Uses of Regen Ledger (the blockchain) other than credits

The launch of the ecocredit module will enable the use of the Ledger for credit-based systems, such as the carbon markets that already exist. The thread about Proposal 4 has focused attention on how Regen Registry plans to use Regen Ledger (the blockchain). I realize this is part of the vision that has motivated Regen Network, and I think more possibilities exist in addition to the Registry and other credit-based systems.

So, two questions:

  • What can people do with the Ledger besides using the ecocredit module?
  • For each of those ideas: Does that use actually align with the unique qualities of blockchains in general and this blockchain in particular, or would a non-blockchain method actually make more sense?

@Gregory_Regen , @Gijs_Spoor, any ideas?

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Wow… soo many ideas!

  • Land title claims are very alive in India at the moment, where indigenous groups are struggling to get rights to use forests as a commons
  • Ecosystem health tracking for the sake of everyone on the planet, and in a way that acknowledges multiple types of knowledge (unlike for example the UN scientific bodies)
  • Provenance tracking and enabling human-to-human relationships between growers and eaters, not mediated by a profit-seeking entity in the middle
  • this list can go on…

Whether or not blockchain is the appropriate way to store and share this data would depend on the alternatives I guess. I’m sure someone has already developed a heuristic to support decision making for networks about info infrastructure?

Regen Ledger mission is to be a ledger of the Earth . That will encapsulate many use - cases:

  1. Measuring ecological state of a land, air, water… Blockchain is good here because this data should be open for browsing and verification and anyone should be able to challenge it.
  2. Data module for capturing data and reports related to the previous point. Without a blockchain we won’t be able to bind data to the contract state in a trustless manner.
  3. Enabling funds, communities, DAOs to support goals related to particular Earth place. Without blockchain we won’t be able to automate it or make efficient decisions.
  4. Integration with market places and other chains to build a financial structures - without blockchain this will require trusted intermediaries and additional regulations.
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@robert, some concrete examples would help me understand what you’re saying. Maybe even a short story that illustrates how you imagine this working, or a “user story” in software design jargon.

In the past, I’ve heard Gregory talk about multiple ways of knowing. For example, in the forest here, people who know the forest can tell you how the forest is doing, without using any tools besides their own senses. Is their knowledge respected? As I dig into this more, what I’m seeing is that certain people want to quantify the Earth so that they can monetize it, but putting money above ethics and politics is part of what led to the current destruction. What I’m getting at is, for whom is the ledger? Right now, the biggest forests on Earth are those where indigenous peoples inhabit the forest. So, is this ledger for them? Or is this ledger for racist sexist capitalists? Or for scientists trying to stop “western civilization” from destroying itself and pulling everyone else down with it? Or, for farmers who already cut down the forest and now realize maybe it was a bad idea? Or, whom?

Are NOAA, NASA, and their counterparts in other countries failing at this in ways that blockchain or Regen Network actually solves? How do we challenge data?

Why is automation needed? Are human organizations currently unable to make “efficient” decisions about particular places on Earth? What does “efficient” mean? I’ve witnessed communities make land use decisions without using computers, and I’ve seen in the news how Bolsonaro has made the decision to destroy as much of the Amazon as possible, and that process is moving forward full steam without any blockchains. For another example, today the UN held a summit about food systems, and they weakened the possibility of that summit making land-based decisions by giving transnational corporations too much power. Is that what you mean by “inefficient” decisions, ones that exclude people who live with the land and instead favor people with financial wealth? Can you give more specific examples?

I think trust will always be necessary. In this case, what I understand is that you mean: instead of human intermediaries, the trusted intermediaries will be computers and the humans that design and maintain them. Am I understanding you? Are there any historical examples where a system benefitted human and ecological health by eliminating the need for humans to interact and trust each other? Are there any historical examples where ecological and social health benefitted by trusting computers and the humans who design and maintain the computers?

