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How to save the Amazon?

A Brazilian company that owns 410 square kilometers (158 square miles) of Amazon rainforest is offering a new way to fund conservation by selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs). This allows buyers to sponsor the preservation of specific areas of jungle. NFTs are a kind of crypto asset that exploded in popularity, with a unique digital signature guaranteeing they are one of a kind. Other efforts to fund conservation via NFTs include plans for a South African wildlife reserve. 

In Brazil, a company called Nemus began selling NFTs granting buyers unique sponsorship of different sized tracts of forest, with the proceeds going to preserve the trees, regenerate clear-cut areas and foster sustainable development. Nemus founder Flavio de Meira Penna said that the token holders will not own the land, but will have access to key information about its preservation, from satellite imagery to licensing and other documentation. He said that Nemus had sold 10% of an initial offer of tokens for 8,000 hectares on the first day.

Penna told that his guess is this will accelerate rapidly in coming weeks. Also, added that blockchain technology would ensure transparency in the use of the funds. Plots vary in size from a quarter of a hectare to 81 hectares (0.6 to 200 acres).

NFTs for the smallest plots sell for $150 and the largest fetch $51,000. Penna is hoping to raise $4 million to $5 million to buy an additional 2 million hectares of land already under negotiations in the municipality of Pauini in Amazonas state. Along with preserving the forest, Penna said that the funds would support sustainable development efforts such as harvesting acai berries and Brazil nuts by local communities in Pauini.

Each token comes with artwork of an Amazon plant or animal and is processed by San Francisco-based Concept Art House. Critics have questioned the value of NFTs for environmental causes because tokens using the blockchain technology require intense computing power, driving up demand for electricity generation that releases climate-warming greenhouse gases. Penna dismissed that view, saying preservation of threatened areas of the Amazon far outweighs the environmental cost of NFT transactions.

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