or purchase required) giveaways in the US (and many other places), as it’s considered a form of gambling.
  • I’d also be concerned about executing on nebulous, pie-in-the-sky promises about “metaverse national parks” experiences.
  • I hate the idea that interested folks need some sort of profit motive to donate to the parks. I guess we’re back to trade-offs here, but man, it just feels shitty. A lot of the interested buyers would not be interested if there wasn’t a potential return on their NFT investment.
  • And this is just completely made up. Absolute hogwash:

Option 1: - Donate to the National Parks Foundation, NPCA, or a more locally targeted group with your credit card.

Option 2: - Buy ETH with USD. Get ETH wallet. Get wallet chrome extension. Connect wallet to OpenSea. Try and get on whitelist. Wait for minting. Buy NFT for 90% more than your ‘donation’. Pay gas fees. The creators then have to covert that 10% ETH back to USD. The creators donate to National Parks Foundation on behalf of everyone who bought (idk the tax implications here, but probably robbing you of a write-off and giving themselves a big one).

Ok, rant over.

Unfortunately, while the idea is novel, I really don’t think the execution is what is needed in the outdoors right now. Will it be successful (as an NFT collection)? Honestly, I don’t know, but there’s a good chance it will. The art is fun, it has a positive spin, and there’s a lot of emotional connection to the parks. I can see it taking off.

Maybe I’m overly critical, and should just be happy about *any* money for parks.

Maybe the buyers would normally not consider donating to parks.

Maybe I’m just bitter that these guys might make a (sizable) amount of money off vague promises when I’ve seen so many folks work their asses off to build real community and effect positive change in the outdoors. I don’t have any solutions to ‘fix’ this sort of NFT community right now, so maybe I’ll noodle on that a bit. We’ll see.

What if we all just…donated $25 to the National Parks Foundation?

On the other hand…

Here are some folks that I think *are* doing interesting things at the intersection of environmentalism/outdoors with web3. Like I said, it’s not all bad.

Offsetra - Education and carbon offsets for crypto and NFTs.

Klima - Carbon-backed, algorithmic digital currency.

Save Planet Earth - Carbon credit NFTs, a green blockchain entirely powered by renewable energy, and a carbon credit exchange that will use $SPE as the exclusive currency. - A DAO that invests in undervalued land assets, with the goal of restoring the Great Plains and replanting native forests and grasslands to regenerate soil health + improve air and water quality.

Open Forest Protocol - Using blockchain to improve how forestation (reforestation, afforestation and conservation) projects are monitored, verified and funded.

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I'm Kyle Frost. Join 65,000 readers enjoying Here & There, my weekly outdoor/travel newsletter with nuance, questions, and complexity.