What comes to mind for me is the CyberSyn project in Chile, cut short by the US-backed coup that destabilized and then overthrew the Allende government because the US wanted their companies to make more money, not markets created by anyone else. This was, in my very limited knowledge, perhaps the most creative expression of computer and telex network technology put to use for human coordination, rooted in the reality of the global South. Here’s an interview describing the history of CyberSyn. CyberSyn used information networks to aid human decision making, not to remove the need for humans to trust each other. (And for anyone who wants to justify the coup in Chile, consider this question: What if someone didn’t like the last decision that your favorite DAO made, and so they decided to kill the people behind that decision?)

For another perspective on human interaction and trust, see Digital Redlining in the Frictionless Society w/ Chris Gilliard

Are regulations bad? There are some regulations I really like! For example, stop signs, traffic lights, not having weapons at voting sites during elections, requiring banks to tell the truth to people.

I may come across as a bit harsh or blunt. Forgive me, history including Christopher Colombus and the UN Earth Summit (chaired by a gas executive) hasn’t given me much space for trust or assuming good intentions or assuming that good intentions have any roots in reality. As James Michener wrote in Poland, “History doesn’t repeat itself. It is the same history, never broken, never halted.” My intention is to share my perspective and understand you in more depth. Obviously the stakes are high for regenerating the Earth, and I don’t want to let confusions or vague ideas slide by.

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How can Regen Ledger and Regen Network help keep the oil in the soil, the tar sands in the land, the coal in the hole, and the gas under the grass?

I see two sides to the greenhouse gas situation: pull GHG out of the air, and stop putting them into the air. So far, Regen Network is going along with the idea of carbon offsets, which seems like an ineffective idea: link the funding of regenerative activities to extractive activities? This means that if we want more funding for regenerative activities, we either increase the price of carbon credits (which is not guaranteed in any way) and/or increase extractive activities. That seems just plain wrong.

So, maybe it makes sense to let go of “offsets” and just focus on those two sides independently: fund regeneration with one system, and use a different system to stop pulling hydrocarbons out of the ground and stop burning them, and stop stealing indigenous land in order to mine hydrocarbons and uranium. I think there’s some pretty detailed thinking about this in Hoodwinked in the Hothouse – and for people wondering, What do some organizations of indigenous peoples and small farmers think of carbon markets? Look at that document!

I see economic actors, such as farmers, making choices that do BOTH at the same time:

Organic farmers use less or no synthetic fertiliser and fossil fuel based inputs, which is a way to keep the oil in the soil. They also increase organic matter which is a way to take GHG out of the air.

The mainstream market does not allow them to compete fairly with non-organic (or regenerative) farmers who benefit from A) cheap fuel, subsidised fossil inputs and total domination of agri science + B) not having to adjust their practices to the needs of their local ecosystem.

Consumers are kept ignorant about the true cost of everything they buy, so they keep making choices that contradict their own ethics.

So the market is broken. It does not measure what we value and does not tell the truth. At a collective level producers and consumers together form the bulk of our society (ignoring for a moment the role of investors) and I think most societies want to survive, or even thrive in harmony with their non-human fellows. They just don’t think it’s possible, because they’ve never seen a system where values were taken seriously.

So to me the opportunity seems to be: re-design the market so that it serves Nature and Peace. Regen can help in showcasing an operating system where the market actually does tell the truth and measure what matters.

It is more clear to me how this works in sectors that use raw materials grown on land or in water (see here how they start doing this in my home town Amsterdam). But it’s likely that the same applies to the energy sector.

