By Jennifer Griffiths | December 19, 2021
Recently a friend chucked out most of her beloved books and went digital. But what to do with the real gems and treasures you no longer have room for? I took some of them on, including the Quran and a Year the Rumi, because I couldn’t bear to see them turned into “pulp fiction” and, perhaps later, someone else’s toilet paper. Early 2019, while clearing all my clutter at my parents’ house, I had the same problem. Looking through numerous books, rediscovering old friends, some had been in boxes for over 30 years. Some I kept, most were given away, some may have been valuable, some may find their way to recycling works but I sincerely hope not. There must be a better solution.
My thoughts on this
How much carbon in the world is currently stored in books? What would happen if all that carbon got released into the atmosphere and all those prized treasures lost? What would happen if all books were recycled in the coming years, everything went digital and then the digital web crashed or got upgraded to something else and all that wisdom and culture got lost? (If you’ve been around a while, how much of your treasured records are now inaccessible because they’re stored on now defunct discs, chips, tapes or old software version? A few millennia of homeo sapien’s ponderings blitzed by a software upgrade somewhere in the galaxy.
In a few years we’ve gone from paper, to floppy disk, to stiffie, to CD to USB stick to the cloud but where to next? It’s very easy to delete history with just one click.
Do you have documents you can’t open any more? I do! Stories I wrote on doc files only 18 years ago can no longer be opened by my current laptop. What about everything written on my first laptop, which could store only a few megabytes, and were saved on floppy disc. Or saved on “Stiffies”. That was only 30 years ago. Who in the world born after 1990 even knows or cares what a Stiffie is? Or how on earth to play a tape cassette? But most people can still read fortunately and preserving paper is a great way of storing carbon.
I think we can all do our bit for future generations by preserving old books; storing them in our basements or burying them in watertight containers in our garden, old underground tunnels or wherever else they can be stored. Firstly, it prevents this carbon going into the atmosphere and secondly its possibly the most reliable way of preserving our rich cultural heritage, in case the reset button for humanity gets pushed by our current or future leaders and future generations find themselves back in caves trying to make sense of their history and why they are here and whether the world is flat or how come some people are funnier than others etc. etc. Imagine what a cache it would be finding a load of books…
If you were to leave a crate of books for future generations which books would you choose?
Top of my list would be Victor Frankl’s Man’s search for meaning. I’d also include Humankind, a hopeful history by Rutger Bregman and a selection of novels and poems across time such as William Blake’s Illuminated books, Tao te Ching…Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Maybe it would turn into 2 crates and and… I’d also store as many hand prints as I could, preferably along with the biography of each owner. As each hand print is a love poem about its owner. Future generations would learn a lot about us really quickly. If you have hand prints that you are thinking of throwing out mail them to me, preferably with a biography of the person. You can also upload hand prints of deceased people in a research data base for future generations.