Berkeley environmentalist honored

By Kenyatte Davis Daily Planet staff
Tuesday August 21, 2001

Berkeley environmentalist Jami Caseber will receive one of the five 2001 Clean Air Champion Awards from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District at its board meeting on Sept. 5. 

Caseber founded Citizens Opposing a Polluting Environment in 1988. The group inspired the city to create the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, which Caseber currently chairs. 

Caseber was nominated for the award by Mayor Shirley Dean. Dean, who has known Caseber for over 10 years, made the nomination because of his efforts to develop an ordinance to reduce Berkeley air pollution from wood burning stoves and fireplaces. 

“I nominated him because he is so passionate about cleaning the air we breathe and is always on the phone or in a meeting or doing something to work for that goal.” 

In 1999, the CEAC took up the call to place limits on wood-burning fireplaces and Caseber led the research of the topic.  

“It’s an environmental justice issue,” he said Monday. “If somebody doesn’t do something to keep the air clean, urban areas will be unlivable.” 

Casebar pointed to the adverse effects of large particulates spewed by diesel trucks and those put into the air by wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. 

The CEAC is supporting an ordinance that would educate people on the dangers of wood smoke and limit the installation of fireplaces in new construction. The ordinance will be before the Housing Advisory Commission Sept. 6.  

CEAC Commissioner LA Wood has worked with Caseber for four months and is happy that his colleague will be receiving the award. 

“I think it’s great that they singled Jami out for this award,” Wood said. “I know he is very passionate about the wood smoke issue and he will just take this as an opportunity to make people aware.” Caseber believes that everyone has the right to breathe clean air and for the past 13 years has devoted a huge part of his life to making sure everyone does have the opportunity to breathe clean air. “Our lungs are not for burning,” he quipped, then added more seriously: “I hope the award will give me a platform as a public advocate.” 

The BAAQMD meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m., Sept. 5 in the 7th Floor Board Room of 939 Ellis St. in San Francisco. 

Staff writer Judith Scherr contributed to this story.