Whether or not we need a blockchain for this kind of work I also don’t know

More brainstorming on potential uses (I am sure @Gregory_Regen has a very long list somewhere -wanna share?):

  • what if indigenous groups stewarding forest land want to send their kids to college and have no money (or want to use their money for something else)? They could offer biodiversity credits in stead. And the University could say it’s directly supporting protection of sacred parts of our global ecological heritage.
  • what if indigenous groups want to have a say on global forest policy and their national governments are not allowing them? They could form a G99 of top-ranking communities according to a peer review based stewardship credit, based on transparent metrics. That would make them a highly trustworthy body on the global policy stage, no? (same would apply to regenerative farmers influencing agri-policies etc)
  • What if a group wants to get supported for living in harmony with wild animals and they have camera traps to show how the animal population is faring? Anyone in the world (for example a school class) could become a Patron and support them directly (without having to rely on intermediaries like WWF)
  • What if a farmer grows coconuts with drip irrigation in stead of wastefully flooding his fields, and wants to get priority access to a local market? A water credit bundled with the harvest could enable this.
  • … I think we can come up with at least 1000 such ideas

Or university education can be universally free (in Germany, I know some people even get a subsidy to pay rent and food while studying), or indigenous people’s can have free admission (in New Zealand there’s something like this). These are public policy decisions, not market forces.

Indigenous peoples are already organized. They have some pretty big organizations, such as COICA in the Amazon, and the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, which includes non-indigenous communities too. Then there’s Via Campesina on the peasant side of things, representing approximately 200 million family farmers in 81 countries. And plenty of other federations in other parts of the world.

Certainly more organization is possible, and would have already happened if it weren’t for interference by states, corporations, and organized religion to interrupt indigenous self-organization. I’m not yet familiar with self-organization in the tropical forests of Africa, but I am familiar with the long history of foreign states and mining companies stoking inter-ethnic wars in that region.

And those groups do our best to participate in global decision making spaces and influential events. For example, there were UN food summits led by peoples’ organizations in 1996, 2002, and 2009, but this year the UN handed over control of the Food System Summit to the wealthiest agribusiness firms on the planet, effectively pushing land-based peoples out (detailed report). And you know what those agribusiness firms focused on? Digitizing agriculture and the food system.

So, when the direct enemies of family farmers push for that, we need some really detailed explanations about how other tech-based projects, such as Regen Network, differentiate themselves from the agribusiness agenda. In the same vein, we need a clear explanation of why REDD+ credits will be accepted on Regen Network if the proposal is to build something new. Those credits have been widely criticized (based on real evidence) for expanding colonialism of indigenous territories. If Regen Network serves to make those more efficient, then something is wrong.

Also, the first credit methodology designed by the Regen Network team is used to reward cattle ranchers for improving grasslands, and this decision (I assume) was due to the lucrative market available. Let’s think for a moment… what’s one of the primary motives to destroy forests worldwide? Cattle ranching. Certainly if people are going to raise cattle, then I’d like them to do it in ways that build soil carbon and water quality and happy cattle. But what I’d like even more is for the forest and the forest peoples to be left intact, or return to the land that was stolen from them. I think the Regen Network argument is that the price of forest-based credits should be higher than the price of grassland credits, but such a commodity approach doesn’t take into consideration areas that are historically grasslands – I don’t want to incentivize people to steal grasslands in order to plant forests. Basically, local decision making needs to determine land use, local policy, not global markets. Global markets, or regional markets, or local markets, for certain things, can be useful. I’m not saying that all markets are evil. I’m saying that local knowledge is more important, and that we don’t need to digitize, tokenize, and monetize that local knowledge in order to put it into practice.

So, yes, support indigenous peoples, peasant and family farmers, and other territorial communities to continue their long, historical process of organizing themselves. Hey, support anti-colonial organizing efforts by other countries too, such as the Bandung Conference. And, ask: Why do Europeans and US citizens and other people in the centers of colonial power not learn any of this history in their history and government and civics classes in their 12+ years of formal schooling? Why is this history and current reality left silent, invisible? The result is this: in Regen Network, people ask, Why don’t the indigenous people organize? and they say to themselves, Hmmm, I wonder what indigenous peoples (in all their great diversity of cultures and opinions) might think of this? (even though those organizations already have websites and even Twitter accounts where they publish their thinking for anyone who cares to investigate.

