What if we could just start over with a new Earth? Would our planet’s existing problems go away, or would they replicate?
This experimental thinking is already happening in the metaverse, where one can buy a parcel of “virtual land” using NFT technology. There are numerous projects currently operating to sell land in the metaverse, but one stands out for its combination of virtual land sales and social good: Next Earth.
How does it work?
For the customer looking to buy virtual land, it is fairly simple. Next Earth is running on Polygon, so you will need to purchase MATIC (Polgyon’s native currency). By connecting your crypto wallet with Next Earth, you can browse land throughout this metaverse version of “Earth” and choose anywhere you’d like to buy. Land is sold as “tiles,” which are 10 meter by 10 meter parcels in one of three categories: urban, non-urban, and water. Once you’ve selected the land you wish to buy, you can mint those tiles as NFTs (thus giving you ownership rights).1 [Note: If this sounds confusing, feel free to watch the recording of a recent Next earth AMA below to gain some clarity.]
Next Earth is using profits from its land sales in several ways, including supporting the creation of a DAO to run the project and generating contributions to charities (2). The profits can be used to incubate metaverse startups. Owners of land on Next Earth earn one “unit” per parcel,(3) and can also generate value from their land by staking and developing the land or reselling it (4).
How does this benefit social good?
Next Earth’s philosophy is “business IS philanthropy.” Every transaction includes a 10% donation to Next Earth’s chosen environmental strategies. Once the DAO is in place, the funds that go into infrastructure will “eventually go into the charity pool as well (5).” Next Earth currently has $1 million USD allocated for environmental causes in the “real” Earth, and the project expects to increase that amount.
Next Earth has a creative twist on the usual charitable pools through its collaboration with See Turtles.org, a conservation organized focused on saving sea turtles. Next Earth created a game that encourages players to purchase land in the metaverse and then send proceeds to See Turtles, enabling the organization to remove plastic products on the equivalent parcel of land in the “real” Earth.
This combination of pairing metaverse land strategies with real land raises interesting questions. If everyone who purchase land in the metaverse allocated some money to improve the equivalent parcel of land on Earth, we could combine metaverse gaming with actual social good. For example, if we could incentivize crypto owners and metaverse gamers to purchase a parcel of land in “virtual San Francisco” and then donate funds to nonprofit organizations focused on that part of the real city, we could open up a new frontier in nonprofit fundraising.
In the meantime, Next Earth landowners are able to vote to send project funds to one of three charities chosen by Next Earth. The results of the April 2022 vote are here.
Next Earth is hoping to create equity among its users and is clearly aware of the potential for crime in the metaverse. The project has already implemented KYC (Know Your Customer) steps to prevent money laundering and other crimes, (6)which is a necessary step as the metaverse expands.
The “tiles” of land on Next Earth reflect regular land sales in some ways:
Land tiles that have famous landmarks have higher prices than normal.
Crypto “whales” are buying up land in large quantities (7).
Other landowners are using land for yield farming (i.e. as real estate investments).
Developing a parcel of land on Next Earth will increase its value.
Given these parallels (and since we are lawyers), we can’t help but ask questions.
In case of disputes over land use, including the mining of “resources” on non-urban land on Next Earth, what are the plans for dispute resolution? It would be a good idea to consider this issue before it arises.
In addition, will there someday be a practice area for lawyers litigating metaverse disputes? It seems likely, especially based on the explosive growth of land sales in the metaverse.
Next Earth has several long-term plans in the making, including allowing small landowners to earn similar yields to large landowners and facilitating travel in the metaverse. The project is also launching its own currency, NXTT. Next Earth ultimately hopes to create a fully DAO-controlled platform and nonprofit organization to allocate all income outside of platform operations to charitable causes (8).
Ambitious? Yes. Will it be possible to recreate Earth in the metaverse while also cleaning up and improving the original Earth? If so, the potential for social good in projects like Next Earth could be revolutionary. Stay tuned!