In PLATFORM we are introducing an arena where issues can be discussed and debated. These can be scientific, cultural, historical and/or arts related among other ideas. We are looking at these issues from local, national and international perspectives alike.
WHY DIGITAL CURRENCIES ARE BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Whilst scanning through the BBC’s News Home Page an interesting headline caught my attention. The headline said that Elon Musk was no longer trading in Bitcoins due to their high mining costs and the detrimental effects the mining had on the environment. My understanding of what a Bitcoin was immediately called into question and I couldn’t quite put the two together; that is mining and something I thought only existed in a virtual world. So, I read on and finally understood what it all meant. To begin with, let’s be clear on what a Bitcoin is. The first ideas behind a digital currency were in the 1990’s but it wasn’t until twenty years later that the main currency at the time, Bitcoin, started to come more and more into the public domain. The Bitcoin domain and protocol, the rules and software used to allow Bitcoin trading and to record ownership, was established in 2008 by a person or persons (there are a few names circulating on the internet but they are all believed to be pseudonyms) seeking a change to how business transactions are conducted. With only a few thousand transactions in the first few years, the number had grown to over 10 million by 2020. The value of a Bitcoin also increased, from virtually nothing in 2009 to between $55,000 and $60,000 by April 2021. The numbers of Bitcoins in circulation can grow by what is referred to as ‘mining’. At first, it seems that the term is used to mean something else, something that doesn’t really relate to mining as we know it, such as for coal, however, there is a connection. In order to mine or generate more Bitcoin’s, prospectors compete against each other to solve complex mathematical problems – the winner receiving the Bitcoins. The problem is this. In order to solve these mathematical problems, huge amounts of computational power, and therefore electricity, is required. And since most Bitcoin miners are in China (over 75%), the source of the electricity is the burning of vast amounts of coal in China’s coal fired power stations. So, the mining of Bitcoins is, in effect, introducing thousands of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Musk finishes by saying that Bitcoins still have a future in business transactions but until they can resolve their environmental issues, his company (Tesla) will no longer be trading them.
WHY SUCH A LOW OPINION OF SCOTLAND?
The Scottish Elections in May 2021 showed that an overwhelming majority of Scottish people supported and voted for pro-independence and pro-referendum parties. I was one of those people.
The following Thursday after the elections, the BBC's debate programme Question Time devoted a question to whether Scotland should have another referendum. With social distancing in place, the viewer's panel appeared virtually on a screen wall, I believe they are a randomly selected group who appear every week on the programme. Everyone is entitled to their views, however, one of the faces on the screen proceeded to declare that "her village" might like to become independent too and put a rocket on the moon while they were at it. This, of course, implies that the idea of an independent Scotland is as ludicrous as a small English village gaining independence and sending a rocket to the moon! Shades of an 1950's Ealing comedy here and quite apt considering the mind set of some people who still live in the "good old days of the British Empire". Anyway, this remark subsequently caused a wave of laughter to ripple across the screen wall with many (not all) of the participants laughing at what had been said.
And, what was said was so insulting and disrespectful to those of us who believe that Scotland is perfectly capable of running its own country. Why is their opinion of Scotland so low?
During the 1970's the artist John Latham was commissioned by the Scottish Office's Development Agency to reimagine the red shale oil bings in West Lothian as something other than a waste product from the process known as "retorting" gas from the shale. Although profitable in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the mines were eventually closed down by the 1960's. These gigantic bings, the leftovers from a defunct industry were thus regarded as eyesores for the most part and no value of any kind was placed upon them. That is until it was discovered that the unique environment of the bings are ideal for the development of plant biodiversity. Nowadays, therefore, they have become sites of interest for environmental research. Not only that, they have taken on a kind of iconic status as landmarks, the remnants of an industrial past. The Five Sisters near West Calder, for example, is now a protected industrial monument. John Latham was asked to use his considerable creative skill to find a fresh way to consider four enormous bings which dominate the landscape near the small town of Broxburn and Winchburgh. For those not familiar with industrial landscape such as this it might come as an eyeopener just how magnificent this man-made, almost extra-terrestrial looking environment is.
This article will help to explain what happened when Latham came to West Lothian between 1975 and 1976.
From my point of view this is a "hidden" piece of public art when we have so many visible pieces of mediocre public art projects in West Lothian. This project was not given the publicity it deserved at the time nor has it been noted sufficiently today at a time when ideas about the environment are changing. John Latham chose to have his ashes scattered on the "Heart" of Niddrie Woman (the heart that was too large for the body). This says a lot about how Latham felt about the place and his perception that perhaps West Lothian is a place populated by big-hearted people.