What if an indigenous confederation in the Amazon, who live with their jaguar neighbors but are having a hard time resisting the massive forces of cattle ranching and logging because the state promotes those activities and a grade school in some other country is going to have a hard time countering state policy… what if that indigenous confederation wants to support a project in a rural area of the US to re-introduce wolves? Can they ask the local farmers to install game cameras, and promise to send them some plant medicine (that based on experience is at least as effective as the COVID-19 vaccines) if they increase the wolf population? Or maybe the forest peoples of the Congo Basin want to support the opening up of rangeland in the central plains of “North America” so that bison can run free again, so they decide to contact local employees of the state agricultural agencies in the central plains and suggest that if they increase bison populations, they will receive some mbiras for their effort.

Okay, I hope that makes clear some of the futility and weirdness of that approach, and I also acknowledge that if, instead of game cameras measuring criteria of interest to the grade school kids raised in a culture that already killed all the large felines locally and continues to make their return practically impossible, if instead a cross-cultural relationship is formed, such relationships can be useful. I heard that once a local cattle ranchers association in the US southwest formed a relation with a territorial community in some part of sub-Saharan Africa, and they had some interesting visits between the two places, sharing stories and ranching techniques. Those kinds of relationships or exchanges directly between land-based peoples, and especially between indigenous peoples, can be very useful, and they usually don’t involved a one-way flow of money.

So, we would put a blockchain (running largely on Amazon Web Services, which passes its profits to its parent company, Amazon.com, which uses those profits to buy up parts of the food system and further industrialize and digitize and concentrate them) in the middle of local relationships? If the farmer wants priority access at the local market, one important question is who runs the physical and organization parts of the local market (maybe the local government, or maybe a farmers organization). Keeping that in mind, there are examples from various parts of the world (I know cases here in Ecuador) of groups of family farmers who inspect, certify, and learn from each other, sometimes including consumers and other people. These are known as participatory guarantee systems, and I can’t see how they would benefit from a blockchain. Part of their utility is their simplicity, that enables groups of farmers to run the system entirely themselves, without the need for software architects and data centers.

You might ask yourself: Why is Patrick putting in the time and effort to write such long, detailed responses? Because I think that folks here do have honestly good intentions, and I’d like to help put those good intentions through the filter of reality, at least the little corners of reality that I know, so that we can channel those good intentions into something useful, and not just repeat the same mistakes of the past. Regen Network has spent 5 years-ish focused on blockchain technology. That part of things seems to be running fine. So, what about practical uses?

I think Eric Toensmeier could help clarify what we’re each missing about the other person’s point of view. He has a long history of thinking and writing about these issues. He authored The Carbon Farming Solution, which includes thinking about how to support farmers organizations. @Gregory_Regen , maybe you could reach out to him?

All these good use cases could be more readily verifiable using a public blockchain, but there is of course the UI/UX attached to the use case which is important to develop and gain popular participation, to truly make the ledger maximally useful.

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In the case of Proof-of-Stake and Proof-of-Work blockchains, I think the profit-seeking entities in the middle are validators and miners (respectively), as well as the software development companies (both for the blockchain software and for the on-chain programmable contracts), and the speculative token holders. I wonder how their interests distort or modify the relationship.

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Absolutely correct! Actually middlemen are not evil per se. They just need to be held accountable by the wider system to which they are supposed to add value. Often they abuse information asymmetries to cling on to value extraction and power. This might be overcome in case there is active stakeholder governance of the value chain. There is absolutely no guarantee that blockchain tech enabled models are going to be less unequal, but I experienced sooo many times the feeling of utter powerlessness in the face of financial and bureaucratic elites (eg: trying to get a fair price for rainfed, smallscale, regenerative farmers in India) that I am willing to risk failing with a new model.

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