Dawn of the Unread was primarily born out of two pieces of research by the National Literacy Trust and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which highlighted the importance of literacy in determining social outcomes such as whether individuals vote, become home owners, or, most worrying of all, have trust in society.
We also explored the relationship between physical and digital reading, arguing if the 20th century was about the quest for knowledge then the 21st century was about experience. Therefore our emphasis was finding ways of bringing the ‘youtube generation’ into the conversation through the interactive elements of our project. For this we drew inspiration from Raghava KK’s Shake Up Your Story which found a novel way of challenging metanarratives.
As any wise Buddha will tell you, the key to life is balance (or to be more specific, balancing) and so physical books still have a vital role to play in our development. In our increasingly connected world books provide an opportunity for solitude and a chance to be comfortable in our own skin without validation or ‘likes’ from others. Books are also a magical artform in that entire worlds are conjured from font and canvas. In this they are vital in fostering our imagination.
Now it would seem that books can offer physical as well as mental sustenance thanks to an inspiring project released at the 250th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston, US. Very simply they have developed a ‘drinkable book’ whereby pages, coated in silver nano particles, can be torn out to filter drinking water. The drinkable book has so far been trialled in 25 contaminated water sources across the globe, with the paper successfully removing 99% of bacteria.
The book was developed by Dr Teri Dankovich, a postdoctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, working at McGill University in Canada and then at the University of Virginia, with field trials in collaboration with the charities Water is Life and iDE. With an estimated 663 million people who do not have access to clean water, this book has the potential to save many lives. At the time of writing one page is able to clean up 100 litres of water.
Although initial trials have been successful in killing off bacteria the next stage is to see how well it deals with other disease-causing micro-organisms, protozoa and viruses. They are also looking at ways in which the paper can be fitted into a a “kolshi” – the traditional water container used by many Bangladeshis. One of the major causes of the 3.4 million people who die a year from water-related disease is they don’t realise the water is contaminated.
Water covers three quarters of our planet and makes up two thirds of our bodies. According to a recent study by researchers at NASA, we’re depleting more than half of the world’s 37 largest aquifers at unsustainable rates. In the not too distant future water will be more precious than gold or gas. The purpose of the drinkable book is to provide information about water hygiene and safety on technologically advanced filter paper. But if you were going to use the drinkable book to promote fiction, here’s out recommended ‘Climate fiction’ (Cli-Fi) reading list.
- Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior
- Ian McEwan’s Solar
- Gabriel García Márquez Love in the Time of Cholera
- J G Ballard The Drowned World
- Jekwu Anyaegbuna The Swimming Pool
- John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up
- Jon McGregor If it Keeps on Raining
- Kim Stanley Robinson Forty Signs of Rain
- Martin Kohan The Mistake
- Max Allan Collins Waterworld
- Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow
- Neil Gaiman Down to a Sunless Sea
- Paolo Bacigalupi The Drowning Cities
- Ursula K. Le Guin The New Atlantis