An exploration of how SourceCred could be used for environmental stewardship.
Consider the forest pictured above.
Let’s think about some different kinds of value it provides:
- Takes CO2 out of the air and releases oxygen
- Filters water, controls water runoff
- Cycles and stores nutrients
- Reserve of biodiversity, habitat for many different species
- Provides a sense of natural beauty and wonder for humans who visit
- Has trees that can be cut down for lumber
- Can be clear-cut and replaced with farmland or development
Of the kinds of value listed above, only the last two are recognized by our current economic paradigm: the lumber and the land. In other words, our economic system sees the forest not as a vital piece of “natural infrastructure” that we should steward, but instead as a “natural resource” to exploit.
Fundamentally, I think this is an issue with how our current economic system recognizes value. Since no-one ever exchanges money with the forest for its contributions to air or water quality, the forest isn’t valued.
However, SourceCred is all about recognizing non-transactional value. If SourceCred were widely deployed–a fully realized paradigm–one facet of SourceCred would be “EcoCred”.
We could imagine every surrounding community flowing some cred from the community into the forest. Then, the forest would flow cred to everything–people, institutions, natural processes, etc–that help sustain the forest.
For example, maybe it turns out that a particular un-assuming beatle is a keystone species for the forest. And that beatle is threatened by the use of a particular pesticide in nearby farmland. Then, everyone who was involved in discovering this relationship and stopping usage of the pesticide would earn cred from the beatle species, and, transitively, from the forest as a whole. And since the forest is recieving cred from nearby communities, they would have cred from other humans, closing the human->human cred loop.
Totally a problem! To fix this, how would people flow Cred to the forest? Would someone just create a “Forest” artifact and then anyone who benefits from that artifact would flow Cred back to it?
If so, then what would incentivize people to flow Cred to the forest? Would it be a social contract? Would it be a requirement of the protocol where if someone can prove that you benefited from someone or something, but did not flow Cred to them, then that flow of Cred is enforced?
Would there be a team that manages the Forest Artifact so that it appropriately flows Cred where it needs to go? How would this happen?
We’re assuming that the population that lives near this forest believes in science right? Because otherwise they might flow lots of Cred to lots of weird things lol
Would there be a dispute resolution mechanism so that if you point out that a beetle is essential for lots of things that depend on it, and as a result Cred should flow from those that depend on it to those that protect it, then a council of experts and/or a jury of community members can enforce that decision on the Cred graph?
Also really glad the Inspiration category is inspiring this post! (or at least serves as a good home for it )
This is a really good question. I think we will need legal/political processes to regulate the cred graph. For example:
- Government (however constituted) creates frameworks on how Cred needs to flow to natural resources
- “Cred Historians” are looking for ways to improve the Graph (e.g. do new research that shows the beetle species’ eggs need to be laid in a particular fungus, beetle species now flows cred to that fungus). Some
- “Cred Defenders” are perpetually auditing the Cred graph looking for bad behavior (e.g. people skimping on cred flows to resources they depend on), and can “challenge” and propose changes to the graph.
- “Cred Court” hears the challenges, and if the Cred Defender prevails, they get some of the re-flowed Cred (as incentive)
This is a rough sketch of a system, as we continue prototyping the game of SourceCred, I expect we’ll come up with a lot of better mechanisms.
Sure, they’ll flow cred to weird things. We also spend money on weird things. Humans are weird.
Potentially related paper on how a forest can own itself:
More info here: