Photographer builds 11-foot electronic waste skull to show Bitcoin’s impact on climate change

Mar 23, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Photographer builds 11-foot electronic waste skull to show Bitcoin’s impact on climate change

Mar 23, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Photographer and activist Benjamin (Ben) Von Wong is well known for his work that raises awareness of various environmental and sociological issues. In his latest project Skull of Satoshi, Ben points out to the massive impact Bitcoin has had on climate change.

For this project, Ben and his team collected electronic waste and recycled Styrofoam and painstakingly assembled them all together in an 11-foot-tall skull with laser eyes. After 1,000 hours of work, the setup was ready for some epic photos, and Ben shared them with us, as well as the story behind this project.

[Related reading: Photographing a 10 foot tall extinction thermometer]

YouTube video

Bitcoin’s impact on the environment

To understand the idea of this project better, let’s start with the impact Bitcoin has on the environment. As you probably know, it takes a lot of power and tons of electronic components to mine Bitcoin. Ben gives a great comparison so you get the idea: a single Google search takes 1080 Joules of energy, an hour of streaming of Netflix takes 288,000 Joules. And a single Bitcoin transaction takes 6,995,000,000 Joules.

According to TIME, the process that safeguards the Bitcoin network, uses more power globally per year than most countries. Let that sink in. It also consumes about twice as much electricity as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple combined. Bitcoin miners have also started buying old coal power plants, contributing to the burning of fossil fuels.

Other than vast energy consumption and air pollution, Bitcoin mining also generates a massive amount of electronic waste. Over 30,000 tons every single year, according to the BBC. And Ben had the idea of showing all of these aspects through his project.

The idea behind the project

Through the Skull of Satoshi, Ben wanted to show the connection between Bitcoin mining and electronic waste, fossil fuels, and energy consumption. This is why it made sense to cover the piece in circuit boards. The plant chimneys on top of the skull and the wires at the bottom bring the whole piece together, symbolizing all of three major issues.

Ben also wanted the skull to have laser eyes. There was a trend that had Bitcoin supporters change their profile pictures to add “laser eyes.” And why it’s no longer a fad, Ben just couldn’t miss the chance to use it for the project. After all, it became a symbol of supporting Bitcoin – and it sure added extra creepy vibe to the skull and the final shots.

Building the Skull of Satoshi

Ben and his team built the gigantic skull using wood, recycled Styrofoam, and over 300 pieces of electronic waste. Building the wooden CNC construction of the skull seems complicated – but that turned out to be the simplest part. Cutting the Styrofoam and carving it out to create the final shape was a major pain in the neck and took plenty of time.

The team faced another challenge when they searched for electronic waste to use for the project. After lots of rejection, a local nonprofit Unirecycle donated six giant pallets of various electronic components. Now all that was left was manually sorting, organizing, and fitting each and every piece onto the skull.

For the laser eyes, ben used a pair of battery-powered disco lights and a smoke machine. A pretty cheerful setup for such a gloomy concept, but hey, it works!

The photo shoot

“With 1,000 human hours of work, we brought the Skull of Satoshi to life in a huge abandoned warehouse,” Ben explains. He and his team got permission from Demolition company Delsan Aim to shoot in one of their buildings slated for demolition. It was a perfect spot, and they used long tube lights to give it a dystopian cyberpunk vibe.

Using a couple of red fairy lights and some tape, Ben also created “real-world laser eyes” for his volunteer models to wear for the shoot. It turned out amazing!

skull of satoshi skull of satoshi

The impact of the Skull of Satoshi

Like Ben’s other projects, the Skull of Satoshi was also built to draw the attention of the public to the problem and get people involved in the solution. Greenpeace has offered to take the Skull of Satoshi on tour, where they will protest in different places to build awareness of Bitcoin’s impact on the environment.

“Since Bitcoin is truly decentralized, a substantial code change can only happen if the majority of the community supports the decision,” Ben explains. “This means that they too, need to signal their support for a less energy-intensive code.” You can join the efforts too, and you’ll learn more about it here. You can also create your own remixes of Ben’s Skull of Satoshi and use it in your AI-generated work. You’ll learn more about it from the video:

YouTube video

Make sure to find more of Ben’s work on his website and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and his YouTube channel. And now, enjoy some more photos from this fantastic project!

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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19 responses to “Photographer builds 11-foot electronic waste skull to show Bitcoin’s impact on climate change”

  1. jsm Avatar
    jsm

    I alrady said enough.

