Across the road from my office, on the UC Berkeley campus, is the Water Resources Center Archives, an irreplaceable treasure for anyone interested in the history, politics and science of water, particularly in California and the US West, but also the rest of the world. The Archives’ collection is open to the general public, not just students. I used it at lot in the mid-1990's when writing my book Silenced Rivers. Just before our recent office move, International Rivers donated to the Archives 20+ years of unique documentation related to campaigns around the world to stop dams and save rivers.
And now, the university, in its great “we’ve-got-more-Nobel-winners-than-anyone-else” wisdom, is proposing to shut down the Archives. This is intellectual vandalism in keeping with the know-nothing, no-tax tendencies of the teabagging conservatives, but surely not of UC Berkeley administrators. It is particularly infuriating that this decision comes at a time when the state’s water disputes and river and delta ecosystem crises are back on the front pages of Californian newspapers on an almost daily basis.
The administrators’ reason of course is the UC budget crisis (brought on by the teabaggers’ refusal to reform California’s tax system). But as water guru Peter Gleick of Oakland’s Pacific Institute points out in his blog, the cost of keeping the Archives open and paying its four staff (c. $300k) is less than the compensation of the top administrator of the division that runs the Archives (c. $400k).
Gleick (a member of the Archives’ board of directors) says that:
The WRCA collection consists of more than 200,000 technical reports, 1,500 specialized newsletters, 5,000 maps and videos, more than 200 manuscript collections, 25,000 black-and-white photographs that document the development of water in California and the West, and more than 45,000 coastal aerial photographs. Most of this stuff isn't available on the Internet. The best, oldest stuff is not digitized. It is just priceless information and history.
A colleague of mine notes that he believes not a single library was closed down in the entire State of California during the Great Depression. The dismantling of the University of California system is being done under our noses, one piece at a time, in parallel with the progressive destruction of what used to be the best university and research system in the world.
Want to do something? Write, immediately, to the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Oakland, California asking for them to stop being penny wise and pound foolish, in your own words. The WRCA at Berkeley should be kept open to the public and researchers, and its invaluable materials must be kept in a place where people will use it.
Write or call (or knock on the door of):
Vice President AGNR
111 Franklin St, 6th Floor
(510) 987 0060
Assistant VP AGNR
111 Franklin St, 6th Floor
(510) 987 9736