When Wall-E hit theatres in 2008, the roaming robot’s story was a warning viewers of the societal costs of unchecked waste and environmental degradation. Since then, three billionaires have hurled spacecraft to the edge of space. The United Nations climate reports have only gotten more apocalyptic. E-waste has only become a greater scourge.
Clearly, some people didn’t get the message of the film.
It seems that group now apparently includes Disney itself, which is getting ready to release its very own Wall-E-themed NFT. The Wall-E NFT is the result of a partnership between Disney and digital collectible company VeVe and will be released as part of a “Disney Golden Moments” collection. In NFT format, poor Wall-E appears as a figurine, caked in Trump Tower gold with his arms grasping towards the sky as if searching for an escape out of his digitised prison.
According to VeVe, the Wall-E collectible, as well as others like Pizza Planet Truck, Elsa, and Mickey Sorcerer’s Hat are only offered for purchase as part of a “blind box,” which sounds like a loot box for collectibles. Wall-E is listed as “uncommon.”
Wall-E presciently predicted the excess of consumerist culture and its knock-on environmental catastrophes, two forces inexorably linked to this year’s NFT explosion.
On the climate side, the energy used to mine cryptocurrencies using proof of work and process transactions has exploded. Mining operators tend to use cheap energy, which generally means more carbon-intensive options like coal. The issue has gotten so bad that China’s Inner Mongolia province, once a booming spot for cryptocurrency mining, recently announced it would ban all new cryptocurrency ventures partly as an effort to reduce electricity consumption.
NFTs themselves have a major carbon footprint. While some companies have tried to offset their way out of that pollution, that’s simply not a long-term solution. Forest projects that suck up carbon, which are among the most common forms of offsets, have also recently gone up in smoke amid worsening wildfires and sent the carbon they were supposed to be sequestering for decades up into the atmosphere. Not exactly a recipe for success!
On the consumerist side, Disney follows in the footsteps of giants like Taco Bell and McDonald’s who have created merch collectibles for tacos, fries, and most recently, a greasy McRib. And people are buying them up. (Taco Bell’s 25 token reportedly gone in less than 30 minutes.)
If Wall-E really existed, he’d likely be trying to save the forests and clean up the waste created by the NFT created in his honour. Unfortunately, robots are not likely to save us from ourselves. Instead, it’s on us.