  2. jsm Avatar
    jsm

    “Since Bitcoin is truly decentralized, a substantial code change can
    only happen if the majority of the community supports the decision,” Ben
    explains. “This means that they too, need to signal their support for a
    less energy-intensive code.”

    How about screw you and don’t tell us how to use something you clearly have no clue about?

  3. jsm Avatar
    jsm

    “And a single Bitcoin transaction takes 6,995,000,000 Joules.”

    Lies like this are proven wrong since years.

    It is a shame that you still spread this shit, diyphotography.

  4. jsm Avatar
    jsm

    It makes me happy to see that nobody, even on YouTube, gives a damn about this propaganda.
    People like you only try to make prophit from sprading disinformation about the environment and climate.
    You don’t want to know. You just want to profit by supporting the “current thing” of the woke ideologists.

  5. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    I admit I am not knowledgeable enough about the climate vs bitcoin. I have no experience with cyber$$ or NFTs. I have better things to do with my life. Personally, I think better effort would be the lie about lithium is green and oil is bad, the use of single-use plastic bags, the throwaway practice of consumer electronics, to name a few that are far more impacting to our environment .

  6. Georgiy Belov Avatar
    Georgiy Belov

    I wonder how many joules this performance took and how much carbon emissions it left? Stuff like this does nothing to protect the environment, while Bitcoin brings people freedom.

  7. Martin Gillette Avatar
    Martin Gillette

    And what does this have to do with DIY photography? Please stick to photography.

    1. Tunes Firwood Avatar
      Tunes Firwood

      Martin Gillette “After 1,000 hours of work, the setup was ready for some epic photos, and Ben shared them with us, as well as the story behind this project.”

      It helps to actually read the linked article.

    2. Martin Gillette Avatar
      Martin Gillette

      Tunes Firwood Thanks for your reply. A story like this is news, not DIY photography, just because someone took some photos.

    3. Tunes Firwood Avatar
      Tunes Firwood

      Martin Gillette Photographer makes a rather fancy prop, takes photos of it. “Has nothing to do with DIY photography.”

      If you don’t like what your host provides, you are absolutely free to leave.

    4. Martin Gillette Avatar
      Martin Gillette

      Tunes Firwood I post when the subject doesn’t match the topic and I’ll do that where ever I please. This is not DIY photography and is more about being “green”. If you don’t like what I post you are free to shut up and not reply to them.

    5. Tunes Firwood Avatar
      Tunes Firwood

      Martin Gillette And if I find your complaints to be ridiculous, juvenile, and quite simply crass?

      You have no more right to vent your spleen than others do to point out that you are wrong.

    6. Martin Gillette Avatar
      Martin Gillette

      Tunes Firwood You started being flip. I’ve been following DIY Photography for about 15 years and subscribe to the site. We don’t need a Green story and if I voice my opinion and you reply that’s it. If you don’t like it don’t post on my post. Just go away.

    7. Tunes Firwood Avatar
      Tunes Firwood

      Martin Gillette You continue to ignore the bit where the photographer didn’t just press a button: they made the entire image, including the subject.

    8. Martin Gillette Avatar
      Martin Gillette

      Tunes Firwood DIY Photography is things like building a soft box or a flash battery. It isn’t building a monument to the environmental wackos and taking photos of it.

    9. Tunes Firwood Avatar
      Tunes Firwood

      Martin Gillette DIY Photography is a page that belongs to someone else: you don’t get to make arbitrary demands about what that means.

      But hey: here we finally have the truth. You’re not objecting to a photographer doing an interesting project: you’re simply looking for an excuse to grandstand your climate change denial.

    10. Martin Gillette Avatar
      Martin Gillette

      Tunes Firwood No, you don’t get it. DIY Photography posted this guy’s work. If it had to do with the photography I’d have no problem regardless weather I thing man made climate change is BS or not. I don’t like it when “DIY Photography” mixes in politics. They’ve done it in the past and I’ve called BS on it. We get enough of political views everywhere else why must we have it here? I’m not going to convince you and your not going to convince me so why not just stop?

    11. Tunes Firwood Avatar
      Tunes Firwood

      Martin Gillette Don’t worry: we get it. You don’t actually care the photography, you just want to complain about being forced out of your little echo chamber.

    12. Will Rogers Avatar
      Will Rogers

      Martin Gillette
      You say “if you don’t like it, don’t post on my post”

      Well if you don’t like the article, maybe don’t post in the comments section?